To Daisuke Obana, the Japanese designer of the men's label N.Hoolywood, America's failed Prohibition experiment in the 1920s and its swirl of corruption, resourcefulness, and violence proved too rich and heady a theme to pass up. He said as much afterward, through a translator. Beforehand, in the show notes, he referenced bootleggers, speakeasies, moonshine, and the Mafia.
The loaded preface sent the mind scrolling through clichés. What could be in store? A hackneyed scenario with models doubling as Al Capone? Or mimicking Bugs Moran (thought to be a better dresser) in sharp zoot suits and fedoras, role-playing a shoot-out with FBI agent Eliot Ness and his fellow Untouchables? Lending to such an overwrought specter was the venue itself, a dark and bone-chilling concrete basement in the old J.P. Morgan bank at 23 Wall Street, with a large open vault as the centerpiece. Was this going to be a half-cocked homage to bank robbers and goodfellas?
Thankfully, it was nothing of the sort. Obana, a vintage clothing expert with an eye for fine fabrication, had a much subtler, softer vision in mind. His characters, some with beards or mustaches, looked more like G-riding haberdashers than gunslinging gangsters. They sported beautifully tailored camel topcoats, loose-fitting yet impeccable three-piece gray suits, and—hinting at those mobsters who worked the docks—peacoats and wool knit caps. Even the humble ribbed sweater made several appearances, as did intriguing scarf-apron hybrids, also ribbed, that alluded to similar items worn by brewers of the day. Black leather bags were voluminous and squared off, and they were passed between models as if exchanging smuggled goods or extorted money. These were Roaring looks that had been tamed and, dare we say, dandified.
After the show, Obana spoke of his interest in double-breasted suits of yore and endeavoring to update them in lighter fabrics. More than anything he seemed gobsmacked that Prohibition ever happened in the first place. His preferred poison? Whiskey, of course.