See more photos here.
What a packed weekend it has been! But man, how awesome too. Amongst the activities partaken was a visit to the San Francisco installation of Northern Grade, a menswear pop-up event hosted by GILT and the awesome folks at Pierrepont Hicks. Between the beautifully-crafted goods, and the friends who tagged along, and being in the midst of some seriously talented & passionate people, it was most definitely a slice of menswear heaven.
In comparison to previous installations in Los Angeles and Nashville, San Francisco was a bit on the small side: not as many vendors, not as much venue space. This was cause for some concern. Without a larger vendor turn-out, I was worried that the event would turn out to be some social nightmare where the atmosphere is all but nonexistent, and the crowds as thin and awkward as a pimply teenager. When I passed under the gilded door frames and into the venue, I realized I was worrying for naught. The turn-out was incredible. People were everywhere, and tables stood cheek to jowl, to the point where it became difficult telling one vendor apart from its neighbor.
While I was pleased to see many of the vendors present, I was all but in total fangirl mode over a few in particular. I made a shameless beeline to the Kiriko table, where I met the super cool Dawn Yanagihara and fawned over the beautiful pieces on sale: neckerchiefs made from authentic boro, scarves from some seriously fetching kasuri, and pocket squares from patterned kimono. I briefly forgot to breathe when I found Pierrepont Hicks, thinking to myself: I totally remember seeing these ties on their website, and my gosh I can’t believe I’m actually TOUCHING them. And I may or may not have oggled at a chambray shirt at Taylor Stitch. Multiple times.
Menswear goods aside, what I appreciated most about the event was the opportunity it provided for us consumers to see and talk with the people behind the brands. Nowadays, when we go to a store to make a purchase, we’re buying something that was made half a world away, by workers we don’t even see. At the pop-up, when I asked for a different sized shirt, I was talking to the brand owner himself. When I asked about a watch on display, I was conversing with the watchmaker himself. When I was deciding between two scarves, I was helped by the creative director herself. It was seriously surreal, looking down at a pocket square or a leather wallet, and then looking up into the eyes of the very people who’ve spent countless hours designing, cutting, sewing, and marketing that very item. It was engaging in a very personal level of human connection, something we’ve largely lost in the midst of our clamor for cheap clothes and quick fashion.
It was well into the afternoon when my friends and I finally took leave. By then, the crowds had thinned considerably, and my legs were threatening to give way from under me. I left hugely satisfied, and yet wistful all the same. I was like a kid again, leaving Disneyland stuffed to the neck with cotton candy, head swirling with snatches of “It’s a Small World” transposed over images of Mickey Mouse and Splash Mountain, legs about ready to snap off from exhaustion, and yet looking over her shoulder, wondering when it’ll be the next time her parents will bring her back for a visit. Sooner than later, she thinks as she yawns, leaning against her mother as the tram speeds away, back to parking lot, to car, to real life. And while Northern Grade ain’t no Disneyland, it sure was fun. And I eagerly look forward to the next menswear pop-up that comes our way.