Billykirk is what I would call a foundational brand. When a new menswear store pops up, be it a brick and mortar boutique or an e-comm behemoth, Billykirk’s bags are sure to be available right from the start. In their fifteen years (yes, fifteen) Billykirk has amassed nearly one-hundred stockists, and while that figure is certainly impressive Billykirk hasn’t had a store to call their own until now.
It was nine years ago that brothers Kirk and Chris Bray transplanted Billykirk from Los Angeles to the East Coast, establishing their headquarters in Jersey City. And now, as their business continues to expand they’ve made yet another, albeit less dramatic move, setting up their first physical shop just over the Hudson on a burgeoning street in Downtown Manhattan. While Billykirk’s leather goods will still be produced over in New Jersey and at workshops throughout the U.S., their Orchard Street location will function as a proper homebase for the brand.
There’s been so much talk about this year’s endless winter that it almost seems cruel to discuss the weather at this point, and yet as we finally begin to thaw out from this infinite freeze, we also enter into Spring’s inevitable rainy season. Without the escape brought by a car, life in the city during the rainy months requires preparation and advance planning not accustom to most men. It also offers the opportunity to a stylish and useful tool like the umbrella. We’ll leave it to The Wirecutter to obsess over price and function, and we’ll focus our efforts on style.
At thirty-five years old Drake’s London Creative Director Michael Hill is roughly the same age as the brand itself. This fact is interesting because when Hill took over as lead designer for Drake’s in 2010, he did so with the vigor and sensibilities of a man well immersed in the diversified mentality of the fervent post-millennial menswear set. Prior to assuming this principal role, Hill had apprenticed under Michael Drake himself, earning an invaluable education which primed him to assume creative control once Drake sold the company was purchased by Mark Cho of The Armoury. It has been Hill’s ability to align Drake’s tradition of incomparable accessories with his own taste for more progressive pieces that has kept Drake’s as one of the preeminent brands in the world. I had a chance to speak with Hill about the brand’s growth, both in scope and in style, as well as his personal style, the role of the internet in menswear, and the future of Drake’s.
ACL: When you took over as lead designer for Drake’s in 2010, you really took the brand to new heights, what was your mission when you assumed that position?
Michael Hill: I wanted to ensure the continuity from the previous ownership, both in terms of the quality and style of the product and our longstanding, loyal customers.Continuity was as important as anything new I wanted to do with the business and our mission was to give us some longer term stability by putting down roots in terms of our first brick and mortar store, our website and a factory fit for purpose and the coming decades. I also wanted to reassure our own staff as well, as I was relatively young when I took over the company.
As a brand that has truly mastered the art of producing exceptional cashmere accessories, this is what we take to be the Begg & Co philosophy. Begg & Co’s collections do not run rampant with superfluous designs, inadequate ideas, or overcomplicated pieces, instead they favor a streamlined, hyper focused approach to their products. Since 1866 Begg & Co has called Scotland home, producing nothing but cashmere scarves and throws for nearly one-hundred-fifty years.
In sticking to what they know best, Begg & Co have been able to create one of the widest, and most aesthetically appealing array of scarves we’ve ever come across. While the larger scope of their scarf and blanket collections is impressive, its product is best understood when it’s in your hands, and if you want to experience that, you’ll just have to pick one up for yourself. —JG
Topo Designs was founded in 2008, which would make them something like Woolrich’s great-great-great-great-grandson, but there’s no doubt that both brands are made of similar DNA. While they were started on opposite sides of the country in separate centuries, both Topo Designs and Woolrich have been integral to their respective epochs when it comes to guiding the look of functional outerwear. It’s for this reason that the Topo Designs x Woolrich collection feels less like something designed and more like something that just happened naturally.
In Topo’s Colorado factory, Woolrich’s buffalo checked plaids and pea coat weight wools have been converted into a collection that adds something new to the Topo roster, without detracting from the original spirit of either brand. These woodsy Woolrich patterns lend themselves perfectly to the clean look of Topo’s bags, pairing Topo’s innovative designs with Woolrich’s enduring aesthetic
The demise of Detroit has been widely documented, almost to the point of nausea. I grew up hearing a similar song in Cleveland. If you live there or are from there, it makes you want to fight even harder. I can understand how Detroit feels; that underdog spirit is what makes me fly the Cuyahoga flag high every chance I get.
What’s crazy is what is really going on in the Motor City. There’s a beginning of change and some pretty astonishing things are happening. The road is long, but the desire to rebuild is there. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to this great American city.
A few years ago Steven Alan (the man) introduced me to a few guys who had an ambitious plan to start making watches, bicycles, leather goods under the long mothballed shoe-polish brand Shinola. As much of the product as possible would be made in America, that’s what they told me. Made in Detroit to be specific. To say I was intrigued was an understatement. They asked me to come out to Detroit a few years ago (early on in this process) to see everything, but as I often do with brands I wanted to wait a bit and wait and see what was going to happen. It’s easy to talk the talk, it’s hard to actually make these kinds of things happen.
The good people of Garrett Leight recently produced a campaign video that focuses on The Harding, one of the California opticians most popular styles. The frame design and the accompanying video was inspired by the stylish playwright Arthur Miller, a man who possessed stellar taste in both eye-wear and women. As a company, Garrett Leight has been doing good things of late. It seems to be a bit of an anomaly in the eye-wear world as one of the few little guys around. The frames themselves have always been intriguing to me, especially the U.S. made collaboration glasses it did with my good friend Mark McNairy.
A while back I happened to be in LA the same week the company’s shop on La Brea opened and I really like how the brand is expressed at retail. It all feels very unique and I have to say that to me it feels like almost everything Garrett Leight touches is impressively done. I had a chance to catch up with Garrett himself and talk to him about Arthur Miller, their shared appreciation of handsome glasses and this new series of short campaign videos. The full conversation is after the jump.
ACL: What was the inspiration behind these spots?
Garrett Leight: Funny enough, I am actually answering this last because it took me a while to think about it. But the true answer is Steve Jobs. That book and further research after reading that book changed me. Yes I’m a designer, but more than that I want to change the world. And even if its just through creating an eyewear brand for now, its important that people know how passionate I am about our designs, our quality, and our business in general. Our whole team is very inspired, so this is just the beginning in terms of showing what kind of people inspire us, specifically in regards to frame design in this case. Furthermore, I was a journalism major, so I love using my words, and I just feel like a video in some ways is more powerful than the photography in our look books, especially with today’s average attention span.