$780 – brownsfashion.com
$1,120 – luisaviaroma.com
$5.98 – vintagefashionjewellery.com
Having interned at a small business, I love to see new businesses and new creations. Kurtis Paul, a men’s accessories brand, caught my eye for the detail and care that is clearly put into every product. I interviewed one of the founders, Lloyd Rayner, and could immediately tell that he was a thoughtful and earnest person. He answered all of my questions personally and promptly, writing with the refinement that seems so charming to us Americans but is probably taken completely for granted in the UK.
Kurtis Paul was founded in 2015 by two brothers from Manchester, Kurtis and Lloyd. They make handbags, backpacks, duffle bags, beach bags, laptop sleeves, and pencil cases made of genuine top grain cow leather with nylon fabric interiors and brass metal work. They are priced between $52 and $364. Kurtis Paul is a brand for “the man with a desire to succeed, to reach his potential and do it in style”. This involves drinking coffee and working long hours, but also staying in shape, going out at night, and rewarding yourself with a vacation once in awhile. Living in New York City, I can relate. Most days I wake up in Bushwick, take the M train to Greenwich Village, get coffee, and work on my laptop in Bobst library. Yet I also take some time to play board games with my friends in Jersey City, go to clubs in the Meatpacking District, and watch the pigeons and squirrels in Washington Square Park.
Manchester at night
Every Kurtis Paul bag takes on the character of an extraordinary gentleman.
Alfred Leather Weekend Bag = Alfred Pennyworth
Alfred Pennyworth, a fictional retired intelligence agent, was Batman’s butler and sole confidant, advising him to do good.
Arnold Canvas Duffle Bag = Arnold Schwarzenegger
Californians may call him The Governator, but you can’t deny that Arnold Schwarzenegger is someone who can do anything he sets his mind to, in bodybuilding, acting, and politics.
Columbus Canvas Backpack = Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus left his country and set sail across the ocean to a place he never even knew existed.
Cromwell Leather Duffle Bag = Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was a radical military and political leader who attempted to overthrow the King of England in the sixteenth century, and is considered the father of British democracy.
Darwin Leather Backpack = Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin, an English naturalist and geologist, introduced the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection in the nineteenth century.
Donald Drawstring Beach Bag = George MacDonald
George MacDonald was a Scottish poet and a pioneer of fantasy literature, known for Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, and Lilith: A Romance.
Sherlock Leather Tote Bag = Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes, a fictional British private detective, was “the master in his field”.
Lloyd and Kurtis Rayner were born and raised in a small village on the outskirts of Manchester and the Peak District in central England, an idyllic place of peat bogs and heather moorland and the home of Britain’s first national park. Lloyd and Kurtis both grew up to work for large corporations, Lloyd in analytics and Kurtis in sales.
They started Kurtis Paul for practical and personal reasons. Their jobs required them to travel frequently, and they encountered many difficulties with luggage. As they tried to find the best options for their travel needs, Lloyd says, “Our experience has found that there were two ends to this market, the cheap, high street brands where there was a tendency to create ‘one time use’ products or the high end brands where a majority of the cost was embedded in the brand name and not necessarily the product.” In other words, when it comes to bags you do not always get what you pay for. They saw a need for “a brand that stood for super high quality, classic design and costed to suit the customer”. As someone who pays this much per month in rent, I am very much in support.
Working at a large company brings affluence and prestige, but there was something missing. “We felt like the processes involved with our former jobs were restricting our creativity. Having grown up in a small village this creativity was a big part of our lives, we were brought up to believe that imagination should be used as a form of entertainment. Having spent years feeling suppressed we knew that it was time to be true to ourselves and express our personalities.” So they took the risk of starting their own business from scratch in order to express their creativity in design. Lloyd is passionate about industrial design, “the heavy duty/oversized look and the space that comes with it”. Kurtis is a perfectionist, “constantly seeing items from clothes to bags and more and imagining what I could do to enhance and make the items unique”.
