Made In The USA | A Continuous Lean.

Birdwell Flies High.

Nov 24th, 2014 | Categories: Americana, California, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

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If by chance you have flown to Orange County recently you may have noticed an American surf icon staring at you as you float down towards John Wayne Airport. Seeing “Birdie” Birdwell on a factory roof should come as a surprise if you know anything about this sleepy SoCal surf brand.

Just as surprising as it must have been to scroll through Instagram and discover Birdie adorned to a mobile surf shop in Southern California this summer. Also, wait, Birdwell is on Instagram? The question you should be asking yourself is: What is happening at Birdwell? For any other brand this wouldn’t really mean much at all, but for Birdwell this is tantamount to a revolution.

Birdwell Beach Britches is one of the most storied and iconic California surf brands that has ever been. It’s authentic, still entirely manufactured in the U.S. (largely to the original specs) and it possesses a certain charm that can’t seem be replicated in modern brands. It took decades of being family owned and utterly resistant to change for the Birdwell quirkiness to resonate, ultimately giving the brand a cult following. Over the years surfers, lifeguards, beachgoers and the like fell in love with Birdwell and came to swear by the product for the quality and durability. Others, like me connected with Birdwell because it is so distinctly American and a time capsule of a brand.

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The Unconventional Waltzing Matilda.

Nov 12th, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Jake Gallagher, Made in the USA | by Jake Gallagher

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Mike Balitsaris of Waltzing Matilda used to buy toilet factories, but now he’s busy eyeing shoe factories. He’s journeyed from rust belt factories to a Nebraska mine to a Cupertino boardroom to a former shoe factory in Maine, but his goal has always remained the same. Baltisaris sees the potential for creating great things, and creating them right here in America, with all that he does. After a serendipitous moment in Red Wing, Minnesota he founded Waltzing Matilda and has been crafting bags, shoes, belts, and other accessories ever since.  A supremely interesting and extremely likeable guy, Mike never set out to create a collection. (Full disclosure, Paul + Williams advises and represents Waltzing Matilda.) All of the product was born originally out of a specific need or a desire for things of a certain quality.  What began as a hand-made bag and a pair of sandals has evolved into a collection and a brand with more than its fair share of personality.

As our conversation revealed Baltisaris’ story is as winding as it is fascinating, and it’s impossible to predict what lies ahead for Baltisaris or Waltzing Matilda. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

ACL: To begin, I understand that you have pretty interesting backstory, so what were you working on before Waltzing Matilda?

MB: Most recently for the last fifteen years, I hired on with a group of likeminded individuals, it had started off as real estate but we didn’t like to take farms and fields and get them redeveloped and put office buildings up. We would go around to rustbelt cities and find these unbelievable projects. Old factories and lofts with good bones. We always called it “taking field trips,” and we’d go in and look at the bones of the buildings and we’d work something out where we could figure out how to buy it by getting tenets to go in. We actually would make a deal with the owner to give us time to be able to find a tenant for it, cause none of us had any money.

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The Athletic Brand For Non-Athletes

Nov 10th, 2014 | Categories: Jake Gallagher, Made in the USA, Menswear, Sports | by Jake Gallagher

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Does a daily jogger really need the same gear as a marathon runner? Does a biker in the city really need to dress like he’s in the Tour de France? Are gym clothes supposed to look like they were developed by Nasa?

From Andrew Parietti’s perspective the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. Parietti, along with his business partner and founder Tyler Haney, created Outdoor Voices, an American made athletic-wear brand for non-athletes. The duo, like most of us, enjoy exercise but were tired of the overwrought work out gear which most activewear companies push out today.

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One of One | Custom New Balance 990s

Oct 16th, 2014 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA, Sponsored Post | by Michael Williams

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New Balance understands you. The American sneaker brand knows you appreciate the classic style of the 990, and they know that you couldn’t possibly wear the same shoes as everyone else. In a world of ubiquitous style this is an important development for us all. Utilizing the New Balance factory in Maine, you can now turn-around a custom pair of 990s in a little over a week from sewing machine to the street. That’s a good development because we don’t off the shelf shoes and no one wants to wait too long for their one of ones.

