Michael Phillips Moskowitz is looking to do a bit of damage control. With his recent upstart, the authoritatively titled Bureau of Trade, he’d like to remind everyone that consumption is not always consumerism, and that genuinely sharp-minded people can also want to look sharp. Moskowitz certainly qualifies as one of them. After starting his career as a Middle East foreign policy analyst for U.S. think tanks, Moskowitz co-founded menswear label Gytha Mander and TODO Monthly magazine and spent several years at Palo Alto-based design firm IDEO.
Part style guide and part marketplace, the Bureau takes on Moskowitz’s wandering but very purposeful spirit; with its daily curated selection of goods from around the world, it’s not meant to peddle trends or police hem lengths, but rather to present visitors with a definitively worldly survey of quality options. “I’m not trying to be so prescriptive,” Moskowitz explains. “We don’t talk about Design with a capital D or Fashion with a capital F.” Instead, Bureau of Trade presents options: a vintage navy linen YSL blazer within view of both a pair of red-black-and-white Air Jordans and a more traditional a set of black leather Ferragamo loafers.
The geographic variety Moskowitz describes is just as ambitious: “It’ll be a mix of something from Tel Aviv, another in Kathmandu. Certainly a piece in Paris… Notting Hill Market in London.” He calls the site a “grand mixing scheme,” one in which the historical status of fashion capitals becomes an afterthought to today’s worldwide-web driven democracy. “The idea that you can go to Paris in the fall and witness people wearing what will be in the United States 12 to 18 months down the line just doesn’t exist anymore,” Moskowitz contends. (He was in Paris during the recent spring shows, but on strictly non-fashion-week business; the traffic to and from the runways, he says, was the only thing he saw this season.)
London, Tokyo, New York, and Paris are still Moskowitz’s favorite places to shop for men, but for different reasons: “Luxury is no longer connoted by scarcity,” he explains. “Most of the things in the world now can be obtained, but what makes one thing truly special is who made it, how it was made, when it was made, why it was made, and collectively, why it should be yours.”
These are high standards, importantly, however, the Bureau of Trade makes an institutional priority of keeping things light—a rare feat in the matrix of self-serious style blogs. Each hand-picked collection of global goods comes packaged with a brief blip of verbal wit. “Let’s not take it all so goddamn seriously,” Moskowitz offers. “I want to make you learn, I want to make you laugh, and if I can do both admirably, then I can earn permission to make you lust after merchandise that matters.”