Rummaging with Joe Zee

Elle's creative director takes us shopping in Brooklyn for emerging menswear labels.

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  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    You may recognize fashion guru Joe Zee from his stint on MTV's ill-fated reality show The City. Now Zee's returning to the small screen, starring in his own series, All on the Line (premieres Tuesday 29 at 10pm on the Sundance Channel), which documents him helping emerging, struggling fashion designers (like Leila Shams and Gemma Kahng) create and present capsule collections to buyers and improve their brand buzz. "There's no competition or elimination," he explains. "It's about real people, real businesses and real money. There were some emotional moments." Since he's known for his discerning eye for talent, we took him shopping for up-and-coming menswear labels in Brooklyn. During the excursion, his innate editorial voice kicked in, and he designated his selections "classic menswear pieces with modern twists."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    BKC Varsity vest, $256 (normally $320), at Brooklyn Circus, 150 Nevins St between Bergen and Wyckoff Sts, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-858-0919, thebkcircus.com). Mention TONY to receive this discount through March 31.

    "I've seen the bomber [jacket] all over the runways, and it makes me feel like being a kid again," enthuses Zee, toying with Brooklyn Circus's house-label vest. "You can throw this take on the puffer vest over a big sweater or a shirt and tie. It feels different, but it's easy and wearable at the same time."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    BKC Western button-down shirt, $140, at Brooklyn Circus

    "Though it's a classic men's broadcloth shirt, the cut and tailoring are unique---the western yoke and fitted darts," say Zee.

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    BKC Western denim button-down shirt, $140, at Brooklyn Circus

    "Seeing military influences in a denim shirt feels really new," says Zee of this locally designed army-green top. "I would wear it with jeans or gray slacks."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Property Of distressed-leather duffel bag, $575, at Brooklyn Circus

    Zee swoons over this handsome Property Of (thepropertyof.com) tote, created by two caf-owners-turned-designers in Singapore. "Any time I find leather that looks old in a nonmanufactured, distressed way I get very excited," explains Zee. "I like contrast colors that people don't think go together, like brown and black. I would totally lug this away for the weekend and bring it on a plane."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Generic Surplus suede wing-tip sneakers, $75, at Brooklyn Circus

    "A suede shoe or jacket is the new thing to get for spring, especially in a light color like this gray, or cognac or, dare I say, white," notes Zee, pointing out kicks from three-year-old Los Angeles label Generic Surplus (genericsurplus.com).

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    BKC leather belt, $90, at Brooklyn Circus

    "I'm crazy about orange right now, like this safety-patrol [hue]," says Zee. "It's a fun flash of color when you're wearing neutral shades, such as camel, navy, beige or black."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    BKC trousers, $140, at Brooklyn Circus

    "There's something almost Grapes of Wrath about these pants," observes Zee. "I would pair them with a T-shirt, a denim jacket---which I'm also really feeling right now---and sneakers. You could also style them for work with a nice Thom Browne shirt and vintage, beaten-up brogues."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Billykirk Bike-tool leather bag, $155, at Hollander & Lexer, 358 Atlantic Ave between Bond and Hoyt Sts, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-797-9190, hollanderandlexer.net)

    "While the rest of the country is driving, us New Yorkers are on our bikes," says Zee, referring to a tote from William Kirkland's (billykirk.com) handcrafted leather line. "This bag, which sits on bike handles, is so Brooklyn. I love the brown leather and how industrial it looks."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Hollander & Lexer R.J. multistriped shirt, $180, at Hollander & Lexer

    "The stripes look like they were drawn on by hand," notes Zee of the shop's label, which is produced in the Garment District and designed by co-owner Hicham Benmira. "Those are the little details that you want to find when you're buying indie menswear. It doesn't look like it was mass-produced; it's special."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Hollander & Lexer Marcus striped shirt, $180, at Hollander & Lexer

    "Take this rolled-out-of-bed top and pair it with slick, polished pants and a blazer," suggests Zee. "The contrast between the two [styles] makes it look cool and put-together."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Hollander & Lexer Rosario trousers, $195, at Hollander & Lexer

