Wednesday, October 30, 2019

meet Joshua Katcher .. the game changer

Joshua is a warrior! He is most definitely not a dilettante nor one of those who gives lip service to the buzz words du jour like sustainable, eco-friendly, green-designed, recycled, upcycled and environmentally friendly… you get the idea... He is committed to the entire universe, concept and development. He is also a published author on the subject…. Fashion Animals.

Joshua is a key player in the fight against the use of animal cruelty in fashion.  I am always amazed at how much he knows, not only about the history of animals in fashion but also in terms of what innovations are being made in the use of new materials that are replacing things like leather, fur and exotic skins.  He is definitely someone I look up to in this struggle to change the industry for the better. Alexi Lubomirski, photographer

Mr. Katcher writes about it, lectures about it, teaches on the subject and has dedicated his career to educating all of us on so many of these topics. Don’t get the wrong idea in that he is this preachy holier than thou soapbox orator as I have personally met him and spent some time with him and despite his dedication, he is certainly not lecturing while he is engaged with you. 
Personally, I am always awed by those who possess such well-informed dedication and have done more than just talk about it. His apparel collection, though abbreviated was rather wonderful and appealing. My point with him was that all of these noble quests filter down to an educated consumer which at this point in time seems less than plausible given the state of our country BUT education and being informed takes time and future generations will greatly benefit from his research and zeal on the subject.
As I explained to him, my issue is that until this genre of fashion can be made accessible to the masses, pricewise and appeal, then it might take longer than we might hope. It is a topic that must be addressed and not only addressed but put in motion by more than just one or two educated designers. We need a groundswell of support from the fashion industry and only then can this mindset become a reality.
 All my opinions aside, here is Joshua speaking on the so very topical subject of sustainability and all that comes with it …  
 Jeffrey Felner: First let’s talk about how you got to where you are today in your life …   a sort of resume!

Joshua Katcher: I grew up in Poughkeepsie, two hours north of New York City. My parents were teachers; my grandparents were all children of immigrants who became glove-makers in Gloversville, NY.  My mother’s mother was a fashion maven – I have images of her dressed up like a vampy movie star. My father’s mother was apparently a math genius but her husband wouldn’t allow her to work. I grew up visiting my paternal grandparents at a federally funded housing project in Brooklyn. New York City was a place I knew I wanted to be one day. I loved comic books and alternative rock music. I would often stay home making art, playing my guitar or reading X-Men. Comic books were important to me as I was moved by the idea of heroes who would fight for truth and justice, who would not compromise their ethics and wanted to make the world a better place.  I was a closeted introvert who was bullied for being effeminate and different, who loved art and counter-culture. All of this has crafted who I am today.
From a professional standpoint, I’ve taken a lot of risks. I’ve kept going when people have told me I should stop and I have defied the safe and easy path. Fresh out of college, I worked for one year in a corporate job that made me feel empty. I’ve been a lifeguard, an EMT who drove an ambulance and an assistant to my parents who photographed weddings on the weekends as a side-gig.  I freelanced as a camera operator at MTV; I edited videos and worked on indie films. Eventually, I started a vegan lifestyle website in 2008 called The Discerning Brute. Soon after I launched my brand, Brave GentleMan, which was the first vegan menswear brand in the world. I began lecturing and teaching at universities like Parsons, NYU and FIT as an expert in animals in the fashion industry. 
 JF: You are a writer, a teacher and an advocate ... please explain each of those to us and why?
JK: I began writing about fashion in 2008 with The Discerning Brute. At the time, sustainable and ethical fashion concepts were (and to a large extent, still are) perceived as feminine concerns, and therefore considered trivial, silly and ultimately about surface and vanity. So, I began writing to appeal to a more masculine audience. In writing about fashion I realized that the intersection of fashion and animals hadn’t been researched or taken seriously.  There is a real lack of meaningful data and legislation concerning animals in fashion. What happens to animals in the fashion industry is unimaginable, and the scale and history is staggering. We’re talking about billions of individuals confined, trapped, processed and killed every year and a little-known history of extinctions, extermination campaigns and socio-political scandals. And that reality is intentionally hidden behind sleek marketing and PR designed to make us think only about the aesthetics of the finished fashion objects. Beauty is seen as good, therefore beautiful objects, even if they were made in a horribly ugly way, are perceived as good.  I spent about 5 years, while an adjunct professor at Parsons the New School, researching and writing my first book, Fashion Animals, which grapples with how and why animals have been exploited in fashion, and the systems and ideologies that allow otherwise kind and good people to continue participating in and funding cruelty and violence that is out of sight. 
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
JK: I’d invite three amazing youth leaders, with 2 incredible wise elders:
Greta Thunberg - 16 year old Swedish teenage environmental activist. Genesis Butler - 12 year old animal rights activist.
Omari McQueen - 12 year old Omari McQueen is the youngest award winning vegan chef in the UK. Dr. Jane Goodall - English primatologist and anthropologist.
Dr. Margaret Robinson - Indigenous Mi’kmaw, professor of Indigenous Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax
 JF: Let’s talk about vegan, vegetarian, sustainability and the environment...   What brought you to become so involved with any or all of them and why?
JK: The first time I ever really considered where my food was coming from was in high-school when my class purchased an acre of rainforest to protect. We later found out that it had likely been illegally burned and cleared for cattle-grazing. I remember being just baffled at the idea of invaluable rainforests being destroyed to make cheap burgers. It’s a difficult question to answer because so many things brought me to care about veganism and sustainability and they’re connected. A broader idea of a more compassionate world just makes sense to me and worth fighting for by any means possible.  Another thing that compels me is having been bullied myself and being open to considering the suffering of others, whether that’s a factory worker, a cotton harvester, or a fox in a cage. Animals want to live just like you and me. We continue to underestimate their capacities to have complex inner and social lives and we underestimate their ability to suffer. I see sustainable fashion as a means by which to create and express a visual identity that aligns the beauty of a fashion with the beauty of how it was made.  Fashion is a wonderful and perfect place for transformation. 

