Category Archives: Design

At least 1,000 Words

It’s often said that eyes are the windows to the soul.

I know its cliche and probably thrown around more often than necessary but when I saw these photographs it was the first thing I thought of.

It’s amazing the stories that can be told by such a basic picture.  These are only a few of the photos that exist as part of a broader collection taken by Martin Schoeller.  These are my favorites, see the rest here.

Quite the mugs.

Perhaps the reason I like these so much is that they seem to strip away the Hollywood.  They seem like real people, as odd as that may sound.  They look worn.  Weathered.  Troubled.  Aged.  Real.  As different as each of these people may be their eyes all tell a story.  A story as different as themselves.  And while their faces may seem to be the focus of these images, I don’t think that’s the case.

As David Bowie once sang, “…the days float through my eyes.”  And while time may change us all, ultimately it’s our stories that remain untraced by time.

Every so often we are able to capture those stories beautifully without writing a word.  That’s exactly what has happened here.

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Come on…

Seriously Cole. You gotta cut me some slack.  Give it a rest.

Since my last post on your new LunarGrand I’ve been thinking far more than is healthy about how much I wanted them on my feet. But I talked myself out of it.  I’ve already got a few pairs of suede, I don’t need another.  Just when I thought it was behind me I see this.

Oh, you recognize them?  Well you should.  These are the new LunarGrand leathers that hit SOHO this week.  All rationalizing is out the window and once again I’m sprung for some of the sexiest and undoubtedly most comfortable (nod to NIKE’s sole technology) wingtips known to man.

What am I supposed to do now?

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For those without citizenship

After all, we are all visitors.

A new collaboration between surf legend Kelly Slater and Quicksilver has forged a new lifestyle brand built for the journey.

Wherever it may lead you.

I haven’t seen much of the collection but I did catch a glimpse at one of the best looking packs I’ve seen in a while.

The waxed canvas bag is big enough to fit weeks worth of gear and has storage compartments for days.  Don’t feel like lugging the entire pack with you everywhere you go?  No worries.  The small compartment on the front is detachable, perfect for a laptop bag or other day-to-day use.

One of the coolest features, which may also be the least practical, is the included hammock – tucked away in a small compartment somewhere.

Can’t say I’ve been in situations where I’ve really needed a hammock but little details like this really reinforce the brand’s pedigree and lifestyle it was made for.

I’m a sucker for rugged gear that is just as functional as it is attractive.  Same goes for interesting collaborations.  Just so happens that the combination of the two in this situation shows a lot of promise.  I find it really interesting to see trends in minimalism intersecting with utility.  VSTR quotes William Blake:

“…We never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.”

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Very cool use of driftwood by artist Kiel Mead.  Love to see creative and purposeful use of seemingly wasted materials.

Collected from the shores of Lake Eerie in New York, Kiel hand bleaches and stains each piece to create a completely unique piece of functional art.  While the idea of a wall hook isn’t all that spectacular, Kiel admits that this project came as the result of an experiment in his studio where he likes to play with common objects.

Wood is one of those mediums that has a strange ability to evoke nostalgia.  Each piece so unique and worn in its own way, it all tells a story.  To bring that into someones home in a functional way is really cool.

Giles & Brother

Just came across these cool pieces from Giles & Brother.  Founded by edgy designer Phillip Crangi his stuff is all so tough.  While I can say that I personally don’t wear much “jewelry” this is stuff I wouldn’t be ashamed to rock.

Rock hard.

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Hard Graft

For the first time in, well…ever, I recently met a young guy like myself that claimed to be an aspiring blacksmith.  I can’t help but think that this is rooted in a broader trend bringing back the appreciation of true craft.  Being a blacksmith or a carpenter or a tailer are not only being revitalized as professions but they are also really cool right now!

In the spirit of true craftsmanship I wanted to share a new brand I found recently called Hard Graft.  They peddle a fine assortment of handmade goods crafted from leather and wool.  I love the minimal, masculine feel of Hard Graft’s products.  The attention to detail is fantastic and the style points this stuff earns in comparison to competing mainstream alternatives is off the charts!

While ordering one of these cases for your kindle/ipad/macbook/device or wallet does require opening up said wallet I think it would be worth the investment.  Typically the more miles you put on these types of accessories the better they look. Wear breeds serious character.  Character that you just can’t buy in a store filled with mass produced merchandise.

For those interested in upping their style, looking for a new case and willing to shell out a little more for a quality product, or just appreciate quality craftsmanship I highly encourage you to look into Hard Graft.


Innovation meets old-world style

Growing up my mother always made sure my brothers and I were well dressed.  For more formal occasions this often meant elaborate outfits constructed from multiple layers.  I remember one particular Sunday sitting on a pew complaining to my mom and a friend of hers about how uncomfortable I felt in whatever fruit suit she had me wearing that particular day.  Not sure why it made such an impression on me but for some reason their response has stuck with me for 20-something years:

“It’s not about how you feel, it’s about how you look.”

For far too long people have considered comfort and style to be mutually exclusive.  This just baffles me.  I find it hard to believe that in the 21st century we are unable to create a good looking product that is also comfortable and easy to wear.  Well, wouldn’t you know as soon as I started getting flustered about this very topic I come across the latest from one of the biggest names in men’s footwear, Cole Haan.  They put a classically designed brogue dress shoe on top of an ergonomic outsole for pure podiatric bliss.  You can see a definite nod to CH’s parent company NIKE who brings serious innovation and tech to the table wherever they go.

