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Wait…is that…an alien I see? It’s too blurry to tell!

One of the great things when talking about Roswell Aliens (the theme for this RYNSHU show) is that whenever you see a photograph of one it is never really clear so as to defy disbelief or truth or proof of any identity; and so it was a lucky strike of fate when the BDMOTP photographer couldn’t make it to the RYNSHU show on the last day of Paris men’s fashion week, a Sunday, when we had to struggle to make pictures with an obscure and old handheld mobile camera, an old Blackberry Curve, which means that what you see here judging from the grainy picture above MAY actually or MAY NOT have been what really appeared on the runway – you will just have to take our word for it –, whereas according to the press release the image was supposed to be a ‘Little Grey’ alien.

Well there were actually TWO aliens that appeared – or rather ‘made an appearance’, one with a white head, the other with a more humanoid color of which you can here see our second grainy picture.  They were followed in long trail by a quite extraordinary host of HUMANOIDS dressed in jacquard, lace, printed silk, cashmere, and of course leather (made from abducted animals no doubt), in a grand non-variety of colors appropriately never leaving the fourth spectrum:  Grey, grey, grey, black, ink jet black, scarab, metal, and white – except for some solid gold. One would have never imagined such a close encounter of the third kind in the heart of Paris of course, but for those of you who know Paris, if you know that the location was in the middle of the Belleville district of town, you would not have been so surprised. Where else to find Grey Aliens in Paris but in Belleville? It’s dark, it’s dank, and yes, it can be scary.

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What you cannot see in these grainy pictures however are the tube line outfits and the slim silhouette pants that the humans were wearing. And what was actually quite extraordinary and ‘alien’ in its own right besides the setting and the performance of the show were the two types of leather used to make the human costumes:  Shironameshi is a humanoid skin tight type of leather used as bandages in the Sengoku era of Japan; Kurozan is painted lacquer by hand brush on top of this humanoid skin; together they can form remarkable outfits.  RYNSHU, this designer, is not kidding for when he means alien it is alien. He loves the eccentric to the extent that it has become the signature. Zippers on buttonholes? Check. Skin-tight leathers and lacquers? Check. Aliens?  Double check.

Image Credit XEX Blog

Image Credit XEX Blog

As the show’s theme of Riddick-lacquered humanoids lead by (grey) aliens slowly paraded through the dark in front of us we realized that the press release had not been kidding:  This show was supposed to be about SPACE (sic), BLACK HOLES (surely felt like we had arrived in one), and boundless ENERGY, captured in the show’s hallmark item – the famous theorem by Albert Einstein:  E = mc square.  Perhaps that this explains why there were TWO aliens in squared and checkered outfits, and not just one.  But perhaps not.  And perhaps that this close encounter on a humid Paris Sunday in winter was really never meant to be and that somehow we had found ourselves in a quantum time lapse.  Frankly, everything looked a little bit unreal, and not just grainy.  Not surreal, as is usual in Paris.  But unreal.  Two Aliens in cashmere outfits that looked like they could have been made in Italy by Cantarelli.  A host of lacquered humanoids in style as omen forbidding & foreboding, like something out of the Chronicles of Riddick which appears right after the two suns have set (you know the drill).  Dark space in the backstage mirrors.  Radiation goggles not optional.

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Posted by Sandro Joo.

 

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BDMOTP is in Paris during fashion week at a showroom on St Germain right behind the famous eponymous church to visit ModeaParis: Carven, a brand resurrected from the past, first as a woman’s brand, and then more recently as a new brand for men, and it seems as if this simple double-syllabled brand name as well as the retro font of the name itself, conspire to introduce to us this classy & marvelous 80’s retro collection – you know, the time of Disco, the Bee Gees, John Travolta & Olivia Newton John, but then without all the hoopla and the pop culture – a time of sobering plain colors (mustard, jet black, carnelian red), plain patterns (stripes, squares), simple and plain forms (wide peak lapels, elongated ribbed turtlenecks, slim trousers), and that ubiquitous yet subversive item which managed to define an entire decade with a single stroke of sartorial genius:  Tight leather (disco) dress pants for men (here on display in the color mustard no less)!  A crime against fashion never to be repeated.

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Small wonder then that when the decade was over that people tried to put the lid on it as soon as possible, but when you closely look at the style of the font of the letters in the word Carven above, what comes to mind again and again is not only the simplicity, the functionality, and the plainness of the decade, but also its inimitable style:  For this is the time when the first ‘urban’ of the seventies is moving toward the ‘cosmopolitan’ of the eighties, and in the details of the collection we see embroidered and printed thus on the sweaters and the shirts the simple motifs of the very first global tech icons – cassette tape recorder players, old TV sets, and of course this great grandfather of the iPod, the Sony Walkman.

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For those of you not old enough to remember when navy blue still looked like grey, when brown was mustard, and when carmine or crimson was still carnelian, when your shawl lapel had a peak, your pants were tight whether short or long, and when stale-looking longer or well-combed hair was not a crime (yes people used to carry combs as strange as that may sound today), and when people were not yet defined by their luxury accessories or their technological gadgets, there DID exist among us a real neo-urban romanticism, aye a longing even today still, for the simplicity and simple functionality of life the way it was back in the 80’s.

A Carven Press image

A Carven Press image

And Carven hits this feeling & concept right on the nail with their sleek new menswear collection:  Brilliantly retro for a new age and a new century the recent past has all of a sudden become distant yet present in its style when we watch the carefully thought out Carven tailoring & design here behind the old church of St Germain.  Retro materials like soft wools, mohair, and alpaca – lines and stripes out of sync – the softer faded colors, the lack of spectrum – the accentuated lengths of the coats and the colors and the sleeves – and aye, those pants, those very tight pants – those shockingly very tight leather pants – for men, the ones you don’t take home to mother – because they were supposed to have died with Rick James those pants (look it up) – or so BDMOTP thought, until we discovered this marvelous eighties retro collection in full color, in slim fit, and in full leather gear.

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Posted by Sandro Joo and photos by Franz Kennedy.

