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SHEI Magazine is a University of Michigan student-run fashion, art, and pop culture publication. Everything from the photography, writing, modeling, editing, and publicity of our bi-yearly print publications and monthly digital mini is created by students who attend the University of Michigan. Founded in 1999, SHEI Magazine continues to produce issues of professional quality, as well as provide real-world experience to students interested in journalism, publishing, and the fashion industries.

Features

Redefining Clothing Consumption in an Age of Mass Consumption

Torin Rittenberg

The current pricing scheme within the fashion industry is largely ambiguous. Young consumers who look to find the best combination of brand, style, quality and price now have an overwhelming number of places to make their purchases. As a result, the simple decision of “what shirt to buy” leans more and more on a quantitative, noise-cancelling comparison: which price is the lowest. However, while the aesthetics of a piece can be readily analyzed by just about anyone, price is dramatically more nuanced. It is much harder to determine the worthiness of a price-tag than it is to determine the value of the garment’s allure. This information asymmetry can lead to some nasty side effects – not just for our wallets, but for our shared environment.

Due to our globalized world, the fashion industry has now more suppliers than ever, making consumers more price-sensitive. Brands can’t depend on consumer loyalty at large anymore, and consumers can’t expect prices to carry equal weight across different brands. Jeans from a luxury brand may look identical to those from a fast-fashion chain, but beyond their exterior, they are worlds apart. From the designer’s workshop to the factory floor, there are many “behind the scenes” factors that determine how garments (even ones that look exactly alike) are priced.

The CPI (consumer price index) of apparel is an economic figure used to measure changes in average clothing prices over time. Over the last 70 years, the CPI of apparel prices has fallen worldwide, per a recent McKinsey & Company report. Such trends typically indicate either excess supply (more clothes than buyers) or reduced demand (i.e., “jeans are out”). Curiously enough, in this case it’s both.

First, there’s more supply than ever. Since the year 2000, global clothing production has more than doubled. In fact, in 2014, the annual number of garments produced each year exceeded 100 billion for the first time with no signs of slowing down – that’s double-digit new clothing for everyone on Earth, made each year into the future.

Then, there’s the “demand” side of the equation. From an economic perspective, demand is measured by the share of income being spent on a certain good (i.e., did you spend 10% of your paycheck on those new shoes, or did you find a cheaper pair and spend only 5%). It’s also important to note that less demand does not translate to less consumption. A recent report by the Brookings Institute claims that between 1984 and 2014, both low- and middle-income families spent universally less of their income on clothing. However, during that same period, the average consumer also purchased 60% more garments than they did in 2000. These trends indicate that income share allocated to apparel is declining – a paradox, given the massive (and recent) bump in consumption.

The driving force behind this incongruence is nothing other than old-fashioned “mass production” – or more precisely, the economies of scale that it creates. Companies forge ahead with deliberate cost-cutting motives, meaning the quality of the materials often hits the chopping block in favor of cheaper input prices. Consumers tend to overlook these divergences in quality due to the allure of attractive, low prices: why not purchase three pairs of pants for the price of one quality pair, especially if your increased consumption of cheaper clothes leaves you with money left over?

If the relatively-higher price of high quality products (especially ethically-sourced products) turns consumers away, then perhaps it is time to examine the pricing scheme and reshape the consumer mindset of clothing consumption. One method that may enable this reshaping is already practiced in society: installment buying, or financing through payments over time. This pricing model works with cars, furniture, and even Apple products – it may therefore be a natural fit for higher-ticker clothing.

Clothing though is different, primarily because how we consume clothes differs from how we consume products like iPhones or couches. Consumers often do not know which clothes they want until the clothes are put in front of them. This means they are less likely to commit to dedicating monthly payments to an expensive product because they did not have the original intent to do so.

The other problem with this commonly proposed pricing model is that consumers are used to buying one couch, one phone, and one home. Clothing, however, is a different story given that the average consumer tends to have more than one outfit, and at times buys multiple sets of garments at once.

A better approach would be through communicating the transparency of production. While ethical, more expensive brands tend to value transparency more than fast-fashion retailers (or at least more likely to market themselves accordingly), there are few widely-recognized regulators that can verify their claims, leaving even the least skeptical consumers hesitant. There’s no FDA equivalent for clothing – it is entirely up to the buyer to judge each individual brand’s authenticity.

This approach, though, does not yield sustainable results. When quality gets less consideration than price, it creates many inefficiencies across the board. Not only does consuming more pieces of clothing entail a faster turnover rate and more waste, if the pattern continues across emerging markets, it will lead to drastic increases in the industry’s environmental impact.

Not only will it market better to consumers, but it will also pressure larger retailers to try and meet the same standards of production. Consumers could begin to look at the risks and benefits of consuming a piece of clothing much like how they look at their consumption of foods; and it requires little effort by the consumers to change their behavior. Setting up established institutions or a government agency like the FDA for apparel that can verify a brand’s production process, and then visibly communicate that message on the tags of garments, will put in place a mechanism to better educate the consumer on what their purchase entails.

While the approach does not directly affect the pricing scheme, it does indeed affect the way consumers view the prices of clothing. If consumers can additionally begin to consider their purchases with a CPW (cost-per-wear) mindset by thinking of how many wears they can get out of a product relative to its price, it can reduce the buying of cheap, unethically-produced clothing and lead to less waste and greater sustainability. This would likely result in more meaningful consumption at prices that are both sustainable for brands and affordable to consumers. People don’t need to spend more money on clothes; it may just be better to change what they buy with that money.

In the 1860s, English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased efficiencies in using coal to power steam engines actually led to an increase in coal consumption rather than an expected decrease. Jevons concluded that given the lowered relative cost of coal, demand and thus consumption for coal increased. Intuitively, greater improvements in technology should lead to large benefits; what Jevons’ Paradox shows is that new developments may come at an even greater cost.

The application of Jevons’ paradox is most evident in the fashion industry’s growth over the past decade and a half. The apparent success of the industry in keeping prices lower relative to all other goods has enabled consumers to in fact consume much more than they used to, rather than consume the same and save more. Even further, they have been able to do so while allocating less of their money to clothing. Although it may seem that such apparent successes in the industry benefit consumers, the costs of forgoing ethical production and creating more waste are grave consequences of such changes in the industry. If brands can work to communicate their transparency more clearly, setting institutionalized standards throughout, and consumers keep their spending habits but merely alter their consumption ones, the industry then has greater potential for not just financial growth, but mature, sustainable growth.

The Future is EveryWear: an interview with the team behind ONU, a digital-native apparel brand that thinks changing clothes is overrated

Alex Rakestraw

Since the dawn of the “Space Race” thrust fabric research into the public consciousness, our societal vision of the future has always included high-tech clothes. From Starfleet jumpsuits to Bond’s gadget-packed suit suits, the pop culture of the time reflected one simple sartorial idea: with the right technology, your clothes could passively improve your life. To a world that was still getting over Tupperware, these dreams of lifestyle-augmenting apparel were, well, a moonshot.

In 1969, the moonshot landed. That year, the father-son team of Wilbert Lee Gore and Bob Gore heated some plastic rods, got frustrated with how slowly they were stretching, and ushered in the future. The Gore family’s invention – a waterproof membrane that could be cut and sewn as readily as a textile – laid the groundwork for some of the world’s first truly-durable waterproof garments. Now, with high-tech fabric alone, simply wearing the right clothes could improve your life. While another, arguably more famous, moonshot also landed that same year, for the world of technical apparel, the invention of GORE-TEX wasn’t just one small step – it was a leap towards the future.

