Tuesday, March 14, 2006

R.T.S. & E. Standards Today

The covert nature of the Rural Tailors’ Guild, it’s suspected militancy, clandestine network, shadowy history and elusive organizational and hierarchal structure all make it very difficult to claim for sure when and where it was active and, indeed, if it ever existed at all.

Even so, the fossil-history of our research is rooted in the analysis of those few items which seem to present the most convincing evidence of the guild. Paramount among those is the; draft proclamation of the “Rural Tailor's Standards and Ethics".

It is not a passing interest on the part of this Research Group that specific dogmas articulated in this document can still be seen in some menswear products today albeit in a contemporary context.

The labels, brands, and designers whose work sometimes manifests some of these features can be regarded at least at the spiritual heirs of the Rural Tailors garment design ethic.

The group is primarily concerned with historical inquiry and we do not believe that issues related to the current popular culture will serve any real and significant value to our project. Nevertheless we do feel specific instances of contemporary menswear design to represent an important lens through which to view the context of the guild.

In this spirit a few of us have reviewed a range of contemporary menswear makers and their products and have identified a few which seem to indicate that the tenets of the Rural Tailors’ Guild still informs certain areas of the industry today. The entities responsible for these collections may even have some explicit connection to the guild. We’re sure if they did they would not say. Regardless however we see their connection as at least implicit and we’re convinced that the spirit of the guilds’ ethics makes itself felt by certain present-day practitioners even if only by the force of specific internal morality.

Rag & Bone, United States (English Émigrés)

The collection reflects many of the R.T.S.&E.’s

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION - Inside pant tape finishing, heel cuff reinforcements and so on.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – Subtle leg articulation, fused Nehru influences, self-tightening systems combined with belt-loops and so on.

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – Sanded finishes, flat oxford weaves and twills, moleskin entry linings, plain unbleached cotton full jacket linings, riveted engineer buttons on non-denim items, “plain” natural interior labeling, etc.

Paul Harnden Shoemakers, England

The collection powerfully dramatizes many of the R.T.S.&E.’s

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION – Fully tailored with a rugged hand. Traditional garment classifications; sportscast, trousers, shirtsleeves, greatcoats, vests, etc.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – Updated natural shapes

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – Highly tactile and rugged fabrics and finishes. Particularly robust and patina’ed leather grades in the footwear as the garment detailing.

Corpe Nova, Italy

Corpe Nova's name is derived from the 3x3 (body of nine) form used as a basis for newspaper typography.

The label's assertion that; "...in fashion, the tendency toward cultural contamination will increase...", and their interest in exploring a combination of technical research, styling, meaning and historical influences combined with the dramatic expression of these values in their collections make them worth serious review by anyone interested in the modern day militant rural tailoring tradition.

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION – Fully tailored with a Italian attitude. Traditional garment classifications; double-breasted blazers, sportscast, trousers, shirtsleeves, etc.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – Updated natural shapes flirting dangerously close to Poseur influences but can be forgiven since the Southern European rural clients would have demanded a bit of shape in the shoulder and so forth.

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – Incredible. Extremely committed to this aspect of the Standards & Ethics. Soiled, urine-stained, burned and twisted. Although strictly speaking cloth should not be aged by "Foul Automata" according to the RTS&E.

Peachoo and Krejberg, Scandinavian and Tibetan

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION – Traditional garment classifications; double-breasted, trousers, shirtsleeves, undergarments, etc.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – Updated twisted shapes

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – Authentic countrified fabrics and finishes.

Cloak, New York (Russian Émigré Alexandre Plokhov)

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION – In this case steeped with romance. Too much romance by far to be considered within the Standards & Ethics but loyalty to traditions such as military design (albeit the officer-class) is clear.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – Updated shapes which slimmed down considerably from FW05 to FW06 landing the look closer to Hedi Slimane than any self-respecting rural tailor. However the intentions have a bravery and sincerity that a Guildsman might admire.

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – If Plokhov had been a tailor in the Czar's time, he may have been drummed out of town by The Party for contributing to pre-revolution cultural decadence. The Guild would probably have frowned on the work as well particularly since Facility of the Hand manifests itself mostly in the thin world of "Luxury" (not a legitimate concern for a Rural Tailor). -But the presence of the scissors in the logo crest make us wonder if there may have been a more Rural artisan further up Blohov's family tree (as is the case with Dries van Noten and was for Emilio Pucci).