Comte Robert de Montesquiou leaving the room as in a contemporary artist rendering by Delius

Comte Robert de Montesquiou leaving the room as in a contemporary artist rendering by Delius

Et voici! As would behoove a self-respecting global men’s fashion power blog, BDMOTP presents to you the man who inspired Oscar Wilde to write Portrait of Dorian Gray  who may very well have inspired Michael Jackson to become the gloved one AND have a squeaky little voice, who inspired Karl Lagerfeld to take Choupette as his most beloved icon pet, who was an example for the reveries of Marcel Proust in the persona of Baron de Charlus in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu and who most notoriously was the hidden subject–if not indeed the exact copy and model – of Karl Joris Huysmans’ deliciously poisonous and forbidden book A Rebours (Against the Grain) in which an improbable character called Des Esseintes is immortalized as the prototype godfather of all dandies for all time, a particular and eccentric man who celebrates an extravagant lifestyle of pleasure and beauty in complete solitude yet surrounded by the most outrageous & extraordinary home furnishings, decorations, and accessories.

But not yet many know that this gentleman was not fiction but actually existed, and that his name was Marie Joseph Robert Anatole de Montesquiou–Fézensac, better known as the Marquis Robert de Montesquiou, and that, perhaps mysteriously, two famous portraits of the man himself are still hanging in museums today one in New York (the Frick) and one in Paris (Quai d’Orsay) so as to silently witness and attest to his continuous private importance to the world of style for men even in our information age 125 years later.

Thus the following BDMOTP interview is a fictionalized version of a meeting with one very real vampire of men’s style and fashion – and an icon for the ages.

portrait of Marie Joseph Robert Anatole, Comte de Montesquiou-Fézensac by Whistler

portrait of Marie Joseph Robert Anatole, Comte de Montesquiou-Fézensac by Whistler

BDMOTP:  Hello Robert, thank you for granting us this special occasion for a brief interview. First off, are you the best dressed man on the planet?

Robert de M. (squeaks a little and twitches and takes off one white glove laying it across his knee while folding his legs gently, then tips his moustache and giggles, but never answers the question and sighs deeply): Umm..

BDMOTP:  If you had lived today Robert, would we be able to find you on Facebook?

Robert (giggles a little more and then taps his cane on the floor):  I always enjoy my pleasures privately, and I have few friends– also I do not like to share, I rather like to keep things for myself and treasure them and admire them alone.  Thus, as a proven butterfly, I need not many friends, because I have flowers, many beautiful things and flowers – and their colors and shapes inspire me to flutter on, and on, and move from one to the next.  If you can find them, flowers are always there for all to see, so there is absolutely no need to put them on Facebook.  Ah, the smell, I love the smell of roses, I close my eyes and they are there …

BDMOTP:  The French bourgeoisie in your lifetime had quickly condemned you as ‘un esthète au goût souvent discutable’ (an aesthete of frequently questionable taste) but the English speaking public of today really loves your style and your manners. What is your message to our readers?

Robert de M. (pouts and touches his moustache):  That every good conversation starts with a pose. And that in order to strike a proper pose, one always needs a personal style as well as particular manners.

The art of how to strike a proper pose, undoubtedly inspiring Oscar Wilde

The art of how to strike a proper pose, undoubtedly inspiring Oscar Wilde

BDMOTP:  What is it with the white gloves?

Robert de M.:  You don’t like them?  They are my favorites. Chamois – leather. Antelope. So soft!

BDMOTP:  We love your Persian cat Robert.  Today we have a fashion icon with a very famous Persian cat whose name is Choupette (the cat of Karl Lagerfeld). How do you feel about it that 100 years later people – famous people in the world of style even – are still copying your ideas and your manners?

Robert de M. (cackles and giggles and crosses his legs carefully and sits up straight):  I love my cat! She is my darling. She is NOT an accessory!

Robert holding his Persian cat, inspiring Karl Lagerfeld one century later

Robert holding his Persian cat, inspiring Karl Lagerfeld one century later

BDMOTP: But Robert the ugly rumor is that you once had a pet tortoise at your private residence and that you painted its shell gold and then it died (according to the account of French author Mallarmé who visited your house). But we did some research and we don’t believe you ever did what Huysmans wrote about Des Esseintes that he had gemstones encrusted in a turtle’s shell. You would not do this kind of thing would you now?  In today’s world this does not go off very well–to say the least. A tortoise is not an accessory.

Robert de M. (starts to cry and sniff a little): I am sorry, I am sorry I should have never painted the shell of my tortoise in gold – it is true–but I swear I never encrusted my tortoise with gemstones–this is pure fiction.  My notoriety must have gotten ahead of my reputation.

BDMOTP:  Robert, you talk about your notoriety as if it is a good thing?

Robert de M. (twitches his head and tips his hat up a little bit, then puts his cane between his legs, and looks indignantly ahead and purses his lips): Excuse me! I used to be a successful stockbroker, with an excellent reputation, and now that I have become a well-known esthete and dandy, and a legend, I cannot discuss my own notoriety? And just because I now know how to strike a proper pose whenever and wherever it does not suit society at large, I have become ‘notorious’? Does this frighten you? I tell you that a good notoriety and a little scandal here and there has always been the spice of life in style and fashion, in the same way as taking risks and speculations have always been the key to success in business and finance. If a man is no longer willing or able to risk his reputation every day the moment when he wakes up, then he will never go again in style! And people will forget him. Dixit.

Robert de M. suddenly gets up quickly and angrily holding up his head up and slightly backward without looking or saying goodbye stodgily taps twice with his cane on the floor and leaves the room carefully closing the door behind him. We have no time to thank him and are left wondering about many things, with a large list of questions left unanswered and a feeling of uneasiness.

Comte Robert de Montesquiou leaving the room as in a contemporary artist rendering by Delius

Comte Robert de Montesquiou leaving the room as in a contemporary artist rendering by Delius

Posted by Sandro Joo.

If no one else can help, and if you are in any kind of trouble, and IF you can find them, maybe .... you can hire the A-team

« If no one else can help, and if you are in any kind of trouble, and IF you can find them, maybe …. you can hire the A-team »

This is old theme quote of the eighties TV show classic The A-Team. It handsomely applies to finding and doing an interview with the Sapeurs from the Congo, the world’s most mysterious and perhaps most famous group of dedicates to men’s fashion – the Dandies from Brazzaville / Kinshasha, the twin city of the Congos.