Nearly five decades later, technical apparel has transformed from curiosity to expectation: “athleisure” dominates sales charts, leggings have usurped denim jeans, and running shoes carved from autonomously-woven yarns cost less than a month’s worth of your afternoon coffee breaks. Our pop culture has eagerly reflected this acceptance of high-tech clothing: from the invisible camo bodysuits of “Ghost in the Shell” to the hidden armors of “Deus Ex”, our decades-old vision of the clothes we wear granting us benefits past just avoiding a “public indecency” charge is now moving faster than ever. Last July, Thomas Moon and Paul Lee decided they could move even faster.

Through a closed-list soirée on New York’s Lower East Side, Moon and Lee launched ONU – “Clothing For People Who Do Everything.” With no official pronunciation (“It’s meant to be pronounced in any particular way that you like using sounds that are native to multiple languages”) and a devotion to making technical clothing that’s as streamlined as it is stylish, ONU is seeking what it means to be truly “adaptable.” While GORE-TEX redefined technical apparel as a genre, with ONU, Moon and Lee want to carve out a whole new category: “EveryWear,” or, high-tech clothing designed for performance, well, everywhere.

Last month, we sat down with Moon, Lee, and Justin Kim – the ONU team – to discuss their vision, their research, and why the future of apparel means not running home to change.

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AR: How did you get the concept for the ONU brand? How did the three of you even get together in the first place?

JK: It’s been in existence since June of last year. We launched with a small event in New York City but we have no physical location, so that event was a place for us to have an introduction to the brand.

But, it’s funny that you pronounced us as “oh-new.” [The brand] isn’t pronounced in any particular way – it’s meant to be pronounced in any particular way that you like using sounds that are native to multiple languages and cultures around the world. We are really emphasizing being a global brand that’s as international as possible.

The only way this brand could even happen is through the internet. Paul is working in conjunction with people over in Taiwan, traveling all the time, while Thomas and I are working remotely as well. We’re a “tech startup” in so many ways in addition to being a product company.

TM: When you look at a lot of brands, there’s so much “strategy” in terms of rules you have to follow that at a certain point, it’s almost redactive, right? It defeats the brand and the purpose of it. That’s one of the reasons behind that particular element with the name – we allow people to say it however they want. When we do collaborations with people who do video or photography work with us, we want to bank on their expertise. Otherwise, what’s the point in hiring someone who’s really good at their craft if you’re just going to make them do it the way you want it done. That’s not really a collaboration.

JK: Every single collection is a collaboration and a capsule collection that’s presented as such.  The first one we launched in New York, with a launch event in New York, by a designer – Diana Eng - who’s based in New York. We collaborated with her on everything from the bare ideas to the final product. Then the second collection, which was launched just end of January, was launched in Shanghai, by a designer – Christina Liao – who is based in Shanghai. It’s a very international collaboration on all levels.

 

ONU Collection 2, designed by Shanghai-based Christina Liao (photo courtesy of the brand)

ONU Collection 2, designed by Shanghai-based Christina Liao (photo courtesy of the brand)

 

Could you tell me a little bit more about your vision for ONU? That phrase you guys use – “Clothing For People Who Do Everything” – is pretty ambitious. How can technical clothing really improve our everyday lives?

JK: *laughs* Well, Paul’s wardrobe has vastly improved since we got started on this. Right, Paul?

PL: Yeah, the company was really built more out of necessity than anything. I’m a creature of comfort, and all of a sudden moved from LA (where the weather is an immaculate 72 degrees all the time) to Taiwan, where it’s not just hotter but also 90%+ humidity. The three lifestyles Justin, Thomas, and I all lead are very different, so we wanted to be able to create clothes that could fit all of our lives without being defined by them.

JK: We really consider ourselves “performers” in the sense of not only how much we travel and move around, but what we demand from our clothes. What we were looking for is something that fit everything. That includes commuting to work, living your life, and then also play afterwards.

We started by saying “work, play, and live” as the three parts of our lives where one, we need to be clothed, and two, we don’t want to change our clothes just to move within those three. If I dress in clothes that make playing basketball easier because I’m going to go shoot hoops later, then everyone is going to associate me with a certain “b-ball” look. I don’t necessarily want to be associated with a certain activity and have to plan out my day so far in advance.

Basically, we started to see clothes as a limiting factor.

Thomas’ story is very interesting in particular because he comes from the perspective of being an athlete and someone who’s like an extreme performance athlete in all regards – but he started making these clothes himself, and that’s how he fell into the fashion design space actually.

TM: Yeah! *laughs* So I used to freelance in New York for a lot of ad agencies, living every year as “hustle for six months, make my year’s salary, then leave for six months.” I would travel and run races or go rock climbing, and through that I realized I didn’t want to carry so much crap because you have so much gear as it is. I wore a lot of merino, but performance cuts aren’t the most flattering. So, I decided to take it into my own hands.

I found a place here in New York that was willing to make patterns and samples for me, and then I would contact different merino vendors from different parts of the world and ask them if they would send me fabric samples. Then, I would make stuff and test it out.

*laughs* Some of the stuff worked, and some of the stuff did NOT work. It’s a little disheartening when you’re in the middle of the jungle and your shirt starts to fall apart. But it’s your shirt, you made it!

Eventually, it got to the point where the clothes I was actually making for myself were good enough that people started asking me for them. It’s interesting – I remember talking to Ricky, the owner of Isaora [another technical apparel brand], and he was like “dude, you should get into business for yourself,” and I told him that I never would. He then told me: “This is how it always starts.”

When we talk about “Clothing For People Who Do Everything,” a lot of the brands that produce clothing that is in our space promise things from their clothing that is simply unrealistic. When people say that it’s “the best t-shirt ever,” I mean, let’s be real: there’s no such thing as “the best t-shirt ever.” All we wanted to do with ONU was apply good design to innovative materials so that when you wear your garments, regardless of what you do, they almost become invisible.

I think that alone provides an opportunity to open doors for people to do more than what they were originally thinking they were capable of. If you know your jacket is waterproof, you’re less hesitant to go out in the rain – but if you have a cotton hoodie, you know you’re gonna get soaked. It’s not just the versatility of the garments and what they’re capable of, it’s that these garments almost allow you to be versatile along with it.

JK: That doesn’t just mean “sports” either. Re-envisioning and redefining performance in everyday contexts is something that hasn’t been explored really well, and that’s a big part of what we do with each of our products.

TM: We want to make sure that our clothing is a benefit to people. If you have a jacket on and it starts to rain and your jacket is waterproof, that’s a benefit in itself because now you don’t get wet and you show up fresh to wherever you’re going. That now gives you the capacity to pack lighter and still look good. You now have one garment that can handle a variety of situations.

 

 

Returning to your point about “opening doors”, did you ever think you were going to be on the “creator” side within fashion? Were you artistic when you were younger, or was your foray into design pure necessity from which you never looked back?

TM: I guess art kinda runs in my family. We’re either artists or doctors. *laughs*

I was a designer for a long time for many ad agencies, so I guess designing apparel was never really something I thought of myself doing. But, after you get to a certain point in your design journey, [your design fundamentals are strong enough that] sure you won’t understand the nuances of a new subject, but you can self-teach yourself anything.

