Friday, December 11, 2009

Fit: Japanese vs North America, and the 70's






In case it isn't obvious, I started this blog to share my passion for vintage leather. I also decided it was a great way to share my rather isolated tale of 20 years in the vintage clothing business and my dream to get back into "making clothing". I started in design selling street fashions of my own creation in the early 90s to support my "art habit". Since then I traveled down an awkward road retracing the steps of both my grandfathers: one an artist and one a "Schmata Man".
Back when I was a kid clothing was all made in North America by people like my Grandfather. If you were Jewish, either your parents or your grandparents were most likely in the clothing business. It was a past marked by a secretive love-hate relationship. In the 1920s there was no where else for Jew's to work..I hear the stories over and over. But that's not what this post is about..its about the 70s to now. Part of the reality of the clothing business back in the day was the off shore production of North American companies. Long before China, Japan was the "go to" place to save money and move your manufacture. I remember my adolescence and the strange effect of this shift to Asia for clothing production. All of a sudden shirts and pants started to fit "funny". My 6 foot 2 180 lb frame would wear clothing and the sleeves would be too short or the neck was too narrow. I attributed this to puberty, where as in reality it was about fit. Japanese people are skinny, fit and smaller then 1970s North Americans. Since that time..the Japanese are still skinny and fit...and "fatness" has boomed here. With the fat boom has come the "bag boom" and clothing is made like giant sacks. It would seem that the average North American has not only lost their shape but lost the ability to even understand the concept of "fit".
I am amazed how in developing my leather jackets how difficult fit is. I am also amazed at the difference my Japanese friends who try on my jackets and my Canadian friends. Canadians try them on and marvel at the apparent quality of the materials and the look of the jacket. My Japanese friends instantaneously understand not just the materials, but the stitching, zippers and the language of fit. My anonymous friend in the photos explained so eloquently to me about my jacket "this is a one t-shirt jacket, not a two t-shirt jacket, the fit is excellent!". He of course gave me some advice with which to tweak the fit. My hope is that one day everybody understands the beauty of fit, cut, material and quality!


13 comments:

  1. Stunning - absolutely love the fine fit, the black on brown color scheme and appreciate the detailing in your work. I incorporate alot of that coloration in the things I make (i am a leathercrafter) and have had a difficult time getting folks out of the "black" only habit. Good to see you doing such wonderful things with it....

    count me a fan, regards

    steveb@steveb.biz
    www.steveb.biz

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  2. The two tone D pocket jacket is mind boggling. Can you please share some details?

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  3. Im just starting so these are works in progress. The jacket is analine brown horsehide veg tanned, and black pigment, the zipps are 1940s talon and lightning zippers...the jacket is modeled in the spirit of late 1930s Canadian jackets with a shell back. The interior has many details including wind flap pocket, buffalo leather armpit gussets, buffalo suede cuff liners and cotton plaid check sleeves and flannel liner. It isnt quite perfect yet but getting close. Im working on a black one next week.

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  4. The reason the japanese are so clued up is that the resources are there for everyone to find.You can go to the most out of the way town in Japan and the local 7-eleven or Cicle-K will have magazines devoted to vintage clothing,shoes and acessories.These same magazines will break the subject down into easy to digest detail and will cost no more than a copy of GQ.
    Sadly,the same devotion to quality and detail seems to be missing from most of the western fashion magazines.Of course,there are specialist book sellers who carry in depth referance books,but most of these are outside the price range of the novice or speculative buyer.I think that media plays a big part in the promotion of fashion,I just wish it was a little less one sided.
    Pete.

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  5. Its not that I dont agree with you Pete..but I think it is much deeper than that. Those magazines meet a demand not create it. North American consumers have lost their sense. The are not financial responsible..the just want to consume as much as possible with little regard as to what they are consuming. Like the all encompassing rage to own Hummers rather than Smart Cars. Japanese culture reveres the heyday of America because that heyday conquered and rebuilt Japanese culture. Also because of the compact nature of Japanese living, quality is revered over quantity..a value that my grandparents and yours had long before price, and cheap corporate American goods swamped the market place and advertisers became the kings of "information". Real sense "common" sense is gone from North American consumer culture, Bank culture, and Political culture.

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  6. ooh nice. if you have any you'd like to donate to a nice sweet girl in Arizona keep ME in mind ;o)

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  7. "Those magazines meet a demand not create it."

    They're meeting it in a sense that there is obviously a pre-existing interest in vintage and repro-vintage clothing. But the mag's are vital in helping maintain the interest and foster new interests ie. creating new trends just like regular fashion mag's. Plus the mag's are closely tied to the manufacturers, so we get F&E producing a Real McCoy's special and Lightnigh producing a Buzz Rickson special...basically style magazine doubling as catalogues for these companies.

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  8. Not that Im a stickler...but before there was Real McCoys and Buzz..those magazines arose out of a passion in Japan for American vintage clothing. The magazines met a need to teach and inform and obsess about the microfactoids around vintage clothing. What to buy, what to wear..what is style etc...only later where the line between magazine and new vintage did they grow more into "catalogue" Rin and Boon and a few other magazines were keys in that growth..by harnessing the knowledge of American and other vintage nerds mostly out of L.A. and in Japan. These trends were driven by "big collectors" and "big dealers" who needed to share their experience with more than Abercrombie Fitch and the design team at Ralph Lauren.

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  9. Agreed,but what I don't understand is why there was never an interest by western magazines to delve a bit deeper.Years back,when every other magazine was featuring vintage clothing on their models,you would have thought some kind of analysis would have been forthcoming.No wonder I hear people all the time asking,"so what is the difference between vintage and retro?"
    Pete

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  10. I suspect that it is not in the interest of the fashion industry here to explore issues of "history and quality". The very concept threatens the current model where designs are pumped out through Gerber software and shipped offshore to headquarters Guangdong where environmental and labour and wage protection is non existent. The margins of profit on your rusting bbq full of lead and those disposable garments is too big.

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  11. hi David ..you've scored again nice proto here i love your version of the A1...thx again for posting a link to "RIVETED".you've mentioned being into art too .i've forgotten to mention that,as a free lance artist myself ,i've spent years supporting myself with my other passion ,vintage clothing [started in the 80's].just started another blog where i'll share some of my "creations"i hope you'll find time to check it out as its always good to get feed back from people sharing the same interests .....cheers
    http://patrick-segui.blogspot.com

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  12. This jacket is awesome. Do you sell these?

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  13. Apparently not yet..although I am open to making some in advance of my branding...my email is at the top of the blog in paragraph one with the title

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