Tag Archives: Etro

Paisley: full of possibilities

10 Jul

red paisley

Take a moment to look at this picture. Do you notice the incredible detail? The harmonized colours? The pleasant but erratic pattern? You’re looking at paisley, one of the most gorgeous decorative patterns humans have ever devised.

Paisley is an incredible pattern to work with because it is so full of possibilities: paisley can be done in any scale, it may be multi-coloured or monochrome, simple or intricate, and the pattern may be regular and repeating or varied, irregular, and seemingly random. This wonderful, natural design has deep, rich roots that date back to ancient Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (modern-day Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria), where it found its way into building decoration, carpets, fabrics, and the decorative arts of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians.

This nature-inspired pattern, originally known as botteh or boteh in its native Persian, means “bush, shrub, a thicket, bramble, [or] herb. Some would even take it to mean a palm leaf, cluster of leaves…and flower bud,” according to the Heritage Institute discussing Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion and philosophy.

The boteh pattern is a much-loved, time-tested pattern that eventually made its way into India where it really dug in its heels. For hundreds of years, beautiful cashmere wool shawls decorated with the boteh pattern were popular, and during the 1700s, boteh shawls cast a spell on European women who fell in love with the soft, warm, patterned fabric. During the colonial period, British men returning home from India brought the shawls as gifts for their women, and the demand for these exotic shawls grew in Europe. Seeing an opportunity, the British East India Company began to export the enormously popular and expensive shawls to Europe during the later 18th century.

As the shawls became more fashionable, the demand for them grew, but the high cost kept many away until European hand weavers began to copy the boteh patterned shawls and produced items at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. In 1805, the weaving mill in Paisley, Scotland became the boteh weaving centre of Europe, and the name Paisley became synonymous with the pattern. As weaving technology evolved in the UK, the original 2-colour paisley shawls turned into 5-colour patterns, though this still paled in comparison to the Indian versions that boasted up to 15 colours.

What is paisley?

The paisley pattern can range from very simple to extremely ornate, sometimes positioned loosely among leaves, or flowers, other times simple in regular and repeating patterns. The common denominator is the tell-tale curved teardrop shapes. It is the shape of the paisleys that I find particularly interesting because no one really knows what it’s supposed to represent, though there are many options and theories.

Paisleys could signify halved fresh figs, mangoes, gourds, licks of flame, or Cypress trees (sacred to the Zoroastrians); kidneys, tadpoles, tear drops, pears, or sperm if you’re Freudian.  (During research, I came across a Jehovah Witness message board that discussed paisley as a representation of sperm and therefore considered “taboo”). In any case, paisley seems to have originated as a fertility symbol and becomes more fantastic as it evolves.

Modernized examples of this racy design seen below by Paul Frederick show the incredible variance in paisley patterns, from bold and multi-coloured paisley to quiet tone-on-tone, and from elaborate designs to simple shapes (photos used with permission):

Blue paisley Paul Frederick tie

Tone-on-tone paisley Paul Frederick tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Frederick paisley tie

Paul Fredrick blue paisley tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paisley in menswear

While the paisley motif was woven into fabrics most often worn by women, western men were left out of experiencing this gorgeous pattern until the 1920s-1930s, when paisley was printed on silk and used in men’s ties.

“In response to changing fashion,” says Francois Chaille in  The Book of Ties, “Paisley is constantly being up-dated: hundreds of new paisley motifs make their appearance on ties every year. The motif provides rich opportunities for coloristic nuance and formal invention.”

Of course we in the west remember paisley worn extensively in the 1960s and revived in the 80s, but paisley has never really gone away. In fact, you may find a paisley tie in your collection, or maybe a paisley bandana or neckerchief (Cary Grant liked to wear these under his collars). If you’re lucky, you may have a Ralph Lauren paisley pocket silk for your breast pocket.  Stylish introverts could opt for a pair of low-key paisley socks, and daring darlings may rock paisley Ted Baker shirts or a cool sports jacket with a chic paisley lining.

Paisley isn’t just for clothing. The high-end Italian design house, Etro, likes to incorporate paisley into its collections, and offers paisley luggage, day books, wallets, and manbags in their iconic paisley “comprised of red, turquoise, yellow, olive green and ivory adapted and evolved to become the signature pattern for the brand: an instantly recognisable style which became inevitably synonymous with the luxury world of Etro,” their website says.