PL: While none of us are formally-trained in fashion, we bank on the expertise of fashion designers and fashion production houses because we do know our limitations. We look to buttress our capabilities by working every season with experts in their fields and truly collaborating with them.

And that’s how you end up with incredible pieces like the Laser Lace Shorts, for example.

TM: Exactly. I think it’s also because we have a huge capacity in terms of the technologies we have access to. A lot of the time, designers don’t get access to some of these because of the minimum orders they have to create that give larger brands those same materials. Since we’re doing smaller runs, we don’t have to worry about creating hundreds of thousands of garments, we just have to worry about creating one hundred, so let’s push it.

 

The Laser Lace Skirt from ONU's debut collection (photo courtesy of the brand)

The Laser Lace Skirt from ONU's debut collection (photo courtesy of the brand)

 

Tell me about some of those innovative technologies you have access to. What really goes into ONU clothing?

TM: Right off the bat, I think one of the biggest things is that we actually have our own R&D to make our own tech. For that first collection, we created a fabric called “Synthmere” that came exclusively from our research and development. It’s a synthetic-based cashmere which has a cashmere core wrapped around with nylon and tencel to protect the cashmere.

In the second collection, we developed the fabric that goes on the Baselayer and the Qipao dress. It’s a N66 nylon facing coated with C6 DWR, with merino wool underneath [editor’s note: this is a BFD].

Then, in the third collection, we have something very special coming out which I can tell you has microscopic jade particles in it that we’re actually developing right now. For each collection, we try to create some sort of new and innovative fabric. It’s not just about innovation in terms of the design: we want to look at the design the designers come up with and think about what’s going to be the best application in terms of the material.

Our whole process is a little bit backwards in terms of how fashion designers normally work. Typically, they’ll pick the fabrics first then create a design based on that, but we’re doing it the opposite. We want to be first be mindful of the design, then choose fabrics that make sense for it.

 

That sounds so exciting - you get to push boundaries with your apparel, from both sides of the design/production equation. What energizes you the most about being in this new, young “technical apparel” segment?

TM: I think a lot of people are trying to put us in the athleisure market, but we’re more of an “innovation” company which happens to make clothing and I think that’s something that’s important for us. Down the line, hopefully those initial technologies will have been fleshed out, but we have also been contacted by our manufacturers and they are very happy to develop new technologies for us and with us based on requests that we have. It’s pretty crazy.

PL: Just seeing the eagerness of a lot of these big huge companies wanting to innovate, hitching their wagon to our vision of moving clothing forward is really exciting. I never expected it this early on.

 

Question for Paul and Justin: being e-commerce only, I’m getting some almost “Ghost in the Shell” vibes from all of this. There’s a connected network, international reach, and then all of a sudden, ONU will materialize for events. How did you even think up this concept for the business?

JK: We took a very intentional approach to staying out of the reseller/wholesale stockists market because we really wanted to make sure that, in the end, we could provide the best value for our customers. In the end, that’s all that keeps you coming back to a brand, right? A style can change every season for different brands, but we’re not trying to make a brand signature style. We’re creating a brand with longevity that hopefully people will keep coming back to.

*laughs* The “Ghost in the Shell” reference… that’s pretty esoteric. But also really eerie and coincidental considering how this brand came to be.

It’s the whole “Deus Ex Machina” idea of it all, right? We’ve played upon those themes quite a lot in the lifestyle photography and the writing, copy, and most recently, our second collection is very technical in nature and therefore tech-inspired. But wow – I think that’s a really good metaphor for what we’re doing.

 

 

I don’t want to push this a direction it may not be, but would you classify ONU as “techwear”? Or is it technical apparel that’s bordering that space? I know “techwear” has a certain connotation in fashion as a whole.

JK: That’s why we’re working to create our own category of “EveryWear.” Hopefully, as time progresses, that will become a coined term. You know, “athleisure” had to come from somewhere, right? It’s not just about the certain demographics that already exist – we’d rather create one.

For example, women don’t have their own techwear space really. There are a couple little pockets here and there, but we wanted to really grow that out for women with Collection 2. So, we made their stuff as dope as possible.

 

The Qipao dress? It’s insane.

TM: Right?! Every piece is thoughtfully designed, conceived, and has just so much going on that it’s really difficult to encapsulate the whole collection into a simple theme. I think that’s why the techwear community has been latching on to us We’ve designed things in a way that it can reference certain styles – we reference “Blade Runner” in a lot of our photography, for instance, with the neon and neo-noir themes – but it can also fit normally with someone who’s just at work.

In that way, we are trying to be versatile, truly, in the clothes themselves from a utilitarian point of view, but also versatile in style. So yeah, the visual part [of techwear] isn’t nearly as important to us.

 

Who – or what brands - would you say are your real contemporaries in the space? Some pieces immediately take me to Arc’teryx Veilance, then there are others like the Membrane Pullover that are perhaps more on the Stone Island side.

TM: I think we’re talking about brands that are mostly menswear. I don’t think there’s really a competitive brand on the women’s side – Lululemon Lab does some cool stuff, definitely. They do have some interesting pieces, but the composition of their textiles isn’t really anything new.

JK: We don’t see many brands really innovating with any experimental technologies as much as they are experimenting with shapes and patterns. For us, we don’t really have other brands that are precisely in our space.

For instance, you mentioned Stone Island. There’s relevance there. Of course, there’s ACRONYM, and ACG, and there’s a lot of reference there. And then there’s NikeLab, which is definitely very relevant to us. Outlier is a huge one on the men’s side. And [Arc’teryx Veilance] is close to us – Snowpeak, as well.

So, I guess it’s more like other brands that are working with some of the same technology that we’re close within the space. But style-wise? That’s a tough one, man.

PL: From the very beginning, we noticed that there was not another brand that incorporated all three as very strong pillars of their company and of their vision. We knew from the get-go that there wasn’t anyone going to be like us, particularly in the space that we wanted to create.

We pick and choose what we like in other companies, whether that’s the performance here or the aesthetic value there, and we really amalgamate that into something that’s truly our own and unique. That’s kind of been the goal.

That’s a good place to be in.

JK: But also, this is not the endgame for us. There are going to be a couple “next steps” for the company, and this [the current state of ONU apparel] is just one component of a larger company we want to build out.

 

So where do you see ONU in the Year 2020?

TM: (without hesitation) I see us working with KAAREM.

We’ve got our calendar pretty tight up until then. KAAREM will be working with us in 2020 – they’re an amazing brand, I mean the way they go about creating their garments is just incredible.

JK: There’s not much we can go into about it, but it is a collaboration with another brand as opposed to a single designer. That’s the future of where we’re going. We will be expanding our business along more of the business-to-business side as well. For instance, the technologies that we develop – those fabrics like Synthmere – we’ll be able to have those available for other companies to use. We want to be able to do this R&D and not just hoard it for ourselves, but eventually be able to open it up and to share this knowledge with other brands that get into this space.

TM: Right. Because somebody might be able to do something amazing with something we created that we would never think about. It’s far from us to stop somebody from doing something super dope for people to have.

