20 May 2011

The Gentleman Explorer

Fall/Winter 2011

Fashion's relationship to the past can be at once both highly selective and greatly broad.  In order to look back, the immediate past must necessarily be obliterated and forgotten, for the system of fashion is built upon the new.  Fashion must be new in order to constitute as fashion.  However for something to be new it must by reason follow something that is old, and in the frenzy of fashion, new can become old in the blink of an eye.  Fashion needs to break away from its immediate past - the overplayed trends of last season or last year, for designing from that source would mean it was immediately outmoded.  Yet go further back, to a past filled with nostalgia and the romanticized view of those who did not quite experience it, and there is a wealth of inspiration and ideas to be reworked.  The cut off point of where un-chic outdated fashions become classics or trends to be reinvented (well, reinterpreted, however the PRs would have us think otherwise) has long been debated, and the general belief is that the line is drawing ever closer.

How the past is interpreted and used by designers can be exemplified in two opposing examples.  On the one hand we have designers such as Vivienne Westwood, or John Galliano, whose magpie-like tendencies allow them to pull (well-researched) historical references into anachronistic postmodern pastiches.  The past is something to be respected, and yet it can be pulled apart and meshed together, combining references and eras into something new and modern.  Here the past can verge upon the realm of costume, and indeed both Westwood and Galliano have been inspired by film and theatre when looking at fashion, just as much as they have been inspired by art and historical dress.  Historical accuracy is not central, although Westwood is known for her incredible research.

On the other hand we have a designer such as Martin Margiela, whose Replica line was (and still is, but I refer to him in the past only because he longer designs at his namesake company) based around remaking vintage pieces in high end materials and construction, or whose Artisanal line deconstructed vintage pieces and reworked them to create something new.  For Margiela the past was to be revered, and most often pieces were replicated rather than reworked, in order to re-establish the way fashion relates to the past.  Of course Margiela was more an oddity in fashion at the time, in his unique way of relating to the past, and yet it is a way that has increasingly been picked up on by many designers since.

Daisuke Obana, founder and designer of N.HOOLYWOOD, bases his work around classic vintage garments, placing a high importance on the provenance of the styles, before adding his own "twisted point of view".  Obana began working in a vintage clothing store after having dropped out of school.  He went on to open his own high-end vintage store, based around clothing of "good quality" and "old age", whilst also selling select reworked pieces.  N.HOOLYWOOD was founded back in 2000, and in 2002 Obana presented his first runway collection.

Obana presents highly coherent vintage-inspired collections each season, and although the inspiration point may change (for example the Fall/Winter 2007 collection was inspired by a 1960s football match between Harvard and Yale), the focus of his label holds true to the idea behind his own vintage clothing store.  Vintage is a curious factor in the equation of fashion, for it is based around a sense of nostalgia that is by its own nature eclectic and incoherent.  Whilst value is placed upon authenticity of aesthetic and materials, the authenticity of meaning is obscured and transformed.  Original meanings are changed and transformed, or indeed just simply forgotten, to fit a new narrative.
For his Fall/Winter 2011 collection Obana was inspired by the idea of what I like to call the 'gentleman explorer'.  It was an alluring and romantic vision of the well-groomed, well-spoken gentleman traversing an up-till-then unknown.  Thick knits, hard wearing fabrics, traditional cuts, groomed beards, and touches of silk.  For me it spoke to that childhood fantasy of being an explorer, a more refined Indiana Jones I suppose.  The past is presented in a coherent fashion, albeit one that perhaps prefigures to existing notions of that past, and yet it is far from costume.  Remove the ice picks and the ropes, and what you see is a beautiful and versatile collection.  Pieces can be pulled apart and would quite easily fit into even the most conservative wardrobe.  In such a way I see it as more akin to Margiela's treatment of the past than Westwood's.

All I need now is a thicker beard for Winter...



  1. Wow wee! These are utterly amazing! That first photo was actually pretty amazing on its own. What an imaginative and fun collection/ catwalk show! Thank you for the post!

  2. Ernest Hemingway was my first thought!

  3. oh number 6 is my favorite, the all black.

  4. The second cape is really cool! :)


  5. I agree - excellent. The collection reminds me of what the woodsman would look like in Lady Chatterly's lover. Iconic, wistful and very masculine. Adore.

  6. what a fabulous mens winter line!

    <3 steffy
    Steffys Pros and Cons

  7. I wouldn't completely write off watching "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," but I'd probably wait until it comes out on DVD.

    Don't grow a beard. Things can live in there.

  8. Great to see Daisuke Obana's work getting more and more exposure, as it is much deserved. I love that this collection makes coal miner's something fashionable. The collection is full of covetable pieces and the layering is really smart.

    I am in the mood for Fall already!!!


  9. This is my fav post of yours! LOVE all of these looks. I'm a sucker for grays :)

  10. my first thoughts seeing this collection kind of reminds me of Shackelton's expedition, which is particularly interesting because they had insufficienct warm clothing for Antarctic conditions, and there are lots of photos of the men with burnt faces and tools like pick's etc.

    I really like your blog, this post was really interesting


  11. what a fabulous mens winter line! <3 steffy Steffys Pros and Cons