If wearing paisley is luxurious, it is also refined. New York image consultant, John Molloy, said paisley ties signify good breeding and education. Alan Flusser, author of Dressing the Man says, “Of all the loud neckties, [Molloy] deemed paisley as the only permissible one because it was the “fun tie” of the upper middle classes.”

I implore you to pull out your whimsical paisley and wear it with confidence; it is so beautiful and varied in pattern, colour, and scale, that everyone will be able to find the right paisley print for them. It is a pattern that speaks of human history, elegance, and refinement; it is a delightful and permanently stylish pattern, and an excellent investment for any gentleman’s image.

 

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Re-lining jackets and coats

20 Nov
Ratty linings will not boost your confidence.

Ratty linings will not boost your confidence.

This is my jacket. It’s an old and well-worn thick wool Club Monaco piece that is still in good condition (on the outside), but the lining is worn and torn and looks terrible. Lining is a simplified version of the outside of the coat; it is the fabric that helps the jacket slide over us and keep us comfortable when we wear it. Lining often wears most at the cuffs, at the hem, and under the arms, which is what happened to mine. 

Sometimes I wear it lined with a zip-front sweater (for added warmth and to hide the ratty lining), but I had a good look at it the other day and decided that I am doing myself – and the coat – a disservice. So I went out and bought some new lining fabric to re-line the jacket. 

Lining can add so much to jackets and coats, but we don’t often pay attention to it, unless they are works of art like beautiful Etro or Ted Baker linings that demand attention. In my case, my Club Monaco lining is a plain black and generally unnoticeable. Sometimes, this is okay, but since I now have the opportunity to change it, I’m going for it with plum and navy lining to make it brighter and more fun.

I started taking the Club Monaco jacket apart to make a pattern from the existing lining. While inside, I started to notice the wonderful construction details in the garment. When I was in fashion school, one of my instructors worked for Alfred Sung, founder of Club Monaco. One of the things I remember her saying was that “Alfred is an artist”. Though Polo Ralph Lauren took over Club Monaco in 1999, the tradition of Alfred’s artistic pattern-making remains true.

Having taken apart a Club Monaco dress a few years ago to fit it to me properly (I’m petite and most garments don’t fit me well), I recognized the complex pattern and surprised myself having got the thing back together again. Though my jacket lining is much simpler, there are excellent construction points that make the well-designed jacket sturdy, stable, and well-fit:

  • The sleeve lining is tacked (sewn to a specific point as an anchor) to the side seam of the jacket so it doesn’t slide around;
  • A short length of twill tape (strong woven “string”) is sewn to the shoulder seam and stitched to the lining shoulder seam, giving space for movement and lining stability – I have a jacket without any lining reinforcement, and the silky lining slides around inside of the jacket, making it a bit difficult to wear;
  • Stitching is reinforced at the elbow in the jacket lining, giving extra strength to the well-used sleeve joint;
  • Shoulder and armhole seams are supported with interfacing (inside stiffening material), making for sturdy seams and jacket in general.

We see the macro when we look at clothing, but the micro can be amazing. My jacket was an excellent investment because it is made of good material and it is very well-designed, taking body movement and the movement of the lining into consideration. This makes for an excellent wearing experience.

TIP – Look at the inside of your coats and jackets to see what state they’re in. If the lining is looking ratty/shredded/holey, look into having your garment re-lined and breathe some new life into the garment you invested in.

Naked, in disguise

9 Jun

Bowden as the Nike streaker in 2007. Click the image to watch the ad.

When people think of Mark Bowden, they might think of his 2010 book, Winning Body Language or see his techniques and coaching used by Stephen Harper in the 2011 election debates, or perhaps they think of his high-level training for high-level politicians and business leaders. But do people think of Mark beyond these terms?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do. When I met with Mark recently, we talked about things other than the obvious business stuff, things like clothing and theatre and how they have affected him in different stages and incarnations of his life.

Respectful dress

When I met him, we wore a navy pinstripe Etro jacket with a fabulous patterned lining. His garb was simple and elegant with minimal but bold accessories. He likes Paul Smith and Ozwald Boateng of Savile Row for suits and sides with me on the importance of tailoring.

Mark is deliberate and likes to draw attention to small but substantial details in his dress because besides being stylish, these details can actually serve a purpose. He likes weighty French cuffs that are visible under his jacket sleeves to draw the eye to his hands (he works with them, you know), and he loves to wear red socks and red cotton shoe laces to go with his handmade Jeffery West red-lined shoes from Jermyn Street in London – the bright socks keep people interested and visually engaged during long presentations, you see.