JK: I mean, that’s how we started with a lot of our stuff, too. Like those laser lace shorts that you mentioned were a great example of this: why not have the mesh pattern and it be a lace, and have that have some sort of utility to it? And then why not have it be like a skort instead of just a skirt? Taking something that already exists, flipping it, adding a unique perspective to it.

But of course, ONU’s going to push that boundary first.

TM: This is almost like our test for the people that we want to eventually release it to.

Almost like Arc’teryx and GORE-TEX Pro Shell?

JK: Exactly. We’re lucky because we don’t have to deal with the crazy minimum order quantities that big brands do – they can’t even make decisions or have access to the libraries that we do just because it’s cost-prohibitive.

TM: Yeah, it’s really cool. Sometimes, you see the stuff made and get it in hand and it’s like “oh my god, we made this!”

 

I know the brand is still young, but to wrap it up, what’s your favorite piece that ONU has ever created?

JK: The men’s stretch shorts. I wore them all summer, literally all summer long almost every day, and they’re the best pair of shorts I’ve ever owned. The shorts are all bonded around the leg-holes so you don’t have the extra weight of the seams weighing you down. All summer, my friends were like, “are you still wearing those same shorts?”

TM: My favorite is the Merino T-Shirt from the first collection. I think that piece in itself is incredibly versatile. Being a traveler, you really can take that with you and go run through the jungle, go climbing in it, but then you can also go out to dinner because of the Bemis that’s on it. It makes it look really premium. Paul, what’s your favorite piece?

PL: It would have to be is the latest jacket we just released, both the men’s and women’s. For me, it’s a testament to where this company is going. Each collection, each item we go for is going to try to one-up the last, and the jacket really was a big step because I never expected to be able to make something so amazing, so soon in ONU’s lifetime. Being able to push that boundary – not the way that it looks, but the energy, the love that went into it – that’s what really makes it my favorite piece right now.  

 

The Merino Tee and Stretch Shorts from ONU's first collection (photo courtesy of the brand)

The Merino Tee and Stretch Shorts from ONU's first collection (photo courtesy of the brand)

 

Finally: unrelated, but I ask this to everyone I interview. What is your all-time favorite pair of sneakers?

TM: Nike Gyakusou Lunarspider LT 2’s, 2010. Done. That is my hands-down, favorite pair of sneakers that Gyakusou has ever produced. And they don’t even carry the Lunarspider LT 2’s anymore! They were kicked out by Nike in 2012, and it’s so annoying.

JK: *laughing* Which one of us is the designer? Take your guess.

PL: I have mine – the adidas Stan Smiths that were made with Primeknit. These were the very first sneakers I had that used that knitted woven material, and that just blew my mind. They were so much better than any other sneaker I had owned in terms of comfort, and to me, that was just an evolution of the material.

JK: And mine is really similar. Mine is the Nike Flyknit Racer. They have just been the most revolutionary shoe for me over the years. I’m a bit of a sneakerhead, and these just completely changed the game for me. I like the Oreo’s the best – they’re just super pretty. They go with everything.

 

Thank you to Justin Kim, Paul Lee, and Thomas Moon for making this interview possible. For more information about ONU, check out their website at onu.is or find the brand on Instagram @onu.is

 

 

Music MATTERS Revives "Battle of the Bands" Through 1st Ever "Music Madness"

Derin Özen

It was a windy spring night, and the Kerrytown Concert House was shaking to its foundation. In early March, eleven local bands clashed for a coveted “third round” berth during the inaugural “Music Madness: A Battle of the Bands.” This event, hosted by Music MATTERS, aims to bring music to students in an exciting, competitive way.

Kanem X

Kanem X

Glasses flew and guitar strings were sacrificed as the bands tried to connect with the audience in a primal fashion. Meanwhile, a panel of judges narrowed the field down to just five bands who would proceed to the next round. Groups were judged based on their stage-presence, originality, technical proficiency, and even their matching pants. The 3-hour long event spanned a variety of genres including rock, blues, metal, pop, folk, EDM, and hip-hop.

Eagles Club

Eagles Club

This BYOI (Bring your own instrument) event encouraged each band to bring their own unique instruments, making way for a completely different sound as each act took the stage. Although it was a competition, each performer shared insights and feedback with their fellow musicians and words of admiration and mutual appreciation were overheard between the acts.

In a way, Music Madness taps into the same spirit that brought Music MATTERS to life in the first place. Founded “by a group of 10 freshmen in their crummy first year dorms during 2011,” Music MATTERS sponsors music events of all kinds on campus, supporting everything from concerts in Crisler Arena to competitions that give local bands a platform in the community. Recently, Music MATTERS announced that rappers 2Chainz, Lil Yachty, and Desiigner will headline this year’s Springfest concert at Crisler Arena on Friday, April 14th.

KULTURE

KULTURE

The bands that were featured during MUSIC Matters were either from the Ann Arbor area or the greater Detroit area. Among the 11 bands entered, “FLYING”, “KULTURE”, “Shmongo”, “munch” and “Jake LeMond” were chosen to proceed to the next stage.

Jake LeMond

Jake LeMond

Highlights of the evening featured the explosive punk sound of FLYING, two singer/songwriter acts, (Mira and Jake LeMond), and especially, the two hip-hop acts (KULTURE and munch). The former resembled the sound of the early 90s’ R&B-influenced hip-hop groups like “A Tribe Called Quest,” while the latter had the gritty and funky rock sound of acts like the “Beastie Boys,” where the singers proved their lyrical flow and groove. Eagles Club, with a new groovy and heavy song from their new-album-in-the-works, also made an appearance. Some of the many acts featured in the show can also be found on music services such as Spotify and Soundcloud.

Big Donut

Big Donut

A special thank you to all 11 acts and to MUSIC Matters for making this show possible.

The second round of the Battle of the Bands presented by Music MATTERS, took place on March 8th at the Kerrytown Concert House. The final round of the knockout stage will be held tomorrow, March 30th, at Club Above. The chosen act will then have the opportunity of performing at the 6th annual Springfest on April 14th.

Why Retail Therapy Works

Madi Kantor

There isn't a fashion fan in the world who believes retail therapy ineffective - at least, not a person in my world. While retail therapy is usually used to justify an "un-needed" shopping spree, or as an excuse to go shopping (like you need an excuse to shop), a new wave of scientific studies bolster what we already know: retail therapy is, in fact, therapeutic. 

Dress to Impress

First impressions do last, and to make a good one, you must shop

First impressions do last, and to make a good one, you must shop

Almost everyone has heard it. "You must dress to impress because first impressions are lasting." Multiple studies show that first impressions have real and lasting power, and it goes without saying that clothing can help make a killer first impression. On the flip side, stress is an equally strong emotion, and negative stress leads many people – especially fashion people - to turn to retail therapy to release that stress. If someone is stressed about a job interview, starting a new job, or meeting someone new, turning to retail therapy can make that person both a) feel better immediately and b) subconsciously make them more confident about stepping into new territory with the perfect new outfit to make the best first impression. 

 

Happiness is....

Leaving empty handed is never fun, especially when it comes to shopping

Leaving empty handed is never fun, especially when it comes to shopping

Everyone has a different definition of what it means to be happy. For some, happiness is anything that comes in a shopping bag. Retail therapy, and physical act of buying something, can induce happiness. While your bank account will not be happy to hear that it is actually good and healthy for you to shop, your overall mood and mental health will be happier if you find true joy in the activities you pursue. 

