Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Zookeeper of Jewels

I recently discovered the work of jewelry designer Marc Alary at a show in New York, and was very much drawn to the his mostly wildlife-inspired and mobile pieces, and the passion with which he spoke about them. “I’d like my menagerie to be interactive,” says Alary. “I hope people will not only wear my jewelry but run their fingers over the zebra's patterns, play with the moveable limbs of the monkey, spin the panther ring for good luck, or because they are lost in thought. Animals are very comforting to us, they are our friends and protectors.” Marc Alary's pieces are filled with childlike wonder, crafted out of the finest of precious metals and stones, all made in New York City, and are subtle and wearable. Let me share with you my tête-à-tête with the French jeweler.

Marc Alary, face obscured with a wooden hand filled with his rings (portrait by Robbie Fimmano)

You spoke about childhood and the comforting nature of animals as the inspiration for your collection. I was obsessed with animals as a child. What was your favorite animal growing up? What are your favorite animals now, and why?

I grew up with two dogs that were following us pretty much everywhere, I guess they were so comforting in the fact that I knew they were here for me at all time should I needed them. Something I also realized pretty young is that you can be surrounded by your owns (humans) that talk your own language but still you can feel quite alone at time, a feeling I never sensed when I'm around animals. I like to think animals understand our state of mind. There is something incredibly soothing about animals, it is really hard to really define what it is. But when you think about it, we tend to give stuffed animals to kids and baby when they are growing up, we rely on those animals as they were alive to protect us and to be with us while we grow up.

For me it is the same with my menagerie of precious animal, I rely on my monkey necklace and panther ring for protection. I think I just love animals, it is something inside me. Maybe for their wilderness? I just like the way they are, how perfect they are, the variety of each animal. The way each of them are different but adapt perfectly to their environment. I also believe in Talismans and animal being protectors of us. That is why I like to carry them with me on my neck or around my finger as good luck charms. For me they are my protectors.

monkey pendants in yellow and rose gold by Marc Alary

As for my favorite animal when I was a kid, I think I would have loved to have a panther, as it is majestic and incredibly beautiful. As for now, I'm not sure I could answer what would be my favorite animal, I think I like them all, each with their individual character, whether it is their particular anatomy, their colors, their skins or feathers, the fur, the prints. I just love the variety, so all of them!! Though I might have soft spot for monkeys!

How do the French like to wear jewelry? Do they like to pile it on? Or wear just one special piece?

Well, I guess the thing with French is when it comes to fashion there is not much rules, it really depends what you like and what you believe. Some people are very traditional with their jewelry, they like to wear one special piece very dear to them and that will be the special touch to a lot of their different outfits or style, it will somehow the common thread to all their styles. Those people will be able to mix their special piece of jewelry with very dressed up traditional outfit as well as with very casual outfits. Some people also start to wear one piece of jewelry and they will never be able to take it down for many years or even to change it. There is a lot of mystic beliefs when it comes to jewelry and even more with precious metals and precious stones.

an assortment of Marc Alary's rings: the panther, the leaf, and the articulated monkey in various metals and stone settings

Some other people like to pile it on, in general I observed that the people who can pile their jewelry have more 'natural dispositions' (if I can say) to change or switch jewelry more often, but there is always exceptions to the rules.

In my case, I used to pile it on for a while, never too much rings though, it was more pendants on a single chains, I use to like make groups with themes. Now I'm more into the idea of wearing between one to three pieces, I always wear my lucky charm panther ring, I have been wearing it since I first designed it two and a half years ago, I traveled to many places with it. I also usually wear my monkey, and from time to time I accentuate those two pieces with another more complex piece, whether it is my articulated monkey ring or articulated elephant caravan ring or something else.

The leaf ring is the one Marc Alary piece I covet the most. He made them to represent the four seasons (portraying summer, laid on top of spring, winter, and fall, respectively). I think the spring leaf ring in white gold with green diamonds (!) is immensely exquisite.

Who are the jewelry designers you look up to?

