Aloha can mean hello or goodbye. It can also be used to describe a garment – the Aloha shirt. Although it’s a short sleeve shirt with a collar, usually printed with a bold colorful print, it is considered a dress shirt in Hawaii where it originated. Most mainlanders associate the Hawaiian shirt with big brand names like Tommy Bahama, or as being the appropriate attire for a Jimmy Buffet concert. Parrothead or not, the Hawaiian shirt seems to build an audience within every generation since it was introduced to mainstream America by G.I.’s after World War II. For some it’s nostalgic, some it’s camp. For others it has become the symbol of an escape to a slower, hedonistic island lifestyle.
Ellery Chung is credited with having designed the first of these iconic shirts in the early 1930’s. He was a Chinese merchant who used old kimono fabrics to create brightly colored shirts for eager tourists in Waikiki, Hawaii. The locals also embraced this fashion phenomenon. The surfing community in particular, adopted both the shirt and the patterns featured on them into the cultural aesthetics of their sport. Even before Hawaii became a state in 1959, it was a very popular vacation destination. The shirt became as synonymous with the island as leis, ukuleles and grass skirts, not to mention being infinitely easier to incorporate into your wardrobe.
The Hawaiian shirt became a part of mainstream fashion thanks to many famous individuals who contributed to its popularity. President Harry S. Truman was often seen sporting one in The White House. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby brought them to the big screen in many of The Road movies, and Elvis Presley wore one on the cover of his Blue Hawaii album in 1961.
One of the most unique attributes of any Hawaiian shirt is the print. The traditional Aloha shirt features Polynesian patterns that take their inspiration from Hawaiian quilts, Tapa designs and floral motifs. Hawaiian quilts usually feature boldly colored, botanical patterns that radiate from a central point on a white background. Tapa is a bark cloth that is often decorated using natural dyes. The geometric patterns in many Tapa are distinctive in that the shapes and colors are created by using repetitive lines. These patterns are applied using hand-painting, stamping or stenciling techniques. Many floral patterns are created using native flora such as Hibiscus, Orchids, Plumeria blossoms, Ginger flowers or Birds of Paradise as inspiration. Contemporary versions of the garment use the design of the classic shirt and how the pattern is laid out to feature almost anything that can be used as a motif – cars, drinks, and even brand or sports team logos.
There is also a definite difference between the aesthetic preferences of the Malahini and the Kama’aina. The former is what newcomers are called, and their general preference leans toward bold, busy and colorful patterns. The latter, identifying natives of Hawaii, who might be more inclined to opt for subtler variations, like the ‘reverse print’ – a shirt which is assembled with the intent of having the printed side of the fabric on the inside of the garment, resulting in muted version of the pattern being displayed on the outer surface.
Aloha style has endured for over seventy years so think twice before you take to heart what the fashion gatekeepers might have to say about it. The humble yet expressive Hawaiian shirt is here to stay, but as in all matters of fashion a discerning eye is key. Not all Hawaiian shirts are created equal. It also takes a little courage to don bright colors and big patterns. So the next time you’re getting checked out at Trader Joe’s, smile and take a moment to compliment the cashier on their fashionable uniform.
Many places with a tropical climate have adopted similar garments in the name of practicality, cultural pride and of course style. In Okinawa for instance, many Kariyushi shirts incorporate elements of Shīsā temple guardian designs. The Puerto Rican community is another culture that has their own special shirt, the Guayabera. I have vivid memories of how elegant my grandfather and his friends looked in their clean, crisp, pleated Guayaberas as they played dominos at a small card table in the summer sun. But that’s another story.
Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/April 2011
The fundamental function of fashion is to cover up our nakedness, protecting ourselves from the elements. That definition only applies to the fact of the garment, not the design or how an overall look is put together. This is where the hierarchy of who wears what and why becomes of importance. The designer, society and the wearer all enter into an agreement about what has value, and what doesn’t at any given point in time. Thanks to the democratization of fashion, today’s consumer can tap into the market on their terms and within their budget.
