The Stylistic brings you conversations about art, fashion and lifestyle with a variety of interesting men of size. Today we talk to designer, author, and one of the minds behind bearFLAVOURED – Florence, Italy’s Aki Choklat.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? My Name is Aki Choklat. I am a menswear, footwear, and accessories designer, lecturer and author. I am originally from Finland, but now divide my life between London, UK and Florence, Italy. I design my own private footwear collection and collaborate with international brands. I am also a course director of the Fashion Trend Forecasting Masters Program at Polimoda in Italy. I have written three books, and currently I am working on a fourth book.
How did BearFLAVOURED come to be? I had an idea with my dear friend and colleague Christian Trippe (he is in charge of all my graphics) to do a book that celebrated the new gay male ideal and the Bear subculture, and its connection to arts and design. We just wanted to show that there is more to the culture than meets the eye, and we are very proud of this [now out of print] book. It was wonderful how the book was also embraced by mainstream culture; it was sold in some amazing shops, such as the Corner in Berlin (while displayed next to Valentino dresses). We now have decided to re-create Bearflavoured as a social media platform to present our interests, still focusing on masculine ideas.
You have an amazing sense of style, and it seems like you’re able to adapt it to fit with a variety of situations. Have you always been interested in fashion? How did your style evolve to where it is today? Thank you. I don’t really know if I have a particular style…I am literally expressing my mood of the day. To be totally honest, I really like this game of ‘dress-up’. In fashion, the running joke is that everyone always wears black…so I try not to. One day when I DID go to work wearing black, all my colleagues we so excited, saying how great I looked in black.
Once I wore barbie pink shoes with Yves Klein Blue trousers…. An older lady walking in my direction saw me, looked at my shoes, and “crossed” herself!…but I do like when people react. We need to break out from the boring uniform of contemporary dress…Luckily, I don’t have to spend a lot of money on clothing, since I can keep many of my own samples. I have been interested in fashion ever since I can remember. My grandmother was a seamstress, so I learned to sew at a very early age…also, she used to make my designs, including a fabulous 1982 jersey bat-sleeve dress I designed for my mom…Very Scandinavian minimalist with a touch of Bob Mackie. My father dresses in what ever he can find at flea markets (he’s a painter and a bit eccentric). He doesn’t care if its a shirt for men or women as long as it makes him feel good. He also has a taste for animal print clothing.
Lately, my personal style has certainly been influenced by living in Italy…I like the older gentlemen I see in Florence. They inspire me, or maybe I have just become one of them…Sometimes their style is totally timeless, and sometimes they are a little crazy. There is one guy at my local market in his 80s. He always wears tweed outfits and yellow Vuarnet sunglasses.
Are there any trends in men’s fashion you’re seeing right now that you really like? Or dislike, for that matter? I like that men can and have started to express themselves more. Fashion has become more democratic and less elite. Street style photography has largely made this possible; anyone can become a style icon (for free), as long as you have something interesting to say with your clothes. In fact we have started to coverPitti Uomo, a leading menswear trade fair, in Bearflavoured with a focus on the larger guy. So this trend of individualism or being anti-trends is refreshing.
What I do not like is the casualisation of dress in general, and blurring of the lines between home sleepwear and streetwear. I was in a hotel once in NYC, and this family came into the executive breakfast room in their pajama bottoms (including the adults). I rebelled the next morning and wore a tuxedo to breakfast.