Wolf + Panther spoke to Denim & Supply - Ralph Lauren Senior Design Director John Bakel about how to define style, his personal philosophy of fashion and where to look to get inspired for that new swag you want to try out; after all, who better than a designer to give tips on evolving your personal fashion?
W+P: Why is that most guys don’t seem to have a strong sense of personal style?
“Men and women are very different in certain ways. In one way men have a more hunter mentality and women tend to be more gathers. Men aren’t going to go window shopping, I’m a designer and even I don’t go window shopping. Guys want to find something they love. They’ll research it and then they’ll go get it. What’s missing for most guys is that it’s not just about finding pieces of clothing. Because if the things you buy don’t add up to anything and you don’t feel good in it, then it doesn’t say anything about you. Without a bigger context of what you’re looking for, you’re going to look like your closet threw up on you.”
W+P: How does a man discover the direction he wants to go? How does a guy who wants to identify his fashion voice find it?
“Some people’s personalities are very preppy. If you know that about yourself, the starting point could be looking at images of preppy guys and that could spark something in you, that leads to the question: “Where is a good place to get gingham shirts?” And then begins the search of “I don’t like this” and “I really like the fit of that.” And then the hunting begins and you start incorporating a look that matters to you. The look is always evolving.”
W+P: Ok, that makes sense but can we go a little further? How do you find those pieces that continue the evolution of your look?
“Say if you are a more rock and roll kinda spirit, or have a more downtown vibe and you’re looking for clothes in a place that sells more conservative, Wall Streety things. You could find some good pieces, something universal like blazers, but if it doesn’t really speak to what you want and you don’t really have a context for why you’re buying these things beyond buying something just because you needed it, then you’re just throwing clothes on you’re back. You’re not creating a personal style. Fashion is taking clothing a step beyond it’s utilitarian purpose and style is how you express that, pull it together and make it personal.“
W+P: How do you edit your wardrobe? It’s easy for people to get heady with the research and the thrill of the hunt. How do you keep from going too far and stay true to your style?
“Guys are simple… a guy’s wardrobe can be really paired down. You don’t need to have a lot of shoes, you just need shoes you love. If you’re wearing cowboy boots and they have a pointy toe and they’re alligator skin and you’re a preppy you’re just never going to be happy in those. Or what a lot of guys do is buy generic, in between kinda stuff and it just adds to this kind of feeling that they’re average, or that life is average and they get stuck in this weird little bubble.”
W+P: Any advice for someone who finds themselves in such a bubble?
“Context is a big thing and you’ve really got to figure out what looks inspire you. And it’s easy. You might watch a movie that inspires you. I love James Bond, it’s a sharp tailored kinda thing. I love Steve McQueen, which is more rugged, and those things can be combined together. There’s different parts of your personality where the James Bond thing might make sense, and parts where the Steve McQueen thing might make sense, and you add the two together and it becomes something unique to you and it’s exciting. Fashion has to be fun, but not goofy. Fashion is always an ongoing learning process.”
W+P: How did you get started in fashion?
“I went to school for physics, history and arabic. It just all kind of happened for me. Rogan Gregory was my neighbor and he got me an internship at Tommy Hilfiger. I was working for his sister and got a job soon after.
W+P: Wait, you were at Tommy when is was at its height. Mid/Late 90′s right? When it was huge in hip hop?
“Yeah. And further down the line, after I left Tommy, I got to be involved in the denim resurgence and its return to quality.”
W+P: So where are you finding your personal inspiration as an artist. How do you get started with the visual story you are trying to tell in the pieces you design?
“I’m looking around at what’s happening, what people are wearing, and seeing what the conversation is. Vintage is a big part of it for me. I look at vintage to see how things are really made. I can also see what someone has done with a garment when they’ve owned a piece for a long time. Maybe, they cut off the sleeves. It’s all in the details. As an artist, it’s also important to decide what you’re not going to do. Even before that, you gotta know how you want things to look. You are creating a message and it needs to be compelling. You should feel something inside when you’re creating clothes and be clear about what you’d like to say.”
W+P: Clear about what you are trying to say?
“You should never have to explain a design to the customer. They should be moved by it when they see it. They should really want it. Or they put it on and never want to take it off.”
W+P: How do you use your day and how are you left feeling at the end of it?