Discount retailers like Target, Marshalls, and Kohl’s provide designer labels for less. Some stores specialize in fast fashion – turning around the latest trends quickly and at affordable prices. H&M is known for being able to bring the runway to retail at record speeds. For both these business models, partnerships with high-end designers add even more caché to shopping on a budget. Designer outlets and “sample sale” style websites like Gilt Groupe (gilt.com) and Rue La La (ruelala.com) are yet another frontier for hunting down bargains. Thanks to technology, quality is now expected at any price point, so it is often the fit that betrays the origins of an ensemble. Finding a great tailor or seamstress is one way to transform economical off the rack purchases into fashion that suggests high-end if only because they fit like a glove.
Most style savvy fashion devotees understand that investment pieces are essential when putting together a strong fashion statement. For both men and women, quality shoes are the first step. Regardless of the category, you don’t want to get tripped up on trendy cuts and colors which are more often than not, fleeting. The best return on investment will usually involve variations on the tried and true classics that offer a solid foundation for any look.
GILDING THE LILY
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel is credited with saying that we should always “take one thing off before you leave the house.” One of the most obvious missteps when it comes to dressing on a budget is gilding the lily. Accessorizing may seem like a smart way of disguising the caliber of your couture, but overcompensating will undermine your good intentions every time. Trying too hard can be a signal to people that you’re hiding something.
In your professional life, there is nothing wrong with looking your best and dressing for success, but it is important to consider the environment in which you and your clothes will be interacting with others. Does your wardrobe reflect the job you’re doing? Does it upstage upper management? Does it define you as an employee versus having the quality of the work you’re doing do that?
THE OTHER HALF
Do blondes really have more fun? Does a designer label actually make a difference? The grass always seems greener when we are reflecting on how the “other half” lives. Walking a mile in their shoes while carrying their bag, is easier with web-based rental services like rentmeahandbag.com, renttherunway.com, bagborroworsteal.com and montanaradar.com. They provide low overhead and high impact alternatives that allow you to keep up with the Joneses – or the Kardashians.
PLAYING THE FIELD
Your personal life is a great platform for experimenting with your wardrobe, as well as beauty and grooming regimes. Friends and family may be inclined to be supportive of your choices, but they will also be more apt to be honest with you if you’ve gone off the reservation. You’ll know who has your best interest at heart.
Goldilocks knew when it was just right, but it was only after having tested all of her options. After you’ve dipped your toe into many of the fashion pools, you’ll have a better insight into what is comfortable, empowering and relevant about your wardrobe. Not to mention gaining a better appreciation for how and why people express themselves a certain way through clothing. A little fashion empathy goes a long way once we move past our clothes speaking for us, and we start to really communicate on a deeper level.
Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/April 2011
Being a man I’m certain that I have benefited from many advantages, some that I wasn’t even aware of, due to my gender. Hindsight, however, has helped me realize that my biggest advantage as both a man and a fashion professional was living in a woman’s world. At every formative stage of my life, I was surrounded and influenced by incredible women. Each woman’s unique relationship to fashion taught me how complex fashion actually is. That process is ongoing. It has helped me evolve, remain relevant and allowed my work to accurately reflect my times.
Always in the Service of Others
Even as a teenager when I was training to become a fashion designer, my mother measured my work with questions like, “Would anyone other than a model wear something that theatrical?” or “Have you thought about how comfortable that will be?” She challenged the way I looked at fashion and taught me one essential lesson about my work: If I was sincerely interested in dressing women, the work must serve a purpose to the consumer that goes beyond the designer’s personal creative expression.
Keeping Control of Quality
Mrs. Garofalo, Miss Trottman and Ms. Sweet were just a few of my instructors at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York – each a talented and seasoned industry professional. These ladies were the behind-the-scenes heroes in developing a new generation of fashion talent ever year. They encouraged us to always strive for excellence inside and out – a relationship based on respect for our work, the industry and ultimately the client. Being one of two male students in a class of thirty also helped me to appreciate fashion through the eyes of women.
