Title of Work occupies the space where fashion, art, and science converge. And now, the established menswear accessories line takes its innovation into the realm of politics in the age of Trump.
“I think it’s important, in the kind of luxury collection I’m creating, that every piece is made by one individual by hand,” Jonathan Meizler says of his label, Title of Work. Every item from this season’s “Dirty Words” was made by hand in the brand’s New York atelier. The intricate embroidery and beading, jewelry—it’s all crafted by hand, creating a careful, high-quality appeal throughout the line.
So when you look at the silk and cotton scarves, custom-printed in Como, Italy, all you see is pristine craftsmanship and a luxury appeal. You’d never know from their finely tuned, luxe exteriors that they unfold to reveal the words “MOTHER FUCKER” in large print.
And suddenly it’s clear where the name “Dirty Words” came from. In fact, every piece in the collection is not as delicate as it looks at a first glance. The beautiful embroideries are actually arranged to read phrases such as “fuck” or “dirty bitch;” prints that look harmless at first are in reality subtle vulgarities, and jewelry pieces that seem like geometric forms are well-hidden obscenities.
The concept for “Dirty Words” arose out of the confusing and shifting political climate our country has seen over the past two years. “It was a reaction to the whole electoral process and my frustration with not only the concept of right and left, but it was really about the breakdown of morality in the US,” Meizler explains. “And the breakdown of truthfulness as well. When you don’t have truth, it’s moral decay. Everything turns into chaos. I found that very frustrating and it came out in this creative process.”
With our somewhat fair yet aggravating two-party system in the United States, our federal administration is always pushed back and forth. After eight years under Obama’s liberal administration, it isn’t much of a surprise that a conservative president was voted in. But the fact that it was an outspoken billionaire reality TV personality shocked almost everyone, republican or democrat.
There’s no argument that President Trump uses crude language. He admitted to saying the words “grab ’em by the pussy” in a 2005 recording that was made public during his campaign, referred to any NFL player who disrespected the American flag as a “son of a bitch,” and called Chinese citizens “mother fuckers.” Trump’s use of obscenities detracts from any accomplishments made during his first year in office. His dirty words change the conversation around his presidency; we discuss Trump’s vulgarity rather than his work in fighting terrorism and the economic growth his measures have encouraged.
“Dirty Words” observes profanities and aims to deconstruct these words in attempt to understand what gives them power. “In our universe of alternative facts, the truthfulness that unites both the left and right, in my perception, is unfortunately dirty words,” Meizler says. “The commonality of a ‘mother fucker’ to the left, no matter how you twist it, means the same thing as a ‘mother fucker’ to the right. So if we start establishing these kinds of definitions, then we can all be on the same page as to what truthfulness actually means.”
A thoughtful response to politics, “Dirty Words” does more than just regurgitate the profanities spat out during the 2016 presidential campaigns. Title of Work uses the collection to contemplate whether a charged word has the same harsh, powerful meaning when displayed in a beautiful manner. It dismantles and interprets many ideas brought forth by the recent electoral process: there are ties with the first amendment written out and necklaces that read “proud immigrant.”
This contrast between the harsh and the celebratory or the provocative and the subtle is intentional on Title of Work’s part. “In order to see the brightest of the bright, you have to go through the darkest of the dark,” Meizler says. “The darker you go, the lighter you can see sometimes.” “Dirty Words” is not alone in its search for balance—every collection begins with a concept that seeks to merge converging ideas. Title of Work is more than a fashion brand. Rather, it’s a seasonal producer of wearable, collectible artwork.
“I didn’t want to have a traditional menswear brand. The market is so oversaturated in both men’s and women’s, and accessories as well,” Meizler says. “There’s too much product out there and there’s too much noise out there. So I needed to be very specific about what I wanted to create to avoid being in the freight of all that noise.” An experienced designer, Meizler had conventional womenswear and menswear lines, before transitioning into his more niche Title of Work in 2011. “I wanted to bring the worlds, my background of being an artist and a designer, together.”