Out With the Old, In With the New

Easing transitions or a change in one's life is something retail therapy can help

Easing transitions or a change in one's life is something retail therapy can help

Change is scary for almost anyone. Whether the change is big or small, people tend to fear it at first. By turning to shopping to ignore the change, people are actually subconsciously still thinking about the upcoming change in their life and shopping for things that would fit in with this new change. Doing this helps people settle with the change that is coming, and eases transitions. 

Mental Vacay

With the reign of online shopping increasing, there may be more benefits than we think

With the reign of online shopping increasing, there may be more benefits than we think

Online shopping, while highly addicting and seemingly engaging, is in reality pretty mindless. Scrolling through website after website does not require a lot of thought, and by doing this, it gives shoppers a few moments to decompress and take a mental break from the background exertion of their day-to-day lives. While this is not the type of vacation most of us hope for, it gives your mind a break from a fast paced and busy world, which is just as important as taking a physical vacation. 

 

To all the shoppers out there who feel judged for using retail therapy as an excuse for their love of shopping, fear no more. Retail therapy has real benefits that can improve your mental wellness and offer a nice brain break. So, as always, happy shopping!

 

New York Fashion Week: My Day Behind-the-Scenes

Alex Rakestraw

Last week, I skipped my Social Media Marketing class to run Instagram for DYNE (a luxury sportswear brand) during their New York Fashion Week debut. And that was just the beginning. Here’s what happened on the craziest, most energizing day of my life:

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6:00am: The first of five alarms rings. Although I went to bed “early” by collegiate standards, I’m waking up even earlier. Outside my window, the inky indigo predawn filters through New York skyscrapers. Inside my window, I’m scrolling through social media, clinging desperately to my consciousness and praying my eyelids stay open. The second of five alarms rings. Time to go to work.

6:30am: One final check of my bags before I jump in the shower. Packing for this trip was more actuarial than inspired, and so, my prepared checklist guides this last count while my tired brain struggles to reboot. Camera? Check. Chargers? Check. Tripod? Check. We’re in business. Clothes laid out and bags properly combed through, I can finally groom myself.

6:45am: The third of five alarms rings. I step out of the shower and get dressed, exactly on schedule. By now, at least one neuron is awake and firing, and so my mind is free to direct itself toward priorities off the checklist in my pocket. Chief among those: man am I hungry.

7:00am: I grab an omelet, coffee, and a muffin right by the 1 Train. By some pure stroke of luck, I’m running enough ahead this morning to linger over breakfast. I unset alarm #4 ahead of its trigger point, open the WSJ app, and dive into today’s events. Before long, I’ll be ripped back into reality. For now, I have warm food and the glow of my smartphone.

7:30am: The fifth of five alarms rings. In T+2, I’m waiting for a downtown 1 Train.

7:50am: Above ground on 14th Street Station. Bags in tow, this young man goes West.

7:59am: Arrive at Samsung’s 837 NYC space on Washington Street, one minute in advance of “be at the venue by 8am.” A Samsung security guard checks my name off a list and hands me a wristband. I do not, however, receive any bonus points for being early.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

8:00am: Five hours ‘til showtime. I meet up with the DYNE team, receive my headset and my instructions. I’ll be running Instagram, Facebook, and Facebook Live during the show itself, but for now, I am an extra set of hands. The earpiece buzzes to life, and like that, I’m in motion.

8:15am: Task #1: set every device in the space to DYNE’s website. Armed with an NFC chip (more on this later), an hour of touch screen swipe-to-type becomes 10 minutes of “tap device, then find the next.” This is some seriously cool tech.

8:30am: I meet Nabill and Sheroid, two of the other guys helping DYNE out with the show. We shoot the shit, complain about the snow outside, then it’s back to work. I float around with my DSLR, getting as much content as possible for later web use; Nabill and Sheroid, both designers themselves, talk to the stylists to see if they need a hand. Even during this self-directed work time, the three of us are on alert for the slightest buzz of the earpiece. If God calls, we (collectively referred to as “I need somebody”) must answer. It is equal parts tense and invigorating.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

9:30am: I get the Samsung devices I’ll be using to cover today’s show. Since we are in the 837 NYC space (Samsung’s gorgeous experiential retail footprint, just north of Meatpacking), anything “i” is strictly verboten. BJ, Dyne’s marketing manager, logs me into the company’s official social accounts before handing off my Galaxy. This is happening.

10:00am: I test out Facebook Live video using the Galaxy and my tripod. Live video is all about timed “fire and forget”: set up, hit play, change angles every so often. For this test, I set the camera up backstage and put 5 minutes on my watch. As the video played, I could still move around with my DSLR – or, when it came to show time, the “Instagram Live” phone currently occupying pocket #3 on my Nike ACG cargoes. I’m not sure “carry 3 phones and a mobile battery” is what Errolson had in mind when he designed these pants, but hey, if the slipper fits.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

10:05am: Live test ends. Just as I move the tripod, my earpiece sparks to life: “I need someone to run and grab cases of water.”

10:10am: Nabil, Sheroid, and I are speed-walking towards Google’s algorithmic output for “grocery store near me.” Not that we’re late or anything – it just happens to be 20 degrees with reduced visibility. With Maps as our eyes and hands tucked in pockets, the 3 of us walk 6 blocks to grab 4 cases of H2O. Nabil: “At least the water will be cold when we get back.” Silver linings, indeed.

11:00am: We get back just in time to catch the 11:00 show rehearsal. Chris, Ryan, and the entire DYNE team run through technical details as the Samsung team begins prepping the venue for the real deal at 1pm. Mr. Jeremy Ellis (the beatmaker for The Roots) holds it down, mixing live in front of rows of not-yet-styled models. For a dry run, this is explosive. T-3 hours until show time.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

11:15am: It’s a little after 8am on the West Coast, and DYNE’s Portland-based audience should just be settling into the morning. I fire off my first round of 3 Instagram photos – all exclusive, behind-the-scenes shots, exported from camera to Phone 2 via Nikon’s wireless utility. If the 30 foot video screen didn’t sell it, today is all about the tech. With that, phone 2 goes back into its pocket, and back comes the DSLR.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

11:20am: As the models are dressed and styled, Ryan directs a lookbook shoot with a snow-covered skyline in the backdrop. From my perspective, this weather could not be better. For a technical sportswear brand launching a Fall/Winter collection, an icy cityscape as backdrop just can’t be beat.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

11:50am: After half an hour of odd jobs, my earpiece is back: “Alex, meet me on first floor.” I now have a duty. Since delivery will take too long in the snow, I’m the lunch gopher. I take Jeremy’s order, turn my earpiece to high, and book it to the West Village to pick up lunch. Even 5 blocks out, my walkie-talkie is coming through loud and clear. Moe, DYNE’s master manager and all-around operations guy, calls out both a warning and a rally cry: “One hour til showtime!”

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

12:05pm: Juggling lunch orders and my own once-banned “i" device, I send up round 2 of behind-the-scenes photos, this time, including a callout: “Watch the show live on Instagram at 1pm EST.” One hour ‘til showtime, indeed.

12:30pm: I fist-bump Jeremy from The Roots. Intern (literally) delivers.

