By  on August 6, 2007

NEW YORK — A feisty new trade show called Capsule debuted to instant buzz and acclaim during a crowded New York market week. Capsule’s organizers—the owners of the showroom and public relations firm BPMW—also known as Brand Pimps, aggregated 50 niche brands to form a very focused offering of the most edgy and directional men’s wear.

“Like Project used to be” was a common refrain among attendees complimenting the relatively intimate setting and independent spirit, the biggest sign of which was its location in the Angel Orensanz Foundation, an historic synagogue turned hip event space, on the Lower East Side.

BPMW was Project’s PR agency in that show’s early years. Since Project is now huge and firmly established, Capsule and a few other events are vying to showcase a new crop of indie designers such as Yoko Devereaux, B.Son and Harmon.

Capsule booths were comprised only of garment racks and uniform furniture. This allowed the smallest of startups to stand next to brands with bigger budgets, such as Gilded Age, Umbro by Kim Jones (now footwear only) and Mike & Chris, and be judged solely on product, not presentation.

The most crowded booth belonged to Public School, a new collection by Dao-Yi Chow, the former Sean John creative director who now owns the Miami boutique Arrive, and Maxwell Osborne, both of whom attended New York City public schools. With lots of black leather, hardware, structured shoulders and neck treatments, military details like epaulets and gun flaps, this streetwear is tough but never thuggish. The collection is loaded with thoughtful, versatile details.

So many designers found inspiration in the early MTV era that at times the trade show resembled an ’80s costume party. But who can fault them for wanting to relive their simpler, younger, neon-colored days?

A large pixel print from Federation was evocative of Apple IIe and Atari. The label, from New Zealand, even had stonewashed jeans.

For the perfect accessory to this look, search no further than Super Sunglasses. The new Italian eyewear brand offers bright plastic shades, similar to Wayfarers but more rounded in shape, in 38 colors. The lenses are made by Zeiss, so you can sport a vintage look without sacrificing eye protection.

How can you not evoke the ’80s with a name like Cassette? The L.A. denim brand, designed by the former creative director of Hudson, was a leader in the trend toward colored denim. It added tangerine orange for spring. It also introduced a cutoff short and a new slim, dropped-crotch jean, designed so guys can enjoy a little extra space without having to yank their waistbands down too low.

No Mas, created by two former sportswriters, trades in nostalgia in a clever and subversive way. It sources vintage sweatshirts from Champion—the ones with the heavyweight, low-shrinking reverse weave have gained a cult following—and reworks these collector’s items into memorials of disgraced athletes (e.g., Mike Tyson, Pete Rose, Darryl Strawberry), bygone teams (Brooklyn Dodgers) and institutions (Havana Yacht Club). Vintage Starter jackets receive similar but more-political treatment.

Daniel and Michael Casarella, the brothers behind Barking Irons, launched a range of jeans in three cuts and various stains and washes. They also offered their first-ever leather outerwear piece, a motorcycle jacket.

In terms of fraternal love, Barking Irons was outnumbered by Apolis Activism, a California-casual label that three surf-loving brothers from Santa Barbara created to help support children’s charities in India and Uganda.

The friends behind Fremont are sentimental about desert resorts in the ’60s, and named their label after Fremont Street in Las Vegas. But don’t expect retro, Rat Pack styling. Fremont creates a modern silhouette with spare, tailored pieces.

Capsule hosted a strong Danish contingent. Wood Wood and Won Hundred offered clean, salable sportswear. Henrik Vibskov mashed up playful accessories, sartorial fabrics and bold graphic elements. Pa:Nuu showed neon colors and a Space Invaders print. All are from Denmark, the new Belgium.

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