Fashionably modern

If life in the 21st century were a fairy tale, things would be different. The heads of multi-national corporations would be evil witches with crooked noses rather than middle-aged white men; the trendy lofted apartments would be cottages with thatched roofs; and all the good guys would wear Modern Amusement.

As the Calgary Holt Renfrew was transformed into an enchanted forest, there was time to speak to Modern Amusement’s creative director John Moore who was able to explain a little about the label’s design philosophy and the hard truth about the fabled “design collective.”

“There are eight of us here,” Moore explains a few hours after they arrive in Calgary, the first national brand to visit the kingdom of cowboys and beef. “The company is tiny, there are eight of us in total.”

Although they make up a small group, it’s tight-knit, and it shows in the collections they produce. The eclectic style they create has hints of the spastic, but never loses its cohesion. While most companies who deem themselves “collectives” are usually the work of one egotistical mastermind–Modern Amusement is all about cooperation between its members.

“I expect the people I work with to come in and inspire me,” Moore says. “And vice versa. I’d rather have more work to do than an extra person not pulling their weight.”

After two years in its current incarnation, the label has experienced great success and growth within the market, but still their numbers are small. Despite the workload, spirits stay high and their energy is still at an unchartable level. As creative director, it falls to Moore to keep the exuberance under control and ingenuity at its prime.

“I like the studio absolutely quiet,” he laughs. “Well, only when I’m in a bad mood, so I usually suggest they follow my lead. Really, I feel the optimum way to create is to have the music turned up and a movie that inspired us playing–through chaos comes innovation.”

The team is too relaxed for Modern Amusement’s true inspiration to come from anarchy–the label is very much a California company, from location to style to the ideas behind it. Moore, who returned from a top position at Abercrombie & Fitch in Ohio to join the collective, is drawn to the coast. He claims it has enormouly influenced Modern Amusement’s new line.

“There’s a flare and energy to California that we all know,” says Moore. “We’re not inspired by the regular L.A. things–the bleach blondes and bubblegum–we’re inspired by global luxury items, but we still have our toes in the sand. We’re not trying to be anything we’re not.”

From their studio, only blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, the design team have looked down the road at Los Angeles’ future. Their fall 2006 collection tells a new story.

“It’s a campy little story,” Moore laughs. “It’s set in the year 2030 in the City of Angels and there are two fashion gangs: the Mods and the Trads. They come together from the opposite sides of town.”

Like the Mods and the Trads, this season’s collection is united by Modern Amusement staples: a strong colour palette, playful details and functional design. Although growing from their last collection, this one hasn’t bowed to the scraggly, skinny-legged trends, but held true to the mantra of providing classic pieces for the not-so-typical young male.

“I love that we can tell a new story every season,” Moore explains. “The DNA is still the same, but we can always go somewhere new.”

Already the team is heading new directions, they’re currently finishing up the fall 2007 collection and have promised their first women’s collection for spring 2008. Although this year they’ve ventured into the future, Modern Amusement has its feet planted firmly. From way up at the top of the highest tower of their majestic ocean-side castle, they’ll continue to send down great design for all the white hat-wearing heroes.

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