They envisioned themselves as not only a brand that built quality bags, but a brand built on “class, trust, and integrity”, and they needed a name to reflect that. Lloyd and Kurtis spent an entire Friday afternoon brainstorming such a name. Says Lloyd, “There were thousands of discarded ideas”. They finally decided on Kurtis Paul, after Kurtis Paul Rayner, in the tradition of celebrities like Tim Allen, Gary Jules, and Charlotte Olympia. “As they say, if you truly believe in something you should put your name to it,” says Lloyd. “We did just that.” I like to think that my name, Brette Nicole, is more marketable than my sister’s name, Darin Leigh, but clearly this pair of siblings is above such pettiness.
Kurtis Paul is headquartered in Manchester, where all of their design takes place. Manchester is considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. At the turn of the nineteenth century it was the most productive center of cotton processing and the largest marketplace for cotton goods, earning the nickname “Cottonopolis”. The engineering firms that made machines for the cotton trade started producing machinery for general manufacture, Manchester exported machinery in addition to cotton, and the city’s population exploded as people flocked from all over England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland in search of opportunity. Lloyd and Kurtis take much pride in this heritage. “Elements of this great city can be found in most of our products,” Lloyd explains. “For example, each of our bags is finished using brushed brass fixtures, chosen specifically for their strength, and they mimic the style of industrial machinery.”
Manchester during the day
The design philosophy of Kurtis Paul is that “products should be designed to fill a purpose. The creation of all our bags starts with a problem, as in what problem are we trying to solve.” The Alfred weekend bag solves the problem of needing sturdy luggage that can be used for years without wearing out. The Arnold duffle bag solves the problem of needing a bag that can be used anywhere all day long, from the café to the office to the gym. The Columbus backpack solves the problem of “fashionable exploration, how to create a bag that looked classy [but] was practical.”
According to Lloyd, “Our most proud achievement is the creation of the Canvas Collection.” This collection of duffels, backpacks, and beach bags stands apart in the market for its extreme durability. While most canvas bags are thirteen to eighteen ounces thick, the Kurtis Paul cotton canvas is twenty ounces thick. To visualize this difference, think of taking your average canvas bag, then adding the weight of a standard 5oz. baseball, all of which will stand between your things and the sand, dirt, and concrete outside. Lloyd says, “We have kept the design of the bags as simple as possible, opting for more of a minimalist feel. For example we decided to strip the backpack of conventional side pockets, giving it a more civilised look.” (By civilised he means not hipster.) “Whilst on the outside these products may look simple, a great deal of attention was paid to every detail.”
Besides making business trips, Lloyd has backpacked “all over the world, covering many parts of Europe, Asia and Africa”. For him, backpacking is “the perfect freedom, a period away from connectivity, rules and schedules”. He prefers going “off the beaten track” and living like a local to checking off a list of tourist spots. His ability to travel to so many different parts of the world in this manner intrigued me. I have always been interested in learning about different places and ways of living, have known the name and location of every country in the world since I was five years old, and have researched 371 different languages, but my self-consciousness holds me back from actually traveling. I don’t ask for directions, I go to great lengths not to ask for help, and I feel stupid if I cannot communicate with a person in their language. So I asked Lloyd for advice. His first suggestion was to “blend, if you stand out as a tourist you’re an easy picking for anyone to take advantage”. That said, he doesn’t think traveling to foreign countries is any more dangerous than the usual hazards of everyday life. He suggests traveling with friends because “groups are always safer but travelling is also meant to be a social event. Find someone you can share your experiences with, it will make them more memorable.” For some reason, I had always pictured myself traveling alone. His perspective really inspires me to move out of my comfort zone.
In the course of his travels, Lloyd came face-to-face with extreme poverty. He has seen “people who have self mutilated because they are so poor and feel it is the only way people will help”. He was especially moved by seeing the Kibera slum in Nairobi, a place where 1.2 million people live within a single square mile, over 10 percent of the children are orphans, homes are made of mud and corrugate iron, and “sewage runs freely through the streets”. Last year, Kurtis Paul donated their entire profit, from August through December, to African Children’s Haven, a charity that combats extreme poverty by improving shelter, health, and education. Extreme poverty is defined by living on $1.90 per day. To put this in perspective, the poverty threshold for a single person in the United States is $11,770 per year, or $32.25 per day.