History provided me with a powerful foundation of fashion visionaries. Everyone knows about Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, but it was two of her contemporaries who had greater influence on my design aesthetics. Madeleine Vionnet was a true innovator who first introduced the bias cut as a central design element, expanding the ways a garment could be draped. Elsa Schiaparelli was wit personified. Her collaborations with artists like Marcel Duchamp, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali and Man Ray elevated fashion to the level of art and social commentary.
Established designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan and Betsey Johnson continue to do exemplary work. The Mulleavy sisters are responsible for reinvigorating the Rodarte brand. Stella McCartney makes a difference and fashion with a company culture that includes organic materials and cruelty free products. Gwen Stefani infuses fashion with celebrity, music and style in her L.A.M.B collection. Anna Sui artfully combines culture, color and pattern in collages of couture. Isabel Toledo is now known for dressing First Lady Michelle Obama, but those who have followed her career appreciate her work for innovative pattern-work and singular vision.
Learn From Students
A teacher always learns from their pupils. Very few days pass that I don’t learn something from my students. I understood early on that I needed to design situations in which learning can flourish, while allowing students to express themselves. This provides an environment in which they contribute to keeping the subject alive, relevant and more often than not deliver the unexpected. With each semester comes a new group of women who bring youthful vigor, passion and curiosity to the study of fashion. Experience has proven that the subject is at its best when balanced by situations that empower them with knowledge and encourage positive self-esteem.
You Are Woman…
Everything I ever really needed to know about fashion, I learned from women. The women behind this man were instrumental in many of the important decisions throughout his career. (Sometimes they even let him think these choices were his idea.) Never doubt that there are men and other women listening, so be encouraged, as women, to find and share your unique fashion voice. Teach them a thing or two about what fashion means to you. Let your style roar.
Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/March 2011
Trust your Auntie Mame’s wisdom.
“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
The promise of a new year should be filled with hope and eager anticipation of exciting things to come, but for some it can be exactly the opposite, especially when it comes to fashion, fitness and beauty. It’s a time of year when we hear louder than ever and from every corner, that who we are or what we’ve done so far is not enough. We allow ourselves to feel that we’re not pretty enough; young enough; thin enough; popular enough; and/or fashionable enough. We’re encouraged to be dissatisfied with ourselves and make big promises to transform ourselves into one ideal or another, no matter how unrealistic those aspirations might be. The fashion world resets itself at a fast and furious pace, but we don’t have to. We can put the breaks on and take some time to consider how and why we’re hitting the reset button.
1. Get in touch with your inner fashion bear. As the northeast moves into winter’s deep freeze, fashion takes a backseat to keeping dry and warm. This doesn’t mean that we can’t take advantage of this period of hibernation in the name of style. A brief blackout period in which you actively avoid being swept up in all things fashion, beauty and fitness, is a great way to recharge and return to these worlds with fresh eyes. At the risk of mixing metaphors, you’ll enter into a cave, but emerge from a cocoon.
2. Cut ‘em loose. It’s a great time to edit. Often there are items in your wardrobe or even a hairstyle that you’ve grown to rely on, but have somehow left you behind in terms of relevance to your current lifestyle. Although they feel safe, they may be slowing you down and it could be time to discard these crutches. A new year may provide the inspiration you need to let go of what is no longer serving you best, making room for the new, which will.
3. Sign up for self esteem. Enroll yourself in a wellness program of your own design. First, there’s no getting around the fact that we’ve all gotten a year older. Own it. Be empowered by the image you’ve created for yourself to date, and embrace the idea of investing the time and effort that will allow that identity to evolve with you. Body image is also a vital concern. Got curves? Celebrate them and stop trying to hide them. Our inner critics can really tear us down unless we use their tirades as reminder. At the first sign of self-imposed negativity, sit down and start to plan a series of exercises in extreme self-care. Big or small, at least one experience a month will help to ensure a healthier year, both physically and emotionally.