 JF: Lastly let’s speak of your clothing and accessory collections ... How would you like to see them evolve and if you could choose any collaboration at all, who would you choose and why?
JK: I want to make a large-scale change in the fashion industry. That requires scaling up. I am not content just having Brave GentleMan staying a small brand. I envision Brave GentleMan expanding sustainable, vegan menswear into major retailers with more product categories like basics, underwear, grooming and athletic wear. I also want to work with the most cutting edge innovations – from mycelium and lab-grown leather to bio-printed fur and algal biopolymers. I think people need to see an articulation of future-fashion that is exciting, hopeful, inspiring, aspirational and still grounded in classic aesthetics. If I could do collaboration right now, it would probably be with a team of scientists and engineers to make lab-grown keratin fiber that would be biologically identical to vicuña and chiru. If I were to do more practical design collaboration right now, I’d like to work with Tom Ford on a sustainable and vegan capsule collection.

Friday, October 25, 2019

never say never Michael Cinco Fall 2020

This is something I don't often or possibly have ever done but if you want to witness the drama of fashion on steroids as well the celebration of the art and craft of fashion then sit back and enjoy this show which is testament to the fantasy of fashion Congratulations to Michael Cinco for helping celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Philippine ballet ..... CLICK THE LINK BELOW
taken from the SCAD museum show

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Impossible Coversation.. Roy Halston Frowick aka HALSTON

It seems rather apropos that I conjured up the spirit of Halston at this time in fashion to have one of those “impossible conversations.” Fashion is most definitely in flux and rather rudderless in many ways but here was a man who saw what was coming and he was punished for it. 
Roy Halston Frowick , a milliner, who catapulted into the fashion scene via Bergdorf Goodman and Jackie Kennedy and a host of socials but it wasn’t until he decided to leave BG and branch out into fashion that he, Halston, as he was soon to be known, became the designer of the moment and an “it boy” on the social scene. Not only was he a revelation with his designs but this corn fed boy was soon mixing with the high and mighty of the 70’s who represented society, entertainment, power brokers, politics and of course fashion. 

As you will read, I wanted to know what he thought of today’s fashion as well as how he looked back upon his oeuvre and the decisions which were ultimately his downfall. It can be said that being too early is just as damaging as being too late.
He was haughty, he had presence, he was idiosyncratic, like referring to himself with the royal we, a naughty boy and not only was he was a great talent with cloth but equally talented when it came to promoting himself and his brand. He was one of the earliest to establish an American fashion empire and yet in the end all of it came crashing down on him like a ton of bricks.

So with a little help from my friends (Fred Rottman & JB) we can hear about the rise and fall of a great American designer whose life and career became a sort of tragedy in the end but if you lived in that era you never can forget him or the grandiosity of it all so here Halston speaks one more time!........

Jeffrey Felner: How and what would you most like to be remembered for and why?