I'm very classic in my tastes and usually like old designers, one of my very favorite being René Lalique, his jewelry and work was simply stunning. I like the work of past designers, cause they use to take the time to work on piece and mostly their work was dictated by the idea of creating something beautiful and truly unique rather than selling, but I guess it was also a different time, as back then most piece of jewelry created was made after private commission. Though I think it is definitely possible to achieve commercial success and at the same time doing something truly creative and beautiful. I also like the work of Faberge, for the quality of their products and some of the stories they were telling through their pieces. One of the jewelry designer I really like, but he is mostly famous for his art is Alexander Calder, his pieces and his work was absolutely genius. Otherwise I don't know much about other designers, it isn't that I am not interested, I just avoid looking too much around me so I don't get my head polluted by other ideas. I usually try to find my inspiration somewhere else, clothes. toys, everyday objects, books, music... Still I absolutely recognize the talent of the people working for huge companies like Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Chaumet, Boucheron.
Alary's articulated monkey ring in yellow gold would add just that little hint of whimsy to ruffle up a trim navy suit.

How do you deal with the rising price of gold and diamonds?

That is a tough question, cause it is a real problem for us jewelry designers.
At some point the price of the gold doubled from what it used to be a year and half ago! So it definitely makes our work really difficult. Personally I'm not interested in doing much smaller piece in order to use less gold, I'm not saying it is a bad idea, not at all, it just isn't part of my vision as a designer for now, I'm much more interested in finding some other alternatives, which I'm working on at the moment. What I tried to do is to stick to what I believe: working on some truly original designs with real integrity and an authentic story behind it (and you have to be honest about this, I really dislike people who try to create that feel of authenticity when it isn't true) I want my design to show my passion and dedication to my work, last but not least, you have to try to give the best quality to serve your designs. I think customers are very sensitive to those things.

for the ladies in your lives (or men who like their earrings dangly): Marc Alary monkey earrings with citrine bananas

What piece of jewelry do you wear everyday? To special occasions?

I wear my panther ring, I always have it with me, wherever I go, even when I'm traveling or doing exercises I never take it out. I also usually wear my monkey pendant everyday. To special occasions, depending on what clothes I'm wearing, if it is a bit casual, like a nice t-shirt with a jacket I wear my regular monkey pendant. If I'm wearing a buttoned shirt with tie, I will probably wear a monkey pin on the collar of my jacket, very chic! Then I have a couple of Rings that I wear alternatively, to suit my mood or the event, it is the one truly great thing of being a jeweler you have a wide collection.

Marc Alary wearing his monkey pendant in a self-portrait for The Dandy Project (New York City, 10/26/2011)

Marc Alary's jewelry is available at Colette in Paris and at Liberty in London.

photographs via Marc Alary

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Banking in Black Tie

I love everything black tie---the tedious preparations for the event, the air kisses, the sparkle, the glamour of the night, the romance of the late walk home---and these tuxedo pants from Black Fleece, Thom Browne’s line for Brooks Brothers, are my piece of gala night elegance for everyday.

Illesteva sunglasses, Thom Browne shirt, Black Fleece black-tie pants, Florsheim longwing brogues

My friend Austin had asked me where I would wear such a pair of pants, given that they were so formal. “To lunch, to the drug store, grocery shopping,” I replied. I'd even wear them with a slouchy sheer t-shirt and kung-fu shoes in the summer. Here I wear them on a quick run to my bank in Downtown LA.

silk grosgrain detail on the side of the trousers, Cartier Roadster watch

These tux pants are immaculately made: fully-lined and with Thom Browne’s signature V cut on the back of the waistband.

made casual-prep with a Thom Browne cashmere cardigan

I’m so L.A.

Special thanks to Fernando of Brooks Brothers at 1 Liberty Plaza in NYC for the exceptional tailoring service.

photographs by Nikki Tuason

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DIY: Make-up for Men: Easy Eyeshadow

Fellows, today I will teach you a simple, easy way to wear eye makeup. A cornerstone of Dandyism is challenging boundaries, with the Dandies of the 1700s wearing radical haircuts and unconventionally tailored clothing that pushed the limits back then. Here at The Dandy Project, I refuse to stay put and live forever within convention--though I usually try to execute it with some semblance of subtlety--and with that, I bring you this eyeshadow tutorial.

bare-eyed Mike. Our mutinously ungroomed grooming model Mike Shaeffer returns for this installment of the Make-up for Men series.

I like eyeshadow, applied subtly on men. I've seen it done countless times on the runway, and when done rather faintly (the idea is to be wearing "no-makeup makeup"), it is much more foolproof and much more flattering than the seemingly more socially accepted rocker lined eyes.

We used a matte medium-dark taupe shadow (Bali by Nars) just a couple of shades darker than skin tone and applied it casually yet precisely on the lower part of the lid with the ring finger tip.

