While most people embrace the tradition of Thanksgiving and the annual get together, filled with food, football and gluttonous stomach cramps, we tend to embrace discounted international flights and businesses being open during America’s November holiday. Keeping up with traditions, the sights were set on Scotland for this year’s Thanksgiving abroad.
Having never visited England’s neighbor to the north we were eager to see & do as much as possible within a few days. The docket consisted of a short visit to the capital city, Edinburgh, followed by an exploratory loop through the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. The itinerary was ambitious to say the least, especially considering the highlands loop came along with a suggested two-week timetable. Paying no attention, we held the course.
Edinburgh is a confident city that doesn’t need to brag. Set around a hilltop castle that’s visible from nearly every vantage point within the city, the atmosphere is modest, organized and welcoming. It’s easy to feel out-of-place in foreign cities, while the exact opposite can be said of Edinburgh, where the balance of foreign and familiar run even keel. Naturally, a decent mix of good pubs are peppered throughout town, each offering a respectable selection of scotch and local fare. For some finer alternatives for both food and shopping (think: tartan, tweed and scotch), head south toward the National Museum.
While Edinburgh is easily one of the most visitable cities out there, the Highlands pull no punches and may very well be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Within an hour outside of Edinburgh, just past Glasgow, the real magic happens. The scenery is endless, untouched and in many ways, perfect. Changing with each turn, the landscape is rugged and unforgiving. Low hanging clouds cast endless shadows across miles of unpopulated land, less the occasional herd of sheep, farm or castle. After a day on the road and a ferry from Malliag you’re on Skye where similar to the mainland, nature calls the shots. Raw and barren, Skye seems almost fake. During the winter months, the light stands in a state of constant afternoon with the sun setting not long after lunch. The whole place is surreal.
After a week of walking and driving, it was clear why people recommended a stay of two weeks or more. Our traditional escape scratched the surface at best but offers the perfect segue into a return trip. The second round will afford a glimpse into all that was missed – textiles, scotch distilleries and a ride aboard the Royal Scotsman easily make the cut. Until next time.
If you go: We recommend staying at the Balmoral Hotel (Edinburgh), it’s central, efficient and has a good bar. On Skye, bed & breakfasts are the only real options and Tigh an Dochais tops the list. Blackfriars (Edinburgh) has a terrific menu that changes regularly. Drinks (Edinburgh), although it’s on the Royal Mile and comes with all things touristic, Deacon Brodies Tavern is great, on the nicer side, the bar at the Balmoral or The Scotsman will do just fine. In term of things to see, visit the castle in Edinburgh (it’s worth it), Dovecot Studios offers a first hand glimpse into all that goes into woven textiles and the Royal Museum (pictured) is well worth a stop. On Skye, visit the Talisker Distillery, it’s among the oldest in Scotland and the only one on Skye.
Although the states are far behind our European counterparts, the two-wheeled commute has taken hold stateside. Chicago is no exception with the amount of people traveling via bike increasing exponentially over the last few years.
Similar to a lot of cities across the country, both large and small, Chicago has taken hints and worked to endorse commuting by bike. Through the addition of bike lanes to the city’s expansive grid along with a fully functional bike share program, the windy city has fully embraced a greener commute. While this is just the start, and many will tell you it can be much better (more bike lanes, less pot holes), it’s eons ahead of where it was only a few short years ago. Today you’ll see more than bike messengers on the street navigating traffic.
Meeting the growing demand is Heritage General Store. Located on Chicago’s north side in Lakeview, Heritage subscribes to the program of doing things locally and doing them well. One part bike shop, one part coffee shop, similar to other places who blend the two, this marriage makes sense. Rooted to the neighborhood, the shop (both coffee and bike) is welcoming and offers a selection of cycling products and apparel on top of Stumptown brews. There is neither fuss nor pretension.
While the atmosphere is casual and comfortable, the bikes aren’t just for decoration. They’re meant to be ridden and are built to not only to survive city streets, but four seasons in Chicago, which is no joke. Fabricated further uptown, each bike uses American steel for the frame with all the final welding and assembly done locally. And while everything is done within a Chicago area code, they’re also fully customizable. Given the price point and purpose, this makes total sense for a city with an increasing cycling community.
