Fashion & Design

As a slight detour from our gastronomic odyssey from Korea, I offer a no-food-food-for-thought.

I came across a news article reporting that a man has allegedly made and sold thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit North Face down padding jumpers. The man had mad skills, and the counterfeit products were almost identical to the real deal. The only differences were the inside labels behind the neck, the shape of the inside lining, and the type of down filling; while the real North Face products are filled with goose down, this guy used cheaper down from ducks.

What grabbed my attention was the reporter’s focus on the response of so-called “netizens”, online readers of the news site. Many of these readers released their “anger” upon North Face, and not the alleged counterfeiter. The reason? North Face sells their goose down jumpers for over $400 (in Korea), while the alleged counterfeiter sold his duck jumpers for a meager $40. The anger was directed at the fact that the cost of production for the North Face products is less than $100, leaving blown-up margins for the outdoor brand.

Goose versus duck. The cost of production and margin left by the final products goes well beyond the type of bird sacrificed for puffy jackets.

What about “brand value”?

The readers and their comments did not take into account that the name “The North Face” has a certain price tag to it, beyond the actual cost of the bird feathers. It did not take into account that no one has the liberty to re-create a cheaper, more reasonable puffy jacket just because the original product seems a bit too puffy.

Fashion Week rolls around across the globe, and each time, I quietly ask myself of the true “value” of “haute couture” brands and designer labels. Overrated and overpriced? Probably. Puffy? Possibly. After all, you are paying many more times than the cost of the fabric and manual labor that went into producing the garments; you are paying the price to wear “the name”.

Brand value seems to be walking a fine line. As economies are still reeling and struggling to step out from their gutters and sewers, consumers repeatedly and more often ask of “value” and what they are willing to pay for such value.

Intellectual property, must it take a back seat?

We as lawyers are expected to wear suits. Maybe not everyday, and for some of us, maybe not even every other day. But when the partner or client comes beckoning, we are expected to show up in full armor.

Suits are not work uniforms. They shouldn’t be. Suits portray who you are and can cloak you in more awesomeness than you could ever imagine. Compared to New York, Washington, DC isn’t really a fashion mecca. In the bustling Metro or crowded sidewalks, spotting really ugly suits is a commonality. Colors are boring and mismatched, and the fit is terrible. I have seen some younger professionals sport fine suits, but those are a rarity.

Recently, folks have been asking me some basic suiting questions, from brands to colors and patterns to fit. The following is a short summary of the basics of what every man should know before buying a suit.

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1. Colors and Patterns: The basic color is black. This is where it all begins. Every man should have a crisp black suit. Nothing is more classic (in a good way) than a perfectly fitted black suit with a white oxford shirt. Black is great for all occasions – meetings, interviews, weddings, parties and in-laws. Once you have a black suit, then comes navy. There are different shades of navy. I would start with a more conservative darker shade, which would be easier to match with different shirts and ties. Then I would move on to lighter shades. After black and navy, move on to gray. You should only think about pinstripes and other colors after you conquer black, navy and gray.

2. Slim Fit: Cut is everything! The jacket should slightly tug at your sides without feeling like the seams will pop every time you twist your torso. The pant legs should not be flapping in the wind like flags. While you don’t want to look like a gothic punk high school kid, your pant width should be reasonably slim. Show a little cuff; your jacket sleeves should allow you to show anywhere between 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of your shirt cuff. Your pants shouldn’t be too long; they should fall nicely on the top of your shoes without folding. You don’t want your pants too short, so that you can see your socks while you’re standing up. But being on the shorter side is always better than the bottom of your pants fold up like grandma’s pancakes. Invest in a tailor. I cannot emphasize this enough. Most of us aren’t loaded enough to by custom-made suits, so we buy them off the rack. Visiting a tailor to customize your off-the-rack suit to your body will make $300 suit look like a thousand-dollar Armani.

3. “Two-button” is the jacket of choice: Three-buttons are of the past, and they’ll make you look like you’re wearing your dad’s jacket. One-buttons are stylish in certain settings, but if the primary purpose of your suit purchase is work-related, one-buttons may not be professional enough (but for tuxedos, one-buttons are the classic model and the way to go).

4. Think of the Shoes: Your suit and shoes should go together like PB&J. Black suits need brown shoes. Navy suits go with black shoes. Gray suits match well with brown shoes. Obviously, these rules are not engraved in stone. But remember, your shoes can make or break your suit.

5. Brands: This can be several posts in itself. In short, this totally depends on your budget. For me, I like Club Monaco for quality suits for reasonable prices. J-Crew has great suits with great fit, but I think they are overpriced. I don’t like the fit for Banana Republic suits (but that could just be me). Don’t underestimate outlet stores like the Barney’s New York outlet in Leesburg, VA. I was able to find a great Hugo Boss suit at a fraction of its original price. Never know what treasure you’ll find if you look hard enough.

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This is a simple summary of my thoughts on suits. I will break the criteria down in greater detail in future posts.

Stay tuned!

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