The Plain Musette is, as the name suggests, a basic bag that brings to mind Antoine de Saint-Exupery's definition of perfection as being when there is nothing left to take away. The angle of the strap allows the bag to sit against your side or back without the need for extra hardware; the bucket nature of the body means you can stuff it as full as you want without needing to consider a top flap (although their flap musette looks lovely as well).
It's also the perfect bag for running errands on your bike, which makes sense as it's based on this.
I interviewed Leslie and Tom of Archival Clothing in June - hopefully I'll have that up before Fall.
I really don't have any brand loyalty. Sure I love Uniqlo now like a son, but the possibility remains that my tastes could change or they could go the way of Eddie Bauer. But there's something about unpacking a fresh pair of Nikes that really ramp up the nostalgia factor. I don't even own any other Nike gear other than these shoes, yet they still feel like an old friend.
When I was in grade 6 I had just moved from Montreal to Burnaby (near Vancouver) and I was on the track team in school. I wanted a pair of the then new Air Max, but they were way outside my dad's budget. So he bought me a pair of nondescript Nike Doodads. Still, when I put those on my feet, I thought I was flying. In fact, I remember getting them at school and bouncing around outside in them, much to the delight and derision of the older kids. Thus my reputation for being "a total idiot" was born.
Now, even though I can pretty much afford to buy any sport shoe I want, I still can't bring myself to get the super-teched gizmo runners with gravity-defying soles. I only bought these because they were on sale, and the guy at the store, on learning I had just been to Japan, knocked off another $10. (Is there anything Japan can't do?) Putting them on, it was being 12 all over again.
Loopwheeler is a company in Japan built entirely around a vintage fabric machine called a loopwheel. The loopwheel produces only enough fabric each day for 12 sweatshirts, which goes a long way to explaining the cost (the sweatshirt I'm wearing set me back around $140 CAD). But if you have a deep love for grey sweatshirts, Loopwheeler is basically the Holy Grail.
A machine weaves 24 loops a minute, which is slow enough that you can track the movement with your eyes. Experienced craftsmen have to attend the machine constantly. Slowly and gently, without putting excessive tension on threads by only leveraging gravity, the machine knits the fabric to enhance the natural texture of the thread. It feels as if air was knitted into the material. Whenever possible we use a flat seam sewing machine that was used heavily back in the 1950s. Machines today require around 10mm allowance, but this machine requires only a couple of millimeters. A small allowance reduces overlays of materials and bulk creating a more comfortable finished product. In addition the flat seam machines use six threads at a time; more threads in the seam increase strength and durability to the product. It’s slow, takes more attention, but the natural skill of the engineers truly affects the quality. I believe it is made with mysterious skill unique to Japan, which no one can duplicate.
Founder Satoshi Suzuki, interviewed by Sneaker Freaker.
If you like "things," and really there's no other way to say it, then Tokyo is your city. But as with all parts of the world it's getting harder and harder to find things made in Japan. Here's what I came up with.
Uniqlo Selvedge Jeans
Monopro Boxer Spoon
Square Bread Mold
Loopwheeler Sweatshirt (Individual post on this later)
Sizzler Bottle Opener and Closer
There are many companies springing up with lofty claims about do-gooding. (For an awesome take-down of the much lauded Toms head over to Put This On.) The hand-wringing analysis that usually follows any discussions of "business" and "poverty" can border on elitism or misguided economic theory. Try and start a manufacturing company in, say, India, and you're accused of perpetuating financial servitude. Apparently only established companies are allowed to have factories in China. See: Wendy Brandes on manufacturing.Oliberté is a company with a simple goal - manufacture a product, from start to finish in Africa. They chose shoes to take advantage of available materials. Their slogan, "Made in Africa," at first seems to play into the foreign stereotype that all of Africa is essentially the same, but on closer inspection simply reflects the truth of their business. I had a chance to correspond briefly with Tal Dehtiar, Oliberté's founder and president. Can a shoe company really make a difference?
