Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Metropolis / So SoCal

Pop, Punk and Pulchritude for the Postmodern Man

October 06, 2002|ANDREW ASCH

Paul Frank's first fashion successes were like early Beatles hits--cheeky, packed with gently satiric humor and enthusiastically embraced by (mostly) girls and their smart alecky older sisters.

But when the Newport Beach-based designer began brainstorming ideas for men's threads in 1999, he made a choice that would give a music industry executive heart palpitations: The man made his proven star scarce on the new project. Paul Frank Mens Department offers few pieces featuring Julius, the pie-eared cartoon chimp who has made millions of dollars for Paul Frank Industries and adorns most Paul Frank wear, from T-shirts to bikini tops.

The Mens Department designs instead salute a landscape that's cartoonish in a different way. It's called rock 'n' roll. Frank painted archetypal rock imagery--vintage guitars, crusty amps, distortion pedals, and so forth--then silk-screened the designs onto T-shirts, V-neck sweaters and button-down shirts in a pop art graphic strategy worthy of early Velvet Underground impresario Andy Warhol.

Music is a way of life as well as an aesthetic for Frank, who also plays guitar in his garage band, the Moseleys. Many items in his men's line, sold in stores such as Bloomingdales and Urban Outfitters, are inspired by thrift shop clothes, an aesthetic dear to anybody who has ever cruised the punk scene. Frank looked at thrift fashions worn by his employees and other hip kids and came up with the secondhand sizzle of his Western-themed pieces--shirts, jacket, even a plaid entry dubbed Old Man Pants. "We research thrift clothes and update them, but it's not about flashy fabrics. A lot of it is about designing a better pocket."

Cro-Magnon macho rock posturing isn't part of Frank's scene. "I don't sit there with a piece of paper with two columns labeled 'girls' colors' and 'guys' colors.' That's not how I think. I'm the guy who wore a pink alligator shirt in junior high. In high school I wore pink Converse high tops or pink pleated pants. I was just trying to be like [rock band] the Stray Cats."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|