For from deep in the heart of Africa (this is where Joseph Conrad’s famous story ‘Heart of Darkness (1899)’ commences) – the Congo River separating two large republics and two large cities on a mass of land the size of the contingent USA, here comes to our globalized world a mysterious & powerful force in the form of an extraordinary love for men’s fashion par excellence: La Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes (SAPE), aka the Society for Elegant People and Ambianceurs in English – or in short – the Sapeurs (pronounced ‘the sappehrs’).

Made famous by Guinness most recently, yet hard to locate either on the map or in cyberspace, and lost in a world of francophony where all is ambiguous and nothing is ever clear, it is still largely unknown today what drives and motivates this powerful force of style for men.  But BDMOTP will make an attempt to explain by hand of the following interview.

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Tradition & Style meeting Post-Modernism: Ben Moukacha, Majesty, Gentleman, Terminator, & Yann Colère in front of the Centre Pompidou in Paris

BDMOTP is meeting with Ben ‘le Sapelogue’ Moukacha and Chardel Matsanga who are part of a group of Sapeurs called Les Sapelogues de Paris.  It appears that Sapeurs both at home in the Congo and abroad come in different chapters, different forms of organization, different fiefdoms, and in different schools of thought even.  If this were feudal Europe there would be kings, counts, knights and barons among the Sapeurs, all feuding, each have organized their own chapters, their own groups, with each chapter or group having its own beliefs on style for men and the meaning & essence thereof. 

We discover that Ben is the founder and creator of a SAPE school of style & thought which is called La Sapelogie de France; and Mr Matsanga is the President thereof.  Our meeting is in front of the Gare du Nord, Paris, outside on the terrace of a Brasserie called ‘1925’ (ambiance is everything and the twenties style interior decorations add to the conversation) and BDMOTP quickly learns the following in summary over coffee and soft drinks:

  • Each group of Sapeurs has a distinct code of style known only by the group
  • Each group has a distinct code of ethics known only by the group
  • Part of the code is knowing how to organize & select colors in dress for men, and no man should wear more than three different colors at once
  • Part of the code is knowing how to walk or stand or pose, in other words a man’s gait is highly important when it comes to style (this particular skill is called ‘diatance’ in local Congolese dialect)
  • Style, in men, is a spirit – ‘un état d’esprit’ in French – a mindset or state of mind in English
  • Teamwork is highly important in that when men go out together, they go out DRESSED as a TEAM – in complementary colors for instance – and NOT as individuals (take that hipsters)
  • Style & beauty are an expression of tolerance and freedom:  There is no better way to fight poverty, war, and misery than with beauty & style – ‘c’est une mission extrordinaire’ – a form of missionary zeal if you like
  • Most sapeurs or sapelogues, are known by their singular nicknames as if they were Brazilian footballers:  Gentleman (the one who speaks English), Terminator, 007 (aka James Bond), the King (le Roi), Destiny (Destin), Dandy, Majesty (Majesté), Colère, and the BDMOTP favorite who goes by the name of GPS, are some examples
  • A sapeur or sapelogue succeeds in his ‘métier’ (craft) when he successfully is able to create a persona – ‘un personnage’– and is able to integrate his persona into the team

In a closing question we still ask who would qualify in America to become part of an A-team of Sapeurs, and the answer is immediate and without hesitation:  Sean Combs ‘P Diddy’ Puff Daddy, of course, as the other one mentioned is ‘Lord’ Scott Disick.

Ghislain de Claize, Ambianceur aka as 007, or James Bond

Ghislain de Claize, Ambianceur aka as 007, or James Bond

In this brief notice, it’s truly an honor for BDMOTP to be able to present to you the Dandies of the Congo, and in particular the chapter we interviewed called les Sapelogues de Paris, and we would like to thank Ben Moukacha and Chardel Matsanga for a short but powerful interview hoping that perhaps we will be able to be back in October to do a more extensive (video) interview in Bordeaux during the semi-annual festival of the Sapeurs in France.

The most important thing we have learned today is – please take note – that style for men can be a force of life and a force for good, and has the power to change our world – by creating an ambiance of pleasure, beauty, and harmony for all.

With many thanks to our friends from the Congo, the Sapeurs!

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A still shot from the famous Guinness Sapeurs commercial

Voila an interview bonus:  A small pearl from the Code of the Sapelogues – the fourth commandment of Sapelogie – for you to ponder and reflect upon:

‘Les voies de la Sapelogie sont impénétrable a tous qui ne connaissent pas la règle de trois, la trilogie des couleurs achevees et inachevees (the ways of Sapelogy are impenetrable to all who don’t know the rule of three, the trilogy of colors attained and unattained).’ 

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Story & Interview by Sandro Joo.

Photos (including caption) from the collection of Ben Moukacha (except the lead and closing picture).

 

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“vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas”

The explosive French translation of the title of this capstone piece would read ‘Les Hommes en Dentelle’ and for anyone with even a faint or flawed knowledge of French it would be immediately clear that each and all connotations with what ‘dentelle’ stands for is normally always associated with that which what is universally known as being 100 % feminine. But not in this case, as BDMOTP boldly presents to you “Men in Lace”, a first collection by young Parisian créateur / designer Maxime Ephritikhine.

It has nothing to do with gender equality, or genderless-ness for that matter, that today, in 2014, men also CAN wear lace, and feel comfortable with sensuality, lightness, fairness, touch, and transparency–naye, it has something to do with vanity, and with the fact, that only vanity, can make a shallow man proud, an old man young again, and a dirty man feel clean. Such is the power of vanity, also in man, or especially in man perhaps, because rarely does man feel he was born with natural beauty!

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Soft you now, the fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remember’d.—

(Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1)

It was therefore a true discovery and a phantom delight when BDMOTP was privileged enough to attend a runway show outside the Louvre in Paris last month covering the graduation ceremony for one of Paris’ famous fashion schools – Mod’Art – and when by chance among a host of collections for women there was a single one being shown for men: The new and first collection of young designer Maxime Ephritikhine, his final graduation project walking the Paris runways.