In 2002 while doing my MBA I was challenged by my craving to put on a three-piece suit and run the corporate gig. My family had moved to Canada in 1980 and though my parents were brilliant engineers they struggled to find decent work. With no business skills and poor English, but a passion to take care of their family, they started a high-end furniture business which still exists today. Long story short - I researched what built countries like Canada, the USA, and other G-8 nations, and it's the existence of a thriving middle class and support for small businesses like my parents'.
In developing countries particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America there was no such support at the time, and this still holds true. From that I decided there was a better place for my MBA and, with a friend, I launched the charity MBAs Without Borders. It connects socially-minded business people with small businesses in developing countries. Under my leadership MBAs Without Borders worked in 25 countries from Haiti to Pakistan.
In late 2008 I started thinking about how I could have more of an impact and it really came down to my colleagues in Africa. They continually shared the fact that they didn't need more charity - they needed jobs. They needed something the world wants that they could manufacture in Africa, and so that started
The leather comes from Ethiopia where the shoes are also made. Some accessories, like insoles and canvas for the European market, come from Kenya. We are currently building up our own rubber processing plant to make the crepe rubber outsoles in Liberia. Over the next two to three years we are looking at working in at least Zambia, Cameroon, Uganda, and the Congo.
What are the working conditions like?
That's an important question. Working in Africa isn't easy. It takes a long time and patience, and if you're coming to find the next cheapest option for manufacturing there are better options in terms of price. If, on the other hand, you want a quality product, attention to detail, and have a respect for the people, it's perfect. Both factories that we work with, after eight months of interviewing and auditing about a dozen, adhere to or exceed local government laws. They provide free or subsidized lunches, tea breaks, and maternity leave. Additionally, each partner factory employs about 50% women, whose roles include sewing, cutting, and administrative work. As we grow we hope to support factory workers with additional benefits such as health insurance, credit savings options, and more.-----------
I was sent a pair of the Adibo Chukka boots. They are very comfortable, sturdy, with a playful appearance missing in most men's footwear without looking clownish. I've been wearing them about a month with no noticeable wear (although the little red tag on one of the shoes did come off.) A worthy substitution for Clarks.
For the last several summers I've done the same dance - go to store, buy shorts I don't really like, wear them one summer, repeat. It's a comfortable dance except for two things: I never get shorts I like, and it's expensive.
Normally the advice parceled out by GQ verges on the mundane, but a recent article grabbed my attention, sat on it, and refused to let it up until I did what it asked. Why buy ill-fitting, expensive shorts, when you can make your own?
The most compelling reason is fit. Most shorts for men are cut as though you're going to hide small mammals in the leg holes. More tailored shorts charge for the benefit of actually fitting. Pants, on the other hand, fit the way your lower garments should - close to the leg, with a proper amount of space for your...er...important part.
From left to right: Club Monaco, Zara, Enjoi.
I bought the Club Monaco pants with the specific idea that I would hem them into shorts. Pants (or for the Brits, trousers) of a lighter fabric probably won't take well to a simple cut. Get a tailor to hem them about an inch above the knee - this might be shorter than you're comfortable with, but hemmed shorts need to be a little neater.
The middle pair I wore as pants for a few years before taking a rolling blade to them. I cut these right at the knee (anything longer, unless you're going surfing, just cuts your leg at an awkward place.)
A little faux-seersucker for the summer. I opted for a narrower hem with this fabric. Ask your tailor.
One final note - those oddly coloured remainders hanging on the sale rack might not work as pants, but will work surprisingly well as shorts. Club Monaco regularly has weird ones for $9.
When I started this blog it was not in the hope that people would offer me free stuff (nor is that the case now). It never once crossed my mind that anyone would want to do so. When the offers came in I tended to ignore them, mostly because I knew in good conscience I would then have to write about the product, and I didn't want The Sunday Best to turn into a PR shill regurgitation machine.