4. Turn up the volume. Express yourself through bold strokes of color. Selecting a signature color for the season is a fun way to make your own unique winter fashion statement. This is a very powerful thing to do throughout the bleak winter months. You can also throw some size into it. Sometimes bigger is definitely better, so don’t be afraid to wrap yourself up in over-scale coats, sweaters, and accessories.
5. Fly your freak flag! Open the door and let your wild side out. Experiment with style. Try on different fashion identities that you may have been secretly wishing you could adopt. The goal is not complete transformation. The idea revolves around a sense of play. Remember how much fun costumes and dress-up used to be as kids? The process can also be a great adventure – a time full of discovery. There are bound to be bits and pieces of those personas that stick with you, enhancing your look in a way that truly reflects who you are. I do caution readers however, to consider that not everyone can carry off a superhero cape.
As corny and cliché as it may be, I would encourage you to trust your Auntie Mame’s wisdom: “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Apply this to all aspects of your life, fashion in particular. Serve up a little taste of everything on the menu and don’t be afraid to go back for seconds.
Those individuals who give great gifts are often the same ones who are great observers, and not necessarily the ones with the deepest pockets. If perhaps you have not been as tuned into what would be of interest to your friends and family there are a few ways to still give thoughtful gifts this holiday season.
Clothing is a very personal and sometime even intimate direction to explore for a gift, unless of course you know of something specific which that person desires. Small token gifts, perhaps a small one of a kind piece of jewelry accompanied by a gift card to purchase an outfit to go with it, allows them to enjoy the full extent of your generosity but also lets them know that you have some insight into their tastes.
Any ‘of the month’ club is certainly a quick fix for gift giving, but with just a little more thought you can really personalize the concept. Pamper the person you care about with a season or even a year long series of experiences. Remember beauty, grooming and wellness are at the heart of being stylish, so a prepaid period of monthly haircuts, manicures, or pedicures will be a sure fire way to give the gift that keeps on giving.
A package within a package. Contact a local designer or retailer about making an appointment for a private shopping experience. Add to the mix some stylish transportation and a great dinner out at fashionable establishment and you’ve got a sure fire memory in the making.
Don’t forget that you can also make a contribution of time, money or goods to a charity that is meaningful to the recipient. Places like Dress for Success, Boomerangs, Rosie’s Place and Room to Grow are just a few of the places that can put funds as well as fashion to use in making a difference in people’s lives.
The holiday season is almost certain to produce some stress. It’s important not to forget to take care of yourself. Thinking of others also means being sure that you’re at your best when you’re involved in activities with family, friends and co-workers. The act of extreme self care should be a priority at this time of year.
Time is always at a premium but a massage or equally relaxing spa treatment can be a important service to budget time and money for. Taking a weekend to go through your closet and planning out a wardrobe for the season will make dressing to be hostess, guest or employee effortless. Hiring a local stylist to help you with this could be another investment in being good to yourself.
If you’re lucky enough to have the time to do it yourself, making gifts can be as enjoyable as giving them. You can take a class with the intention of creating a gift. A knitting class at the Boston Center for Adult Education might allow you to whip up the ideal accessory to defend your loved one against the harsh New England winter. If there is not enough time to do it yourself, you might want to support the designers and craftspeople at the heart of DIY movement, many of whom have set up shop on websites like Etsy.
Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/November-December 2010
Are you a fashion victim? Do you rebel against fashion? Is fashion something you avoid? No matter where you fit in this spectrum, the key to success is meaningfulness. If clothes are a prefabricated package you adopt because someone told you to; you’re fighting the system on principle; or you just don’t have a clue, then you will never be able to make the best of all the tools that the world of fashion makes available to you. More importantly your ‘look’ will never be a reflection of the real you.
Regardless of whether it is fair or unfair, people make instantaneous assessments, if not judgments of who you are and what you’re about, based on your appearance. Like any other important facet of our lives it’s important to devote, time, energy and resources to figuring fashion out.