And of course MEN IN LACE being a strange & bold idea to present to a global audience–which could only come from the cold and time worn streets of Paris, BDMOTP took the chance to interview this very promising ‘créateur’ and while asking for pictures of which you can here see and read the rather marvelous result.

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Our approach was to ask Maxime about his concept and his idea, so here is the creator’s statement on his first collection – a portrait of the artist in his very own words:

This first collection is theatrical ; it is an illustration of vanity. The clothes are part of the wardrobe of some baroque personalities who have lost everything. They roam in a very dark forest in the cold winter with what is left and what they used to have. They may have lost their influence and their wealth but something magnificent still remains in them, they have a theatrical attitude as if they didn’t want to let go of their rich past. It’s the translation of an opposition, of the vanity of life.

In this collection, garments are for the most part natural because this is a guarantee of a high level of quality and also because nature is one of the most important sources of inspiration. So it is important in a world where everything is going and moving so fast to keep something that reminds us where we are from and where we belong. Silk in many different aspects, cotton, wool, viscose are the main materials. For this collection Black and White are the main ‘colours’, they illustrate the conflicts, opposition and the ambiguity of the collection. On one side we have light and purity illustrated with multiples shades of white going from very optical, to ghost white, ivory and white smoke. On the other side we have shadows, the dark, roughness and dirt illustrated with many different shades of black like midnight black, licorice, onyx and jet.”

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On the runway Maxime’s work had something that reminded of ‘Games of Thrones’ and we asked him about it afterwards, and he confirmed the style of his collection to be one that belongs to a world of dreams, a realm of fantasy, to the abode of undifferentiated consciousness still – Ladies & Gentlemen: The Abode of MEN IN LACE.

A privilege of women, now made available for men!

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This is so very Game of Thrones

Posted by Sandro Joo and photos by Leon Fernando and Xiafeng Wang.

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Image credit: Jonathan Saunders Facebook page

The rue de Lappe in Paris is very colorful and vibrant dirty old cobblestone street in the Bastille quarters near the Boulevard St Anthoine and therefore it was no surprise during this Paris fashion week to find hidden in the old alley’s darker interiors a showroom featuring the Scottish textile print master of the colors of the rainbow:  The marvellous collections of Jonathan Saunders.

Usually well featured in New York and London it was thus nice to be able to see the Jonathan Saunders AW14 collection in Paris during fashion week where normally you would only be able to find a product outlet for the grand brand at Printemps Haussman.

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Image Credit: Filippo Fior

Jonathan Saunders is well known for architectural style (called clean-form) colors printed on different textiles and indeed this the coming fall winter collection was more colorful than one would dare to imagine or hope in Paris where in winter almost everyone is only dressed in black or grey, or maybe brown. This type of collection would certainly perk up Parisian streets in winter should men only for once dare to wear more colors than women and buy Jonathan Saunders in addition to their collection of socks and underwear by Paul Smith.

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One could perhaps imagine the dark experiences of the créateur from the misty Scottish highlands turned around into blazing and various colors on the various ends of the spectrum so as to brighten short days – all produced and meted out in patterned and engineered pieces of prints on textile, so as to give form and content and meaning to gloomy days. The perfect measure for a dark and forboding winter to come if you want to brighten things up.

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For winter and fall 2014, thus, Jonathan Saunders brings us far from the Scottish highlands the light fantastic – the Aurora Borealis descending from above in multi-colors – and printed on your coat, your jacket your scarf, your sweater in mutliple checkered patterns, squares, lines, rectangles – and by golly why not – Coco Chanel windows.

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Image credit: Filippo Fior

Posted by Sandro Joo.

persol714SMlimitededition

SM stands, of course, for Steve MQueen who made this blue lens pair of shades instantly classic in the 1968 ONE-LINER classic movie The Thomas Crown Affair, starring Faye Dunaway and the man himself, who, as adventurous lovers often do in film, tries to pull off a heist and escape riding off into the sunset never to be seen or heard of again.  And to remain incognito, surely, and in good style, a good pair of shades will help as an indispensable accessory, because, as the script reads:

“We’re in this together.”

Steve McQueen wearing Folding P 714’s

Steve McQueen wearing Folding P 714’s

Persol (per il sole = for the sun), today owned by Luxottica, who also owns Ray Ban, and who today is the world’s numero uno maker of sunglasses, decided to bring back this sixties GEM in the form of a Limited Edition aptly called Steve McQueen geared for a contemporary audience and customized for today’s demanding global style-hungry hipster-proletariat – and also for YOU –, because admit it brother, we ALL want to look cool and handsome these days.

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And please take it from BDMOTP that right now no pair of sunglasses is better equipped for contemporary fast and exclusive living than the P 714 SM LE.  The blue shade of lens is exclusive and special, and the frame comes in classic Havana both tortoise and amber as well as black, but the feature with the “wow” factor which is not only highly impressive from a standpoint of technology but also from a practical perspective, is that this pair of sunglasses is FOLDABLE. It folds! It is a folding pair of sunglasses.  Yes, you read that right, it can be folded up, and nicely be put back into the in – or outside pocket of your dress jacket in a very small case, so that no one will ever know that just one minute before you were trying to go incognito.  It’s discrete, it’s clever, it’s cool, and it is grand in its conception.

Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint trying to remain incognito in Hitchcock’s 1959 ‘North by Northwest’

Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint trying to remain incognito in Hitchcock’s 1959 ‘North by Northwest’

In fact, the 714 model is a more developed and evolved version of the famous Persol 649 S from a decade earlier in the fifties when it had originally been developed for tram drivers in Turin, Italy, protecting them from dust of sandy roads hitting their eyes.  The 714 is thus the foldable version (yes practical and handy) of the 649 and both these sets of magic sunglasses reached a larger public almost immediately since conception through the movies.

The 649 is created in 1957 and when Marcello Mastroianni wears them in Divorce Italian Style’by Pietro Germi from 1961, the name of this all-time classic accessory had already been made famous when Cary Grant desperately is trying to remain INCOGNITO on a train by wearing his sunglasses and by wearing them well and in style in Alfed Hitchcock’s North by Northwest from 1959. And so as any movie director without a stylist would know: One good pair of shades on one good actor at one right moment makes for a classic image!