Mike smudges it about, keeping the stripe of shadow relatively narrow, and sufficiently blended in.

halfway done: Mike's subtly shadowed right eye looks ever so slightly deeper-set, more expressive, and more tender than his naked left eye.

Blinking brings forth a splitsecond of pretty mystery,

but eyes open, they become ever so gingerly deeper-set and darker.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blue Camo

I am currently harboring a liking for blue camouflage---there's something about the brusque militarism of camouflage done in the dandiest of bright blues that makes it so charming---that I had partnered with longtime shirt maker Eton of Sweden on a giveaway for you, my dear readers. The shirts are sharply made and the fabrics delicious; I own one of their dress shirts and it does feel quite nice on.

navy dress shirt with collar and placket lined in blue camouflage, and blue camouflage sport shirt with dark chambray trim, both by Eton of Sweden

Eton would like to give away both of these shirts, handpicked by me, to the readers of The Dandy Project. Here's how to win one of two blue camouflage shirts:
1. Follow Eton on Facebook
3. Take a screen shot of you following both Eton and The Dandy Project, and send these to thedandyproject (at) yahoo (dot) com. The winners will be chosen at random. Contest is open to international readers.

Check out Eton's latest Jimi Hendrix-inspired 50771 collection here.

EDIT: Congratulations to David from Heidelberg, you win!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DIY: The Lace-trimmed Coat

Occupying one of the precious coat hangers on my leaning clothing rack was a white coat too large and too square to look sharp. It was high time I did a DIY project; and though I'm content wearing nearly all-black nearly everyday, I thought it would be a worthwhile challenge to push myself to resurrect an unworn piece and personalize it with a method never used before: no more paint, no more cutting, and no more studs. So I trimmed it with a material that would be top-of-mind for any normal boy: black Venetian lace.

Here's what I used: Heat N Bond iron-on no-sew adhesive, textile adhesive in a tube, a yard and a half of black Venetian lace, and a steam iron

This Theory X Barney's Green coat was gathering dust in my closet. I resisted the urge to paint-splatter it in primary colors and instead spent a little more time and effort and went mildly Oscar de la Renta on it with a band of black lace trim along the hem.

I trimmed the iron-on adhesive to fit the bottom part of the lace, minus the protrusions. I then ironed the adhesive on to the lace, peeled off the paper backing, and positioned it on to the coat, following the line of the hem stitching to keep it aligned.

I then ironed the lace on to the coat, panel by panel. The instructions say "no steam needed," but I found that with the thickness of the lace, it helped get the heat on to the adhesive and have it bond better.

With the base of the lace trim attached, I carefully glued on the rest of the trim with the textile glue.

As always, I heat-set the trim with a hair dryer, just to make sure everything is dry and bonded.

As a finishing touch, I trimmed off all straggly threads and glued on any pieces that seemed to be gaping open.

Here it is worn:

Illesteva sunglasses, DIY lace-trimmed coat, printed chiffon shirt of my own design, Black Fleece belt, Uniqlo black jeans, Opening Ceremony shoes

close-up of the lace on the coat

Opening Ceremony lace and zip shoes with a lace-trimmed zip-up coat

last three photographs by Michael Shaeffer

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tech Pack

It helps to have a theme when packing. For this trip, I'm doing my version of tech: abstract digital prints, metallics, white leather, and a fragrance freshly prepared at a boutique-laboratory in Nolita.

Tim Hamilton X Ross Bleckner digital-print scarf, Casio calculator watch, Santal 33 by Le Labo, my old iPod, silver laminate Comme des Garcons wallet, white Prada bag

I'm off to Los Angeles in a few days for a vacation essential to my sanity. Angelenos, what must I see, shop, eat, do?

Monday, October 17, 2011

DIY: Make-up for Men: Cover-up

Many men wear make-up; most of you just don't know it yet. On a bad face day, you can't just Photoshop that pimple off of the tip of your nose and have your facade match the impeccable handsomeness of your new Belvest suit. I have a closet full of impeccably handsome clothes, and, lamentably, my fair share of bad face days. Luckily, having practiced concealing and blending with and on the women in my life, and having worked backstage at a handful of fashion shows, I have got a quick technique down pat. I've enlisted the help of my friend Michael Shaeffer, full-time menswear designer and part-time Brooklyn caveman, to demonstrate my easy-peasy technique.

bare-faced Mike

Mike has a blemish: a popped pimple, unmasked even by his jungly beard.

