Tag Archives: niko liakaris
Recently we were invited to The Westway to attend a party for the collaboration between Moschino–a favorite fashion house– and DISARONNO–the bestselling Italian liquer in the world.The DISARONNO and Moschino project will support the charity Fashion 4 Development (sponsored by the United Nations) through a donation of its profits to help the development of this unique initiative in Africa. The overall mission of Fashion 4 Development is to harness the power of the fashion and beauty industries in order to implement creative strategies for sustained economic growth and development in countries worldwide.
The exclusive “MOSCHINO loves DISARONNO” limited edition will be available this November for $24.99 at stores nationwide or through www.1-877-spirits.com.
Against Nature Atelier is a dandy’s dream. Located on Chrystie street and curated by a collective of highly skilled artisans, it houses some of the most special custom clothing, jewelry, and oddities NYC has to offer. Having been occupied by a menagerie of businesses before being converted to a temporary living space by LES musicians and artists, the just above street level boutique reincarnated itself once again in 2009. Here we sit with Simon Jacobs, the in house denim master, about his escape from New Zealand, and the journey that led him to become one of New York’s better bespoke tailors.
You are 1/4 of the creative team behind Against Nature, the boutique. How did you four come to meet?
I met Amber Doyle and Jake Mueser through a previous business associate that I rented the Chrystie Street space with (Jake and Amber are business partners who specialize in bespoke suiting.) I was then introduced to Ryan Matthew Cohn, who curates the oddities we sell as well as some of the custom jewelry. We decided to open the shop Against Nature Atelier together, for practical purposes, as we all had pretty specific focuses.
The space that houses the Chrystie street location has the quite history! Several friends of ANA even lived there at some point. What was the process like readapting the space?
We gutted the whole space and found the original wood flooring underneath layers of plywood and pealing linoleum. There were quite a few cigarette butts and beer cans to get through as well. The space was converted from a store front, to an artists studio, and then an apartment with a revolving cast of LES notables, mostly musicians and artists. I do recall at some point if might had been an aquatic fish store? There were also O rings bolted to opposing walls of the space. We can only guess what those were for. It definitely has a history. We did most of the work ourselves with help from friends, most of whom worked for trade.
What brought you to NYC?
Being part of the Commonwealth of Britain, the average Kiwi that chooses to have an overseas experience after university usually picks London, where they compete with, and match, the English louts in unsavoriness. After that, they head back to NZ and follow a path I think would be comparable to what most Mid-Westerners follow… When I was studying Corporate Finance, I had a picture of the Empire State Building in my study area. I’d always gone against the grain, and one day it just clicked. Thats when I knew I was going to NYC. Keep in mind, that was 1996, and no one had heard of Australia let alone New Zealand!
How has being from New Zealand affected your aesthetic?
New Zealand definitely has ‘tall poppy syndrome.’ I guess that inspires me to be flamboyant and expressive in how I dress and make clothes. From there it is just a matter of altering my original designs to accommodate people’s needs in bespoke garments. I think clothing should be fun, not stuffy, and definitely not ‘on trend.’ There is a timelessness about being a man and I try to encapsulate that in my designs.
What made you stay after you had made it here for your overseas experience?
Kiwi’s are stubborn and bloody minded. If you tell us not to do something or it can’t be done, we take that as a challenge (something I have been drawing a lot from in the last few years after the recession!) It really was just an idea I had. I really never heard of anyone from New Zealand or Australia coming to NYC, and so after I finished school and came to NYC, I really wanted to stick it out. I managed to get a job at a financial annuities firm in Connecticut. (I was lucky, because my parents met another couple on holiday near the time I decided to leave, and they basically switched children. I came to the states, and their son went to NZ. It gave me some security knowing I had a back up when I got here. He fortunately arranged for that first interview.)
How did you make such a drastic leap from finance, to focusing on custom denim?
Some time after CT when I realized finance wasn’t for me, I was just floating around New York, going to more bars than jobs and pretty much with out direction, and a friend mentioned he needed help cutting sixty pairs of jeans. It was the middle of summer and we were in a Midtown studio (shirts off, smoking weed, Rock and Roll set to 11) and he showed me how lay the fabric down, then put the pattern down and cut with an electric blade. From there I began apprenticing with him during the day, and teaching myself at night after work. The tailor I worked with was in bands growing up, which he made clothes for, and he taught himself which really inspired me. Along with suits he also made bespoke jeans. I don’t wear suits so I gravitated towards denim and ended up making all his orders.
You also design a great line of custom shirting, and one of the more prevalent details is that the buttons on the chest don’t close. That gives you a very machismo look! What inspired that, stylistically?