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And this is why perhaps the Folding P 714 Steve McQueen Limited Edition is not only brand-able by the name of an actor, but also by the name of a film itself: The Thomas Crown Affair Edition.

BDMOTP can do that exercise too!  Take very cool accessory from several decades ago and find film in which it first appears.  Come up with a new and improved customized version of same classic item. Chose well known charismatic actor who wears/wore item really well in film. Use both name of actor and name of film. For final touch, select classic one-liner or discourse by said actor in same film while wearing the item, and gently change key words.  Repeat, repeat again, then fade with image on smile of actor’s female counterpart (from The Thomas Crown Affair):

« Let’s start with the money. »

« Well I don’t have it. »

« But what would you do if you did ? »

++++++++++++++++++++++

« Let’s start with the shades. »

« Well I don’t have them. »

« But what would you do if you did ? »

Posted by Sandro Joo.

Prologue

Entering rue de la Paix from place de l’Opera walking toward the Tuileries and the Royal Palace (the Louvre) in Paris, the immediate and foremost imposing sight is that of Napoleon’s Roman Empire style victory column – as if ‘le petit corporal’ had been Hadrian, Aurelius, or Trajan himself – yet somehow the grand green artifact doesn’t look out of place, or out of style, and the first thing that comes to mind is why the giant imperial piece of bronze was never smashed and broken into pieces during the French Revolution at the time of the fall of the ‘ancien régime’ when everything royal in Paris was looted, burned, and torn down.   But then all of a sudden you realize that Napoleon the first came AFTER the French Revolution and not before, so that history still seems to be in good order, until you discover that in 1871 during the uprising of the Paris Commune the giant artifact was brought down anyway, only to be rebuild some years later when the latest popular revolt had passed.

And thus the whims and capricious fires of history play tricks on the mind in the very same fashion as light is refracted through superior crafted high jewelry into different directions – you never know when or where it will hit the eye – as you are now entering the inner sanctum of the world’s high jewelry makers, a grand plaza made to order in classic design by Sun King Louis the XIV in 1699 –, which today houses the beating heart of the world’s foremost artisans when it comes to gemstones and beauty: The Place Vendôme (*).

A print from the Mellerio dits Meller collections: 1837, view of Place Vendôme and Napoleon’s victory column from Rue de la Paix, Paris.

A print from the Mellerio dits Meller collections: 1837, view of Place Vendôme and Napoleon’s victory column from Rue de la Paix, Paris.

Place Vendôme

Whereas a well-polished mirrors made of Venetian glass or simple ‘bijouteri’ (the French language notably makes a distinction between ‘bijouterie’ (low jewelry) and ‘joaillerie’ (high jewelry), a class distinction not found in the English language) may offer you a nice and direct REFLECTION – often commonly called BLING today, only hand-crafted time-honored, and artisan traditional high jewelry accessories and time-pieces will be able to offer you multi-faceted and multi-colored REFRACTION, the stuff with the ability to create dreams and lasting legend, not in the mold of the vain desire of the bourgeoisie to impress others and to be seen, but rather invoking the brutality and certainty of kings and queens and other notables of yore, so as to confuse, to humble, to radiate, and to shine.

Here are found precious items made and crafted, not so that you buy yourself the ability to reflect well upon other peoples values or that you may be accepted into their society, but rather to give you the immediate assurance that wherever you go or that wherever you are that the immeasurable & mysterious refractions of your high jewelry or time-piece will render most societal invitations meaningless and obsolete because of the following simple, yet hard to grasp, paradigm: that ‘de se faire desirer’ (to make yourself an object of desire) is always going to be an art and a craft, and not just the adoption of a style or way of life through the purchase of an accessory.

Or as John Keats (Endymion) puts it:  “A thing of beauty, is a joy forever …”

La Grande Neuf, pink gold, automatic movement, alligator bracelet.

La Grande Neuf, pink gold, automatic movement, alligator bracelet.

The Man’s Watch as Jewel

Thus it is a great honor indeed for BDMOTP to be able to present to you the unique & timeless hand-crafted time pieces of Mellerio dits Meller, the oldest and very first grand house of high jewelry off the Place Vendome(*), to be found on 9 Rue de la Paix in Paris since 1815.

Timeless, because since 1993 Mellerio has been making man’s watches according to a special patent which exclusively allows the house to create time-pieces in the one shape otherwise only found in nature:  the oval shape of the egg (not every oval form is egg-shaped).  Aptly called “La Neuf” (the ‘new one’ (novum) but with a double-take on the shape for the word for egg in French: ‘L’oeuf’ (ovum)) the collection as a result of its inimitable forms boasts a CONVEX piece of sapphire glass set into a CONCAVE dial, which actually renders the watch a little ovoid (the oval egg shape in the third dimension).

La Club, pink gold, quartz movement, alligator bracelet

La Club, pink gold, quartz movement, alligator bracelet

And unique, because in real high jewelry, not a single piece of work will ever be reproduced or be made to order in the same way as another.  All is craftsmanship and all is art so that personalization no longer is necessary – there will only be ONE item in this world to wear and it is yours –, and it will have to be commissioned:  An egg-shaped piece of high jewelry for the ages over which posterity, in interesting stories yet untold, may fight some pitched battles so as to restore its ancient value to a future distant heir or, perhaps, to recreate a precious pedigree over the faded memories of some distant future’s illustrious forebear.

Each unique item (both accessories and time-pieces) can be ordered to beauty and crafted to precision according to the 400 year old Mellerio family tradition.  Yellow, white, or pink gold is used and a single order can take from two to four months.   Watch movement for La Grande Neuf is automatic and mechanically Swiss made.  This watch is a private commission for a time-piece as a jewel.

Boutons de manchettes en or jaune / yellow gold cufflinks, lapis lazuli or malachite

Boutons de manchettes en or jaune /yellow gold cufflinks, lapis lazuli or malachite.

Cufflinks

But here the search for perfection does not stop with a precious watch.  Not with a house which ranks as the oldest high jeweler in the world – given its first royal jewelry-making privileges by Marie de’ Medici in 1613 – and who counts the LAST queen of France, Marie-Antoinette, as their FIRST in a long and uninterrupted list of royal clients until today.