Here's what you do.

Squeeze a tiny amount of cover-up on the fleshy part of your hand. I use MAC select cover-up: it's handy, it's light, yet it conceals blemishes very effectively. Find the one that matches your skin tone the best. If you can't grapple with the idea of wearing cosmetics, try using tinted creams with benzoyl peroxide or tea tree oil and tell your gullible, delusional self it's medicine and not make-up.

Rub it around, warming it up with your finger. Use your ring finger to apply the product; this is the finger that would exert the least amount of pressure.

Dab the concealer, a little at a time, on the area to be covered. Start at the center of the blemish and take time to blend around it to make it appear as even as possible. Look in the mirror twice to make sure you don't look as if you have a glob of flesh-colored paste smeared on your cheek.

And smile, you are now obscenely handsome.

The idea is to have the product on as lightly as possible, and with the blemish gone, walk into your day electrified, forgetting you've got anything on your face.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Prince of Thrift

Very few wear vintage head-to-toe with the same refinement and creativity as my friend Yo Miyamoto. Yo is a freelance journalist and blogger and takes pride in his multi-tinted and multi-textured Salvation Army looks that cost him next to nothing. If I only had the diligence to regularly scour through racks of second-hand clothing, and the courage to wear more color, my life would be more moneyed and more joyfully-hued.

vintage coat, sweater, and shirt, Comme des Garcons drop-crotch trousers, vintage Premiata shoes

Yo's favorite date spot in NYC is a wine bar called The Immigrant in the East Village, and the last song he downloaded was Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

texture and pattern play: a bleached denim coat, a crinkled polyester sweater, and a lace-print shirt

an odd assortment of vintage rings, all in silver

an ornate vintage brass cuff

Henrik Vibskov socks and clowny-cool vintage Premiata shoes

blue, crinkled, and Miyake-esque

Many of Yo's thrifted pieces are women's, but I commend him for the masculinity with which he puts everything together.

just like Omotesando

Yo was recently photographed by Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist in a post entitled "Advanced Style". See the post here.

Yo's street style blog Otomayim B Dipper

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Browne is the New Black

Wearing Thom Browne is like being in costume. With all his nods to prep and patriotism, and the near-absence of black, it couldn't be more far removed from what I normally wear.

Thom Browne cashmere cardigan

The shirts are slim and stiff and the trousers cinched so close at the waist, and most pieces mix terribly with the other things in my wardrobe, but oh, are they a delight to wear! There's something about the restrictiveness---modern-day male corsetry, if you may---that makes you stand up a little straighter and emulate an air of distinction.

Thom Browne cardigan, shirt, and trousers, Florsheim shoes

I used to detest longwing brogues but there's something about the heft and clunkiness that stands up to Thom Browne's closely-cut awkward shapes.

contrast stitching on the high cuffed Thom Browne trousers and Florsheim Kenmoor longwing brogues

Besides the front placket, the cardigan opens up on the sides and on the cuffs, all trimmed in red-white-blue grosgrain.

Navajo wolf ring from New Hampshire and Cartier Roadster on navy alligator

Though I don't ever see myself disposing of my dreary dark drape and tailoring, it is mighty fun to dress up as an ivy league-graduate accountant from the 50's, and as a palate-cleanser for my fashion-ADD self, at least for today, Browne is the new black.

photographs by Hudson Shively

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ring in Progress

You know the feeling when you have a pan of brownies baking in the oven and you just can't wait to stud it with nuts and chocolate and for it to cool and find its way into your mouth? Imagine that pan of brownies forged in 14-karat gold, to be plated in the blackest of black, and to be sprinkled with the most brilliant of white diamonds---dear I can hardly wait to slip it on my finger!

The sequel to my everyday signet pinky ring in rose gold with brown diamonds, which I had also co-designed with Lanero Fine Jewelry, is in production. It'll be larger and round but very slightly oval, plated pitch black, and set with star-white diamonds slightly larger than those used to pave my previous ring. This is the unfinished ring, un-set and un-plated. In a couple of weeks, it will adorn my left pinky in full splendor.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wrist Action

One singular, the other, multiple; both unabashedly maximalist.

silver and red stone wide cuff from Morocco on Stylelikeu's Irene Kim

Miansai and Singer 22 x Burkman Brothers by Jace Lipstein bracelets on Grungy Gentleman's Jace Lipstein

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