Obviously The ’70s and Rock inspire my designs but just ‘cus I have long hair and sideburns doesn’t mean I’m not a Gentleman! I also combine the open front, playboy style shirt with cuffs meant for cufflinks, but without the French fold (or double fold). I love cufflinks, they are a great accoutrement, but the french fold cuff is too powerful of a statement. It just reminds me of high powered business meetings, or meeting with the in-laws. They also make the sleeve too bottom heavy. My style cuffs gives an opportunity to wear cufflinks without looking like you are trying to be stylish… you just are. It’s great because I have some cufflinks that are not fancy enough for the evening and I don’t have a lot of business meetings.
If you could collaborate with any living designer, who would it be and why?
I’d love to work with Tom Ford, if only to see if he remembered me. I worked on a Vanity Fair photo shoot at a soon to be opened club as an on-set tailor. The Art Director was stylishly dressed, back behind the bar, free pouring himself vodka sodas with no ice. At the end of the shoot I gave him my business card and said, “Nice to work with you. I love your style; If you need anything made let me know.” He thanked me and said he had his own clothing line…
A month later I was in the super market and my ex was flicking through Vanity Fair and there was a picture of the Art Director and I pointed him out and said “I worked with him and gave him my business card!” She looked at me and was like “Simon!! Don’t you know who that is?! That’s Tom Ford!!!” Hahaha. But thats pretty much how I approach Fashion. I saw he had a similar “a gentleman can also be a sex object through style” approach and figured we’d work well together.
It may sound narcissistic but rather than collaborating with a designer I just wish I had a bunch of apprentices that I had trained that could help me make all the ideas in my head. That is the real difference between a fashion designer and a tailor. I come up with the vision and use my own hands and skills to realize that vision – not come up with the idea then hand it off for someone to produce at the lowest unit cost. Please do NOT call me a fashion designer!
What is your favorite piece of machinery?
Machinery: Single needle sewing machine. Purity. Each piece I sew together, iron flat, trim, bind and then top stitch. Rather than the factory process of putting two pieces of fabric into one machine to do the above. Tools: Hip curve, the thimble.
I met my Maestro at a supply store when making my first suit. He asked me what I was making and I replied: “I’m making a suit.” Kinda cockey.
“Oh yea? Are you using a thimble?”
“No I thought I would get some calluses on my fingers first.”
He said: “Simon, the difference between using a thimble and not using a thimble is like the difference between a machine gun and a pistol.”
What do you think about the Fashion Industry’s current obsession with everything Rock and Roll?
Fashion is obsessed with Rock? I thought it was Punk? Then again I wouldn’t know. I hope it is. Maybe I’ll sell some more denim.
Who is the Simon J client? A favorite?
Clients run the gamut from people who never see their bills to bar-backs, and everyone in between. My favorite client though had to be Sultan Kosen, the Guinness Book ‘World’s Tallest Man.’ After I worked on his first pair, I saw a health program about Sultan, and he went for a check up and I could tell he was wearing my jeans because of the Simon J rock pocket! I felt a real sense of pride. I mean, his stats: 8’2″ tall, 51′ waist 49″ inseam, 4.5 yards of fabric as opposed to 1.25 yards!
What is your favorite part of making custom clothing?
Working one on one with someone to make something that they cherish. People often ask for a bag for their old jeans, and wear my jeans out, leaving a bit taller. I also love it when someone gets laid or gets a number wearing my jeans. Simon J, The wing-man that never cock blocks!
You designed several pieces for notable characters from The Great Gatsby! Was this your first foray into costume design?
It wasn’t my first, but it was memorable. Being part of the wardrobe department for the Great Gatsby was amazing! You are bound within the time period which is tough, and the continuity of day and night, and if the outfit is worn again, so the Actor doesn’t have much say in what they wear. That’s much more different than what I usually do. It’s all about the design. And working as a team with Catherine Martin is very rewarding. The hard part of being a tailor is the solitariness. The Gatsby gig gave me the opportunity to show my skills but also learn from one of the best in her field.
How did you get involved with the project?
The costume department had a pink suit made for Leonardo, but it came out like a traditional suit with slouchy shoulders, a low armhole, wide sleeves, and just too boxey. I had worked for a gig for Coach, and a girl I had worked with was the Assistant Stylist and knew what I was doing and brought me on. The pink suit is a key outfit in the movie. It’s purpose is to distinguish between old money and new money (“He CAN’T be an Oxford man! He wears a pink suit!”) They needed it to be perfect and luckily they choose me to design and execute the new version. So I made the pink pin stripe day suit for Leonardo, and also a red and blue window pane suit for Tobey Maguire. I only had one fitting for BOTH of them! They were very down to earth thankfully. Just good NYC natives! Of course, they both took home a pair of custom Simon J jeans, and couldn’t have been more gracious.