Rogues Gallery, Maine

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION – Rogues Gallery has us in the Research Group nearly completely convinced that the Militant Guild is alive and well with active members working in Maine. The Tradition in this case extends beyond garment types and into the narrative of the label's deepest DNA. Bravo.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – Everywhere from closures to printing techniques (although strictly speaking the Standards & Ethics preclude extensive use of external graphics) and extending to metalwork and accessories.

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – Although Rogue's role as a "Graphic Tee Shirt Resource" runs against Guild standards, the hand-screened artwork and the texture and tone of the etchings themselves can be understood as expressing Facility of the Hand.

Barking Irons, New York City

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION –Like Rogues, Barking Irons own promotional material imply a nearly direct connection to the Militant Guild of Rural Tailors. Elsewhere in this research we explore the connection between New York's Shirt Tails Gang and the (lost) history of the Guild. Irons' passions clearly lie with tradition and we even suspect descendent of the Shirt Tails maybe involved in the label.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – Irons' collection is narrow and devoid of much beyond "Tees and Sweats". However, having said this, the level of invention in the knit category also supports a Guild connection. Pistol shaped woven pocket, twisted river-driver closures, heavy-thread blanket-stitching, and so on.

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – Again like Rogues, Iron's role as a "Graphic Tee Shirt Resource" runs against Guild standards, but the hand-screened artwork and the texture and tone of the etchings themselves can also be understood as expressing Facility of the Hand.

Engineered Garments, New York (Japanese Émigré, Daiki Suzuki)

//Passion of the Heart//TRADTION –Engineered Garments embraces tradition with a clear focus on pioneer utility/trade class designs.

//Wisdom of the Head//INVENTION – The pioneer spirit of Yankee Ingenuity in E.G. is its most vivid feature. The archetypal styles referenced in their designs evoke the garments of the Gold Rush and the updated invention follows that strain of creative problem-solving all the way up to the present day. Elsewhere in this research we investigate the case of Geronimo and speculate about whether his tailor may have been a Guildsman. Geronimo would have like Suzuki's work as well.

//Facility of the Hand//CHARACTER – E.G. follows the dogma of refraining from too much artificial aging and this attribute is one of the rarest since the demand for this practice has increased exponentially with the rise of the denim category. E.G.'s resistance of the trend give it a Guild-like quality.

Soph., Japan

Soph. from Tokyo very often manifests more understated dandyism and leans to the opposing values of Saville Row finery and aristocratic finish. However the label's employment of functionally innovative concepts in traditional shapes such as Harris Tweed linings with modern seam-taping or rural decorative motifs used as pocket flap linings does create an atmosphere of a Rural Tailor hybrid.

Holland & Holland, England

Like "Soph.", Holland & Holland expresses understated and finer values of Saville Row with its anti-rural-tailoring aristocratic posture. However the label's authentic position in providing functional traditional solutions for country activities combined with the steady updating of shape and detail make it an interesting study for those concerned with Rural Tailoring standards today.

Earnest Sewn, New York

As mentioned in the entry regarding the Levis/Visionaire project, the Research Group is resolved to refrain from deep inquiry into the history and culture of denim design and production. This will only be entertained wherein there is a direct relevance to the Rural Tailors Guild. We expect certain avenues of study will lead in this direction in those instances when specific militant rural tailors may have migrated to the denim side of the industry or when specific rules from in the Rural Tailors Standards and Ethics are evident in the work of denim makers (this may of course indicate a explicit connection but certainly indicates an implicit one).

One such avenue involves the New York label, Ernest Sewn. There is even a soft connection between the label’s name and the guild. “Ernest” can be seen to relate to “Rural” and “Sewn” can be seen to relate to “Tailor”.

On a recent research trip to New York’s Meat Packing District members of our group toured the Ernest Sewn Store. Out of respect we resisted the temptation to attempt to take clandestine photographs of garments on the premises. However we did see very exciting indications of the Rural Tailoring Standards.

Specifically the label has launched a sportswear line which ties back to the commitment to tradition as the starting-point for innovation. Also, the label refers to wabi-sabi as it defines its own design ethic and this also relates to the R.T.S. & E.’s reference to non-compromising tailoring mistakes serving as a “sign of the maker”.

