Over the past several months we have been introduced to many amazing people through our Facebook fan page. With this post we continue a regular series of profiles of New School Dandies. This week we feature Winston Ma of Freshly Educated Men.
Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in the T dot O dot (aka Toronto).
When did you establish your personal style? Was there a pivotal moment? How has it changed? My personal style really began when I was in grade 7. When I was younger and growing up, I was more concerned about school and hitting up the libraries to read up on random topics (ie. Ancient Egypt or the Titanic). So I guess you could say that I was a nerd back then. But grade 7, everything changed. Puberty hit and the school atmosphere was different. I had previously worn thick glasses as a child and no one paid much attention to me back then. So I decided to switch over to contact lenses at 12 years old. The first day of me wearing contacts in school was something else. People actually paid more attention to me in class and I would notice the difference when walking down the hallways. From then on, I realized that by way of fashion, it alters people’s perception of you (as shallow as that sounds). So I started wearing “proper clothing” (back then it was all about the GAP and CK Jeans) and the rest is history. I give credit to my aunt (who’s the fashionista on my mom’s side of the family) for introducing me to the world that is the fashion industry. And as for my style evolution, it’s been a diverse journey to say the least. From the early years of, well let’s just say wearing platform shoes (it was the 90’s anyways) to now conveying Chukka’s and patent lace-ups, it’s been interesting. My style is still evolving…
How would you describe your style? Paris meets New York. Luxury fused with street wear. The left bank mixed in with Savile Row. Jordans laced with Oxfords. It’s really a combination of various styles. I see style as a portrayal of who you are as a person, your passions in life, and of course, the mood you are in that day. There are times when I feel like I want to convey elegance and dandyism, so my bow ties, suits, button ups, lace-ups, pochette etc animate that feeling. But then there are times when I want to be more rugged, so my Jordans, sneakers, t-shirts etc would convey that mood. I have a deep appreciation for the world of “luxury”, yet I also have a respect for street wear as well. So I try to bring the best of both worlds and incorporate them to my dressing. Think GQ infused with Complex.
What are your sources of inspiration? Well, there are a couple of style inspirations that I relish in on a daily basis. The most important one would be people. For me, it’s the best way of being inspired, fashion-wise, as everyone has their own unique twist on style. It still amazes me that I can sit and people watch at the corner of, let’s say Bay/Bloor, and still be inspired from how others wear their clothes. It’s almost like a daily runway show for me. And sometimes I’d be in utter shock at certain ways others have worn a particular piece of clothing; and I feel as though I should take a picture and try to reproduce it myself.
Look books (from the store or a magazine) is another major inspiration. It’s a great way to see how a certain stylist put together the clothes. The look book is also a visual representation of the brand or store itself, and their idea of what a man should convey.
Who is your designer icon? The late and great Yves Saint Laurent. Don’t get me wrong, from the avant garde persona of Hedi Slimane to the new age dapperness of Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders (sidebar, his fall/winter 2009 collection is the epitome of what Paris meets New York is), they are all great. But YSL for me is on a whole new stratosphere. He innovated refinement and modern elegance in menswear, and fashion in general. He was the one that rendered ready-to-wear as a reputable collection in the industry back in the 60’s. He single handedly democratized fashion and represented multiculturalism in his shows by way of being the first to utilize black and Asian models. He introduced the safari jackets for both men and women, and the most famous, his Le Smoking suit in 1966. The man was simply brilliant and fearless. The brand itself, even after his passing, from Alber Elbaz (of Lanvin fame), Tom Ford and now Stephano Pilati at the helms is still, in my personal opinion, the perfect example of Parisian Chic. YSL stores are like shrines to me. There’s a certain mystique attached to each collection that continuously furthers my deep love for fashion. YSL can do no wrong in my eyes.
What do you find eternally stylish? Simplicity. The look of Parisian chic, one that is effortlessly put together, with no fuss, yet it still conveys a strong message to others. Trends come and go, but in menswear, it’s the classic and simple pieces that will last a lifetime.
What are your preferred dandy reading materials? From l'Uomo, GQ (and GQ Britain) and Complex to just lookbooks from Ralph Lauren, Lanvin, YSL, Hermes, J Crew and etc, it's pretty much varied from one style to the other. Web-wise, definitely The Sartorialist and what's becoming my new favourite, lookbook.nu.
Do you have a favorite website? I have a plethora of sites that I frequent on a daily basis. I'm not going to list them all but sites such as rap-up.com, concreteloop.com, nahright.com, freshnessmag.com, slamxhype.com and highsnobiety.com keep me in the know for the entertainment and fashion worlds.
What is your favorite personal item (non-clothing/accessories)? It would be my iPod. Music is one of my passions in life. Listening to music is a form of release in life, and a form of inspiration. It further accents the mood that I’m in that day. So, I always make sure that my iPod is with me at all times and at my disposal when I need it. For me to forget my iPod is like leaving a piece of my soul at home when I’m out.