Favorite place to shop in NYC?
The sock man on Orchard, and random fabric stores outside of Midtown for fabric for personal items.
If I wasn’t making custom denim I’d be…drinking rum from coconuts under palm trees with a special someone.
Never would I ever… copy someone else’s work.
Interview by Niko Liakaris
When everyone around seems to be obsessed with comfort and ease, the idea of donning formal headwear might seem a bit contradictory. But that is exactly what Gigi Burris seems to be all about. A 6th generation Floridian who now calls the LES home, she is a smart and eager business woman who has given the Millinery industry the kick in the ass it needs. Pick up nearly any glossy fashion mag over the past year, and you are sure to see one of her wares. Here, the always smiling and bright eyed Burris sounds off on being THE “crazy hat lady.”
Everyone in Millinery seems to have an “A-Ha!” moment that sparked a formal interest. What was yours?
While studying at Parsons, I went abroad to Paris and wandered into a Millinery supply shop in the 2nd Arrondissement. It was that dusty and romantic shoppe that made me fall even more in love with this craft and it’s history. I purchased some of my first felts there, and went on to make hats with them in my first millinery course back in the states.
Citing Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin as influences, do you see yourself working in couture in other areas? What about Ready-to-Wear?
What I love about these incredible women, is that they began multi-billion dollar companies with the niche category of millinery. I see the benefits of having the long term goal of building a lifestyle brand, but for the time being I am taking the time to focus on growing in millinery alone.
Why do you feel that millinery has fallen out of favor? What, if anything, do you think will lead to a resurgence?
The way people dress themselves has changed drastically in the past half century. We are currently in the most casual climate that we’ve ever been in. It was once unacceptable to be seen without a hat in public, and now wearing one elicits so much attention for the wearer. As we are seeing a resurgence in “lady-like” dressing though, people seem to be taking more time to put themselves together. We are definitely seeing hats coming back into the modern wardrobe.
Who of your contemporaries do you most admire/identify with?
I truly admire the work of Stephen Jones. His lighthearted whit, incredible craftsmanship, and dedication to the category makes him a real idol in my eyes. I have heard from mutual friends he is as charming as he is talented.
You were recently awarded the honor off being included on the “Forbes 30 under 30″ list. That’s an incredible achievement! Do you feel this has helped or hindered you?
Well, thank you! I was flattered to be included on the list this year with some major players in the industry. It was rewarding to be recognized for my hard work in running a business, in addition to being a creative, and that has given me the confidence to keep moving forward.
What do you think the largest obstacle is for you in the accessories market?
I believe being in the accessories market is an advantage in the current economic climate. We have seen that women are still spending on accessories as investments. I think that the market of hats is an obstacle in itself because it is so niche. Yet, because of that, I believe my talent has been allowed to stand out.
What part of the design process do you appreciate the most?
My favorite part of the design process is manifesting that original idea for a new collection. It can be sparked by a color, material, image, piece of artwork, a song…it varies. But once I catch the spirit, it quickly begins to build. I can easily translate it from materials into pieces, and eventually into a 20-25 piece collection of headwear.
What do you think about the trend of musicians/actors starting their own Fashion lines?
I believe that someone with a platform to an audience, and a distinct taste level can have success based on the element of celebrity. That aside, I believe that craft and authenticity provide lasting results for a fashion line.
Describe for me your ideal client.
One of my favorite elements of my job is working personally with my couture clients. The women that dare to wear these avant-garde headpieces are the women I want to know! An enthusiast that is particularly dear to my heart is Miss Cindy. She is the kind of woman that wears a bird winged headband to The Tides Inn in Bodega Bay (famous as the location where Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was filmed.) Glamorously eccentric woman are the ideal I fantasize about designing for, and being able interact with these types is always such a pleasure.
If you could do a collaboration with any living designer, who would it be?
I would love to collaborate with the newly revived house of Schiaparelli. Her story and dedication to whimsical and irreverent couture is something that I would love to channel into my modern day millinery.
“If I wasn’t designing hats I’d be…”
A lobbyist. I would be a blonde power player in the political world, wearing a skirt suit and court shoes. Politics and fashion are both very cut throat!
What is your favorite place to shop in NYC?
Eataly! When I am overwhelmed with fashion and work, I love to unwind by cooking for my boyfriend. There is nothing more indulgent or relaxing to me than enjoying a glass of white wine while perusing wonderful Italian ingredients for a big dinner.
What trend do you wish would end?
HAIR FEATHERS! Since this trend has begun, sourcing that type of feather has been quite difficult for us on the millinery side.
