A Post Overalls line sheet at Battery SR.
Words and photos by Pete Anderson
I am not a New Yorker, so when I travel to the city my first stop is usually Penn Station. Brought by train or bus, my first task once there is to go somewhere else. The blocks around the station and Madison Square Garden are the urban equivalent of an airport concession—overpriced cheese sandwiches and bottles of dubiously filtered water, transit hubs and baffling signage, thousands of people rushing to get anywhere else.
Just blocks away, though, is the garment district, a lingering midtown network of clothing manufacturers in a city that doesn't make as much as much as it once did. To what extent this patchwork descendent of the sweatshop era deserves romanticizing is debatable, but on a recent trip to NY for market week I couldn't help myself. Before getting the hell out of midtown, I stopped by John Shimazaki's showroom, Battery SR, and Nepenthes' NY shop, two rooms that house some of the most interesting mens' clothing on the market right now—quite a lot of it designed by non-Americans, and quite a lot made in Manhattan.
I had met John in Florence last winter traveling to Pitti Uomo with Styleforum proprietor and notorious hedonist Fok-Yan Leung, and we'd talked Post Overalls with him. John's worked with brands like Post for years (one of the best examples of U.S.-made, Japanese-designed clothing), before opening his own place in the garment district.
At Battery I checked out upcoming collections from Kapital, ts(s), and Post Overalls. If you're so over jeans, Kapital may make you reconsider. The result of putting a second-generation denim man and former 45rpm designer, Kiro Hirata, at the helm of his father's factory, Kapital bridges the gap between conceptual “designer” denim and detail-obsessed repro products. Case study: Kim Jones worked with Kiro to develop pieces for Louis Vuitton's spring 2013 men's collection. I spoke with Eric and Shinji from Kapital while handling racks of indigo and indigo-related pieces—woodblock print shirts, clothes “repaired” with the traditional Japanese method of sashiko stitching, which reinforces worn out cloth, and a rack of Kapital's forthcoming “century denim,” which combines the sashiko method with Kapital's cuts and two dyes: a reddish-brown persimmon kakishibu and grayer, natural sumi dye. Although much of Kapital's product is either one-wash or heavily washed, these pieces will be offered raw. Beyond the denim specs, Kapital's vibe is probably best perceived by looking at their thrice-yearly lookbooks, shot in a documentary style by Eric Kvatek. Really stunning (occasionally nsfw) visuals.
While I talked with the Kapital crew, Lauren from Arrow and Arrow was doing her store's buying behind me—they later gave me a sneak peek at their spring buys from Post and Engineered Garments (you will want to shop there if you don't already). We also briefly talked Ian Svenonius bands, which only further cements the good taste in that shop.
Takuji Suzuki (brother of Engineered Garments' designer Daiki) was also on hand at Battery and answered some questions I had about the new stuff from ts(s). Menswear fabrics have been dominated in recent seasons by prints and color, and the next steps seem to be texture and more color. As usual, ts(s) uses many fabrics developed exclusively for the brand, this year making heavy use of dobby and jacquard weaves. Suzuki also used shades of blue across pieces, to create a gradient effect without a gradient dye on any particular item. He described this season's shapes as "easier" than he's ever done before, with many of the familiar military and sportswear themes subverted with light, bright fabrics and looser, sometimes pajama-like cuts.
At this point, we know what to expect from Post Overalls—wearable, workwear-driven designs in dozens of fabrics. Designer Takeshi Ohfuchi has been doing similar shapes and cuts for seasons upon seasons, but if Post hits you right you'll be a customer for life. Next spring sees more prints and stripes added to the usual lightweight chambrays in Post's versions of workshirts, chore jackets, and even cargo shorts (cruiser-style pockets added to a reasonably slim, medium-inseam short). A collaboration has also resulted in handkerchiefs and scarves that can be tied or affixed in unusual ways—the handkerchiefs can be buttoned onto a shirt as a bib, and the scarves are cut on with ends on a diagonal, so they are a little more sly than Post's overwhelmingly honest designs.
Next, I visited Nepenthes and talked with Abdul Abasi about the shop and Engineered Garments fall 2012; report to come.
Click on the photos for higher-res versions.
A Kapital print shirt
A boro-back vest in the Louis Vuitton collection
Sashiko patch khaki trousers
Takuji's blue period.
Dobby dot jacket.
The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70s.
A well-done repurposing of sailor stripes.
More stripes than Bill Murray.
A jacket light enough to wear with shorts.
More shorts fabrics.
Post's new handkerchiefs.