A slum in Namibia
As a small family business, the Kurtis Paul brand is able to stay true to themselves, creating a richer vision to show to their audience. Their Instagram already has 19,000 followers, which is incredibly popular for a small emerging brand. They are proactive about reaching out to people and seeking collaboration. They invite suggestions, design ideas, and modeling submissions from the public through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and want to see “your stories, your successes and your adventures” with the #shareyouradventure hashtag.
Namibia and the Maldives
Lloyd and Kurtis are inspiring people, they make exceptional products, and their hearts are in the right place. I encourage anyone in search of a bag or a gift for the men in their life to look no further than Kurtis Paul!
Besides being a blogger, I am a sales consultant at Sunglass Hut in Times Square — the highest-grossing store out of 3,000 Luxottica-owned retailers! Helping people with their style, talking to tourists from all over the world (Mongolia? Check. Nepal? Check. Cayman Islands? Check.), and seeing all the new luxury sunglasses come in is very exciting. Upon greeting a customer, we always let them know that they can try on any of the sunglasses on display. I thought it would be cute to say “Feel free to try everything on!”, meaning that they can look and think as much as they need to before making a purchase, without feeling judged or pressured. When I shop, I make sure to look at every product that meets my needs. It’s simple if I need a belt and there is literally one belt in the store that fits me. What’s more challenging is scouring a store with a great many qualifying products…like, say, a store that has hundreds of different sunglasses when I need sunglasses for summer. And I wondered, could I do it? Could I honestly consider every pair I liked in the entire store?
I can. I went in on June 27, National Sunglasses Day, and spent three hours inside Sunglass Hut trying on every pair I liked. Here are 100 of the pairs I tried on:
And the winner is…the Oakley Elmont!
Me and my new shades in my favorite corner of the store. Bebe blouse. H&M skirt. Bandolino pumps. Claire’s earrings. Topshop headband. Handbag from my mother’s friend, with no tag inside. Photo by my coworker Baruch.
Before I started working here, I thought Oakleys were for guys. There is a scene in the TV show Workaholics where the protagonists join a fraternity, and upon their initiation a frat member says “Here are your Oakleys,” as if every frat boy wears them. I know that show is basically one long joke, but the impression stayed with me. Until I found a pair of Oakleys that was polarized, had Prizm lens technology, and was feminine enough for even me.
Last week, I ventured into Chinatown to visit the ready-to-wear showroom of No Such Agency, a boutique PR firm. They, along with a handbag brand and a lingerie brand, occupy the Triple A Loft, a cool, airy space filled with natural light. A zebra greeted me when I stepped out of the elevator, and I wandered past the mod yellow sofa and issues of WWD and Electrify in the lobby to the No Such Agency space, a charming area with a minimalist desk and table, an old-fashioned window, a floor-to-ceiling mirror, and six racks of samples. An intern greeted me and showed me around, telling me all about the collections.
I was immediately drawn to the Daniel.Silverstain rack. “I want to focus on this brand because I would wear every item here,” I stammered. I don’t always say this. Liking every item from a clothing brand is rare, in the way that it’s rare to enjoy every song in a music artist’s repertoire. What was it about these few items, hanging on a single steel rod, spaced a few inches apart? There was the recurrent pairing of black and white. There was the dramatic asymmetry, the kind that makes you feel perpetually a step ahead of the here and now. There was the formality of each piece – being in my early twenties, I often like to dress older so I will be taken more seriously. And even though common prints and materials were used across items, as is typical for a seasonal collection, no two pieces blended together. There was nothing redundant, nothing forgettable. I could envision every item on myself, each one standing out on a crowded block, each one making a distinct impression.
This is the Fall 2016 collection, shown last September as a see-now, buy-now presentation. Titled WHITE.CITY, it was inspired by the effects of the Bauhaus movement on Tel Aviv in the 1950s.
Me in the layered blouse, black pants, and crocodile-embossed shearling coat with separating panel in orchid. Though I prefer warm weather, I have always gravitated toward the grandeur of a long winter coat. All runway photos by Robert Mitra/WWD.
