Friday, November 5, 2010

Storytellers

More so than country of origin or the manufacturing process, which are very intriguing in their own right, it is the inspiration and meaning behind garments that interest me the most.  Clothes have the ability to tell highly personal and highly unique stories.  On the most basic of levels it is their function as emotional signifiers that make them meaningful.  This innate characteristic plays a large part in the creation and design of clothing that we buy and end up making our own - I guess you could say that emotion, in turn, breeds emotion.  I am very pleased to present a guest post from my good friend Antonio that I believe discusses this very principle.


[Alfred "Aldo" Ciongoli, UPENN class of 1964.]


[#75, Co-captain lightweight football.]


[Beta house secretary, wig, tie twist, no socks, in 1964.]

A well-designed garment can tell a story.  I have been fortunate in my career to work with people who want the clothing they make to say something about where it came from. The designers behind Rugby Ralph Lauren consistently excel at translating moments from American and English history into contemporary clothing with an authentic feel.  I am drawn to the familiar stories they tell of classic collegiate style because I grew up listening to the real thing.

My father was a storyteller.  Throughout my adolescence, I was constantly begging him to recount the memories of his.  Pop’s youth seemed to revolve around his corner - where 13th met Wolf Street - in southern Philadelphia.  It was here that he traded his 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card for star Phillies pitcher Russ Meyer and a stick of gum. It was here that he developed his physician’s steady hand from surgically bissecting “pimple” balls in two for half ball games across the street.  It was here that he discovered he had been accepted to the University of Pennsylvania’s class of 1964.  

Pop’s college stories were my favorite.  At PENN, he took out a small student loan, not to pay for classes or books but to pick up the tab on dates with “Candy” Bergen.  “Aldo” was pre-med, co-captain of the lightweight football team and a member of two prominent honor societies; but if you asked him what he was really proud of he would have told you he was the secretary of the Beta house.  His fraternity was the stuff of legends, a mélange of mahogany and pipe smoke, backgammon and beat-up leather club chairs. Beta was famous for their “shipwreck” parties with waterfalls running down the house’s main staircase, sand dumped from wall to wall, and elaborately rigged nets that were the only way to move - or climb - from one room to the other. They stole trolley cars and dropped live mice on unsuspecting female passersby from their roof.  They wore coats and ties to meals and boatneck varsity sweaters and bowties to classes.   For Rugby’s fall/holiday ’10 collections, we tried to weave this vivid portrait of the Ivy League experience in the early 60s – filled with tradition, tweed and sockless weejuns – into the nooks and crannies of each garment.  You can see the best manifestations of Pop’s own stories in two pieces – his red and blue striped boatneck letter sweater and a reinterpretation of his football jersey in rugby form, complete with his tackle twill number “75” on the back and a hidden interior felt ID patch reading A.K.C. “Aldo” ’64.  I hear his voice every time I put one on.

Thanks to Lee Norwood and John Yang for telling a story of their own every season and allowing me to incorporate the memory of my father into this fall’s.


I'd like to thank Antonio for not only contributing this story to Sart Inc, but for being a continuing source of inspiration himself.  Whether he knows it or not, he has help shaped this blog and me as a person.  And for that I am truly grateful.

-L.A.S

25 comments:

  1. IT"S JUST CLOTHES DUDE.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How could you read that post and say that "it's just clothes"? Great stuff and it makes me miss his blog even more. Always wondered what the significance of 13th and Wolf was.

    ReplyDelete
  3. one of the finest posts in sart inc history.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Frat Boys will never ever be cool you fucking clowns.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It is just clothes. I bet that's what Aldo and his crowd would have said. Read the story -- it was about dudes that are interested in sports, women and partying, not what is going in in the "nooks and crannies of each garment", unless those garments were on the "Candy Bergens" of the world.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Incred- The emotions associated garments are wholly unique to the person in question. Nostalgia, brotherhood, etc.

    All of that is present here.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Somehow I suspect that the type of guy who thinks its funny to drop live mice on women would have a pretty un-PC name for someone associating strong emotions with off-the-rack replicas. But I suppose that assumption may be unique to my own person.

    Nevertheless, if you think you love the lifestyle, live it, or at least track down the genuine item (i.e. your own fathers jersey). Don't play dress-up and get all weepy on the internet.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I couldnt agree more with the notion that a garment can carry a significant amount of emotions and sentimentality.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Incred- "Don't play dress-up and get all weepy on the internet."

    Since you don't know all the circumstances behind this piece I will refrain from calling you insensitive.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think the critics here are missing the point of the post - a son inspired by the stories of his father and having a unique opportunity to replicate those stories/inspiration in a lasting way.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's great because not everyone has the ability or opportunity to do something like this.

    ReplyDelete
  12. First, let me say that anyone saying "it's just clothes" on a clothing blog post about the emotions that lead to the passion in designing a particular piece is clearly a 12 year old looking to rile people up. I wouldn't worry about that dude too much.

    Now let me say that I really appreciate hearing the story behind some of Antonio's work. From initial concept to specific design to production, the entire process of what goes into "just clothes" can be quite fascinating, and I was happy to hear Antonio feels deeply connected with his work. Any time someone has these sort of emotions tied in with what they do for a living gets a wonderful opportunity to do more than "just a job" and that's certainly to be celebrated.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Incred - you're just an idiot.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You don't have to be passive-aggressive about it.

    But yeah, this is a "style blog" and apparently one with a totally un-ironic lack of perspective at times. Is this the same Dr. Alfred K. Ciongoli who is remebered here: http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0309/obits.html? If so, its worth a look for anyone who is not inspired by frat-boy hi-jinx.

    ReplyDelete
  15. L.A.S. - I just re-read "The emotions associated garments are wholly unique to the person in question. Nostalgia, brotherhood, etc." I'd like to clarify that I don't mean any disrespect to any individual, their method of expressing their own feelings. The subject seems to be a man of genuine substance and accomplishment, and I was responding to a single facet of his character without a meaningful context, which probably is idiotic.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Incred- Thank you for being a gentleman.

    ReplyDelete
  17. L.A.S.- thanks, as always, for your indulgence.

    I'm disappointed that I added such a negative vibe to this post. Please delete my comments as you see fit.

    Anything that inspires someone to do something positive and constructive for themselves, let alone something appreciated by countless others, is obviously worth sharing.

    It appears that the subject here made many great contributions -- to medicine, education, cultural understanding, athletics and surely more. The author obviously understands this as a matter of course. What I jumped the gun in criticizing was not an attempt to put style ahead of these accomplishments, but to recount yet another way in which the subject was an inspiration (as noted by several others).

    ReplyDelete
  18. Incredulous - why are you pussing out brah?

    ReplyDelete
  19. After reading my previous comments, I realise I came off as a rather big dick (pun unfortunately not intended). LAS please accept my apology!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Patrick KicklighterNovember 5, 2010 at 7:43 PM

    Your dick is clearly small if you are begging L.A.S. for forgiveness.

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Memphis 88 - I believe 13th & Wolf is now Tredici e Lupo (13 & Wolf) on Tumblr.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is probably THE best post in Sart Inc. history. Can't argue that.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This post is REAL gay brah

    ReplyDelete
  24. Well done, Antonio. Did your Dad ever go into detail about Ms Bergen? I'm guessing not but, oh, how I wish he did.

    ReplyDelete