FA2L is for anyone who cares about beautiful things–clothing, shoes, accessories, home furnishings–and the interconnected tribes of those who make, sell, market and desire them. If something speaks to you, buy it now or hold your peace: there are links in each story, so the item you want is just a click away. I'd like to hear from you, too: please view my profile, use the email button and send me your comments.MG

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bricklayers and Other Extraordinary Gentlemen

Old-school work wear is American fashion's comfort food: homemade, hearty, unpretentious. It seldom goes out of style (in parts of the country, it's never in or out, it's just, you know, clothes); popular culture merely ranks its trendiness higher or lower from year to year. Right now, it's spiking off the charts. Americans are shopping their closets for well-worn jeans and practical jackets, buying only things they really need, and looking for inexpensive basics. A recent re-discovery is the canvas mason bag, with a hinged internal frame to support heavy tools or bricks (hence its name). It's classic, it's functional, it's cheap. Well, this is not that bag.

Oh, the bag itself is authentic enough, but in the hands of The Gentlemen's League it's become so much more. Industrial designer Seth Stevens has tweaked it in ways fashionistas will love (and traditionalists will be gnashing their teeth over): the canvas is finer, the leather is softer, even the hardware is prettier. Once assembled, the blank canvas (so to speak) is turned over to artist Adam Razak. Some of his finished pieces are available at Début New York, but most are made to order. Clients sit down for a private consultation, after which Razak hand draws the artwork with pen and ink (including personal details that make one side "public" and the other "private'); adds the customer's monogram; and signs his name.

In other words, this bag is for someone who appreciates history, but seeks the adrenaline rush of 21st-century creativity. I can already hear so-called purists chuckling. But, like people who scoff at runway fashion (
who would ever wear that?), they're missing the point. Such flights of fancy represent a designer's attempt to wrestle with big ideas, fantastic dreams and dark desires--and serve as totems of self-expression for the lucky few who end up wearing, or carrying, them. As to whether or not anyone needs such a thing, I'll let Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel have the last word: "Luxury," she once said, "is a necessity that begins where necessity ends."

Photograph by Ron Reeves