Daniel Silverstain founded his luxury apparel brand in 2013. He takes inspiration from industrialism, modernism, and futurism. “I design to inspire women to be bold, to be courageous, to stand out, and to create a story of their own,” he says. Originally from Israel, Silverstain started his fashion career at the Israeli division of KEDS Kids in 2006, advancing quickly to Design Director. In 2009, he moved to New York to pursue a BFA in Fashion/Apparel Design at FIT. While in school, he interned at Marie Claire for a semester (see, even acclaimed designers pay their dues) and worked as an assistant designer at 3.1 Phillip Lim and a designer at Muuse and Elie Tahari.
He launched Daniel.Silverstain soon after graduating. Last year, he co-founded Flying Solo, a designer-owned retail incubator in Little Italy. Flying Solo provides a platform for startup brands to enter the brick-and-mortar market without selling to a retailer, which requires accommodating a retail markup and often supplying high minimum orders, or maintaining their own boutique, especially in New York where rents are high. Flying Solo is owned and operated by twenty-eight fashion brands.
Janelle Monáe, my favorite actress now that she’s an actress, in a Daniel.Silverstain coat for Cosmopolitan. Photo by Max Abadian.
I recognized KUT from the Kloth from Nordstrom, where I sold their jeans in the Point of View department alongside brands like Caslon and NYDJ. I really enjoyed seeing the brand on its own, in its complete form. I always knew they had great-fitting jeans, but I didn’t know that they also had dresses, tops, jackets, and pants! I loved the profusion of florals, the pinstripes, the sweeping bell sleeves, and the whimsical paper bag waist on a pair of dress pants.
The effervescent bell sleeve of a pink blouse.
KUT from the Kloth is based in Los Angeles. Their core focus is “to offer women of all shapes and sizes the perfect-fitting jean”. They started with the denim concept in 1977, but expanded to add sportswear in 2006. The company has a strong commitment to workers’ rights, requiring that all of their suppliers and vendors adhere to their Code of Ethics policy. They make sure to work only with factories that do not employ workers younger than 15, pay a fair wage, properly dispose of all hazardous materials, and have an environmental management system in place that includes disaster and emergency preparedness. After the Rana Plaza collapse, this is welcome to hear.
The Ruthy dress and Rosie skirt.
You can find KUT from the Kloth on their website, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Century 21, Zappos, Bluefly, and many boutiques nationwide. As a resident of Bushwick who likes to shop at little shops, my source of choice is Néda in Park Slope.
No Such Agency’s fashion showroom makes appointments for editors, stylists, celebrities, bloggers, and “micro-influencers” to select samples to borrow for photo shoots and events. The biggest appointment witnessed by the girl I talked to was from Vogue, to select pieces for a Karlie Kloss spread shot in Australia. Karlie Kloss has been my favorite model since this article in 2007, so I was pretty excited. No Such Agency keeps six brands at a time. The founders, “This British power couple”, consistently choose independent ready-to-wear brands “with a cool vibe”. They also have a showroom in Los Angeles.
Besides fashion, No Such Agency represents clients in the media, music, art, and lifestyle industries; in other words, everything creative and glamorous. The founders, Dan and Helena Barton, came from marketing at Diesel. Dan has worked at Maison Margiela and DSquared2. Helena has worked at Rag & Bone and All Saints. On the music side, she has worked for James Brown, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, and Franz Ferdinand.
I keep getting closer. Last year, as a Michael Kors intern, I worked at Market Week for their Fall 2016 collection. This season, I was invited to Yuna Yang as a blogger. So last Saturday afternoon, I put on my coat and boots, crunched through the snow, and took the 30-minute train ride into Manhattan, cold and excited.
The show was at the Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea, so guests sat at tables for two partitioned along the wall. I was pleased because I could hang my coat on a chair and place my purse on a table, two things you can’t do with the traditional rows of benches. I could also get to know my table-mate, who, as it happens, went to NYU like me! As the guests poured in, I noticed colorful faux-fur jackets, lace-up booties, and box clutches.
