1. Fashion Week: Spring 09 Menswear

Spring '09 will be full of stripes, neutrals with pops of color, and above-the-ankle pants. Band of Outsiders offered casual, laceless loafers, 80's inspired kid-hipster cuts, and a sense of playing film-noir dress-up. The DKNY man was mostly tie-less and laid back, wearing canvass sneaks. Ducky Brown was inspired by bike messengers and swimmers' spandex, Lacoste's man in red simply showcased polos and cuffed, fitted slacks. Marc Jacobs' double-belts, volume, and stripes followed the trends this season. Patrik Ervell toyed around with glam rock-a-billy, Rag & Bone just went straight for the many schools of punk, and Robert Geller took us to eastern Europe, with Gypsy-softened, military cuts.

What we know about menswear is that there is little flexibility (at least in comparison to womens' fashion) concerning garments. There are things that define men - suits, ties, knits, hats, waistcoats, jackets, slacks, and certain accessories. In the world of menswear, the leather jacket is almost as defining to male gender as the Bloody Steak is in the world of cuisine. Aside from the perpetual re-modification of tailoring, cuts, and fits - most menswear designers are lost in a cyclical pattern of rotating colors, prints, eras, and fibers. Surprisingly, it is easy to use organic cotton instead of conventional cotton. It is easy to find alternatives to leather and fur. Thanks to designers like Jaanj, we know that ties do not need to be made with silk to be luxurious or silky. Same for knits and wool, yet designers keep pumping out the same old thing - imagining that somehow this is iconoclastic.

Menswear is dying because of logistics and lazy creatures of habit. It is dying due to a lack of vision and a defiant unwillingness to adapt to a landbase in crisis. Designers could use ethical textile suppliers, forcing those who continue to shit on us and get paid for it to change or vanish. Phillip Lim's grotesquely excessive snakeskin shoes, and so-over keffeyah-inspired scarf seemed useless on the runway. I'd rather see the actual living snake (it is much more beautiful) - or a tribute to Palestinean solidarity that hasn't been bastardized. Hillfiger's bone and white suits could easily be made with organic fibers. Designers are just starting to realize that the bubble most of them have found tolerance in  - where snakes are shoes and cows are jackets and raccoon-dogs are collars - is becoming more and more difficult to cajole consumers with, whose broadening awareness begs for well-made, compassionate garments and accessories, and exposes the absent referent.

The problem goes even deeper - in a culture of mainstream fashion 'journalists' and writers who lack the knowledge to create a critical discourse concerning textiles, labor, and functioning ecosystems - many simply fail to take into account what the clothes are actually made of, how that happened, and what the effects are.  Instead, when we do hear about fabric - the only barometer it is measured by is that of outdated and disfunctional ideas of luxury and evocation of wealth.

There are a handful of ethical designers recognized in the mainstream - Trovata for instance - who will be selling their garments from a vegetable powered bus. Others are Organic by John Patrick, Turk & Taylor, NSF, and Linda Loudermilk. They are almost always written off as 'cooky'.

More to come from spring '09.

2. Culturata Organics

Culturata Organic Shirt

What can improve upon a long family history in fine italian tailoring? Organic cotton. When in Rome... wear classic, tailored, organic shirts made by expert craftsmen. Culturata Organics is an emerging company with strict environmental and ethical standards.

Wax Flyer Jacket