To some people designing their own shoes presents a major challenge. It’s often easy to know what you like and to know what you don’t, but the sheer number of options can cause a paralysis of sorts. New Balance coaxes things along with a gallery of base-designs that make it easier to understand the possibilities. Once you get into the process it becomes difficult to see how just one pair is going to be enough. Onward to the 990 customization montage.

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A Conversation with Club Monaco’s Aaron Levine.

Sep 30th, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Made in the USA, Menswear | by ACL Editors

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“Nothing can be precious.” That’s how Aaron Levine, the Vice President of Men’s Design at Club Monaco, sums up his personal style, but during our discussion I came to realize that this was actually how Aaron views his work as a whole. Club Monaco is no longer the small brand it once was, yet Levine continues to steer the ship as if it were a schooner, and not a barge. He forges ahead, taking the brand into uncharted territory, while all the while maintaining the balance of the brand so as to not tip the whole thing over.

Sure, Levine’s time at (comparatively) smaller labels like Rogue’s Gallery, Hickey, and Jack Spade has certainly influenced this agile approach, but Levine seems to revel in the actual work that goes into creating each collection. Club Monaco (who we should say, is a client of Paul + Williams) has evolved significantly in the three-plus years that Levine has been at the company, but he still finds himself squarely in the trenches, and there’s no other place he’d rather be. We spoke with Levine about this design approach, the way in which menswear has changed, Club’s Made in America initiatives, and even Belgian Shoes.

ACL: You’ve been designing for Club Monaco for three years now, in that time how do you think men’s design has changed at the brand overall?

Aaron Levine: Overall, men’s design has changed in the last, it’s almost three and a half years now, it has changed in that time in terms of, we have upgraded fabrics, we’ve upgraded materials, we’ve upgraded trim, we’ve upgraded and recalibrated fits, and then on top of everything we have cleaned up and edited and honed the aesthetic. So, it really has grown up over the last three and a half years.

ACL: With you saying that about better materials, better quality, and considering your background was at smaller brands at a time when quality became really important, is that something that guides your design at the start?

AL: No. You accrue information and you hone your eye and hone your abilities as you get older and the longer you do it. I think sometimes maybe that’s the starting point, it’s definitely thought of, but I think in terms of when I first sit down and I start to develop a collection, I start at the top with what I want it to say overall. And then as you get into it there are places where you’re pushing more experimental pieces and then maybe there’s places where you’re pushing superb quality, like in tailored clothing.





Spanning the Map with Battenwear SS ’15

Sep 25th, 2014 | Categories: Jake Gallagher, Made in the USA, Menswear, New York City | by Jake Gallagher

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On the left side of the Battenwear showroom hangs a vintage elementary school map of the United States, with each adjoining state painted in a different shade. You might recall a hanging such as this from your childhood days behind the desk, but in Battenwear’s showroom the map appears less like an educational artifact and more like a representative collage of America’s distinct yet interconnected territories. I tend to think of Battenwear in similar terms, as a brand that revels in the open flow of American style while celebrating regional quirks.

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The Grey Crewneck | Essentially Essential

Sep 23rd, 2014 | Categories: Americana, Fall, Jake Gallagher, Made in the USA, Menswear | by Jake Gallagher

On the set of Sometimes a Great Notion

Here at ACL, we prefer recommendations to requisites. The term essentials, as we’ve waxed on before, is criminally overused these days, and so we try to adhere to the rule that nothing we cover is so vital that everyone positively must own it.

Except in this case.

Everyone, regardless of gender, regardless of age, regardless of style, could use a grey crewneck sweatshirt. Over, under, up, down, across, through, no matter how you may wear it a grey crewneck is, dare we say it, yes, an essential.