    "I've never been a fan of classic linen pants, because they reminded me of something my dad would wear," admits Zee. "But this season, I'm feeling them. Indie labels can take something old-fashioned and reimagine it in a cool way."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Hollander & Lexer Rosario vest, $190, at Hollander & Lexer

    "Several years ago, I styled Justin Timberlake in a vest for his Futuresex/Lovesounds CD cover, and it became a huge trend," recalls Zee. "Now it's something I want to dig out of my closet and wear again. I [remove] vests from my three-piece suits and wear them with different pants, a shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a tie to pull off the super-busy-guy-at-work look."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Hollander & Lexer Pelo shorts, $125, at Hollander & Lexer

    "When you live in NYC during the summer heat waves, you have to wear shorts or you can't survive," declares Zee. "It's nice to find a pair that's different, such as this style with the train conductor/carpenter stripes and long underwear details. Also, these have a flattering fit---you don't want shorts that are too long, since guys shouldn't be running around in capri pants."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Alex B. U Neck T-shirt, $75, at Hollander & Lexer

    "My favorite part of this tee is how the label is stamped on the inside. It feels old and new, casual and thought out," says Zee of Tokyo-born, Los Angeles--based designer Alexander Yamaguchi's top. "A good T-shirt is hard to find, since you don't want it to be too tight like an undershirt or giant and baggy like a gym shirt."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Fulmer V2 helmets, $150 each, at Smith + Butler, 225 Smith St at Butler St, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-855-4295, smithbutler.com)

    "These are like disco balls for your head!" Zee enthuses about the shiny headgear from Fulmer (fulmerhelmets.com), a company that only deals to brick-and-mortar stores, rather than online retailers. "Channel your inner Evel Knievel. If you're going to ride a bike around the city, it's pretty damn dangerous. You might as well do it with some flair."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Wolverine Addison boots, $350, at Smith + Butler

    "Whoever said you can't wear boots in spring and summer is totally wrong," Zee states about these kicks made by Midwestern brand Wolverine (wolverine.com), known for its durable footwear. "There are days when I get up, and I'm like, I'm wearing a boot and I'm wearing it with my shorts [Laughs]."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Master-Piece zip-top backpack, $297, at Smith + Butler

    "I carry an old-school Jansport backpack every day---it's my chic, go-to-work bag. I'm obsessed," admits Zee, gravitating toward a display of trendy bags made by Japanese import Master-Piece (mspc-product.com). "This style has good details with a bit of Navajo coloring, suede bottoms and buckles. I would [use it] for work---I'm too busy typing away on my BlackBerry or holding a coffee, while trying to catch a cab; I love a hands-free moment."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Master-Piece courier bag, $231, at Smith + Butler

    "Sling this bag over your body, and you're on the go and mobile," says Zee. "It would fit all of my New York daily essentials: phone, Blackberry, keys, credit cards, and I bet it could even hold the new smaller iPad---not kidding."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Sunny Sports Crazy scarf, $86, at Smith + Butler

    "I was in Tokyo back in August, and all the kids and cool guys were wearing ethnic Navajo and Aztec prints mixed together," says Zee, toying with a patterned scarf from a Japanese brand Smith + Butler recently began carrying. "I thought, Ugh, that's going to be big in New York, and now I'm seeing it everywhere. Tie this around your neck with a gray sweatshirt and pair of jeans."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Sunny Sports jacquard long socks, $34, at Smith + Butler

    "Listen, socks are the best accessories to wear in colors and prints, because you can keep them hidden when you want to, and show them when you want to pop," says Zee of these ski-inspired foot covers.

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    You Must Create Slub striped T-shirt, $84, at Smith + Butler

    "I think the biggest trend I saw for spring was graphic stripes, and I love this one---it's like an eye chart or an optical illusion," says Zee, holding up this top by London label YMC (youmustcreate.com). "Again, it's a hip take on something traditional---a navy, nautical tee."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    You Must Create Mountain Park jacket, $360, at Smith + Butler

    "Throw this on over something dressy, like a suit," suggests Zee, who admits he's personally inspired by photos of John F. Kennedy Jr. wearing puffy jackets over suits. "I also like the drawstring, the hood and leather trim."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Velour Baldwin checked shirt, $135, at Smith + Butler

