Sunday, March 15, 2009

Le Pliage: It's Affordable, Collapsible, and French.

Everywhere I turn, I see the Le Pliage. It is fitting that the new "It" bag by Longchamp is named after the word pliage (french for a folding), since the bag virtually disappears in a matter of folds. From its debut, the Longchamp Le Pliage was the epitome of affordable and effortless French style. The lightweight nylon fabric of the bag provides the bag its signature structure: regardless of whether is full or empty, the Le Pliage holds the distinct shape it's come to be recognized for. Back then, the "It" bag was definitely the Herve' Chapelier tote. The past couple of years however, there was a turn toward an "It" shape: more and more women today need bags that fit their individual needs, and a nylon tote doesn't always make the cut. But low and behold, upon returning to campus after the winter holiday, I was overwhelmed by the amount of women sporting the Le Pliage bag, in all colours, all sizes, and all styles.

$98 Le Pliage Small Original Handbag (regular thin strapped), at

I usually knock down trends. From my experience, "It" items are quick and passing fads. But I must say, the Le Pliage bag is destined to become bonafide classic (if it isn't already). Case in point: my grandmother bought her black travel sized Le Pliage nearly 15 years ago and still uses it today. Indeed, for women who want to invest in a practical and chic handbag, spending a minimum of $98 USD for a Le Pliage is indeed a worthy option (especially in this "economic recession").

I'm sure the bag is popular all over the world, and not just within my tiny vacuum of a campus (my school has a measly population of roughly 6,000 students). And regardless of whether a woman (or young girl for that matter) purchases the Le Pliage for practical use or to keep up with the masses of other Le Pliage carrying consumers, the handbag is undoubtedly a timeless buy. But I guess my big predicament now is whether or not a man like me can have his very own Le Pliage.

$235 Le Pliage Travel Bag (Chocolate), at

Interestingly enough, the Le Pliage is described as a unisex bag. I've yet to see a man with the bag, but I will admit that I wouldn't mind a Longchamp travel sized Le Pliage in chocolate, or the special edition Le Pliage Art Deco travel bag. I mean c'mon: it's affordable, it's collapsible, it's French, and it comes with shoulder straps!

$285 Le Pliage Art Deco Travel Bag, at Longchamp.Com

Friday, March 6, 2009

On a Roll.

Today was a hopeful day in New England. The temperature reached the 50s, a joyous occasion indeed, especially since the sudden snowstorm invasion on Monday seemed to suggest a never-ending Winter. Thus I decided to give myself a little taste of Spring, and I rolled up my J. Crew khakis.

But a somewhat sad realization struck me as I stepped out of my room and into the streets, only to encounter a few questionable glances: not everyone understands the rolled pant. I mean, I should have figured - this is Providence, not Manhattan. But earlier a friend commented, "Vinny, you look like you're preparing for a flood!"; and another asked, "Did you forget to roll down your pants?" For a moment, I felt like I made a complete fool of myself with this particular sartorial choice.

But you know what, at the end of the day I do love my cuffed khakis, and I'll tell you why: rolled, cuffed, or cropped pants - when done correctly (and this is key) - look so smart. Interestingly enough, a friend from London did indeed enjoy the look, noting that the rolled pant is something she sees often in Europe. So maybe appreciating the rolled pant simply requires a refined eye. And rock the right pair of shoes with the look, and your entire aesthetic appeal becomes so irresistibly easy. Today I wore a pair of Gucci drivers, without socks (someone even asked me why I didn't have any socks on!), and felt (for the most part) confident and put together.

I've seen many stylish men carry the rolled pant look, and carry it well. From what I gather, here are some basic tips to sporting the rolled pant: do so with lighter shades and lighter materials, such as khakis and chinos; as far as denim, cuff skinny jeans and roll baggy ones; and again, don't forget the shoes -- tan coloured mocs and drivers, navy and brown boat shoes, and even suede oxfords are all excellent choices.

When I think Spring and Summer, I think simple and carefree. So when the warmth and sunshine finally do come rolling in along with the seasons, I say go ahead and roll those pants up too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Prada Messenger.

When Prada showed their Spring 2009 collection last year, one bag caught my eye: The Navy Nylon/Suede Messenger. The quilted nylon, the earthy leather straps, and the suede work so well together. And those gold accents are a nice touch too.

I've been using my Prada messenger for about a month now, and I can't complain. The bag holds up well in most conditions, but it is probably better to sport something more water-resistant when the rain comes-a-pouring. The bag has two external pockets beneath the flap, the main pouch, in which there is a smaller zip-up pocket, and a length-wide zip-up compartment on the back. And the detailing on the inside is flawless.

This messenger isn't huge by any means; in fact, it might be smaller than your typical messenger bag since it comes without any expandable pockets, and the material isn't one that stretches easily (nor should it be). But I manage just fine with its size. My 15" MacBook Pro fits inside nicely, along with a full notebook, my Moleskine planner, and if necessary, another small book or two.

It's refreshing for a change to see a bag that not only meets its purpose, but also pulls together just about any look. So thank you Prada.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Down in the Trenches.

The year was 1901. Thomas Burberry, a young English draper, was relishing in the increasing popularity of his fairly new outdoor attire clothing store, Burberry. Around the same time he made a wardrobe proposal to the British Army for which he designed a raincoat made of gabardine, a heavy-duty water-resistant, yet breathable, fabric. The British Army decided to use Burberry's design; 20 years later, they asked the young designer to redesign the raincoat as a militaristic jacket. Thomas Burberry went a step further, adding to the trench epaulettes, d-rings, straps, and a overall design functionality that could hold up in the trenches. Who would have thought that almost a century later, the trench coat would also hold up in style.

Now while Burberry trench coats are indeed a wardrobe staple, other notable names carry trenches that are practical, modern, and also reasonably priced. Reiss, a British clothing company, has some slick new trench designs right now like their Double Breasted Quinn Fashion Mac, which you can find at ASOS for $412.75. The shorter length of this coat translates into an easy casualness, and affords the piece that put-on-and-go quality. Other great trenches for this season are the Villain Trench by Marc Jacobs, the Classic Trench by Operations, and the Worker's Trench by J Crew. And if you're going to invest in a trench coat, go for double-breasted and beige: undeniably classic.

Trench coats meld practicality and sophistication into one: they hold up well against the rain and the wind, and they're effortless. Just be sure to make note of what length suits you. Longer trenches come off as a bit dressier while shorter trenches are more relaxed. Trenches also tend to work better with darker pants, including dark washes of denim, or really light shades, like white and khaki. And if you really want to work the casual look, slip into a well-fitted hoodie, throw on some blue jeans, and pull on your trench coat. Of course, if you're into going commando, that works too.