Mellerio may very well be the only house on the planet with the ability, the tradition, and the savoir-faire to be able to lift the art of high jewelry making to the point of perfection where it includes the exclusive creation of one of nature’s favorite shapes:  The oval egg-shape and the ovoid.  For this is the ONE house of high jewelry with its very own cut for diamonds (the Mellerio cut, see picture below) because the general technicalities of creating the egg-shape in gem stones are so difficult to master.

The Mellerio cut compared to regular gemstone shapes.

The Mellerio cut compared to regular gemstone shapes. 

And so Mellerio has the capacity and the sole right according to patent to also create and craft ‘Neuf’ cufflinks – oval shaped ‘boutons de manchettes’ – set in yellow, white, or pink gold.  Once the shape a given, these cufflinks can come in the colors of elements that one would expect to find in treasure proffered after by mistake you have rubbed an old lamp found in your grandmother’s attic only for a genie to appear granting you an unexpected wish (your FIRST wish): turquoise, opal, lapis-lazuli, jade, amber, malachite, and aye, including but not limited to, hmm, dinosaur bone. A kaleidoscope of colors captured in one single and ubiquitous shape, a form of nature, a stand-out collection fit for a prince, or if you wish (your SECOND wish), to be commissioned as an actual ovoid made of solid white gold (see picture below).

The ovoid cufflink made of solid white gold.

The ovoid cufflink made of solid white gold.

In search of perfection

Indeed it is precisely this timeless loyalty of high hand-crafted jewelry that gives such creations for men their ultimate value:  Because it is as close as one can come to perfection in shape, form, color, and time, these items will survive you and they will carry with them precious memories from the past for generations to come, each memory made precious to perfection, not for the sake of BLING in the reflections of a smooth mirror-image surface – so that others who are curious about your past will be able to interpret things and see you and remember you for the way you used to be, but rather like a bright amber burning fire gently refracting different colors in myriad of different directions of a dark room, causing different shapes, shades, and forms – those mysterious and unknown projections of Ali Baba’s cave of which we dream when we are still children – and emanating from the simple shape of an egg.

This begs for powerful men an old but dangerous question:  If only man would be able to create, or wear, ONE object so perfect that it is worth dying for, what would it be?  Be careful what you ask for, because the THIRD wish is known to be the tricky one…

The mathematical equation for the shape of an egg.

The mathematical equation for the shape of an egg.

BIJOU 7 mathematical equation for the shape of an egg

‘Montre de Col’ or simply ‘pocket watch’ made by Mellerio dits Meller circa 1880 and showing the house signature and the house address. 

(*)  on and around Place Vendôme the following jewelers can be found (this is not an exhaustive list), but only few of les grandes maisons de haute joaillerie listed below create all jewelry on commission where each piece crafted is unique or singularly made to order  (Mellerio is one).

Boucheron (house 1893, Place Vendôme 1893)

Buccellati (house 1919, Place Vendôme 1979)

Bulgari (house 1884, Place Vendôme 1996)

Chanel Joaillerie (house 1932, Place Vendôme 1997)

Cartier (house 1847, Place Vendôme 1899)

Chaumet (house 1780, Place Vendôme 1902)

De Beers (house 2001, Place Vendôme 2008)

Dior Joaillerie (house 1998, Place Vendôme 2001)

Louis Vuitton Joaillerie (house 2009, Place Vendôme 2012)

Mauboussin  (house 1827, Place Vendôme 1955)

Mellerio dits Meller (house 1613, Place Vendôme 1815)

Piaget (house 1874, Place Vendôme 1992)

Repossi (house 1920, Place Vendôme 1985)

Tiffany (1837 house, Place Vendôme 1999)

Van Cleef & Arpels (house 1906, Place Vendôme 1906)

Posted by Sandro Joo.

VicomteYellowSubmarine2

If you ever wanted to know what the French acronym BCBG means in fashion lingo, now you know (not to be confused with CBGB the old punk rock haunt of Ramones legend in NYC, or BCBG Max Azria, a female fashion brand): it stands for Bon Chic Bon Genre (Bon Chic = good elegance/style & Bon Genre = good class/manners, but, in double entendre, also ‘the right kind (of people)’) which, for purposes of talking about the interesting, fresh, and elegant style of Vicomte A., we are going to translate freely as either ‘preppy, upper crust, upper class, or gentry’.

We all know the look very well:  It’s that polo, hunting (not fishing), horse & yacht racing look often copied and woven into the fabric of elite global institutions of higher learning who have appropriated it as the trademark, and the introduction, of what is claimed to be a superior education and Preparation (‘preppy’ as in ‘preparatory school’) before real pitfalls and rumbles of life commence – even inside the doldrums of High Society. It is that collegiate look, in which a tie (or the colors of the stripes thereon) or a butterfly around your neck becomes a tool, not to succeed in dress-for-success business meetings, nor to simply show your fashion for the sake of pleasure or style, but to set yourself apart – and distinguish yourself – from other levels & classes of society, assuming others’ values are different from yours, not even mentioning the quality of taste of others’ fashion: because not everybody is equal!

VicomteModels

So which a grand idea indeed to make this type of exclusive high society style (Vicomte A. has its origins in Paris and Palm Beach) available to all people and to the general public at large, ready-to-wear, ready-to-buy, and in the grand array of all the effervescent colors siring the rainbow! Back in the sixties it was precisely this power that Yves Saint Laurent harnessed by ‘democratizing’ fashion with prêt-à-porter, the ready-to-wear, in a time when both sex and rock ‘n roll (and also fashion) conspired for the great universal brotherhood and equality of mankind; so why not also make the preppy collegiate look available and accessible to everyone: superior ‘gentry’ style for the masses and affordable to all, in many bright colors, in many different forms & patterns, and of course not without the odd accessories to go along (hmm binoculars maybe).  Because not just every look comes with so many values or pretensions!