When companies I like or even admire started to contact me, my position became a little trickier. These were companies I would have written about anyway, and now they were offering me things that I, to be honest, really wanted. This might have blurred some ethical line, but since it was a line I had created myself I rationalized the blurring.
For one thing, this blog is at least partly about supporting the people and things that I like, and if a company thinks that sending me something will help them then I am not going to argue - except when it doesn't.
Why Most PR to Blogs is a Waste of Time and Money
Recently I was contacted by a PR company to announce a collaboration between Threadless and Gilt, where classic Threadless designs were placed on softer, more "tailored" t-shirts and sold through the Gilt website. I wrote back saying I was a fan of both companies, if not the models' posing, and would be happy to review the shirts.
The wrinkle - the sale went live the next day, and they wanted me to write about it before then. I said I couldn't write about something I hadn't seen, and that I wouldn't simply "report" that the sale was happening. This was all understood before anything was sent.
Enough time passed between this exchange and the shirts arriving that I actually forgot they were being sent. And when they arrived they came with a stated value of $230, meaning duty had been assessed. I had thought I was being sent one or two t-shirts, but they had actually sent 15 of them, the weight and value of the package obviously attracting the notice of Canadian Customs.
I felt genuinely bad that a) I hadn't written about the sale and b) they had sent so many of the shirts. I wrote to the PR company explaining the situation. I haven't heard back from them since.
I'm not trying to take food off anyone's table, or even saying that blog PR can't or doesn't work. But I do think that in its current model it tends to be mostly wasteful. For one thing, it is far too shotgun in its approach. On an average day I'll receive press releases and offers about Miley Cyrus and her choice of jeans at the Teen Choice Awards, mascara that lasts all day long, the perfect handbag for a busy day, and stirrup jeans. Clearly someone is sitting at their computer, firing email after email into the abyss from a generic list of "style" blogs. The return rate on this may justify it to an extent, but, as ad network The Deck will tell you, it's not the number of eyes that matter but the depth of attention.
Since companies seem intent on using PR to contact bloggers, here are a few ways I think they can improve on the process.
1. Hire PR that blog, or at least read the blogs they are contacting.
I know PR mass mailers are probably getting paid by saturation and not hard metrics, so this will take a shift in the entire company-to-PR relationship. Companies - demand a higher level of PR interaction with the media they are engaging. PR - demonstrate the more immersive quality of your PR, and then charge accordingly. Neither of you should be happy with the current state of your PR.
Think of it this way - if you hired someone to buy space in magazines, wouldn't you want those people to actually read those magazines? Shouldn't they, in fact, be aware of a lot of magazines, the better to tailor your product to the reader/ultimate consumer?
2. Write more persuasive emails.
Leaving the actual quality of writing aside for now, most PR email that I receive seems to assume that I will, without prompting beyond the email, be ecstatic to report on whatever is written there. This "hey look, shiny!" approach is exactly what most people don't like about fashion. Dig a little deeper - give me a reason to care about what you're saying. Don't assume that simply putting the label name at the top is enough, especially if you're a new label.
3. Use proper grammar and full sentences.
Nothing is more likely to get me to stop reading than when a writer can't be bothered to trace a verb to its noun or go on and on with sentence or something link to another idea or junk.
4. Don't disappear.
Sometimes I get into a ten response deep interchange with a PR person. We'll reach a point where company information is about to be sent, or some question is about to be answered, and then the PR person will completely disappear. Now, maybe I don't understand the job. Maybe interacting with the people being contacted is not part of the overall package. But maybe, just maybe, it should be (see 1).
I like Threadless and Gilt. The t-shirts are soft and fit well, and the designs look great blown up a little larger. I would have been happy to write about them if I had received them on time. Hell, I'm happy to write about them now. And I didn't even need a PR prompt.