By Robert James

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Fashion, at its best, is art for the everyday. Art, at its best, elevates our perception, opening us up to new ideas and modes of expression. Every once in a while, we come across fashion which does all of this, and vibes with our idiosyncratic modes of expression while simultaneously making us feel like part of a greater movement, a moment in time and society. In Dune Studios, on Monday, around 5:00 p.m. I felt that moment at the Fall / Winter 2017 release of By Robert James.

“THERE IS ALWAYS SOME MADNESS IN LOVE. THERE IS ALSO ALWAYS SOME REASON IN MADNESS.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The runway came out swinging with model protesters decked out in fatigue jackets and field-green knits who marched around the room with military precision. Clips of Hitler and Mussolini flashed across a wraparound wall. Signs bearing the mantras #MadeInASacntuaryCity and #AddictedToOil flew around the room. You almost couldn’t see straight, with all of the lights and people running about, although it goes without saying that our photographer Nick walked away with some beautifully composed shots.

Robert James, the man himself, watched the entire affair with the kind of high-octane focus which only comes from a week of sleepless, obsessive work. Next to him was the biggest sign of all, more pithy than the rest, reminding the world how clothes protect us physically and symbolically. This was fashion contra fascism, and I was in awe. Politics aside, here was a man responding to actions which Trump and his ilk had taken in just the last month. How did he turn it into ready-wear?

“MADNESS IS RARE IN INDIVIDUALS. BUT IN GROUPS, PARTIES, NATIONS, AND AGES… IT IS THE RULE.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Well, that’s exactly how I kicked off our interview. At first, Robert answered modestly, mentioning that army chic is a personal style favorite of his. He pointed to his last line, Spring / Summer 2017, to highlight his familiarity with a minimalist, military aesthetic. To repeatedly merge and contrast the same four colors, without making an earthen-tone blob surely, I thought, would have to take months of drafting. There wasn’t a hair out of place. The zippers on the neoprene coats were clean and hard-edged. Seamless façades on canvas pants provided just the right amount of artistic touch to bare masculinity. So I pressed on, with the same question, and my perseverance bore fruit. I found out that it took three weeks. By Robert James – I use the label name to remind us all about the legion of assistants, marketers, and directors behind the effort – turned the whole line around, from design to sourcing to manufacturing in just three weeks. They didn’t even have finished garments or a list of models until last Friday.

“HE WHO BATTLES MONSTERS MIGHT TAKE CARE LEST HE THEREBY BECOME A MONSTER. AND IF YOU GAZE FOR LONG INTO AN ABYSS, THE ABYSS GAZES ALSO INTO YOU.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I was impressed, to say the least, but I also had another question to ask, a question which was all the more pressing specifically because I found myself being drawn into the movement. We have this palette of fashion, fascism, and philosophy. We have Nietzsche upon Nietzsche upon Nietzsche. Do we have any reservations? Specifically, do we think that all the leather, the clean lines, the masculine aesthetics, and the tall Germanic models with great cheekbones feel a little, well, Hugo Boss circa 1934? I think Robert was a little taken aback by this question, but again he impressed me with his consideration and his prescience. It turns out that he has a lifelong passion for military history, and has always been fascinated by the ethos and self-styling of guerrilla fighters. This line reflects that. The jackets have pockets invisible to the naked eye, which preserve a sexy-form fitting figure just as well as they conceal a combat knife. The material is durable, and if you ever need to shred the sleeves for wound field-dressing, they’ll do the trick. Svelte leather bandanas shield you from the elements and conceal your face from any wary onlookers. Plus, they look so damn cool.

VERDICT?

You’re not prepared for 2017 unless you’re wearing By Robert James.

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