VicomteBlaserRedPants

So do allow me, Sir, to wear this hunting jacket, even though I do not own any hounds; and please I would also like to have that bright yellow parka, so that I may impress my friends with my own importance despite not visiting any races; and, for esthetic pleasure’s sake, also, please, that college scarf, it is no ordinary Scottish square I presume that pattern, but verily a checkered ‘Prince de Galles’ (Prince of Wales), is it not, and by all means not to be confused with an ordinary boring ‘brownish’ Burberry I hope?  Ah, a real Vicomte A., you say – the French answer to (Polo) Ralph Lauren and Paul & Shark; but you still won’t find me in the Hamptons, in Newport, or Gstaad, Switzerland, for now, mind you; I will just wear all of this on the streets; the streets of my small provincial town. For I am not Jay Gatsby; and I like to be stylish, but not so preppy!

VicomteScarf

Thus Vicomte A. is a very interesting, successful, and young & fresh French fashion company founded in 2005 and managed well by viscounts Arthur de Soultrait and his brother Marcy. The brand has many stores world-wide in upper crust locations and the brothers made good use of branding their aristocratic title for a global audience while creating a multi-effervescent colored style of high-line high class collections made available and accessible to the public at large. Like at Ralph Lauren the original colors and styles of Vicomte A. originally hark back to the sport of polo, but also, in lesser extent, to ‘hippique’ (horse racing/riding), hunting, and yachting. Yet the colors used are much brighter than in the Ralph Lauren collections; this must be that famous Paris light effect of which Parisian painters spoke of old. The style of the collections can be considered as‘chic’ (VA’s motto is ‘l’instinct chic’, the chic instinct) but probably a little more sporty and casual (décontracté in French) than Ralph Lauren, perhaps a little bit closer to the collection of GAP, but of course, not nearly as ‘common’. BDMOTP would call it sporty, collegiate, yet fresh & elegant.

VicomteBeigeGreen

So to finish off this ‘colorful’ essay on collegiate wear for the upper classes now available to the masses thanks to Vicomte A., of course BDMOTP would not let fashionistas off the hook without a fine (mass marketing) sample of some of the sophomoric behavior and taste which every now and so often inadvertently seems to accompany the global elite on their travails, long-sufferings, travels and behaviors.  Benetton does it and is well known for it.  Abercrombie & Fitch thrive on it, and even have a budget for it in case it leads to lawsuits.  Calvin Klein pioneered it.  And so Vicomte A. apparently does it every once in a while by throwing a party:  it is called shock or scandal marketing for the very reason that it can never be considered real branding. A most royally colorful assembly indeed!

Photo from Flynet.

Photo from Flynet.

Voici Monsieur le vicomte Arthur lui-meme, during the bash for the 7th anniversary of Vicomte A. in 2012. And here, perched above his left shoulder, we see Pippa Middleton – related to British royals, but not by blood – dressed in the very same pink colors as the bright anniversary pink of the Vicomte A. house brand. So scandalous, so naughty, so bad!

Back in the 17th century Monsieur le vicomte would probably have been imprisoned (‘embastillé’ in French, as in ‘sent to the Bastille’) for ‘lèse majesté’ (co-optation of royal prerogatives, of the royal pearls and insignia, while not mentioning the perversion of  the royal court’s morals as a serious crime because this type of offense was better left to be pursued by ‘lettre de cachet’) in much the same way as Nicolas Fouquet, the first French minister of Finance, was imprisoned for life by Louis XIV after simply daring to build a more beautiful chateau and garden (Vaux-le-Vicomte) than the Sun King had ever owned himself.

And so today, 350 years later in our contemporary climate of global buzz marketing & instant publicity, anything with a direct mass appeal to popularity and your ‘number of likes’ is allowed: Voila Vicomte A.: because it is good to be the King!

Posted by Sandro Joo and photos by Yulia Gromova.

The Gosling Effect

The Gosling Effect

BDMOTP has already written about celeb favorite Ryan Gosling and his incredible transformation from normal dude to fashion icon, otherwise known as ¨The Gosling Effect¨. We put this theory to the test in Washington D.C with young Miles, a normal guy who was transformed into a stylish, elegant gentleman via the Gosling Effect. A series of unfortunate events actually led us to good fortune, as BDMOTP had the opportunity to try a Gosling Effect makeover out in Europe with young lad Benoit.

Welcome to the Gosling Effect: Á La Française!

Chilling in the cafe.

Chilling in the cafe.

Prologue

Oi! Life is a drag!

My name is Benoit – but call me Ben; I am 29 years old and I live close to the Belgian border in France in a small town of 17,000 souls.  I work in supply, sales, distribution, and delivery of supermarket products, and one day last month – I swear by the steeple of a Belgian beer-brewing monastery – I am on the auto-route on a Friday at 9 PM driving coming back from Paris close to the airport, when a  guy gets stranded running off the highway with one wheel on the bare rim – worst exploded tire I have seen – but I am right there so I help him, and bail him out; and this guy Sandro– I am not kidding you – he gives me a business card from BDMOTP, some US based fashion blog, and he invites me to come back to Paris soon to thank me, where he says they will style me,  where they will pimp me out, where they will groom me, shave me, and dress me up for the day!  Oi, we pimped his car all right, and it took several guys to fix that bloody tire and to get the wheel back on.

So Sandro from BDMOTP has offered to style me into becoming the French Ryan Gosling, the Hollywood actor, so that I will start to look smooth and cool and stylish, and I suppose also sexy and unrecognizable, and so that all the ladies will look at me – they call it the Gosling Effect:  Changing the regular guy into a well-dressed and stylish man –, so yeah man, why not, I need some style too, and if I can skip being a hipster all together – no need for that, then why not try to go straight from the cobblestone streets in the provinces near Belgium to the boulevards and catwalks of Paris; but is it really possible ?!  So oi, yes, I am coming to Paris guys, and I am now standing in the metro waiting for the train to take me to meet my stylist, but I am a little bit nervous…

I anxiously wait for the metro...