12:40pm: I find my checklist from earlier, grab my backpack, and start loading up for go time. Tripod? Check. Mobile batteries? Check. Phone? Check. Phone? Check. You get the idea. Everywhere backstage, both models and DYNE staff are loading up devices with the NFC (or, Near-Field Communication) tech at work.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

In short: the NFC chip in each DYNE garment pushes a signal to your phone that activates a web experience, tailored specifically to the item you’re wearing. Unlike Bluetooth, NFC doesn’t require you to “buy in” to a battery-wasting signal, either – just placing your phone on your clothing’s chip activates the mobile experience for each. For a running jacket, the NFC experience may be local weather radar and a curated workout playlist. For others, it may literally drag you through a Flux Capacitor into a shiny, technocratic future – at least, that’s how it feels.  

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

12:45pm: BJ, Moe, and I touch base on expectations for coverage as models, stylists, and 100 other moving parts swirl around the whole of backstage. Eugene Tong (THE Eugene Tong) rushes by, while Chris gives everything a final nod. The energy is intoxicating, and best measured in kilotons.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Camera on neck and gear in hand, I head down to the stage to set up angles. On my way from third floor to first, I catch a glimpse of the Fashion Week crowd lined up outside. Even with the storm, dozens have come early to be the first to experience DYNE. Exhale, dude. This is it.

12:50pm: “Ten minutes, people. Ten minutes.”

12:55pm: Models are in place. Jeremy Ellis is in place. I’m in place. Blue lights glow; orange lights burn; a thirty-foot video screen blasts video of DYNE in action. I set up the Facebook Live phone on the tripod stage left, the IG Live phone stage right, and take some test shots with the DSLR. Then, for the first time today, I simply sit and wait. In five minutes, this will all take place.

12:59.99pm EST: “Showtime.”

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

1:00pm: And we’re live.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

1:10pm: Switch angles.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

1:20pm: Switch angles.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

1:30pm: Switch angles.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

1:40pm: Walk the floor with the Instagram Live phone. I’m having the best problem I’ve had all day: there are too many people here to get the phone close enough to the models for full-portrait coverage.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Ryan Babenzien sticks me on his IG story, and for a brief moment, the world sees Instagram Liveception. Front and center: my exhausted grin and messy hair. After a 6am wakeup, there are many reasons to be thankful I’m behind the camera.

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

2:00pm: “That’s a wrap. Great work, everyone.”

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Photo: Alex Rakestraw

Chris takes a bow, joined by his wife and family. Kayt, BJ, Moe, Ryan, and the rest of the DYNE team surround him from just off-stage. From my view in the pit, today was pure adrenaline; for them, the people who made on stage possible, it was so much more. Months of work, hours of prep, and one final sensory overload: world, meet DYNE F/W 17.

2:01pm: I start smiling.

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I haven’t stopped since.  

 

EnspiRED Annual Fashion Show Redefines Urban Wear

Sophie Cloherty

The lights are artificially bright, and a model stands with his head down, hands held low in front of him. The burgundy bomber jacket he wears seems to absorb the light rather than reflect it. Then, a beat drops and he’s moving forward not with the music, but rather catching the beat of his own swagger. This is “Central Formalities”, scene four of eight consecutive mini-shows presented by EnspiRED this past Saturday as part of their annual fashion show.

Photo: Benji Bear

Photo: Benji Bear

This year’s show, entitled “Urban Behaviors”, featured nine designers (both student and professional) along with forty-two student models. “We’ve been up since 7 am,” laughed Hannah Tanau, EnspiRED’s Media Coordinator. Yet, the group that made this show possible has been working non-stop since early last Fall.

EnspiRED President Ify Odum began the show with a brief address: “Sit back and pay attention to the details. Let us redefine ‘urban.’”

If you look up the most basic definition of urban you’ll find something along the lines of relating to, or being a city. But that definition is not telling of just the kind of urban EnspiRED looked to address. Urban wear is not so much a genre as it is a vibe, an element of clashing concepts resulting paradoxically in a cohesion of the mind that can be addressed best not in prose, but rather in visual language. 

Corey Johnson, the videographer for the show, produced short films that introduced each mini-show in succession. The scenes were essential to the audience’s dialogue with the runway itself, setting a mood at each intersection. Many of the visuals were set among the architecture of Detroit.

Photo: Benji Bear

Photo: Benji Bear

Scene one was titled “City Necessities”, and featured Solange’s vocals behind an “Inception”-style view of buildings and skyscrapers. Dark, blurred faces lulled the audience into a dream before designer Grant Henderson (of clothing line Greatness the One) slammed it back down to Earth with cool logo-clad models who walked in pairs of all sizes, genders, and races. A structured, high-collar jacket by Faina Stefadu, a leather paneled two-piece, and a pair of cigarette leg pants made of hexagon cutouts all spoke about structure—reminiscent of the way a city imposes itself on you, the way you must sometimes stare back at a city with cold, fearless eyes, the same sort that spotted Henderson’s sports bras and jackets.

Scene two, “Hood Taste”, featured impossibly-cool sheer orange shades, Detroit jerseys, effortless pattern mixing, and a standout color-saturated skirt by designer Gersai.

Photo: Benji Bear

Photo: Benji Bear

Scene three, “Black Ice”, was coats, coats, coats, a look that paired chokers with business casual, and a front-row friend yelling at a model: “Okay David, don’t smile though!” Central Formalities (the midway point) featured a salmon pink suit and velvet-embroidered jacket that could make any outfit say: “yes I know, what of it?”

 “My favorite was the red-satin pajama look. Fluffy heels on point perplex, so trendy,” said SHEI Fashion Editor Mackenzie Kimball, “Fur—always great.”

 The next scene, “Uptown Etiquette”, began with perhaps the most intriguing visual of the night: a short film of a ballerina moving in slow-motion to classical strings, interlaced with shots of a painted ceiling. The fashion was no less intriguing: money signs, fur, and a killer model duo— one wearing a leafed, nude colored turtleneck and the other a long sleeveless dress. If the opera and the street could ever stand side by side, then here is where they should.

“Urban Aesthetics” (scene six) featured Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids” as backing behind two models, standing side-by-side. One wore a long, red sparkling fitted gown and the other, a blue t-shirt, grey pants, and a black baseball cap.

Scene seven, “Midtown Muse”, portrayed a protest on the runway. The idea for “Midtown Muse”, nurtured by EnspiRED vice President Darbee Pass, was inspired by a Chanel 2014 runway show in which the models carried signs with feminist slogans.

Photo: Benji Bear

Photo: Benji Bear

The mini-show featured seven models, dressed in all variations of denim, holding picket signs: Feminism is equality; Love is Love; Black Lives matter; Yes means yes means yes; Imagine Fairness; Save our Planet.

“(With) the positioning of our show in terms of the inauguration and the Women’s March, we needed to make a statement…to follow such an impactful moment in history,” said Tanau. “We chose things that we felt wouldn’t offend… we chose universal truths.”

The final scene, titled “For Us, By Us”, was all about EnspirRED as an organization. Once stoic models now playing to the audience, sporting reds, whites, greys—it was this mini-show that captured the essence of the show in its entirety.

It took nothing more than looking at the crowd first, dressed all-out from heels to hair, to see that redefining urban is not about redefining this particular style within the enclosure of the one-note word “urban,” but instead about defining it by the energy that pervades from the word, by the community and love that surrounds it. “Black magic, baby!” someone yelled in the joy of the finale.