“Most of my day is spent sketching, fitting, bouncing around and following up on things. Its an awesome job that I love. You impact people. Challenges end up being awesome and when it’s over I say ‘Wow! I’m glad I did that.’ ”
W+P: Personal Influences?
W+P: ‘Nuff said.
Photography by Joe Tanis. Check him out at www.joetanisphotography.com
Models provided by Red NYC
Wardrobe is a combination of John’s own hand tailored suits, vintage, and a variety of brands including Denim & Supply
Wolf + Panther pretty much only goes to department stores when we can drink in them. Our last flit with great clothes and refreshing drinks was at Bloomingdale’s to check in with good ol’ Mr. Natty. Check that story here. This time we took it upstairs to Bergdorf Goodman’s 2nd floor for the launch of I am Dandy: The Return of The Elegant Gentleman.
The book is the combination of Rose Callahan’s photography from her blog The Dandy Portraits and text by Nathaniel Adams, manager of the NYC Atelier: Against Nature. I am Dandy collects portraits of fantastic and elaborately dressed gentlemen as bell weathers of the current resurgence of what one of our personal favorite dandies, Marc Williams of JJ Hat Center, calls “men who dress.”
The evening was in fact both fine and dandy. Champagne was in abundance, being poured at every turn by servers sharply dressed in Brioni, the evening’s sponsor. Live music supplied by one of the most crisply dressed bands out there, fronted by Dandy Wellington who appears in the book himself.
Bergdorf’s was founded in 1899 and created it’s Men’s Store (across the street from the main store) in 1990. For a place with so much history the store has done an impressive job of staying fresh. In fact, seeing the Dandy’s from the book with their throw-back threads milling about in front of displays of the latest Tom Browne, Rick Owens, Tom Ford, and similar made it clear just how fresh they keep it. And they stock skull handled umbrellas. Dandy as Fuck!
The portraits are on view at the National Arts Club until Friday (Nov 22).
Buy the book on Amazon here.
Elliott Sailors is Wolf + Panther’s kind of gal. You’ve seen her handsome mug on the blog before, she was the face of our Fourth of July article. She’s a strong and beautiful woman who’s been successfully modeling for years in womenswear. Now, in the next step of her career, Elliott has taken on modeling menswear. What we love about this, is that Elliott’s choice shows all of the divisions and boundaries that exist in fashion aren’t real. They are just things someone made up, got some others to agree to and then as time past the world starts relating to these opinions as law. A woman modeling menswear as a man? Why not? If she looks as good as one and the clothes look great then it’s a job well done.
Seizing an amazing opportunity to hang out with the super styled Elliott earlier this year, W + P not only had a great interview with her, but we also had a chance to do an exclusive photo shoot as a young bootlegger. Pulling from our menswear stock, Nicky Styles dressed Elliott in a slate grey/hunter green wool reproduction of a Prohibition era three piece suit. No young bootlegger would be complete with out vintage Italian brown leather boots, also from the W + P Vintage stock. W + P photographer Joe Goodman and hair and make-up artist AnaMarie Salamat helped to make this vintage photoshoot look on point.
W + P: What’s an appealing aspect of a woman wearing menswear for you? What do you like about putting on the suit and tailored pants?
For me I feel a lot more freedom in menswear. In womenswear, I like it and its pretty, but I like it when there is someone else there to make sure that its fitting me the right way, it’s moving the right way, like if there is a fan on the dress… There is a self-consciousness there. I mean there isn’t when modeling nude; my body is my body. So, in menswear there is an unlearning curve for me. There are certain stances that I can’t use in menswear that I would in womenswear… not that I can’t but they just don’t work as well. There is also a comfort now… before there were things I was asked to hide… how big my shoulders are, or how big my traps are, or contour how large my chin is. Where as now, I don’t feel the need to hide anything!
W + P: Do you think shooting menswear is helping you embrace some of the things you would try to hide when modeling womenswear?
Absolutely! There were when times when shooting womenswear I had thought I looked like a guy trying to look like a woman. So in seeing that I felt “shouldn’t I just look like a guy?”
W + P: Speaking of that how is the experience of seeing yourself in menswear as a woman who is actually married to a man?