Halston: How would I like to be remembered? … Well, you know, it really is time the fashion industry understands what all the fuss was about with me among THE most fashionable ladies of my era ... the 70s. Many say we stood out as the premier “American“ designer because we designed Jackie Kennedy’s Pill Box hat, and some say Ultrasuede made me a household name. Then there are those people who insist the Lizas, the Biancas, the Nans, the Babes, and the Angelicas made me famous and lastly there is the dreaded Studio 54 stigma attached to me which made people think we only did drugs, had sex and stayed out all night ... every night. 


We might guess all of these things contributed to my fame. We would however like to be remembered as the designer who recognized and understood the enormous change in women’s lifestyles that began emerging at the onset of the 1970s, especially in America. Women were becoming more independent, freer, and women were going to work to achieve serious careers. These women needed a whole new approach to dressing and we gave that to them and they came running to my door. We had an EMPIRE!

I want people to understand that yes, the cuts and fit and my aesthetic were all very special and new but it was not the clothes themselves that were revolutionary…  It was my vision of a new modern American woman you see, and what we designed for her, that was revolutionary at the time.

JF: What’s your take on so called designers like Demna Gvasalia (Vetements & Balenciaga), Hedi Slimane (YSL & Celine) and Maria Chiuri Grazia (Dior)?
H: And what do I think of today’s designers like Maria Chiuri Grazia, Hedi Slimane and Demna Gvasalia, well we don’t like to comment on other designers work but we do think it’s more challenging today especially if one lacks vision and real talent. These designers have to create modern clothes as well as wanting to find their own voice at a time when top tier fashion is less relevant. There are so many more distractions to focus on today and there are no real lifestyle revolutions or icons like those of the late 60’s and 70’s.

JF: In hindsight are you regretful for what you initiated with JCP even though it was you who saw the future before anyone else? Do you feel there was an overreaction?
H: Regret the JCPenny decision?  That’s a tough question. We again saw the future but we were too early, a common practice of visionaries, and we certainly are not getting the credit we deserve for seeing it before it happened. Fashion tends to have a very short memory when it comes to the true visionaries such as myself! ... between us, Ira was a pussy!
It was a natural for me and we thought it would be for women all across America. After all I, me,  we, was THE top American designer … a total break from French Couture!  My look was quite Democratic not aristocratic, so offering the Halston look at affordable prices, available to a mass market seemed the natural progression. We took a big chance, a big risk and we paid dearly.

He was a triple Taurus so that kept him attempting to control way too many aspects of his trajectory. So as a maverick in having so many diverse design projects  and trusting those  executives of a parent company to care, .when in fact they had little to no interest  in fashion… $$$$$ was their only interest.  The only thing I can remember that shocked me was when he asked me did I like the was as if he had lost his confidence.  It felt like a punch in the gut.  As a model I knew I was there to serve his vision, not the other way round.  Alva Chinn
JF: If you were designing today, what path do you think you would be following and would you still want to be designing and why? How do you think social media would play in your world?

H: Yes, we would like to design today and would follow the same formula starting with listening closely to my ladies. Like Chanel, my look is always somewhere in the air, even now because it still makes sense, it remains practical and it makes women look good. Yes, we think we could show the world where it all came from and how its validity has endured.
JF: If you could produce a biopic of your career, would you want a sanitized version or would you also want the down and dirty gritty parts that most people choose not to write about and why?
H: If I would produce a biopic of my life we don’t see the point of getting into any of that down and dirty personal salacious stuff, after all that’s all in the past, what’s the point people will run to see it for the specific purpose of drooling over innuendo, smut, gossip and assumption ... no thanks?
I was the great American designer that defined an era, I was a visionary, and I would focus on what we accomplished and leave the dirt to everyone’s imagination and to the Jackie Susanns of fashion writers! (MG)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

500, 000

One half of one million that’s 500,000 page hits to my blogspot ….

 I am humbled... I am ecstatic... I am gratified… and most of all I am thankful to everyone who has read it or reads or will read what I have written and will write.  As for the naysayers who said I couldn’t or I shouldn’t I say... guess what I DID …  so you can fuck off and go elsewhere to read your fashion.

I have lost friends over it and I have gained many friends because of it and to those who have stuck by me I have endless thanks. I must give one special shout out to Beverly who has unfailingly supported me since day one by sharing every single fashion review I have ever posted... I am forever in your debt.

This is a milestone in my life and gives me the courage, conviction and confidence to believe that when I set my sights on doing something ... yes I can do it!