Tuesday, April 13, 2010

John Bartlett of John Bartlett NY

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to meet someone I really liked, respected and actually researched before coming to NYC, John Bartlett.

I very clearly remember last year going down to the Cincinnati Public Library on a gray, rainy day in  February after I got my acceptance letter from FIT and finding a book called Who’s Who in Fashion.  Starting from the beginning and taking notes on designers, I quickly found myself thumbing to the Bs.  Right after Neil Barrett, was menswear designer, John Bartlett.  My verbatim notes say:

John Bartlett
  • FIT Menswear grad and Cincinnati native (frickin' awesomee)
  • American sportswear, looks like upscale Eddie Bauer
So needless to say, I was pretty excited yesterday to meet a successful man who came from my hometown, studied exactly what I am and is killing it in the industry.

John spoke to a group of perhaps 50 or more of us students, and I found a seat next to my friend David from the Menswear program, who was also there. 
He gave a lot of great nuggets of wisdom.  One thing that stuck out a ton was how much he stressed humility (in a confident, non-weak way) and keeping your ego in check.  In 2003, he took a year-long sabbatical and traveled to Thailand to study Eastern philosophy more deeply.  I remember reading about that last year.  It seemed even cooler now to me though as I’ve been wearing a Hindu Ohm and a skull charm around my neck recently to remind me to live in the present moment more and that I am going to die some day and to make the most of my life.
When I got to talk to him one-on-one, he seemed really enthusiastic, warm and genuine, a welcome change from an industry with larger-than-life egos peppered throughout.  I feel as though it comes across in his collections:

Here are some of my notes distilled down:
  • Humility is critical.  Don’t go in a company with an attitude or a list of things you don’t do.  Go in and do whatever it takes.
  • A huge part of his own growth was self-expression through his own wardrobe.
  •  When he started, there was no sexuality to the clothing in menswear; those times have changed.
  • As an employer, companies want to see amazing technical sketches.  Make sure your flats are impeccable and that you record all details of a garment.
  • Get a lot of retail experience.  Those amazing clothes you are designing are eventually going to reach an audience.  If you don’t see what the customer wants, you’re really at a disadvantage.
  • He opened up his own retail store in the West Village to better learn about his customers.
  • Over the years, companies have come along that produce great prices for more reasonable prices.  Mid-tier markets are where most opportunity and growth is, not Bergdorf Goodman or Barney’s.
  •  The industry’s very different than what you see on Project Runway.
  •  At first, he tried to respond to buyer’s suggestions and lost himself.  Unless you’re really clear about who you are, you’re going to get lost in what other people are projecting on to you.
  • The Internet business model is growing by leaps and bounds.
  • If you don’t have a good handshake, forget it.  It says “I’m really comfortable with myself.”
  • A lot of the menswear today is really like little boys, not real masculinity.  He designs for MEN (and women too).
  • It is important in some shows to have pieces that will never be produced but ultimately it's about realness of the garments.
  • When he was younger, he considered being a social worker so he could make a difference in people’s lives.  His dad advised him “If you do what you love, you can give back to the community so much more than as a social worker.”  Now he works with animal rescue and suicide intervention because of the success of his other ventures.

I meant to get a picture with him, but it kinda slipped my mind.  I did manage this one early in the talk.  I’m sure there will be other opportunities though.  All in all, a fantastic experience!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Human Animal

We people are funny.  Something I've seemed to have had wacked over my head over and over within the past few weeks is the amazing extent to which people (me included) backwards rationalize their decisions.  One of my favorite guys, Owen Cook, says "To feel good about your emotionally motivated actions... we invent logical reasons for them during or after the fact."

Said another way, people will make up solid logical reasons during or after an action about why something is okay or even blank out the fact that they said they wouldn't do something so they feel like they're more in control of their actions.  This creates MASSIVE blind spots in us.  This behavior is such a part of humanity, it affects everything in every aspect.  For example, I craved a hamburger last week really badly... like a ton.  Now I try to eat very healthy and only put wholesome foods in my body.