I love the design and am happy to see more menswear brands pushing the boundaries of acceptable style with great color combos and a fine integration of classic and modern aesthetic.  Here are a few pics of the shoes that will be available only at the Cole Haan store in SoHo starting next week.

And my personal favorite…

The gray/yellow might be a bit much for some but I think they are incredibly cool.  I’d love to get my hands on a pair of these someday when I’m not a broke grad student.  Pipe dreams.

I knew Cole Haan was a NIKE brand but there’s something about seeing such a blatant integration of both brands’ style that really rubbed me the right way.  I couldn’t help but think of one of NIKE’s maxims:

“If we don’t lead it, we don’t need it.”

I love their commitment to greatness.

The LunarGrand Wingtip is a perfect example of NIKE & Cole Haan leading their category.

Now, some of you that read the blog may have heard that I just recently had an opportunity to interview with NIKE for a potential summer internship.  The timing of this post is unintentionally ironic!  What are the odds that I find these shoes the same day I interview?!  I know there is little I can do at this point to escape the heat I’m going to get for this but I just want to come out to my peers and say that this was in no way strategic.

If by some chance someone at NIKE finds this,

I hope it worked 😉

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Latest Brand Obsession – Baldwin Denim

The number of brands we interact with on a daily basis seems to be growing every day.  A professor at Brandcenter recently asked us to record all the brands we engaged with for just one day.  The highest number recorded was somewhere around 130 brands.  It’s no surprise that world-class organizations like Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Nike are out there doing great work and capturing our attention almost everywhere we go.  These types of organizations are the gold standard as far as branding goes.  With that said, one of the things I have truly enjoyed doing since I have been studying brands is finding those with a much softer voice but still connect with me in a very positive way.  Sometimes it’s the product that captures my attention, other times it may be the general aesthetic or story of the brand.

This time it happens to be all of the above.

I was recently introduced to a menswear shop in Kansas City called Baldwin Denim.  They offer a wide range of clothing for both men and women but specialize in high quality, raw selvedge denim.  I’ve seen all the expensive designer jeans that have been bedazzled, embroidered, and adorned with just about every other tacky decoration one could think of and these are not those jeans.  Baldwin represents quality premium denim sewn in the USA and designed in KC.  They are simple, masculine and I plan to wear them as long as my mid-section will allow.  I’m not worried about them wearing out and they embody that classic design that only looks better with age.

Heres a shot of their flagship store in Kansas City

I know everyone has their own style and this may not appeal to everyone but I’m a huge fan of Baldwin.  Even if you were to take the clothes out of the picture, the vibe of the store is spot on with me.  Love all the wood and matte metals.  Somewhat industrial but still so refined.  I love to see the emergence of high quality men’s boutiques that not only cater to men but are built and run by them.

The denim looks almost as good on as it does on the shelf 🙂

One of the things that I really love about raw selvedge denim is how they wear in.  When you pick these up in the store they are going to be dark, stiff and you should buy them very tight.  As you wear them they will loosen up and form to your body.  They will also create a completely unique color wash depending on how you wear them, so no two people will have the same wash.

New vs. 6 months wear (still without wash)

Tell me these don’t look fantastic worn in!

These don’t come cheap but as far as I’m concerned a pair of Baldwin denim is worth the investment.

Each wrinkle and spot rubbed of dye tells a story.  Each stain a memory.

After time has passed these are no longer pants, but an heirloom that can be cherished.

Baldwin denim is another great small brand that has their identity pegged and is doing a bang up job.



I’m a sucker for great product packaging.  Probably because I spent the better part of 2 years working on the packaging team at General Mills and attended more packaging related conferences and forums than I care to admit.  I was even asked to speak as a panel member at one conference alongside such industry giants as Starbucks and Smurfit-Stone.  I digress.  As a result of the countless hours I spent researching and critiquing boxes and other product vessels, I have become what we in the biz lovingly refer to as a packaging nerd.  I pay far too much attention to packaging and when I see something I like I can’t help but sing its praises.

Too often packaging is written off as nothing more than a container for the real product.  This type of thinking is shallow and fails to capitalize on a great opportunity to reinforce brand essence and offer the consumer an unexpected delight.  Believe it or not, brand loyalty isn’t built by offering a good product alone.  It is earned through a series of personal connections that articulate not only product excellence but confidence in brand identity and willingness to go the extra mile.  The devil is in the details and consumers can always tell those that are making the effort and those that are faking it.

One of my favorite kinds of packaging is the unexpected kind.  This leads me to the recent find that really sparked my interest.  How often have we all received our monthly magazine subscription with name sticker slapped on haphazardly and thoroughly beat up by the postal gauntlet it has just run?  I know I have.  Well enter Creative Future.  A new publication and art project that features some of the industry’s most innovative designers.  The goal was to create a finely crafted publication that not only featured art and design but was a work of art in itself.

Mission accomplished.

I am sure the magazine is amazing although I have to say I’ve never read it.  What I do know is that instead of just dropping this thing in the mail, the brilliant designers at Creative Future found a way to both protect the publication and add another element of design that reinforces the pedigree of the brand.  Plus, who doesn’t like to open a package?!

Check it out:

So perfect.  I love the brown paper and twine tied up in a bow.  Its the perfect blend of simplicity, utility, and rugged elegance.  I also love how the white wrap adds an additional aesthetic layer that also serves the purpose providing a quick glimpse of the contents.

I would almost hate to open it.

If I ever have a business peddling products of some sort you better believe the packaging will look a lot like this.

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Ford T Bird

So much better than the current Ford T Bird.