“Never would I ever…”
Interview: Niko Liakaris, Photos: Courtesty Gigi Burris
Jenni Kayne’s S/S 2014 show was a warm and casual affair, where she opted to have a rather informal presentation in Greenwich Village in a repurposed garage. Seemingly open to whomever was lucky enough to pass by, the scene was calm but upbeat, a far cry from the scene outside Duckie Brown around the corner.
Though the collection had the “soft but strong” look that I’ve come to associate with the line, I felt that this season the designer seemed a bit lost. An attempt to play with texture (light weight tweed coats paired with lace chiffon tops and full bottoms) failed to excite, and the color scheme and pattern choices seemed disjointed. It was definitely not the follow up I expected to her masterful A/W 2013-14 collection.
But that’s not to say JK’s showing was a joke. Individually, there were some exceptional pieces! I especially liked a very smart looking sleeveless day dress in a navy/white tweed (cut to look like a reconstructed jacket with a dropped lapel) and every piece in white would feel right at home in the chicest of closets. Similarly, though remarkably out of place, a caramel, knee length A line crocodile skirt with a front pleat was totally covetable (though I would have raised the level to lust-worthy had it been done in a corresponding white, and a few inches shorter.)
What They say:
Nothing. There were no notes provided on the inspiration for the show.
What We say:
Text: Niko Liakaris, Photos: Courtesy WWD.com
NYC, 1980s. The opulence and energy of the city that never sleeps. The uptown girl and her designer excess clashing with the grit of the subway graffiti in the New York underground.
The collection is a modern interpretation of the classics in vivid colors and bold prints:gold hardware, perforated leather in wetsuit-inspired silhouettes, 3D leopard prints, neon hot-house florals in scuba, denim leather with mesh, spacer panels.
Expert tailoring for a modern girl who likes to play dress up.
Kudos to the Veronicas of Veronica Beard for going against the contemporary grain of loose, draping garments and delivering a show with sharp lines and expert tailoring and detail work. Though the references to the ’80s and ’90s were vast, the collection felt decidedly modern and fresh. The Stephen Sprouse inspired leopard print in pale sky blue, neon pink, and black was a show stealer on the ’80s end, and diaphanous nylon jackets trimmed in neon yellow, and sport wear inspired panel work, edged out the ’90s. Especially surprising for me: the collection had pieces for someone of every age, which is something few contemporary designers seem to consider even though the market no longer exists as an entry level price point to the Fashion scene.
Clearly, covetable pieces were not short in supply here, including a leopard tuxedo with a grosgrain lapel and a pant stripe substituted by two rows of piping, a black linen tweed jacket with a quilted chambray denim dickey, and a bright yellow, shin length leather pencil skirt.
I must also applaud the styling! Though the Rockabilly inspired hair and makeup was no match for the days humidity, it gave the looks a youthful air, and in a market where “dare to go there” has been the winning motto in shoes, the demure plastic and patent leather Manolo Blahniks were the clear victor on the accessories side. My only qualm: too much beautiful jewelry by Jennifer Fisher. It overpowered the elfin models, and in some cases, distracted from the craftsmanship of the clothes.
Text: Niko Liakaris, Photos: Katya Moorman
I met Valissa through Niko (see #FF 011) but now see her everywhere. This flame haired girl is ubiquitous. Mad talent and endless charm is propelling her to stratospheric heights. Her down to earthness (my word) and authenticity is what we adore about her. No matter how high her star soars she is still spinning the soundtrack of our lives on earth.
Niko Liakaris is our #FF this week! He is also one of my closest friends and has been since we first met. And how that happened is a good story, but you’ll have to hear it from Niko because he tells it better than I do…and if you live in NYC and go out at night you either already know Niko or will probably meet him. Because he’s not “the guy who knows everyone” but the person who is so comfortable in their own skin that they have a natural warmth and crazy charisma that attracts a complete mix of people, and when he meets someone new he immediately welcomes them in and introduces them to others and the circle just grows. An original kid from Queens he’s equally comfortable with the mavens at Moschino as he is with the rock-and-rollers on the lower east side and the older residents who still actually live at the Gramercy Park Hotel and have since it was an apartment building.
He’ll be writing again for StyleDefined NYC during fashion week which thrills me to no end! And if you want to find him he’s also at the Moschino Boutique in the meatpacking district and Tuesday and Thursday evenings holding court during Brian Newman’s set at the Rose Bar. Oh, and if you sadly aren’t in NYC then you can always follow him on twitter or instagram -because trust me, we all need a little Niko in our life.
Olivia and I met when I was desperate for a writer for #NYFW. Not just any writer but one that who could translate the visual medium of fashion into words without sounding trite or excessively exuberant which are the trends in fashion writing these days. She more than exceeded expectations and we’re so happy to have someone with her talent on board StyleDefined NYC. That she’s become a friend as well is the icing on the cake –or perhaps the double olives in the martini is more apt!