The MAN New York trade show emerged recently as the American counterpart to a Parisian menswear expo first held in January of 2012. Over three seasons, MAN has defined itself by presenting a group of brands that favor responsible manufacturing and build quality rather than wholesale quantity. For many brands showing, MAN marks their first major introduction to the American market. Earlier this month, we stopped in to inspect the goings-on and came away impressed.
La Paz was an early standout at this month's MAN New York. Owner André Bastos Teixeira explained the Portuguese brand is based in the northern city of Porto, "near the industry," but does its manufacturing all over the country: with hat makers in the mountains and shirt-making fishermen in Nazaré. The only products they don't make in Portugal are the knit sweaters they outsource to the powerful Scottish knitwear machine. The La Paz line is cleanly designed and loosely based around a "seafaring" life near the water.
Tender is a brand run out of owner William Kroll's living room in London. In addition to staffing the company's warehouse (which he says is literally a series of boxes), he also leads the design and manufacture of each product. The takeaway from Tender's booth was that Kroll is a materials man. All the metal for his line, for things like buttons and buckles, is made from solid brass by vintage wax casting. Even the glasses he sells are actually made from cotton acetate instead of plastic or cellulose.
One of his headline items had to be the "hands on" watch. Tender uses reclaimed Swiss movements with a special 45 degree rotated face to recreate vintage driving watches. The idea was that with the tilted face, you never had to take your hands off the wheel.
New York's painfully cold and windy weather during MAN was a stroke of luck for the Netherlands knitwear brand Howlin', which is actually a side-label of the older family-owned knitwear brand Morrison. The two brothers of the family started Howlin' in 2009 to try out some youthful new designs. Howlin' showed an impressive line including hats, sweaters, and socks, with designs ranging from intricate multi-colored patterns to simple solids. Like La Paz, they also source their knits from Scotland. By the way, Howlin' is Scottish slang for smelly, but that didn't seem to stop the attendees from taking a long glance at the warm knits when contemplating braving the elements outside.
Oak Street Bootmakers' line of leather footwear is designed in a Chicago workshop, made from American leather by Horween, and manufactured in Maine or New York. The brand's designs echo classic American styles. It seems that Oak Street's mission isn't to reinvent the wheel of boot design, but to improve build quality. Prices fall in the $300–$450 range, but with an estimated 15-year lifespan, their shoes should be a worthy investment.
Those living in the Washington, D.C. area in the '80s circa the Iran-Contra scandal might remember the bold graphic poster emblazoned with "Meese Is A Pig" popping up around the city. They were hard to miss for commuters and locals alike. The posters appeared overnight and were visible on various public spaces. The graphics were clearly aimed at Reagan cabinet member and advisor Edwin Meese who was enmeshed in Iran/Contra and also the champion of various far-right causes in the administration. The poster campaign got national attention. Soon, the poster's creator, Jeff Nelson (of Dischord Records and Minor Threat fame) was revealed. With respect to Nelson's album sleeve and logo designs (among our favorites ever!), his "Meese Is A Pig" poster remains his masterpiece. Nelson sold T-shirts with the image, which covered his printing costs and the graphics lived on long after the street campaign was over. With Edwin Meese back in the news as the backer a government shutdown and national anti-Obamacare efforts, we're pleased to see "Meese Is A Pig" getting its due.
Detroit boasts a history of legendary axmen—Jack White, Ted Nugent, Robert White, Wayne Kramer and Dennis Coffey to name a few. And now, thanks to the passion project of commercial real estate director and woodworker Mark Wallace, the next great musician on that list may kick out the jams with a guitar made from a chunk of the city itself.
Built in a Corktown workshop, Wallace Detroit Guitars are fashioned from wood salvaged from the city’s recently demolished buildings. Each instrument will be branded with the address of the home that provided the wood, reinforcing the local heritage of the material.
So far, Wallace has created two prototypes that need to be tested, but a recent $8,000 matching grant from the Knight Foundation should allow him to expand production. Eventually, he wants the finished product to include more salvaged material from other local companies, like a strap made out of leftovers auto parts.
“One of the great things about Detroit is the collaboration,” he says. “Everyone wants to work together because they know they’re making the city a better place.”
Wallace's project is currently getting off the ground thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation.
The excellent design blog Thisispaper is now available, wait for it, in paper. We queried editor Zuzzana Gasior on the new print mag.
What is Thisispaper for those unfamiliar?
As Thisispaper we are now running two different, but interweaving projects. Thisispaper Magazine is where we share our inspirations and obsessions from multiple fields of design. Our roots are in the digital world but we find print equally alluring. We started off as an online magazine and continue running it, by we have recently ventured into print and released Thisispaper Magazine Inaugural Issue in paper and ink. Thisispaper Shop is our second, younger brainchild. It’s an online store with hand made products.
Which designers have been selected for the issue, how did you decide who to include?
The full list of featured designers is as follows: Studio Glithero, Faye Toogood, Formafantasma, Phoebe English, Nina Donis, Feilden Fowles Architects; photographers Kanoa Zimmerman and Marcel van der Vlugt; artist Anouk Griffioen.
The selection process was simple. We decided to feature designers whose work we’re impressed by and who have a strong conceptual background behind their work. We were particularly curious to find out about their creative process so we chose the ones that put emphasis on the process, not just the finished product.
Why do you think a print publication was necessary?
As you will quickly discover when you open the magazine, some of the interviews are quite massive, and were intended to be so from the start. We wanted to explore the designers’ creative processes in depth. Such content lives better in a tangible book that online. While surfing the web, people focus on image and have a short attention span and it’s not the best environment to present content that requires a careful reading. Plus we’re really drawn to the beauty of a printed object, the texture of paper, smell of paint and so on.
Thisispaper.com was an ironic name, but now it has a literal meaning.
Good point. Since Thisispaper is an umbrella term for both the site and the magazine, it now means that digital and print can coexist without undermining one another’s position. This is due to the fact that they are good for different things. The content that we feature online is much more image-based, while for print we look for something that requires more time and effort to absorb.
You're based in Warsaw, does that surprise a lot of your readers?
It does come as a surprise sometimes, but mostly to people in Poland. When they see Thisispaper they don’t expect it to be a Warsaw-based endeavor (love the word).
The print publication is a very limited run. Why is that? Do you hope to expand? Is it harder or easier to do a print magazine in Poland?
The print publication is not a limited run. We will print as many copies as there is demand for. 250 is the minimal number that we need to reach in the pre-order period to print the magazine, but there is no maximum limit on how many copies we will print. That said, it’s hard to imagine a situation when Thisispaper is available on every newsstand
Nowadays when distribution mostly happens online, printing a ad-free magazine is a comparable experience in Warsaw and everywhere else. It would probably be harder for us, though, is we were trying to attract sponsors.
Where can one get the print magazine?
Online at thisispapershop.com/product/thisispaper-inaugural-issue or soon at some local stores worldwide.
Do you accept contributions and pitches?
We do. See here for possible ways of working with us: welcome.thisispaper.com
While Swedish students may not have to worry about the same tuition bills as their American counterparts enrolled in private colleges, they do have to contend with a small scale housing crisis. A growing number of students are priced out of conventional apartments. So the architects at Tengbom are testing a housing system at Lund University that would reduce each apartment to just over 100 square feet. The studios have 13 foot ceilings and multiple windows to counteract the small footprint, and use lightly colored sustainable wood as a primary building material. The houses are completely independent from one another, but the plan is to build clusters of about 22 units for a kind of modified communal living. [images via Bertil Hertzberg]