It’s a fine line between being “authentic” and simply playing dress up. Yet, if there’s ever been a label that’s hit that golden sweet spot between these two concepts it’s England’s North Sea Clothing. While we’ve followed and worn North Sea for some time, we got another chance to marvel at the brand’s bullet proof collection first hand in London a few weeks back at the Pop Up Flea and it was a reminder as to just how good this stuff is.
One of the most interesting stories of the past couple years has been the unexpected marriage of streetwear and workwear, two once disparate styles that now seem to butt up against each other at every possible opportunity. This relationship has lead to many unlikely collaborations and collections, but few, if any, have been executed as masterfully as Carhartt Work in Progresses’ new Over All Master Cloth line. The collection, which was conceived by Carhartt’s well-known European licensee, and designed by a former head designer of Supreme, takes the centurion workwear brand into uncharted territory.
You won’t find any camel colored zip-ups here, as those signature duck canvas jackets have been replaced by Harris Tweed chore jackets, and Loro Piana suits. The traditional workwear look remains, if only as the foundation for O.A.M.C., which uses Carhartt classics as a starting point before delving into the world of high-end streetwear. The result is a collection in which thick-soled derby’s are constructed out of Bison leather, chore jackets are crafted in dark canvas colors, oxfords are affixed with contrasting shooting patches, and sport coats are cut from duck camo wools.
A few months ago I took a trip to visit Patagonia to get a look at the Ventura-based brand’s new Legacy Collection capsule. I also got a chance to see a lot of awesome archival Patagonia stuff, which was worth the trip right there. But what I really learned that day (which I spoke a bit about in my previous post about the company), was how thought-provoking it was to see the Patagonia culture first hand. Being there and learning about the company’s values pushed me to think long and hard about my own values and to think about how a company can find success through two simple ideas: 1. Be committed to your values (act accordingly) and 2. Doing things differently can be the key to success.
These aren’t the only keys to Patagonia’s success, but they are the things that stand out to me. While I went to Ventura specifically to look at a clothing collection, I left with much more than just photos of the archival products (though that stuff is great as you can see below). I walked away with my mind racing, thinking about how to live my life, how to run a business and how to generally be happy. This year I have also spent time at Nike, Dreamworks, Google and various other large and small companies — all the while thinking about the role a company’s culture can impact personal success and overall happiness. Having worked for myself for the past 9 years I’ve pushed hard to build a successful professional life. At the same time, I’ve worked hard to take the time to actually enjoy my life and be happy. This was possible sometimes, and at other times it was completely impossible. But all of this energy directed at finding happiness and success at work and outside of work made be a strong believer in the importance of a positive culture.
There’s an inherent risk in trying to infuse life into an old brand with a lot of history. This is exactly the challenge for the team at Italy’s WP Lavori as they attempt to pump some life into the crusty English outwear brand Baracuta. The classic coat maker and it’s famous “Harrington” jacket have played a role in the style of almost every British generation and cultural movement since they were introduced in an industrialized pre-war Manchester. Eventually, the skilled Bologna-based WP group took control of the brand and have set out to update and modernize the collection. With so many good projects under its belt –Woolrich Woolen Mills, the original Barbour Beacon range and everything ever done with ToKiTo— I’d say WP is up to the task.
While the brand was acquired a few seasons ago, it wasn’t until this SS14 season that we started to see some action in the collection. The G9 got color blocked, garment dyed and militarized bringing some change to an iconic jacket that was previously frozen in time. All of these new versions are being introduced, but the originals have remained intact. So if you are one of those people who hates change, then you don’t have to worry.
Launched this fall, Eidos is a recent addition to the Isaia family. The collection represents much of the Italian style that has ascended Isaia to cult status among those with an appreciation for fine tailoring. Though similar to its older sibling, the collection is focused more on a younger guy. Not to say that the target is young per se, Eidos is for those that love what Isaia offers in terms of style, but hasn’t necessarily graduated to that level quite yet.
The good news is, Eidos is priced below main-line Isaia and there’s not huge a sacrifice of quality. The collection is made entirely in Italy at another of company’s factories that is located between Naples and Rome. The higher-priced Isaia collection is made entirely at company’s original manufacture (which played host to me a while back) just outside of Naples. Regardless of where they are made, both offer great tailoring that is made with a high level of attention to detail.
The first place I visited after arriving in Stockholm (with the exception of my hotel) was the men’s shop Rose & Born. The weather in Stockholm that day was sunny, clear and warm —an altogether perfect day in Scandinavia. The enjoyable conditions outside didn’t seem to hold back the steady stream of men stopping into Rose & Born to browse the new fall arrivals, check in for their second fittings and generally shop the nice assortment of men’s clothing and accessories.
After a few minutes browsing, I approached one of the guys on duty and asked if it would be okay if I took a few photos for my website. This is always a tricky moment for me — to have to be the guy who says publicly that “I have a blog” and wait for the reaction. Honestly, at this point, it is sort of painful for me to even ask, because there are so many embarrassing-blog-hucksters in the world. Thankfully the guys working at Rose & Born knew ACL and they were gracious in allowing me any photos I wanted. Those kinds of situations can go either way, I’ve been denied more than a few times and it is never that much fun.
Interestingly enough, the Rose & Born blog and magazine has gained this otherwise small shop a bit of a cult following with guys not just in Stockholm, but all over the world. It’s amazing when that happens, how the internet can help revel the great things that are out there. Take a look at the editorial that the shop produces and you’ll get why everyone likes Rose & Born so much. Not only do they have great taste in clothing, they can communicate that finely tuned sense of style through editorial — as a small independent shop no less. It’s nothing short of remarkable.
What began at J.Crew’s first men’s only shop in TriBeCa takes a new shape this fall with the launch of the label’s new Discovered online shop. “Discovered” is a tightly knit selection of interesting goods from both the J.Crew collection which also includes special product collaborations from outside brands like New Balance, Nanamica and other covet-able clothing of all stripes. Before we get talk more about that, let’s go back to the origins of the J.Crew brand collaborations: Mickey Drexler and The Liquor Store.
Watching all of this develop over the past several years, it’s smart the way J.Crew brings in product from outside brands to mix with all of the apparel that it designs, manufactures and sells under its own label. It’s a realistic approach to how guys dress. Alden, New Balance and Red Wing are the natural footwear compliments to a pair of J.Crew’s khakis, wovens and other clothing categories. So why not leverage the company’s brand to get all of these other interesting labels to make compelling product exclusively for J.Crew. Ships, Beams and United Arrows have mastered this as an art form long ago. So have a bunch of directional specialty stores.
The model is the same: use the cool factor of the brand/store to get cool exclusives to further build on the brand/store’s cool factor. In terms of vertical American retailers, no one does the third-party product assortment better than J.Crew. It’s the culmination of good leadership, effective merchandising, smart retail execution and sharp marketing all-together in one place. Throw in the catalog (which they now call the “Style Guide”) and collaborating with J.Crew is a no-brainer for both small and large brands alike.