I love it! It’s like getting to experience a whole other version of myself as a model. For so many years I have seen tons of other ways to recreate the way that I look in front of the camera; this is just a version that I haven’t explored. I haven’t been this excited about a new career move in, I don’t know how long! It’s really cool to be a part of something that is actually newer to fashion; a woman actually working as a male model is still a newer concept.
W + P: So why switch from what is obviously a super successful modeling career as traditional female model to working in menswear?
A number of things: I can work out the way I want to and not have to worry about being too muscular. Also, I don’t WANT to admit this, but I’m getting older. Most models are women with long hair and as a woman with long blonde hair the 18-24 year olds are gonna beat me out pretty much every time. What I like is, as a guy I can photograph about 10 years younger.
W + P: Do you prepare differently when you’re wearing menswear versus being photographed as a woman?
Totally! I didn’t even shave my legs today!! A lot more goes into preparing as a girl, for a photo shoot.
W+P: What’s the difference?
Well, with my hair being shorter, I don’t worry if I doing a treatment ahead of time in case they use too many heat products. On a day to day basis I don’t even think about my hair anymore, which is really nice. Though I do go every couple weeks to Decatur and Sons to get it buzzed.
W + P: What are the classic looks in menswear that you appreciate?
I completely love the whole Mad Men era. It think its really attractive. I am also a big fan of guys with the perfect stubble. The cowboy, rustic version of that is hot, or the gentlemen version with a suit and a button up. I think I also like it because its the thing I can’t do. I’m seen as a pretty boy.
W + P: What men in your life have great style?
My husband is definitely one of my favorite dressers in the world. He is the king of the whole vest look… with lots of three piece suits and the whole vest thing, sleeves rolled up… tie or not, he always looks good.
W + P: Would you share clothes with your husband?
I wear his jeans sometimes, he has more of a booty than I do. He is bigger than I am so his shirts don’t really fit me.
W + P: You said love the Mad Men era, is that your favorite design decade?
If I had to pick one for men’s and women’s fashion, the whole look including beauty, I would have to go 80′s.
It’s not so much the shoulder pads. I really like the natural eyebrows. I like how colorful it was, I like that men were still allowed to wear short shorts sometimes. The leather is my favorite part of the 80′s.
W+P: Leather on leather?
Yeah! I love rock music so the whole glam rock thing WORKS!
W+P: Do you listen to music before you prepare for a shoot? What do you need to get ready beforehand?
Not really, I don’t have a specific one thing that I listen too. It’s not a necessity. I do like to know what I am getting into. I like to know the mood, like when I did the photo shoot for Bacardi and the party was set in 1957, I literally just enrolled everyone to think we were shooting Mad Men for that day. It was pretty fun!
To get more of the amazingness that is Ms. Elliott Sailors like her Facebook page and follow her @elliottsailors on Twitter and Instagram. Her Throwback Thursdays are pretty dope.
The team we assembled for this shoot are always up to other cool things too. Find out what by following their Instagram’s @begborrowstealfilms (Joe Goodman, Photos) and @amsalamat (AnaMarie Salamat, Hair and Make Up).
And if one photo shoot isn’t enough and you’d like to see Nicky style Elliott as a woman for Cake Magazine then check this out.
Why don’t they serve free drinks at Bloomingdale’s all the time? Last night GQ x Bloomingdale’s British Invasion brought booze, food and some interesting opportunities. Of the offerings Harry’s of London and Mr. Natty were the favorites.
Harry’s of London specializes in italian made leather shoes with Vibram soles. If you bought a pair last night Harry’s was offering to custom dye them any color you wanted on the spot, right there in the store while you load up on shrimp.
The other interesting option, and the reason W+P stopped by, was the Bloomingdale’s launch of Mr. Natty’s line of grooming products. To celebrate the duo behind the brand, Matt Brook and Matt Raine, were on hand to offer the traditional experience of a straight razor shave. Yes, it was the kind of night where you can wander into a storied department store, get a hot shave, down some WhistlePig Rye, and try on formal wear that is lined with images from the covers of Beatles albums.
Stay tuned for a full interview with Mr. Natty where we will get the details on how they combined refined with gruff to create the kind of products guys have been waiting for (seriously, where has this Beard Elixir been all my post-pubescent life?) and find out if in fact everyone involved is named Matt.