Knowledge is power. If you are familiar with trends you can access them and figure out if they are right for you. In this way you will never feel like you’re not ‘in’ fashion. Your look is based on well informed choices.
The public has been misled to think that fashion is about blindly following trends. If a fashion designer, editor or stylist says so, it must be true. Not so. They are guides not gatekeepers. Fashion is about change and creativity, but the motivation behind this should be about keeping things fresh for yourself, becoming empowered, and bolstering the cultivation of positive self esteem.
Anyone can take stock of their wardrobe, compare the items in that closet to their lifestyle and make the edits and additions that are relevant to them, but not everyone does. For someone who doesn’t have the time or the confidence to do this on their own, this is when they should seek professional help – a stylist, the equivalent of a fashion therapist.
There are no real rules regarding fashion because just as soon as you make a rule, someone is there breaking it, and doing it well. Some people feel more comfortable following a rigid structure, but I suggest that any set of rules be accompanied by a list of suggestions of how to bend or break them.
Their are guidelines and formulas that help to simplify the process of developing a sense of your own style. The individual who will actually be wearing the clothes should be very involved in the process of building a system they can live with. Ask yourself questions. What you do for work? What is that environment like? Where do you live? If you’re dating, what kind of message are you trying to send? The answer to every question helps to make smart decisions about what to cut, keep or acquire.
Build a customer profile for yourself based on the facts of who you are as well as the elements of design that best suit you. Think about color, texture, pattern, silhouette, layers, accessories, makeup, hair, foundation garments, fitness and wellness. All of these things contribute to the creation of a vehicle that allows you to express yourself. And if you’re like most people, there are many sides of you, so don’t sell yourself short. Consider what kinds of clothes will serve all of you.
There are so many resources to choose from, these are a few that provide consistently helpful information.
Vogue Magazine – Big trends that everyone will be talking about and a fun read, but by no means the final word on what real people are wearing. The September and March issues are by far the most influential throughout the year.
Lucky Magazine – A very useful shopping guide that helps you think strategically about buying fashion. Students of fashion use this magazine to understand how trends translate into different designer collections and to get a feel for what people are actually buying.
Style.com – This website brings the runways from around the world to your computer screen. Here you can have some fun learning about how designers from around the world are interpreting fashion.
It’s often said that fashion and style are two distinctly separate things. Fashion turns on a dime, but your style should evolve, not shift gears with each passing whim of the fashion industry. In the end, fashion is about ideas, and style is about what you do with them.
Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/October 2010
As fall returns and Boston is buzzing with students coming back to school, there is no mistaking that among professionals, fashion is once again a priority. A ‘grass is greener’ mindset that focuses on what’s happening in fashion elsewhere makes it easy to forget that Boston has a thriving fashion scene of its own. An introduction for some, a refresher for others, the following is a quick reference guide to the abundance of fashion experiences to be had, right in your own back yard.
A Culture of Fashion
More than ever before, fashion is considered worthy of space at major cultural institutions. Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum recently hosted the awe inspiring collection of fashion icon Iris Apfel. Exhibitions at the American Textile Museum regularly explore cloth, culture and couture. The Massachusetts College of Art and Design was host to a collection of works by celebrated fashion designer Mary McFadden. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston struck an artistic blow for fashion with their Fashion Show exhibition in 2006. The museum continues to show its respect for the art of fashion with exhibits this fall like Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 and Scaasi: American Couturier.
From Runway to Retail
If you’re in need of a little retail therapy, you can shop until you drop in Boston and beyond. Newbury Street is home to everything from Urban Outfitters to Chanel, with each of those stores actually serving as anchors at either end of the street. Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan are just a few of the international designer brands that share the eight block stretch with important local boutiques like Alan Bilzerian, Riccardi, Serenella, Matsu, Calypso, and Betsy Jenney of Boston. Copley Place, Natick Collection, Legacy Place and The Mall at Chestnut Hill also offer high-end shopping experiences, as does the Boston-based online boutique Rue La La. For the thrill of a bargain, the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets serve up both savings and style. A little further north, Kittery Outlets in Maine continue to be a shopping destination for the thrifty fashionista.