    Zee approves of this eye-catching printed button-down top from Swedish brand Velour (velour.se). "There's something about all of these colors that reminds me of my childhood bedroom; it feels really comfortable and familiar," muses Zee. "Sometimes you get plaids that are Christmasy or huntery, but the blues [in this one] mix together well. It also has a nice, slim fit, and the collar sits smaller."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Epaulet Mashup tartan shirt, $130, at Epaulet, 231 Smith St between Butler and Douglass Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-522-3800, epauletshop.com)

    "I personally own all of the [plaid] combinations in this shirt," says Zee, pointing to each swatch on this house brand, one-of-a-kind top (each shirt is slightly different). "So to see all of my shirts in one top is cool. It all feels really fresh."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Epaulet Walt trousers, $165, at Epaulet

    "This is the new chino," states Zee about the bottoms created by husband-and-wife owners Mike Kuhle and Adele Berne. "Throw these in the wash and wear them sort of rumpled with sneakers or old brogues. The electric-blue color feels very right now---'80s but not."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Bailey Hats Rudie shantung fedora, $75, at Epaulet

    "It's the ultimate hipster trademark," says Zee, referring to this topper, made exclusively by Pennsylvania milliner Bailey Hats of Bollman Hat Co. for the shop. "We're talking about skinny black jeans, a white T-shirt, Converse sneakers and this hat. It's a men's style, but I can see girls rocking it too."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Epaulet multicolor gingham raw silk bow tie, $45, at Epaulet

    Zee inspects the made-in-Manhattan neck candy. "The bow tie is not formal wear anymore, since boys are rocking it all day long," explains Zee. "If you're going to wear something basic and boring, this will totally stand out."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Epaulet Glen plaid tie, $60, at Epaulet

    "I would wear this classic tie all the time with a white button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up and jeans," states Zee.

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Scotch & Soda peak lapel two-button sportcoat, $225, at Epaulet

    "A blazer is an easy alternative to a jacket," notes Zee of the sharp blazer made by Amsterdam company Scotch & Soda (scotch-soda.com). "For spring, get one in cotton and you can wear it with jeans and white pants. It also makes a white V-neck T-shirt look dressier."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Iro Joshua cardigan, $264, at Burlap, 385 Henry St between Congress and Warren Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-596-8370, burlapbrooklyn.com)

    "Sometimes you don't want [to wear] a jacket or a full-on sweater, and this is the perfect thing to throw on," says Zee of this plush cardigan, which hails from France. He explains why indie labels are worth the moolah, "They usually have a unique and special take on design, even when it's a classic. But those risks can be subtle, such as the outside seaming on this cardigan."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Frank & Eileen Paul button-down shirt, $175, at Burlap

    "I must have 50 white shirts," says Zee. "It's the ultimate little black dress for a guy. You can have a million because [there are so many features]: the collar, the fit, the ease and the rumpledness. Depending on the day and my mood, I'll reach for different ones. I like this top because it's chic and sophisticated, yet it feels soft, like you pulled it out of the dryer."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Frank & Eileen Paul striped button-down shirt, $175, at Burlap

    "This striped shirt looks so comfortable and casual," says Zee, referring to this top from four-year-old California label Frank & Eileen. "It almost feels like a pajama shirt."

  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

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    Daines & Hathaway Hunters ten-ounce flask with four shot glasses, $110, at Burlap

    "You get to bring a flask and share with four friends! Who doesn't want that?," exclaims Zee. "But I'm not sure it holds enough liquor for four friends [Laughs]."

Photograph: Imogen Brown

rummagingjoezee1805

You may recognize fashion guru Joe Zee from his stint on MTV's ill-fated reality show The City. Now Zee's returning to the small screen, starring in his own series, All on the Line (premieres Tuesday 29 at 10pm on the Sundance Channel), which documents him helping emerging, struggling fashion designers (like Leila Shams and Gemma Kahng) create and present capsule collections to buyers and improve their brand buzz. "There's no competition or elimination," he explains. "It's about real people, real businesses and real money. There were some emotional moments." Since he's known for his discerning eye for talent, we took him shopping for up-and-coming menswear labels in Brooklyn. During the excursion, his innate editorial voice kicked in, and he designated his selections "classic menswear pieces with modern twists."

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