I've been in the men's apparel industry now for a little over three years. I stumbled into it pretty much by accident. Up to that point music and the music industry had always been the focus of my life. Even after the demise of my sheet music store, Heritage Music House in Philadelphia, I ended up working full time at Tower Records Classical Annex on South Street. Meanwhile, I kept my fingers in the church music pie as Music Director at various Philadelphia churches. After I quit Tower, however, I decided to take on a part time gig at Lord & Taylor in Centre City, Philadelphia.
I thought it would be interesting to work in something different, and fashion had become a source of interest for me recently. Of course, I can never involve myself halfway in anything: I began researching vendor sources, as in, "Who makes this stuff for all these designers?"
Most designers don't produce much of their stuff themselves; they license out production to any number of vendors, who own the factories. I became more and more intrigued with the idea of not only knowing how the clothes are made (men's suits, even the cheap ones, are amazingly complicated constructs; what is between the outer shell and the lining is a maze of layers and sub- or partial layers). Moreover, I discovered I have a natural talent for putting together a man's outfit, especially a tailored one. I suddenly discovered I had this flair for taking a suit, or blazer and trousers, and combining them with a shirt or two and three to four ties and making them all interchangeable so that a man can, with just a few items, have a fully functional tailored wardrobe. I don't generally like to brag, but I'm really good at this.
Since my active involvement in the fashion industry I've become more aware than ever of the dismal state of dress in our society. I'm a firm believer that fashion, not unlike the arts, reflects directly on the state of a civilization, either enlightened or barbaric. Unfortunately, the current trend has been toward the latter.
The whole idea that looking like you just dressed yourself out of some dumpster is considered cool is a hideous product phenomenon originating, in my opinion, in the late 20th century, and specifically the late 60's. Dressing like a slob, just like all of its attendant undisciplined and basically rude behavior, not to mention bad taste, seems to be the enduring legacy of the radicalism of the late 60's, an unfortunate legacy, for while sloppy dressing is the one remnant from that era that actually stuck, the struggle for political, social and economic justice — all of the striving to achieve an higher, more enlightened consciousness — have at best seen token achievement (racial and sexual justice), or at worst, regression (economic justice).
Continued in Part II.