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Factory's ties to fashion

September 13, 2009|Adam Tschorn;Suzanne Muchnic;Scott T. Sterling;Shari Roan


When Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week kicked off last week in Bryant Park, I was a 16-minute subway ride away in Long Island City, Queens, doing a little fashion field trip.

I was touring Brooks Bros.' tie factory, where all of the brand's neckwear (save those knit ties, which I can't stand anyway) has been manufactured since 1999. My tour guide, Laura Rowen, director of manufacturing, who oversees this factory and the label's North Carolina shirt facility, says that the operation has moved several times since originally being housed in Brooks' original Madison Avenue space but to her knowledge has been making ties on a continual basis for the last three-quarters of a century.

The outfit employs about 122 people and cranks out about a million and a half traditional neckties a year as well as an assortment of accessories that includes ascots, bow ties and cummerbunds. Bowen told me that from the minute the fabrics are delivered, most runs of 3,000 to 6,000 units per style are ready to ship within three and 11 days.

In today's automated, machine-driven manufacturing process that may actually sound like a long lag time, but walking the floor this morning, I was impressed with the inordinate number of times in the 16-step process that goods were checked for fabric and manufacturing flaws -- including the first stop in which each roll of fabric is unrolled and gone over slowly by hand by an employee whose sole job is to make sure the goods coming in the door are up to snuff before they start the process to end up as stylish neckwear.

-- Adam Tschorn

From All the Rage: the culture of keeping up appearances

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Met says its Velazquez is real

Thanks to a skillful cleaning and removal of clumsy retouching, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a "new" Velazquez. The museum announced Wednesday that a technical examination of an unfinished portrait formerly attributed to "the workshop of Velazquez" is actually an autograph work of the 17th century Spanish master.

The re-attribution is the result of a collaborative project by Keith Christiansen, the Met's chief curator of European paintings, and Michael Gallagher, head of paintings conservation. A test cleaning suggested that yellowed varnish had obscured an artwork executed more delicately and in a lighter palette. When the varnish was removed, the artist's signature brushstrokes were revealed.

The bust-length painting of a man in his mid-30s, dressed in black with a white collar and posed in a three-quarter view, was thought to be a self-portrait of the artist when the Met acquired it in 1949, from the bequest of Jules Bache. But in 1979, after scholars had frowned on the attribution, the museum demoted the painting.

The identity of the subject is a matter of debate, according to the museum, but the painting's rehabilitation has been accepted by Jonathan Brown, a Velazquez scholar and professor at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

From Culture Monster: All the arts, all the time

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Standing up for Weezer album

There's a large faction of rock fans who have turned hating on Weezer and the band's leader, Rivers Cuomo, into something of a sport. The guy can't seem to do anything -- including name a new album, in this case the forthcoming "Raditude," due in stores Oct. 27 -- without igniting a whirlwind of controversy.

Cuomo's pal Rainn Wilson has had enough.

It's Wilson who's credited with naming "Raditude," which has been openly derided on the Internet via blogs and fan sites. Yet during a recent interview with ABC in advance of the coming season of "The Office," he dismissed anyone who had issue with the title.

Is the mini-brouhaha due solely to Wilson's actor status? Wilson thinks so.

He theorized that if Charlie Sheen had been the one who coined the name for Radiohead's 2007 album "In Rainbows," the world would be against it.

"People would be like, 'In Rainbows,' that's stupid,'" he joked to interviewer Dan Harris. "It happens to be the best album of the last decade."

-- Scott T. Sterling

From Pop & Hiss: The L.A. Times music blog

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Traffic noise hurts health

The rumbling of cars, trucks and trains isn't just annoying, it can raise your blood pressure. A study appearing in the journal Environmental Health found that people exposed to high levels of noise from roads near their homes are more likely to report suffering from chronic hypertension.

"Road traffic is the most important source of community noise," said the lead author of the study, Theo Bodin, from Lund University Hospital, Sweden. "We found that exposure above 60 decibels was associated with high blood pressure among the relatively young and middle-aged, an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke."

The researchers surveyed more than 24,000 adults living in Sweden. Based on the participants' home addresses, information was obtained about average road noise at their homes. The study found a modest link between hypertension and average traffic noise between 45 and 65 decibels. But the link grew stronger with higher levels of noise. The risk of hypertension was highest in relatively young or middle-aged people, whereas no effects were seen in the oldest age group.

Many urban dwellers experience traffic noise levels of 55 decibels or more.

-- Shari Roan

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and news from the world of health

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