What is your favorite clothing article or accessory? Ha! That’s like asking a mother of 5 to pick her favourite child. But if I had to choose, it would be my Uniqlo jeans…and more specifically the khaki coloured version. They are hands-down the best fitting pair of jeans that I have ever worn. I had seen them in the NY Uniqlo store a year or two ago, and tried the khaki ones on, and to my amazement, they required no alterations, at all! And that’s a rare occurrence for a man my size and height. So, eventually, I bought them in all the colours, and the best part of it all…they each cost me $50 US. Goes to show that sometimes, designers aren’t necessarily the end and be all of fashion. But the khaki ones, they just go with everything; and they can switch from casual Americana to an elegantly dressed man.
Where is your favorite or dream vacation spot? Favourite vacation spot: New York. Actually it's really not a vacation for me when I'm there; it's more of a home coming. New York is like my second home, I feel at ease in the city and relish in the way of life there. It's really, in my eyes, the capitol city of the world. But since I don't "officially" reside in NY, I guess technically speaking I’m really on vacation there. Dream vacation spot: *sighs Paris, then head to Italy, then Spain and end back in Paris again. Paris is just one of those cities that have this certain mystique to it. To be able to sit at an outdoor cafe in the St. Germaine district, munching on an authentic croissant, sipping café au lait and people watch is a goal of mine. And this dream could’ve come true earlier this year, but due to unseen circumstances it was never realized. Oh, well. there's always next year!
Tell us the best kept secret in your city. The family-run, small and sometimes dive-in-the-wall restaurants in the 200+ neighbourhoods we have in Toronto. Because of our multiculturalism, we are lucky to have these restaurants because we are able to indulge in dishes from literally around the world. From Mongolian to Ethiopian, for us Torontonians, the world is our oyster.
At which establishments would you consider yourself a regular?
I'm a self-professed shopaholic so I frequent many many shops in the city. But the ones I would consider myself to be a regular: Courage My Love and Badlands for my vintage fix. These two stores have some precious treasures hanging on the racks. Jonathan & Olivia for their cool and non-fussy atmosphere (and of course for their selection of Band of Outsiders, Hyden Yoo, rag & bone and A.P.C). Nomad for their streetwear meets luxury demeanor, and Ransom for their urban Canadiana look. And I can't forget Holt Renfrew, our version of Barneys.
What would you be doing ten years from now? 10 years from now? I would like to think that in 10 years I would’ve made an impact in the lives of others in Toronto. I know that sounds extremely pretentious but it’s one of the reasons why we started FRESHLY.EDUCATED.MEN. To be able to make men in this city think differently towards fashion, Toronto and life is an achievement unto itself. In 10 years time, I would like to be working more closely in the fashion industry and being part of its evolution. Especially in menswear, to be able to witness the full potential that it has.
What is your current obsession? Americana + dandyism.
Currently inspired by? My city. Everyday at any spot in Toronto, I get inspired by something or someone. Whether it be fashion wise or a stranger helping out another stranger, my city constantly reminds me that I have it good in life, compared to others in the world.
Currently annoyed with? Opposition towards health care reform in the US. It's perplexing for us Canadians. Really, is the notion that universal health for all as a basic right that hard to fathom? I mean if we Canadians have access to universal health care, surely you Americans can too!
What else do you want to tell us? I am ½ of FRESHLY.EDUCATED.MEN. FRESHLY.EDUCATED.MEN was founded on the simple premise of evolutionizing Toronto men through fashion, arts and culture. My best friend, Sharad and I had realized that there wasn’t really a men’s lifestyle site that was specifically dedicated to men in Toronto. The majority of men in Toronto seem to be…well, left in the dark in some respects, when it came to fashion and the how to’s in menswear. So we began this journey back in June 2009 (seems like it’s been an eternity) and from then on, we quickly realized that not only were we devoted to educating men in various aspects of life, but we were also promoting Toronto as a whole. The whole notion that our city has little to offer is one that we strive to dispel. Our aim is to let our readers (and the world itself) know that Toronto is an extraordinary city, bursting with so much talent and culture. Although 50% of our content is fashion-related, the other half is devoted to the sheer talent, culture, events, music, politics etc that our city has to offer.
We have 3 mandates that we abide by on our site:
Educate Toronto men about fashion (whether it be high-end or street wear), arts and culture. Tell Toronto’s story while championing it as a city that prides itself on innovation, diversity and culture. We also aim to inspire Torontonians through the various stories that come out of our city.
Change old stereotypes that men in Toronto seem to have about certain issues and cultivate them to the 21st century.
So while we keep the men in Toronto “FRESH” through fashion and its various topics, we also keep them “EDUCATED” in various forms by way of discussing about politics, social issues that affect our city or even inspiring them through our Home Grown Talents’ stories.
Check us out and join Toronto’s evolution: http://freshlyeducatedmen.wordpress.com/.