There are some realities in the world that are kept from us by an illusory curtain, until the time comes to actually experience them first hand. As so many other things in life, fashion also plays a part in this universe of illusions, which is more apparent to some than others… I won’t get too deep into the issue of branding, as by now it would be almost like preaching to the choir, but I’d like to write a brief reflection and bring forth some topics on why I favour smaller labels.
First and foremost, I hope enlightenment has come to you at some point that big names and reputation don’t necessarily translate into quality; unfortunately, in some cases, it’s quite the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, most fashion giants deserve their hardly-earned reputation. I’m a fan of some of them, but the truth remains that the values, legacy and heritage left by their founders are slowly being put to shame by an ever-growing urge for profit. Bear with me…Of course at the end of the day it all comes down to business, fashion represents massive revenues, but in my modest opinion, business can be run in several ways.
Working in the industry for some time now, has opened my mind to the harsh realities behind major labels. For me, the biggest disappointment was witnessing how passion is lost throughout the years and profit alone dictates everything as newer generations and luxury groups take over. I wholeheartedly believe passion has to be part of the equation, in order to create a connection to consumers and actually produce something unique (that stands out for something other than a particular label). Common scenario…Imagine a brand that starts out set to deliver quality and attention to detail in each piece, sourcing the best fabrics and working with the best manufacturers (within its budget): say the original retail price is €100.
Lots of hype, global praise and several raving reviews later, it assumes a cult/exclusivity status, allowing it to increase prices to + €300 (not all manage to do it, but there are several successful examples out there). Although it’s stellar to achieve such an increase in margin and markup, let’s keep in mind they were already making money to begin with…So, one would think that the logic thing to do would be to make the most of this extra breathing space and try to upgrade your product, slowly and even if ever so slightly: better fabrics, materials, quality and craftsmanship, all while enjoying the recent found success of course.
Reality is quite different I’m afraid. Once that leap occurs and brands gain market recognition and dimension, the majority of them work exactly in the opposite way, pressuring manufacturers for lower prices often achieved at the cost of all of the aforementioned. As fashion becomes ultimately a question of numbers, where major brands are run by financial departments, it’s up to us as consumers, experts or aficionados, to actively make thoughtful choices and spend our hard-earned money where it’s actually worth it, instead of merely considering insignias or status.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on Osklen since 2007, back when I lived in Florianópolis (Brazil) and had a chance to really get in touch with the brand. Although my personal style has come a long way since then, evolving and adapting to a more mature perspective, all of the pieces I purchased at the time are still present in my wardrobe. As such, I was pleasantly surprised to come across the brand’s Lincoln Road store during my recent stay in Miami.
Founded by Oskar Metsavaht, a gifted creative director working in a myriad of areas such as fashion, design, media and social-environmental projects, the brand carries a distinctive trademark aesthetic and universe which embodies all of the above. As a worldwide renowned patron of ecology and sustainability, Oskar stands at the helm of the “new luxury” movement, focusing on how top tier fashion labels can be run in a sustainable, environmental-friendly way. Osklen is, as expected, a paramount player in this field.
As a matter of fact, it’s a serious player in many others as well, alas without the rightful praise it deserves…In my opinion, Osklen is one of the most underrated luxury labels out there, namely due to a stagnant misperception that associates it solely with beach and surf wear. Although there’s an undeniable influence of its Brazilian roots in each collection, beachwear is but a part of a more complex, luxurious universe. So much so, that in 2011 it was awarded the title of “Emerging Luxury Brand of the Year”.
A closer look at the current SS14 collection, for instance, reveals a wide spectrum of exquisite offerings including suits, blazers, shirts, knitwear and the much sought sneakers and loafers. This would be the minimum requirement for any collection, if it weren’t for the fact that every single piece stands out on its own, be it through design and details or the high-quality fabrics and techniques used in its manufacturing. Garment-dye and prints are applied to 100% natural fibers such as soft “brushed” organic cotton and linen, while unconventional materials such as salmon skin make their way into sneakers…all with outstanding quality. That being said, next time you step into an Osklen store consider carefully browsing the entire collection instead of the swim shorts alone.
