Everyone knows the old joke: "What's a surefire way to make money in Las Vegas?"
"Invest in the casinos!" Nonetheless, once a year for the past twenty years I meet my childhood friend Rob Lefko in Las Vegas for a weekend of high-powered meditation.
Rob meditates on the craps tables; I meditate on the roulette wheels; and we meet up at the buffet to test who has become more financially enlightened (meaning whose wallets is now lighter).
I mention this only because the half hour pitstop that I make during the drive from Santa Monica to Las Vegas constitutes 95% of the time that I spend shopping for clothing every year. I stop at the outlet mall in Barstow and buy 2 pair of Levis jeans, 3 white button-down shirts, 5 white t-shirts, 5 black or blue t-shirts, a gray sweater and 10 pairs of boxers from the GAP or Banana Republic, and then a dozen black and dozen white pairs of socks from whomever has them on sale. I have a few nice dinner jackets that a buddy gave me and under those jackets neatly fits the contraband from my yearly thirty minute excursion to scenic Barstow California.
When it comes to fashion, I am completely ignorant. I have been wearing the exact same outfit for thirty years every day whether I go to the symphony or Chipotle. I'm not bragging. I mean, OCD is not really anything to brag about - is it? Come over with a bottle of wine and I'll talk your ears off for days about music, painting, literature, film, psychology, philosophy, politics, and spirituality.
But fashion is one of the infinite subjects that I know nothing about.
And until recently, I did not care.
That is, until I watched John Oliver's amazing exposé on trendy, cheap outlet mall-type clothing wherein Oliver claims that the chairman of H&M is the 28th richest person in the world and the co-founder of Zara is the 4th richest person in the world. Mostly due to the fact that only 2% of the clothing we wear in this country is produced in the United States and the rest is produced around the world in... uh... what should I call them? uh... I think the word is "sweatshops."
Now the Republican attitude towards this form of virulent capitalism is, "Hey, if we weren't exploiting these poor bastards they would just be lying around in the dirt... so this is clearly a win-win situation!" Other humans have this thing called a "conscience" and feel that people should get paid for an honest day's work, as they did once upon a time with the now extinct métier of "Writer."
I recalled meeting young woman at a party last year who told me that she made jeans in Los Angeles so I contacted her through Facebook and asked, "I know that Steve Jobs famously told President Obama that he wouldn't manufacture iPhones in the United States because it would detract from the mere $47 billion dollars of net profit that Apple earns per year, but what makes it so difficult to produce clothing here?"
Diana Keinejad, who immigrated here from Norway, told me, "I wanted to combine European and American styles to create the perfect fit but with the highest quality denim possible. I felt there was a lack of great-fitting jeans for men out there so I decided to start from scratch. And I also wanted to help the American economy because it seemed as if all of the major labels were making their brands in China or Mexico to earn more profit. But I am committed to staying true to helping our country. All of the hardworking people at our factories in Los Angeles are a part of making the jeans come together and they deserve to get paid fairly. Obviously I can't make jeans as cheaply as H&M but I'm committed to the highest quality possible. I consider my jeans to be "couture" since each pair is hand sanded by different procedures according to the specific styles."
I remembered my boss Marc Silag in 1989 saying, "Pay peanuts, get monkeys," so I decided to go to Saks to see if I could really tell any difference between my Levis that are made somewhere in Asia and Diana's jeans that are made here in Los Angeles.
Lo and behold, I have to say that Keinejad jeans fit completely differently from Levis - they are much more comfortable and give in all the right places.