Finally the shop features a gallery that was used to present contemporary quilt craft at the time of research expedition. This (impressive) exhibit reminded some of our researchers of the suspected involvement in the Guild of the Welsh writer Daniel Owen whose tailoring shop also created quilts from traditional menswear fabrics [see entry regarding Owen elsewhere in this research porthole: http://rural-tailor.blogspot.com/2006/03/preacher-writer-rural-tailor.html]

Muji, Japan

The inherent anonymity of the MUJI concept combined with the "rumpled traditional" basic wardrobe elements provide a strong impression of some of the values of Rural Tailoring. The source is unexpected however since the contrived anonymity of the MUJI non-label is different in intention than the anonymity of Rural Tailoring which is the result of the obviously limited scope of truly provincial celebrity. A Rural Tailor is only anonymous by global media standards but would hardly be anonymous in his natural rural context.

Martin Margiela [Collection Zero/Artisan Group], Antwerp via Paris

Margiela's collection straddles a world inbetween high fashion and conceptual clothing. The hauteur's interest in clothing history, tactile meaning, and icons of tradition result in garments which can often meet the standard of Rural Tailoring despite the probability that this is not the primary aim.

Nevertheless, when these items (mostly from the "Artisan" series in the men's group) hit the mark they hit it with a resounding wallop.

The People's Wardrobe, UK

The People’s Wardrobe was a collection from founding Stussy-Tribe member and London stylist, Simon “Barnzley” Armitage. Despite the unfortunate branding concept the piece offered here demonstrates a virtuoso act of Rural Tailoring.

Barnzley has taken the classic country 3-button sport-coat style and rendered it in with materiality taken from a modern USAF MA-1 Flight Jacket. The style features near ballistic nylon with safety SOS orange lining. Fully lined in natural goose down and was built in the United Kingdom.

Keednim, France

Articulated sleeves with internal blind zippered forearm "portage". Cotton/silk/hemp fabric blend and full tailor-taping on the unlined interior. While our research is not broad enough to inquire into the seemingly limitless world of denim (and the subject gets more than enough historical attention these days anyway), this is example avoids degenerating into the jean category.

Basement Goad, Japan

Basement Goad's name even sounds like it might refer to an underground rural tailoring studio. And the example combines luggage-grade heavy denier twill weave nylon with a narrow-shouldered wide-swept silhouette and riveted work buttons. Goad's subsequent collections have sadly meandered down the road to hip-hop and "phat-ness" but the series this came from in their 2001 line bore the traits of the R.T.S. & E.

Visionaire Magazine, Edition Levi's, New York x San Fransisco

Having asserted that the Research Group would avoid getting into denim inquiries, this style is offered-up as an example of materiality (raw denim), construction (cotter-pinned work buttons), and traditional shape (narrow shoulder, wide sweep, and a banded collar) that relate to the standards on important levels. It is also offered up to give credit where credit is due. Both Levi's and Visionaire can be rightly accused of many anti-rural-tailor postures but here the product speaks for itself.

Peckers Strokeplay, Sydney Austrailia

Stan Wan is one of the partners in Peckers and members of the Research Group have had the great pleasure of spending time with him during events in Berlin and Barcelona. Having been born out of the idea of the style and attitude of mid-century golf lifestyle the concept could have gone more "dandy" than "damnation". But recent inspiration has come from Cuban tailoring and the R.T.S. & E.'s can be seen insidiously infiltrating several the garments in the line but here the product speaks for itself.

Riley & Costello, Boston

There is suspense and mystery surrounding this concept, The label's role in the launch of a decidedly "un-rural-tailor" program of sneaker-culture inspired graphic tee shirts (under the label SURETHING) would indicate that the true R.T.S. & E. promise indicated by the evocative insignia may take more time to fulfill. Members of the Research Group have had occasion to spend time with the "Riley" of Riley and Costello and we suspect they have more than tee-shirts under their shirt tails.

Dr. Romanelli, Los Angeles

Much of Romanelli's work ignores what the Research Group would describe as the Rural Tailor "look" in that he doesn't focus on traditional shapes as such. However, the concept of "remaking" (taking apart garments and reworking them into new ideas with new functionality) has the sense of country ingenuity that is at the heart of Rural Tailoring. His work with Dunhill and Soph. (mentioned above) in particular has resulted in design worth our research consideration.

Filson, Seattle

Filson, in truth, is no where near rural tailoring. The Research Group has included the label out of a shared hope that its current creators might become inspired to review their approach to design and begin to experiment with innovative approaches to the engineering of its traditional garment types.

Emerging Young British Labels: Various

Often veering toward the dandy (or more recently its younger cousin the metrosexual) it is nevertheless worth monitoring the activity of new practitioners especially those hailing from the UK.