But I really wanted that damn Big Mac!

So then my mind starts running the most amazing, self-deluded thought loops after I found myself suddenly leaving the line at McDonlad's and taking the first bite of the burger...

"I needed the protein."

"I need to make sure I don't lose weight."

"I usually eat well.  I deserved it."

"I can buy apple slices at McDonald's too for dessert... and I need fruit."

I ended up eating the whole thing, thoroughly enjoying it and then getting a stomachache afterwards.

People get into credit card debt by this process also.  Here's a big one I have to monitor in myself:  buying clothes.  And how easy is it for me to make up great reasons for it after the purchase with me being in the fashion industry?  I mean, it's EXTRA important to look good, right?  It's so convenient to forget that the man makes the clothes look good, not vice versa.

Or I know I should do homework or some other productive task... but I don't feel like it.  I find myself on Facebook, but make it okay by thinking things like,"Ultimately, relationships with other people are more valuable than this one task.  The best thing for me to do is to Facebook and strengthen my social ties."

Sure, Josh.

Again, I don't think there is a person alive who is totally exempt from this process, but the degree to which we can act in alignment with what we say we want to do and follow it, the happier we tend to be since we set those guidelines for ourselves in a clearheaded, thoughtful, non-emotional state of mind.

I'm by no means against feeling emotions.  They are in fact what make life sweetest.

But when I allow my emotions to override my ideals or boundaries I've set for myself when I was thinking more clearly, I nearly always regret it after the fact, which is the whole reason backwards rationalization is so common.  Otherwise, people would run around feeling guilty and bad about their actions a lot more often.

There's a facet of evolutionary psychology called the Triune Brain Theory.

"As humans evolved (from reptiles, to lower mammals, to modern man) so did our brains, both in size and complexity. An interesting aspect of this evolution is that, instead of simply expanding, our brains added on new components to augment the old ones. If you look at a cross-section of human brain, you can see evidence of it’s evolutionary history. The original reptilian brain resides in the center. The lower mammalian brain formed around it. And the frontal lobe of the human brain, lastly, surrounding it... The neurologist Paul McLean called this the triune brain... When you understand that we are slaves to these atavistic tendencies, it explains so much. Like why so many of us to behave in petty ways under the pressure of social scenarios. We hold ourselves up to this lofty standard of human behavior and yet, at times, we seem to automatically react to situations and revert to behavior unfitting of a species so supposedly advanced and cultured."


Mostly, our emotional brains are really running the show and calling the shots and very often marshal our logical brain's intelligence to come up with reasons that make our behaviors okay and to let us feel good about whatever our emotions have told us they want to do.

But not all the time.  Part of being a more evolved person, quite literally, is trying live to your life in alignment with the more rational, less emotional part of our brains.

But honestly, an impulse buy on a new coat that's a little outside your budget or cheeseburger with that extra dollop of mayonnaise isn't that big of a deal.  Just as long as you don't have a habit out of making up reasons that weren't there to begin with to make it okay or taking truisms WAY out of context to make your actions more acceptable.

On that note, all this talk about food is making me want some fried chicken from KFC.  I mean, I deserve it, I already got my vitamins from the banana bread I just ate, right? ;)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rock the Runway

Last Saturday, I was very fortunate to get an opportunity to show a few outfits in an event in Cincinnati over my break called Rock the Runway.  My girl Rachel was really excited to audition to be one of the models for the show.  No surprise to me, they wanted her to be one of the models.  I mean, God, look at this girl:


Anyway, not too long afterward, during the Saturday of the F.I.T. vs. Parsons show, she called me and asked if I'd be interested in showing some pieces.  After having a minor crisis over having enough time, I said screw it and told her I'd get in touch with the person in charge of the event, Michelle Marx, who is also a make-up artist.