It was hard to choose from the variety of emblematic places Porto has to offer, but taking into account it was recently listed in an international ranking of “Streets to Visit”, I had to go with the charismatic Ribeira.
This eclectic area, bathed by the Douro River, is one of the most iconic places you can visit during your stay. Overlooking the (Porto) wine cellars on the other side, while portraying a unique view of two of the most renowned bridges that cross the city, it’s definitely a sight to behold. Its beauty is only surpassed by the overall atmosphere that permeates the space, with locals and tourists turning the street into an unmatched multicultural, bohemian rendezvous. From the scattered market stands, to the groups of people sitting by the riverside and the constant flow of sightseeing and traditional boats sailing the river, it’s hard not to be dazzled.
It’s nice to remember that although shorts play a crucial role during the season, Summery attires don’t necessarily need to be sloppy or overly relaxed. Simplicity can still look good in a pair of cuffed, tailored shorts, sitting perfectly above the knee, when matched with a classic white tee and double breasted knit blazer. It’s just right to exude a balanced and polished ensemble that will make you look good on (almost) any casual occasion.
Details: double breasted knitted blazer, white crew neck tee, striped cuffed shorts, suede boat shoes and canvas holdall by Purificacion Garcia.
A few days ago I got a chance to visit the luxurious, exquisitely curated Bal Harbour in Miami. Simply put, this shopping Mecca carries one of the most outstanding selection of luxury stores and restaurants I’ve seen to date, set to establish a paramount standard of uniqueness. Within the array of refined labels such as Kiton, Canali, Cucinelli or Loro Piana, there was one in particular that caught my attention: 100% Capri.
Created by Antonino Aiello, the label turns its focus towards one of the most ancient and noble fabrics - linen. Drawing inspiration from the colors, designs and lifestyle of the homonymous Italian island, the label presents a superb collection of breathable, fitted garments perfectly complemented by shoes and accessories. As an unconditional fan of linen, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and airy, comfortable feel of each garment, which transpire high-end quality and attention to detail.
Unstructured blazers exude a trademark nonchalance with beautiful draping, trousers and shorts have just the right proportions and what to say about the shirts? Outstanding masterpieces such as the tuxedo shirt, or the removable spread collar shirt embellished with small linen diamonds on the front, are truly unique. Featuring light shades such as white, beige and khaki, the color accents are mostly given by the wide range of accessories including suede loafers and slippers, braided belts, scarfs, pocket squares and of course, the outstanding panama hats.
To top it off, the space created by Giachi Architettura e Design is in itself amazing, materializing the collection’s universe and feel through a modern, sophisticated style conveyed by a neutral color palette and use of wooden and leather details throughout. Like the collection, it feels lightweight and appealing while featuring an outstanding use of light, flowers and water to portray a natural ambience. Looking forward to visiting their Firenze store during next Pitti!
What better place to get lost and wander for hours than Porto’s Botanical Garden? Materializing an “Alice in Wonderland” universe, this massive garden features some of the most amazing sights the city has to offer, all while putting you in close contact with nature. The idyllic space is perfect to clear your mind from the drudgery of everyday life, allowing you to get in touch with your thoughts, relax, meditate or even work in a unique environment.
Lush areas filled with bushes and trees alternate with floral mazes and barren land thriving with cacti and amazing greenhouses. All in all, this garden is a one-of-a-kind experience that ultimately feels intoxicating and makes you want to come back for more, be it for its serenity or the uncanny feeling of realizing just how insignificant we are when gazing at some of the majestic trees that populate the space.
Picking up one of my favourite pieces of the season, a timeless suede bomber jacket, this look is one I can see myself wearing over and over. The sheer versatility of the jacket allows endless variations of the portrayed ensemble, exchanging the shirt and v-neck for a simple fitted tee, or the worn-out blue jeans by a white counterpart or chinos. The vibrant orange adds extra flare and Summery vibe, contrasting with the inner chambray lining on the jacket and picking on the orange highlights on the boat shoes.
Details: suede bomber jacket, white oxford shirt, orange v-neck sweater and suede boat shoes by Purificacion Garcia.