Guests arrive and take their seats.
Two guests before the show.
Every Yuna Yang collection has a name, and this season was called “Lights in the Shadow”. I appreciate this about Yuna Yang because attending the show felt like seeing a performance, like a play or a dance recital. The collection was inspired by the people’s protests against American president Donald Trump, especially the Women’s March, and South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who was impeached last December. The show notes said, “Yuna Yang’s F/W17 collection pays homage to people who hold on to hope and belief in shadowed times.”
Here are some of the looks:
FLOWER BOMBER PRINT
LIGHTING CANDLE PRINT
My favorite look of all was the closing look, the burgundy slip dress. The collection was bright and full of energy, with gold, yellow, orange, lavender, green, and sky blue. Velvet dresses, sweatshirts, and skirts provided the durability one needs to get through fall and winter.
Me before the show started. D-Face leather dress. Hue cross-hatch leggings. Merona boots. Vintage dragonfly necklace.
As this was my first time attending Fashion Week, I was so excited to see up close that which I have looked at from afar for the past decade (yes, since I was in middle school). When I was 12, I wrote a story about an island of witches who wore only haute couture, every day, at every occasion. After seeing the beautiful Yuna Yang outfits, I was left wishing that everyone out on the street looked as put-together as runway models. That may not be the case, but this week Manhattan came pretty close.
Yuna Yang is from Seoul. Before starting her own brand, she thoroughly learned her craft; she earned a degree in Fine Arts from Ewha Women’s University, a degree in Design from Instituto Marangoni, and a degree in Womenswear Design from Central Saint Martins. She also gained valuable work experience, working with Alviero Martini in Milan and Ann-Sofie Beck and Clements Ribeiro in London. She debuted her New York based line, Yuna Yang, at NYFW Fall 2010, and has shown every season since. She has also dressed many a celebrity: Carrie Underwood, Jessica Loundes, Danai Gurira, Darby Stanchfield, Nicole Murphy, Dascha Polanco, Maye Musk, and Irene Kim to name a few!
Carrie Underwood in the music video for “See You Again”
Nicole Murphy; Irene Kim
Jessica Loundes; Danai Gurira
Darby Stanchfield; Maye Musk
Yuna Yang can be found at Foravi in Manhattan; Cami in Roslyn, NY; Deborah Gilbert Smith in Millburn, NJ; Joe Brand in Laredo, TX; Joe Brand in McAllen, TX; A&A in Taipei; La Scala in Taipei; Art to Wear in Taipei; Shin Kong Mitsukoshi in Taipei; Avenuel in Seoul; Galleria in Seoul; Lotte in Busan, South Korea; Isetan in Tokyo; and Arabian Apparel in Riyadh.
Yuna Yang hats and headbands at Isetan.
Past concepts: The New Woman, No Borders, The 100% Perfect Girl, Hunting Without Guns, The Butterfly Mother, 1920s Shapes Meet Modern Art, Che Bella, Civil Twilight, Bright Lights Big City, My Black Wedding Dress
I cannot believe that almost a year has passed since I graduated. Here I am with my friends Emily and Kalpana at an event for the Epson Digital Couture Project. It was a Tuesday night, at 5:30 or 6:30, when I received a text from Kalpana asking if I would like to go to a party she had been invited to. I love surprises, so I said yes right away. The party was at a huge industrial space in the Meatpacking District, walking distance from my dorm. Kalpana introduced me to her friend Emily, whom she had met through modeling. It was a great night, and we have all had fun together since.
That jumpsuit is one I had looked at day after day in the Savvy department when I worked at Nordstrom, and finally bought when it dropped to half price. What drew me to it was that while it’s attention-grabbing with a bold tribal pattern, the fit is relaxed and extremely comfortable. It’s like a onesie that you can do more than sleep in. I also love the duality of the print with its colors reversed — seeing two versions of the same lines reminds me of looking at a photo and its negative. I placed a belt between the two sections to accentuate this and paired it with matching pumps.
When I look back at my past, it feels a bit charmed. It’s funny, how one can go through the present without seeing the good, and go through the past without seeing the bad.