Long story short, I pulled it together and teamed up with the place I'm interning at, Arbitrage, and I did half the stuff and they contributed the other half.  It was a great checkpoint for Cincinnati Fashion Week, which is in less than three weeks!!

I got to go through the experience of fitting and coaching my models, which was super valuable for me as a designer.

Rock the Runway was siiiick...  So much fun.  All the models were pent upstairs until the runway show started.  However, I was able to flit back and forth, eat all their fried chicken, Vitamin water and broccoli and still get beers downstairs at the bar haha.

When the show started, I was more nervous as a designer than as a model.

Afterwards, I sent out Rachel to get email addresses from some guys so I could try to parlay the excitement into sales instead of just an ego shot in the arm for me or something.  Promoting a product or service or damn near anything but immediate alcohol consumption at an event is very challenging.  I'm definitely still green in this area.

I tried to get feedback from some of the models on the clothes.  Unfortunately, there was no negative feedback to improve on but Matt, the guy wearing the Casino themed shirt, said the fit, which I developed, fit excellent.  Very good.

All in all though, a great time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Interview with Stu Nizny of Pixel 19 Vintage

During my visit to Cincinnati for Spring break, I was able to nail down the man who works 100 hours a week (by choice, of course) buying and selling vintage artifacts, Stu Nizny, owner of Pixel 19 Vintage Clothing, to sit down and do an interview.  Technically, we just lounged on a bed in an upstairs room of his shop and chatted, but you get the idea.

Pixel 19 Vintage Clothing is truly Cincinnati's best kept secret.  Stu runs his business by appointment-only out of an inconspicuous house he owns in the Clifton area of Cincinnati.  While he does have all kinds of relics from the past for sale, like furniture and sculptures, his real specialty is vintage clothing from about the 1960's through 1990's.  You want it, he probably has it.  Including his warehouse space, he has a collection of 100,000+ tee shirts, many of which are "deadstock" (meaning never worn)!  The majority of his operations are made up of selling to Japanese vintage dealers and eBay Powersellers.  He also is a registered member of the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission as a costumer and set designer.

Though the majority of his business is made up of volume orders, he does take private clients, some of which just might be on MTV this moment ;)  Since he is usually on the go, there are no set store hours.  If you're interested in seeing what he's got, simply call him at 513-476-2333 to set up an appointment to shop and he will take hours out of his day to make sure you leave his place with something you're excited about and that is within your budget.  He absolutely loves hearing from new people.  Running his company is his passion and the opportunity to share that with more people excites the heck out of him.

Having known him for a few years now, he is VERY fair with his prices.  He could very easily command (and get) wayyy more for some of his pieces from me and people I have referred to him.

In addition to clothing, the place is three floors of furniture, artwork, gadgets of the past and other things that will make you squeal with delight.  There are literally suitcases full of all sorts of vintage clothing stacked to the ceiling.

But don't worry.  Stu has a superhero's memory and knows where everything is.  Just tell him what you're looking for.

In our interview, we talked about:
  • How cookies (as in chocolate chip) inspire the way he runs his business
  • Why vintage artifacts are so popular
  • Thoughts on the cyclical nature of trends and fashion and predictions for the future from the man who’s seen it all
  • The importance of going out on a limb and wearing the clothes YOU like
  • Why if you go to his place, it’s 100% predictable that you will get excited!
  • The top mistakes nearly all people make when shopping for vintage that prevents them from getting what they want
  • How, with ANY budget, you can walk out of Pixel 19 with something that will make other people wonder who your stylist is…
To hear the interview, go to:


Here's a small sampling of what you can expect to find at 211 Klotter Ave:

Pixel 19 Vintage Clothing is located at 211 Klotter Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45219.  Stu Nizny can be reached via phone at 513-476-2333 to set up an appointment or, for other inquiries, via email at STUNIZNY@aol.com