Photo: Benji Bear

Photo: Benji Bear

It’s hard to synthesize the whole scope of EnspiRED’s “Urban Behavior” in mere words and photos. Sitting in front of glass windows, looking out at the Ann Arbor night, the audience was as much out in a city as they were significantly removed from one.

“I’m here to see art,” said Kenyetta, a student from Hampton University who had traveled to Michigan on an invite. “If you pay attention you can see the artists put their heart there.” 

Photo: Benji Bear

Photo: Benji Bear

Maybe that’s what redefining urban is: exploring an idea as an art form, questioning what happens in that doorway space between the city bar, the opera house, and the street. It’s more than black magic; it’s black, multicultural brilliance. Not the melding of the boundaries between spaces, but the melting of any boundary at all. Not emulating a city landscape, but being one. It was not so much about redefining urban wear as it was about redefining the word urban itself. 

4 Ways to Stay Stylish In Winter Weather

Amber Mitchell

As the January cold truly sets in, it can be difficult to show your personal style under all that bulky (but necessary) outerwear. The need to dress for the frigid, often-unpredictable weather has a tendency to discourage unique outfits, almost putting a “pause” on fashion for these few months. Face it: while we like to think we’re on top of our cold weather style, most of us are guilty of grabbing the coziest things from our closet and throwing on any pair of durable boots and a puffy coat, saving the good stuff for warmer temperatures.

Although this approach is both comfortable and effective, it doesn’t always make for the most stylish expression. Try these few simple pieces to elevate your winter look and give you a chic edge that can’t be found in a North Face catalog. 

Longline Coat

Credit: UO Blog

Credit: UO Blog

One of the best ways to make your cold weather ensemble stand out is to invest in a longline coat. Without the bulk and weight of bigger parkas, this piece ties together any outfit to present you as polished without a loss of the warmth required to survive your outdoor commute. Longline coats can easily be found in many of this season’s most popular colors (grey, navy, black, and camel), each worthy of a spot on any street style blog.

Oversized Scarf

Credit: Gal Meets Glam

Throwing on a cute, oversized scarf before walking out the door takes mere seconds, but adds emphasis to your look all day long. Add a little pop of excitement to a rather bleak season by pairing tasteful colors (like dark green) or patterns (such as plaid) with a neutral coat. Finding stand-out scarves after the New Year is especially easy, as large retailers like Zara and Madewell often mark scarves down first when making room for their spring lines.

Cross-Body Bag

Credit: The Moptop

Credit: The Moptop

Since snowy temps often require wearing gloves, it can be difficult to use accessories like bracelets, rings, and watches to put the finishing touches on an outfit. A simple cross-body bag can serve the same role as these common pieces and bring your winter wear from functionable to fashionable. Although black and brown leather bags are forever-loved classics, try experimenting with less traditional options like vivid colors (red and pink) or plush materials (velvet) to make a bold seasonal statement. 

Black Ankle Boots

Credit: Collage Vintage

A must-have for every style-conscious woman, black ankle boots are the perfect way to handle cold weather and snowy sidewalks without resorting to clunky technical boots. While not everyone can handle the heel pictured above, there are, fortunately, hundreds of variations to choose from. 

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It may seem impossible to look put-together during these chilly months; however, with just a few of these essential pieces, your style will shine, no matter how many layers you wear.

 

Fashion Icons of the West: Beau Brummell

Phoebe Danaher

In this new series on historical fashion, we will explore the lives and legacies of some of history’s oft-forgotten fashion icons. The men and women we’ll cover all materially shaped today's European and American fashion world, yet sadly go unknown by many. The first figure to enter the spotlight is Beau Brummell (1778-1840). 

 ibrumme001p1

But first, a moment of truth: you may be fashionable, but you’re never going to be as fashionable as Beau Brummell. Don’t just accept it – internalize it. It’s only healthy.

George Bryan “Beau” Brummell was born in 1778 to William Brummell, the high sheriff of Berkshire. Through his father’s connections, he attended Eton (England’s most prestigious boarding school) before going on to Oxford, but left the university after being presented to the then-Prince of Wales, the future King George IV of England. He joined George’s regiment of the British Army and was promoted to the rank of captain, likely due more to his friendship with George than to his abilities.

However, in both his academic and military life, it was clear that he had a more important priority than his studies and managing his men: his religion was style. While Brummell left the army in 1798, he stayed close with Prince Goerge, serving essentially as his lackey. In 1799, Brummell’s father died and he inherited a fortune to the tune of £30,000, which in today’s currency would equal several million dollars. His material needs satisfied, Brummell devoted his life to being a socialite and leader in fashion, which worked pretty well until he alienated everyone he knew and was forced to flee his debts before dying of syphilis-related causes. You know. The usual. 

That was the great contradiction of Beau Brummell: for someone who was so well-educated and cared so passionately about etiquette, he was unforgivably rude. According to a story of the time, Beau fell out of favor with George when he was still Prince of Wales one morning when the two encountered each other on a morning walk. Beau had recently had a fight with the prince, so when they saw each other having a morning walk. George ignored Brummell and only spoke to his walking partner, the 2nd Baron Alvanley. Brummell decided that the best way to react to this was to ask, “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?” This incredible rudeness, combined with his terrible debts and the heavy partying, meant that by the time Brummell died, practically penniless and alone in the world, he had endured a dramatic fall from grace.

On the list of people to maybe not be rude to, the King of England is close to the top, Beau. 

On the list of people to maybe not be rude to, the King of England is close to the top, Beau

However, Brummell’s impact on culture was not just his Kardashian-level dramatic personality and rich life. He left his mark on England in two substantial categories: style and hygiene.

On the style front, Beau Brummell is credited with popularizing what is now the three-piece suit. He didn’t invent any pieces of clothing, but he made them what they are today as an ensemble. The arrangement of coat, waistcoat and trousers is his legacy. He also lived in a fashion era where more was more: the fancier the fabric, the more powdered the wig, the more ornate the ornaments, the better. Instead of following his contemporaries, Beau introduced elegant styling to the fashions of the day. He valued fit and craftsmanship over visual display. He didn’t wear a wig or powder his hair. Instead of flamboyant purples and gold, he wore dark, flattering colors. In an era where consumers insisted on maximizing their clothes with as many beads and ruffles as possible, someone championing understated elegance was nothing short of revolutionary. In some ways, Brummell was like a 19th-century Coco Chanel: he wanted fashion to work with the body, not hide it.

 

If Coco Chanel had a penchant for papillote curls, anyway.  

If Coco Chanel had a penchant for papillote curls, anyway.  

Of course, in order to seek fashion that complements the body, you had to have a body worth complementing. This meant it had to be clean and smell fresh. Unlike today, that was not the norm. Swimming against the current, Brummell championed the then-outrageous practice of bathing the entire body in hot water every day. He is considered to be the reason English people do so nowadays. He also brushed his teeth and smelled okay enough not to wear perfume, which at the times was essential because of the lack of regular, full-body washing.

Imagine a world where that was abnormal! Actually, let’s not.

 

The power of a legacy can be determined by how people try to profit off the image after your death. Right? 

The power of a legacy can be determined by how people try to profit off the image after your death. Right? 

Between the scandalous life and the valuable contributions to society, Beau Brummell embodies the principles of both style and fashion. In many ways, Brummell defined how the Western world views both formalwear and hygiene alike.