I anxiously wait for the metro…

 The Story

They say they have a stylist for me and that she has worked for Gucci Homme—and her name is Noor, and frankly, yes,  I am nervous because I am supposed to be just the regular guy – not some fashionista or hipster – and besides, what am I going to tell the stylist, and what will my friends say back at home?   We are meeting with BDMOTP to go to see the barber first, and I know what a barber is all about, although I have not cut my hair in three months, and no I didn’t shave for a week, so maybe the change will be huge!  But wait, what is this barber doing to me – they are calling him a visagiste homme – he is using an electric trimmer on my unshaven face giving me a goatee, and is then using the clipper to shave my hair; can someone please stop this, because I feel uncomfortable:  There goes all my hair!?  This barber is in one of the ‘quartiers populaires’ of Paris – in the hood, in the ghetto – where people still know how important style can be to make a difference in a man’s single life, so what am I going to do, I cannot go home like this now, it is too late, but my hair is being pimped, and I am losing it:  ‘Help!’  This looks like a ‘coupe de cheveux moyen-age homme’ – a medieval man’s haircut, and I am now starting to look like, not like Brad Pitt, but more like Jean, Duc de Berry, in the year 1382, somewhere before the battle of Roosebeke…

Petrified, I watch the barber chop and chop!

Petrified, I watch the barber chop and chop!

Goodness, no, my visagiste just did my face with a small single razor blade, removing everything except my skin around my new goatee, but quickly – oh there she is, my stylist is coming to the rescue –, what is this green substance – hmm, it is Brut, the original, and it smells good but it burns my face!?  I guess they thought about everything with BDMOTP, but we have to leave now immediately because we are on a strict time schedule and my stylist, she is now supposed to help me find a store where we buy a suit or a costume.  But I still prefer my jeans, my sweater, my hoodie, and I need my backpack too.  Which store will she enter?  All these stores look expensive to me, and we have only a shoestring budget, so I will never find something decent, and I confess that after the barber started shearing off all my hair that I almost lost all confidence in this project, but that the presence of a real stylist has given me a new reason to believe; perhaps I am even up to it now!  We are on the Rue de Turenne in the Marais district of Paris, and I hear this part of town is well liked by both hipsters and people with style alike, because it is well-known for men’s fashion.  Welcome to the big city I guess, because they have been taking my pictures since early this morning – flash, flash, flash –; hmm, this store is called Zakoya, and my stylist, she likes the blue suit in the window for only 139 euro!  Oi, we are going inside, and I think I am ready…

Trying on the blue suit...maybe this isn't so bad after all!

Trying on the blue suit…maybe this isn’t so bad after all!

I think I am starting to like this, all the attention, so let them take all the pictures they want – who doesn’t love the limelight?  I am trying on that blue suit she selected, where is the mirror?  Ah there it is …   I’ll be darned if I look good after all this!  So, Ryan Gosling, ey?  I DO look good, first time I noticed a mirror in my life, and first time I am noticing not just myself, but my STYLE as well, I guess they call mirrors Venetian glass for good reasons, because yes, leave it to the Italians, they always have style, and because now I too, Benoit, have some serious style – I even have a STYLIST, and her name is Noor, and she has worked for Gucci Homme.  I bet you even Ryan Gosling does worse than this. Word! Here is my main man now, an expert sales associate who is dressing me up while my stylist is helping; this is like having a second stylist, and I know I am ready:  So yes, I say bring it all on and dress me up, measure my suit, knot my tie, wash my face, comb my hair, re-sizzle my frizzle, pimp my ride, shine my shoes, and hey, why not a manicure!  Paris here I come!   No more beer for me, I’ve got two stylists and one barber and one photographer, and that must be at least one more thing than which Ryan Gosling can account for – so from now on today it’s going to be mojitos, coladas, caipirihnas…

This whole Gosling Effect makeover isn't so bad after all...

This whole Gosling Effect makeover isn’t so bad after all…

I am leaving it all behind bro:  Robert Pattinson eat your heart out, because this is still a better love story than … – I swear by a good pot of moules frites marinières – your new Dior commercial doesn’t fly because you cannot act, because you are no Ryan Gosling, and I am not acting this part for I have a classy stylist, ey, I got two, and I even have a visagiste – so no need for Dior – or any other fancy brand name – with fancy camerawork and prancing pretty girls like entourage to make a good guy into a real man – I AM a real man because all you need is STYLE, a friendly stylist, a simple barber, a sales associate – and the Best Dressed Man on the Planet.

Indeed it was very nice of BDMOTP to arrange a black Mercedes to get me back to my hotel, because the Paris Metro can be dreary, a drag, and dangerous.  Now where is my backpack?  Ah here it is, there is plenty of space on this backseat, and I love the car, it matches my suit! Dior with all their black and white images can make my day – because my photographer he says he will be rotoscoping some of today’s pictures ; they have been flashing that camera all morning long all over me:  I have become the unlikely character out of a novel by Philip K. Dick, my image, my move no longer existing on screen, camera, or photo, but drawn on paper only, a drawn image of an image of a form of style – I have been ‘rotoscoped’; and nothing else remains.  Pimped and rotoscoped into the French Ryan Gosling!  So let’s take a ride and get back to the hotel, now that I have found the STYLE which makes it possible to turn my own image into a cartoon character – I am the road runner, and I am off!

Dashing off into the sunset in my black Mercedes...now I look the part!

Dashing off into the sunset in my black Mercedes…now I look the part!

Epilogue

You know what?  I never knew cigarettes tasted so good with Mojitos, and now I am going to have to give up on beers; but I am glad to be back and that this fashion deal is over and done with; yeah, I was nervous at first and I did not really want to lose my hair or want to change, but in the end I did, and now that I have found a style of my own and I love it.  After the shoot and the styling we tried to enter a fancy hipster hamburger place in the Marais but they refused us entry because it was five minutes to twelve and they only open up at noon.  Normally I would have never done this, but due to my newfound confidence and style, I was decided to tell them off for not letting us in and for leaving us standing outside to wait in the cold for no good reasons. Because, you know, style is timeless, and style waits for no one, and my own style is so special, that if it ain’t good enough for you, then I will simply turn around and go somewhere else where they will like it and where they can appreciate me for what and who I am:

‘Why ?  Cause I am Benoit, the Ryan Gosling à la française!’

Oi!  Let’s have a smoke …

A smoke and a mojito...styling...

A smoke and a mojito…styling…

Stylist & Visagiste (barber): 100 euro

Shoes : Bata 80 euro

Tie : Virtuose 10 euro

Shirt : Franco Nero 29 euro

Costume : Zakoya 139 euro

Belt : Zakoya 20 euro

Glasses : Ray-Ban Aviator 179 euro

After-shave : Brut 6 euro

Story & Photos by Sandro Joo.

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