A fitting set of images and sentiments for today. The Boston Public Library has an incredible set of old-time winter scenes shot in and around Boston during the early 20th century. What’s piques my attention in these photographs is the fact that many of the pictured moments are so similar to those of today —from snow filled streets to a towering stack of Christmas trees— though the times are obviously vastly different. To see the packages piled high at the train depot (South Station I believe), the range of photos of people digging out from blankets of snow and the empty nighttime streets after what must have been cold hard days fill me with ideas about what life must have been like way back then.
Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to see all sorts of things being made. I’ve been to Wayne, Michigan to see a newly re-tooled and incredibly modern Ford plant, to Schaffhausen, Switzerland to see the precision watchmakers at IWC craft beautiful timepieces. I’ve seen multiple generations of tailors sitting side by side in Naples, Italy making Isaia suits almost entirely by hand using skills that look liked they took lifetimes to develop. I’ve seen jeans made in L.A., suits made in Brooklyn and boots made in Minnesota.
After all of this, what I came to discover were people who are amazingly similar even though they hail from vastly different places and backgrounds. To walk into Sunspel in Long Eaton, England and see people making cut and sew underwear was an equally astonishing and familiar pursuit. In American and England, I don’t think people expect factories like Sunspel’s to exist anymore. I for one don’t, even though I have been to so many similar types of places. (I should point out that my marketing company Paul + Williams does work on behalf of Sunspel. Full disclosure and all that good stuff.) It goes to show that people want the real thing, they want quality and they will pay for it. That’s how I feel and over the course of doing ACL I’ve discovered that there are many people out there that feel the same way.
To go against the changes in society and continue to make the highest quality in England was likely not an easy thing to do. It is like swimming upstream. It takes guts and resiliency. On top of that, it takes a lot of hard work and some luck too. The important thing to remember here is that it can be done — these things can still exist in a meaningful way. I admire Sunspel because of its heritage and history. I respect it because it didn’t just close down its factory in the Midlands and chase cheap labor to the bottom over seas. I love it because it is real.
Brothers Sandy and Emil Corsillo started The Hill-Side in 2009 with the simple idea of incorporating selvage fabrics into neckties, pocket squares and other accessories. It was, I’m guessing, one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments for a lot of people. A great idea that received a tremendous response. What began as a simple idea to put a spin on accessories, has since evolved into a bigger operation for the brothers Corsillo, a mini-menswear-empire that now includes a helluva lot of wholesale distribution (The Hill-Side is the brand I most consistently see in good shops around the world, that’s no exaggeration) an online store and the well-respected Brooklyn retail outpost Hickoree’s.
What started as an idea rooted in interesting fabrics has grown from that original concept, and it has at the same time remained focused on it. Earlier this year Hickoree’s teamed with a host of different men’s brands to produce a fifty item collaboration collection that incorporated dozens of fabrics from The Hill-Side. The emphasis on interesting fabric continues today with The Hill-Side’s special new collection of Old Virginia Modified Herringbone accessories. Made in the moonshine producing countryside of rural Virginia by a sixth generation weaver named Bob on an old loom, the collection continues The Hill-Side’s tradition of incorporating interesting and artisanal elements into its quirky offerings.
A few years ago on a trip to Seattle (before this blog was around) I stopped into the Filson flagship shop in downtown Seattle to look around and pick up something from one of America’s most rugged outfitters. I grew-up obsessing over Filson bags in Ohio via the outfitter’s ubiquitous catalogs. At one point my mother banned me from including Filson bags on my Christmas list because I had amassed an arsenal that made my bedroom look like a Filson flagship store.
If you have ever touched anything from Filson, you know that the stuff is basically indestructible. They call that quality being “over built”, which seems to be something Americans love. A lot of the bags I have had over the years are literally just now coming into their own — what I mean is, they are just now getting to the wear-point of looking partially broken-in. It’s not that Filson stuff stands the test of time, it literally drags time down by aging so slowly.