We agree that looking one’s best is not only a positive reflection of ourselves but it is an act of respect for others.

“I care for my audience so I make an effort,” as Mark puts it.

We have other commonalities. For instance, Mark and I actually come from the same place, the theatre, but I studied design and he studied performance. Though the disciplines might be different, we both understand that theatre is about illusion and potential (i.e. not what it is, but what it could be), and we both use these theatrical concepts in our work.

Theatre

Knowing about Mark’s performance training really adds a fascinating dimension to his professional body language and presentation services and I can appreciate the complex emotional power behind his work.

Mark studied performing arts at Middlesex University, London, under one of Europe’s leading practitioners of mask theatre, John Wright. As a performer, he describes his training as “liberating, using the mask as a tool to disguise yourself from the audience and subsequently feel more free to give deeper emotions and dramas to them.”

The actor uses the mask to acquire a deep connection to the character, a concept with very primal roots, back to the age of hunters who wore the heads of the animals hunted to absorb the spirit of the animal and as a disguise to trick the spirits.

While at Middlesex, John sent Mark to Philippe Gaulier, a performance master who impressed Mark with Melodrama, or “cheers and tears” as Mark described it.

This theatrical genre can give an audience clarity and perspective, causing people to “gain consciousness in the horror of their real lives,” he says. It also has the capacity to quickly change the way an entire audience feels with its pathos and big, passionate emotions. Mark learned how to master his emotions and the emotion of breath patterns to influence and interact with his audiences, so not only is he affecting the way people feel, but the potential for them to feel.

3 Roles, 3 Costumes

As an actor, Mark must incorporate costumes into his character as if he (as the character) really owns the clothes or as though he really is the embodiment of the creature he is dressed as and make it seem natural.

I wanted to know about his favourite roles and the costumes he wore for each to illustrate how powerful the costume can be not only to the actor but also to the audience. It so happens that his physical comedic roles are the stand-outs. Mark explained that comedy is about contrast, building tension, and then breaking the tension, and the costumes for these roles provided hilarious visuals.

The False Corpse: An ironic one-man comedy. His character in this play is a comedian who is going to commit suicide while on stage. For this role, Mark put together a jumble of iconic comedic costume pieces: large clownish collars, tights instead of trousers (to show the movement of the legs and their “speech”), and a proper gentleman’s tail coat as a topping contradiction.

Hamlet: Mark played a gravedigger, comic relief to the heavy play. His costume was another jumble of pieces, but this time of Viking armour! He said he put on anything he could get his hands on including breast plates, horned helmets, and several swords in an effort for the character to take on a “god-like soldier guise to give the mortals in the play a hand”.

The Hobbit: Mark played one of the trolls in London’s West End in the J.R.R. Tolkien story. The three trolls wore large, heavy, difficult costumes, built on football player shoulder pads that had to be lowered over the head (not unlike those animal heads that the hunters wore for disguise, I imagine). The second tricky piece of troll costume was the footwear: Cothurni. Cothurni are elevated boots originally worn by Greek actors to increase their height and visibility to theatre audiences.

So Mark and the other trolls lumbered around on the raised platform Cothurni, arguing over whether they should roast, mince, boil, or squash the freshly-caught dwarves into jelly, using large body movements, having fun with each other and knocking each other around. Often, the plat-formed trolls would fall over and the smaller dwarves would have to help them to their feet. The costumes here brought out a “playfulness and cheekiness” in the characters that I’m sure absolutely delighted the audiences.

 Less is more 

Having explained all that, sometimes Mark doesn’t wear any clothes at all. In 2007, he was hired for a Nike commercial to streak through an English football match wearing nothing but a scarf and Nike Shox shoes; “a celebration of being free,” as he put it. For those of you who have been to a nude beach, you’ll understand this concept of freedom and having done so myself, I can tell you that communal nudity is amazingly liberating.

But I digress.

Clothing, or costume, is powerful. It creates different feelings within us and without us, and the people who see us will interpret our visuals and treat us accordingly.

“People make judgements based on what they see, and we have a limited time to make a good first impression,” Mark tells me.

Whether our wardrobe is for business or pleasure, or to create emotion in our audiences, we have the choice in the visual messages we send, and this is a powerful opportunity that should really be taken seriously; it is another tool of influence.

 You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.

-Zig Ziglar, American author and motivational speaker