The opening of Rei Kawakubo’s latest Dover Street Market in downtown LA is just one starry part of the city’s shopping renaissance. Recently the Silver Lake and Venice neighbourhoods have also gained exciting new independent shops.
To mark its 10th anniversary in December, multi-brand LA retailer Mohawk General Store entered expansion mode. The shop’s in-house label, Smock, is its bestseller, so founders Kevin and Bo Carney have given the line a freestanding outlet, nestled between Mohawk’s men’s and women’s boutiques in Silver Lake. The new shop, designed in collaboration with local architect Hervé Daridan, resembles the apartment of an east LA creative type: distressed cedar planks and Venetian plaster walls offset the loose-fit, utilitarian-chic clothes designed by the Carneys and produced in Tokyo and Okayama with Japanese fabrics.
The shop’s low-key vibe belies serious ambition. Many multi-brand shops have in-house labels but it’s rare for such labels to gain a dedicated retail space. Smock’s growth is partly driven by standard direct-to-consumer logic (higher profit margins and more control over how the brand is presented). But the creation of Smock shops (others are planned) also allows the Carneys to expand their retail footprint without “politics and potential conflicts” with other existing retailers who carry the same third-party brands as Mohawk (such as Dries Van Noten and Engineered Garments).
“Mohawk General Store isn’t trying to be in New York or Tokyo,” says Kevin. “But we could open a Smock store anywhere. The product is easy to understand in any market and there’s no conflict because no accounts have Smock; it’s controlled by us.”
“I remember getting a Gore-Tex jacket when I was a child and it being the most important thing I ever owned,” says UK designer Jonathan Anderson, who helms Spanish house Loewe. “I’ve been obsessed with Gore-Tex ever since.”
The waterproof fabric was the starting point for Anderson’s new Loewe project: a men’s outdoor line that launched in January. The Eye Loewe Nature collection further cements outdoorwear’s rise to a new-found fashionable status after hiking brands such as The North Face and Karrimor appeared on men’s runways recently. It features canvas backpacks, cotton combat shorts and hiking boots with orange laces. “It’s taken us two-and-a-half years to put together,” says Anderson, adding that the line is inspired by the clothes his brother would wear.
When Tod’s wanted to create a new sporty model, it turned to Korean designer Yong Bae Seok. Yong’s “Shoeker” combines the casualness of a trainer with fine Italian craftsmanship usually associated with leather lace-ups. It’s also highly technical. “I’m inspired by the car industry; they are very advanced in their use of new materials and technology,” says Yong, who studied car design in Seoul before moving into footwear. The soles of the Shoeker 02 (pictured) are made from rubber and eva for a firm grip. “During the moulding phase the dimensions are set at 20 per cent below the final size; the foam then expands like popcorn,” says Yong.
There’s a hint of Phoebe Philo-era Céline in Daniel Lee’s first releases for Bottega Veneta. These bags – the Maxi Cabat and the Pouch – from the Italian house’s new creative director have an understated feminine aesthetic.
New York brand District Vision has been setting the pace with its sporty eyewear for several years and now it’s moving into clothing. The Air-wear line of running tops includes long-sleeved numbers, T-shirts and these race singlets, all made in California from a fabric that enhances air flow.
One of the most sustainable fashion choices you can make is to go shopping: visiting a physical retailer instead of ordering online saves the single-use packing materials and fuel used to deliver clothes to your door. That was part of the impetus for the unisex sustainable brand Olderbrother – which is based between LA and Portland, Oregon –to open its first shop. When customers enter the converted 1940s bungalow in LA’s Venice they’ll find easy designs – including blazers, rugby tops and boxy shirts – made from eco-friendly Japanese textiles (including rice paper) and using natural dyes. Much of the current collection gets its distinctive dusky brown colour from chaga mushrooms.
Co-founder Bobby Bonaparte says that in addition to “minimising carbon footprint” the shop allows him and partner Max Kingery to create a retail environment that “mirrors Olderbrother’s seasonal concept, like the seasonal menu at farm-to-table restaurants”. Inspired by the brand’s current choice of dye, the duo “went down the mushroom rabbit hole”: they created a mushroom terrarium that occupies the middle of the shop and used insulating tiles that were grown using mushrooms. Farm-to-shop fashion at its finest.
It’s a strange thing that when you spot someone wearing a particularly unattractive item of clothing, they could be one of two very different people. They could be a dorky type who doesn’t give a fig about how they look – or they could be a fashionista who cares very deeply. These two poles often wear similar things.
This is because the fashion world has long been infatuated with the ugly and awkward. It’s about pushing the boundaries of what is aesthetically attractive and interesting. Pretty things can only sustain interest for so long. Key, of course, is being in the know and wearing these items with a sense of irony.
As well as the bulky trainer movement, the past decade has seen trends including “normcore” (ie dress in remarkably unremarkable items, such as The North Face fleeces), dad jeans and Ugg boots. Growing up, Reef sandals were just about the most hideous thing you could wear; Japan’s Suicoke is now a highly fashionable brand, with its Velcro sandals that riff on Reefs.
As we dive into 2019 I thought I’d investigate what will be the next unsightly item that fashionistas will covet. The answer, it seems, lies in headwear. “The current beret trend is something that has stirred up a lot of emotion among stylish people in Stockholm,” says Erik Danielson, head of buying for Nitty Gritty in the Swedish capital. Berets recall art students, military uniforms and utilitarian Basque attire. There is something deeply unsexy about them; I’d be getting emotional too if I had to wear one.
“The revival of styles from the 1990s such as the shell suits from Gucci, are really driving this trend,” says Dean Cook, menswear buying manager at London’s Browns. “For me, the next big statement piece will be the bucket hat.” This I can get on board with. If you spy a gangly Aussie wearing a bucket hat in Hackney, he’s not clueless – he’s trying to be trendy.