The conceptual realizations behind each Title of Work collection goes hand-in-hand with the high quality Meizler ensures in its production. The work holds value in meaning and must therefore convey that value through its quality. “Style is subjective, craftsmanship is objective,” Meizler recites. “When there’s integrity in a brand or in a product, I think that you need to stand behind that. That’s really what [I] have to live by, as both a human and as a designer.”
He also hopes that his accessories will elicit emotions with their wearers, as art does for its owner. “Everyone will have a different relationship with a piece. And in an artistic piece, an artist or a designer has a relationship with the piece and it’s up to whoever purchases that piece to have their own relationship with it. I think that’s the beauty of purchasing any kind of artistic item.”
Title of Work only creates accessories, mostly menswear, though around 95% of the line is gender fluid. The smaller product range allows Meizler more freedom in creativity. “The idea came about on using the tie as a canvas,” he explains. “Every season, the necktie is a 2.5 by 58-inch canvas that I’m able to explore and play with new ideas on season to season. And that gave me this creative license to go into every different concept.” He explains that no matter how varied each collection might be, the tie is the thread that artistically sews each season together. “It keeps me motivated and inspired season to season.”
In its aim to merge ideas, the brand has gone where no fashion brand has gone before: outer space. More accurately, Title of Work collaborated with NASA last season in the brand’s ongoing attempt to find artistic value in scientific fact. “They loved the idea that someone in fashion reached out to them, because I don’t think anyone ever has,” Meizler recalls. The designer found his initial inspiration for Fall 2017’s “Mars” collection from a black and white photo book, and his journey to learn more brought him to NASA. The collaboration allowed Title of Work the rights to seven images of Mars from NASA’s high res camera, which were printed on scarves.
This season’s “Dirty Words” line is another step in Title of Work’s quest to find balance and understanding in the world. Yet this collection goes a step further than past concepts, as it is the first to partner with a retail installation.
Cadillac House and the CFDA partnered to create a retail lab for brands without flagship spaces to experiment in retail, giving each brand a three-month residency. Title of Work was invited to occupy the space from February through April, making the space all about “Dirty Words.”
Though the label doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar retail location, Meizler had kept a store in LA for seven years with his previous brand. “I’m very familiar with the retail experience and the concept that when you have a brand, you need to make sure that you have that full story of the brand,” he explains. And the full story of Title of Work is told throughout its pop up space in Cadillac House.
The brand played up the Pop Art-like aesthetic of the current collection when designing the space, placing its large red dot logo in the center of the room as a focal point. Artisan collaborations exclusive to the retail pop up are strategically placed within that epicenter, and the dirty words of the Spring 2018 collection are on display around the dot.
But the most remarkable and on-brand element of Title of Work’s retail concept is its sensory cell. Meizler explains, “Basically, it’s a correlation between the senses and potentially charged words, examined in a controlled environment to question one’s perception on the meaning of obscenities… So through the senses, if someone says to you a politically charged word, let’s say ‘mother fucker,’ if they said it to you nicely or not nicely, would it mean the same thing?”
Inside the sensory cell, an audio recording plays all sorts of dirty words, recited in different voices and with different intonations. The tones range from joyful to angry, covering every emotion in between. There are also five plaques along the back wall that emit scents, each constructed to stimulate a different feeling: tranquility, misery, innocence, violence, and optimism. The purpose of this installation is to explore how we interpret words with different sensory variables.
With the quality and concepts behind Title of Work’s products, brick-and-mortar retail is a beneficial concept to the brand. Despite the tendency today’s consumer feels towards e-commerce, there will always be a place for seeing and experiencing a product before purchase. Meizler acknowledges this and agrees that this type of retail concept can help advance the Title of Work mission, allowing the brand another channel in which to explore and interpret the concepts studies in each collection. The brand is considering the idea of opening a flagship, “possibly sooner rather than later.” Meizler says, “I think that we’re on a good trajectory right now and moving forward. It’s a good space to be in.”