A lasting legacy indeed. 

2017 Detroit Auto Show – Day 2: The Future of Mobility

Alex Rakestraw

For the auto industry, Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize couldn’t have come at a more symbolic time: slowly but surely, the world’s largest carmakers have pivoted decades of strategy to solve entirely new problems. At this year’s 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI, an apprehensive excitement pulsed the show floor. Volvo’s DriveMe pilot; Chevy’s Bolt EV; everywhere one turned, the awesome wonder of an autonomous, electric-drive future seemed inevitable.

While V12 revs still blared over loudspeakers, their throaty howls seemed as compensatory as they were triumphant. Maximized touring cars had had their day; now, it was the turn of a new breed.

Bob Dylan said it best: "the times, they are a-changin’." This is the future of mobility.

 

Chevrolet

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

In a world full of hype and headlines, tangible progress isn’t just an exception – it’s a paradigm shift. After less than one year on the market, Chevy’s Bolt EV (GM’s first mass-production Electric Vehicle, unveiled at last January’s show) is shaping up to be just that leap.

The Bolt is a compact, all-electric hatchback with room for 5, priced starting right around $35,000 after tax credits. It also boasts a 200 mile range, and a respectable 6.5 second sprint to 60mph.

Most significantly of all, it’s actually in production.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

While dreams of tomorrow are all well and good, a sustainable, EV-only future society can only be achieved one way: through making electric cars. Here, Bolt truly shines. Unlike other headline-grabbing EV’s in its segment, the Chevy Bolt – a reasonably-priced, sensible electric hatchback with room for groceries and the dog - is available for purchase at dealerships nationwide.

If it weren’t for the Bolt’s sky-high trophy count (2017 North American Car of the Year, CNET RoadShow’s Vehicle of the Year, Car and Driver 10Best Winner), that fact alone would be worthy of praise. Instead, celebrate this: there are finally consumer-friendly electric vehicles available to the public at large. Even without a manual, the Chevy Bolt EV is a paradigm shift for mobility.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

 

 

Volkswagen

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

Nearly a year and a half after Dieselgate, Volkswagen appears to have doubled down on its renewed commitment to sustainability. Case in point: the I.D. BUZZ concept, a self-driving electric Microbus unveiled Monday during VW’s press conference.

Touted as the world’s first “electric multi-purpose vehicle equipped with a fully autonomous driving mode,” the I.D. BUZZ features a roomy hardwood-and-plastic cabin with space for 8 passengers and their luggage. The interior is playful, intuitive, and surprisingly plush. For example, the two big leather bucket seats typically reserved for driver and copilot can be rotated so passengers face each other when autonomous driving is engaged.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

Considering VW’s promotional reel showing bearded and flannelled urbanites using the I.D. BUZZ to facilitate “city limits” getaways, details like the modular cabin go a long way towards selling the concept.

While engaging in purpose and not shy for looks, it remains to be seen whether Volkswagen’s I.D. BUZZ will ever make it to production. Given the sparse nature of the concept (and VW’s storied history of whipping out refreshed Microbus concepts to liven up a slow news day), there’s a good chance the I.D. BUZZ remains buzz.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

 

Audi

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

Audi’s groundbreaker: an SUV the size of the continent. Oh yeah – and it’s a hybrid, too.

Unveiled Monday morning, the Audi Q8 is a full-size luxury SUV that will first reach the market in 2018. Even with a swept, sporty roofline, the Q8 is formidable: it’s columnade grill, frameless doors, and Robocop taillights are as angular as they are aggressive.

Better yet, since the Q8 is built on Audi’s new lightweight Q7 platform, this full-size is no slouch for speed. Under the hood, a 333hp engine is mated to a 100kW lithium ion battery, sending the Q8 to 60 in a mere 5.4 seconds (or, if you choose to engage the hybrid drive responsibly, to a combined range of 621.4 miles at full stocks.)

Did we mention that it’s a hybrid?

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

The true significance of the Audi Q8 comes from its target segment. It’s no secret that Americans buy full-size luxury SUV’s – the success of the Range Rover Sport, Cadillac Escalade, and others are all testament to this love. However, what’s just as apparent is the pollution these same SUV’s cause: many get less than 20mpg combined in their standard trim. Given the runaway sales of its smaller SUV’s like the Q5, Audi’s new Q8 could be the competitive pressure needed to clean up one of the industry’s least-sustainable sectors.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

 

BMW

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

For a company that made its name on straight-six performance engines, BMW appears an unlikely candidate for the role of “EV innovator.” Yet, in the five years since BMW i (the brand’s plug-in electric-only branch) was launched, the Munich-based luxury brand has staked its claim as the segment leader in EV development. With a stable of plug-in vehicles that includes the i3 compact car, i8 supercar (above), and countless “iPerformance” variants of mainline models like the X5, it’s safe to say that BMW’s electric credentials are more than secure.

As this year’s press conference headline was the all-new 5-Series sedan, BMW wasted no time in utilizing the platform to its fullest. Moments after the big reveal, the brand revealed the first-ever electrified 5-Series: the 530e iPerformance sedan, a plug-in hybrid built on the brand-new sedan platform.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

Compared to the old 5-Series, this new platform is eons sportier while retaining its dignified business-like interior. For those seeking both the feel of a BMW sedan and the warm fuzzies that come with saving the planet, the 530e iPerformance appears a perfect compromise.    

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

 

Volvo

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

To understand Volvo’s world-changing DriveMe XC90, first see the world through selfless eyes. “There’s a wider aspect to the driver-car relationship than simply the person in the driver seat,” said Dr. Robert Broström, Volvo’s Senior Technical Leader, User Experience.

The Swedish luxury brand has built its name worldwide through an uncompromising focus on safety – not just for its customers, but for the world at large. Volvo famously introduced the first three-point seatbelt in 1959, only to release the patent to the public that same year. Then-Volvo managing director Alan Dessell is quoted as saying: “The decision to release the three-point seat belt patent was visionary and in line with Volvo’s guiding principle of safety.”

So, when it came time to pilot technology that could potentially end auto accidents as a whole, Volvo appears predestined to succeed. Simply put, security is luxury: no matter how plush the leather, time spent worrying about the other aspects of that driver-car relationship (especially the ones you love in the backseat) could never be luxurious.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

Enter DriveMe.

Starting January 9, 2017, Volvo will undertake the largest-ever real world test of self-driving technology. Around the Swedish city of Gothenburg, 100 families will receive Volvo XC90 SUV’s equipped with the “Volvo Autonomous Brain,” a hidden sensor package that allows for – when the conditions are right – true autonomy.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

Not “Lane Assist”; not “Autopilot”; bonafide, Level 4 autonomous driving.

According to Broström, the DriveMe test represents the “logical next step” towards Volvo’s “Vision 2020” pledge, an initiative that aims to reduce the number of people that die or are seriously injured in accidents involving Volvo cars to zero over the next three years. Authentic self-driving would remove both error and stress from the driving equation, aligning perfectly with Volvo’s mission of providing safety, serenity, and luxury through its vehicles.

Photo by Benji Bear

Photo by Benji Bear

Ambitious? Certainly. Yet, coming off one of the strongest 2016’s in the industry (S90 unveiled, Uber partnership announced, XC90 wins North American Truck of the Year), Volvo appears poised to - and laser-guided towards - shaping the future of mobility.