Haute Tech Couture
Anyone who has experienced a winter in New England is familiar with Polar fleece, also known as microfleece. That fabric was created at Malden Mills (Polartec, LLC). Local innovations like this one are not an uncommon occurrence. The area has a rich history as a center of manufacturing for textiles, clothing and shoes. It also boasts some of the most creative scientific minds in the world. Massachusetts Institute of Technology for instance, is no stranger to fashion. Fusing technology and fashion was the theme of a series of shows called Seamless, which challenged what we wear to perform in some way that improved the quality of life.
A Fashion Education
The success of television programs like Project Runway have been credited with influencing an increase in enrollment at fashion schools across the country. In Boston, and throughout the area, many of the schools that offer an education in fashion design experienced that surge. A few of those schools include; Bay State College, Fisher College, Framingham State College, Lasell College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Mount Ida College, Rhode Island School of Design and School of Fashion Design on Newbury Street. In addition to fashion design, many of these schools and a host of others offer coursework in merchandising, marketing and communications for fashion. As a result the region is turning out the next generation of fashion professionals in record numbers.
Fashion Group International was founded in 1930. A small sampling from the list of founding members sounds like a who’s who of powerful fashion professionals, not to mention a very influential First Lady. Some of those legendary women where Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, Lilly Dache, Edith Head, Claire McCardell, Carmel Snow and, of course, Eleanor Roosevelt. Boston became one of the first FGI satellites shortly after its inception. Since then FGI has grown to become a well respected global organization. Originally conceived as an association for women, membership is now open to men as well. FGI of Boston has become a touchstone for local fashion professionals, offering networking opportunities and access to resources for its members and the community.
There is something for everyone when it comes to local fashion design talent. Sometimes referred to as the father of Boston fashion, Alfred Fiandaca remains a respected presence on the local fashion scene, while seasoned designers like Denise Hajjar and Daniel Faucher figure prominently as well.
More recent additions to the list of designers championing local style are Daniela Corte, Michael DePaulo and Jeff Lahens of ECC Genuine Bespoke, who is one of the areas few menswear designers. Shubhra Bhattacharya Chandra, Shelley Chhabra, Nirva Derbekyan, Daniel Hernandez, Prajje Jean-Baptiste, Andrea McLean of Drea Designs and Sam Mendoza are among those making a names for themselves in Boston.
The Next Generation
An innovative pilot program called The Launch was responsible for bringing five new faces – Millie Bautista, Pavlina Gilson, Nara Paz, Eddi Phillips, Elena Sanders – to the attention of the press and the public in 2009. This year during Boston Fashion Week, Victoria Dominguez, Aey Hotarwaisaya, Laura Kane, Sara Marhamo, Samira Vargas will be the focus of this industry effort to mentor and encourage up and coming designers.
This year Boston Fashion Week is scheduled for September 24th thru October 1st and takes place at venues throughout the city. The week has become an eagerly anticipated tradition since it began in 1995. Part of its appeal is that established professionals as well as aspiring newcomers from around the globe, who call Boston home, share the spotlight for this weeklong celebration of style. The official schedule is packed full of runway presentations, educational programming, exhibitions and of course parties, where everyone can see and be seen in the latest fashions.
Boston is about smart fashion and smart fashion is about balance. Global fashion concerns are certainly here to stay in one way or another, but a return to regionalism is the answer to retaining control over how we personally interpret and adopt fashion. Any wardrobe that reflects individuality is bound to include one-of-a-kind items that can only be acquired locally. Our regional reputation for innovation is at the heart of the renaissance that local the fashion community is experiencing. It is an exciting time to be creating and collecting fashion in Boston.
Boston Fashion Links
Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/September 2010