Visit Heritage General Store at 2959 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
Labor Day marks the official/unofficial end of the summer. It’s the last long weekend during the warmer months for most and a great excuse to get the hell out of dodge. Instead of firing up the BBQ and staying stateside we chose to head further afield, and make our way to the old country for a bit of respite.
After a brief stopover in Holland & Rome to visit some friends, we made landfall in the Sardinian capital city Cagliari. Porto Sa Ruxi, just outside of the small town of Villasimius would be our final stop and home base. Just steps to the super salinated Mediterranean and a short drive to civilization, it didn’t take long for our focus to turn to the really important things, sun, sleep and spritz.
A short flight from the Italian peninsula, Sardinia makes for a great alternative to the typical Mediterranean stopover. At roughly the same size as New Jersey, it’s a big island. This is a good thing. Sardinia’s size helps filter out the foreigners and locals alike. Add this size to the Italian pace of life and you’re almost forced to hit the brakes on life for a moment. Tiny seaside towns dot the coastline and make for good stopping points to take in some fresh fish and local wine or amaro (or both).
It’s taken a while for Downtown Los Angeles to receive a second wind. For years Downtown L.A. has remained more or less desolate and void of any businesses. If you asked anyone what was downtown, most responses would either be, I don’t know or Skid Row. While the change is still a slow burn and not a massive exodus, things are looking better for L.A.’s urban core. Little by little, both new businesses and residential units move into vacant space, rebuilding and reshaping the community.
A few times a year we head west and each trip affords a fresh look at all that’s happening Downtown. During our last visit we stopped in to see Lot, Stock & Barrel’s new outpost. Taking up residence Downtown LS&B is, at its core, a vintage destination. Not to be confused with the random places that sell used goods, where you’re expected to dig and dig hoping to find a rare piece that slipped through the cracks and only costs a couple bucks. The passion for the past is genuine here, and the selection on hand is proof.
The meticulously merchandised space, filled with wearables ranging from the early 40’s and younger, looks and appropriately smells vintage. Throughout you’ll find a heavy dose of militaria, traditional Americana, and Navajo influences, mixed-in among staple vintage pieces such as work shirts, Levis, and the like. As with anyone who understands their inventory, a great deal of time & energy goes into sourcing and preparing every item. And as expected, sources remain a secret.
Separate from the usual vintage offerings, LS&B is also happy to do some repair and custom work, the latter done by Chain Gang LA who has a permanent residency. With over 20 years of chain stitch embroidery and chenille patch work under their belt, Chain Gang’s reputation is solid. The zero automation process is all done on-site and uses traditional methods and machines that date back over 70 years. It’s an art form with few people left at the helm, making it a special and fitting addition to the LS&B assemblage.
When they opened their doors in mid-February of this year, owners Ben Phillips & Florence Wang coupled their experience with their passion for authentic vintage clothing. With solid backgrounds in the apparel industry, each having held titles with Polo, Levis and others, the attention to detail and level of quality comes at no surprise. Having known Ben for nearly two decades, I’ve witnessed the refinement of his tastes, specifically in the vintage industry, first hand. He lives for the details. A typical conversation covers a whole host of topics and includes a discussion about washes, dyes, fabric, stitching, production dates & locations, extinct processes, previous owners, the list goes on. These conversations are refreshing and proof that some people still care about the little things. It’s also proof that LS&B is breathing fresh air, not only into Downtown Los Angeles, but into vintage clothing.
Visit Lot, Stock & Barrel in their new store at 801 1/2 Traction Avenue, Los Angeles, CA., 90013 or check them out at the rotating Loft space in the new Stag store at 1338 Abbot Kinney Blvd.,Venice, CA
Chances are you have visited a Frank Lloyd Structure and not even realized it. This isn’t surprising considering the Wisconsin born architect was involved in 415 different works spanning the entire globe throughout his 70 year career.
Cutting his teeth in Chicago, many of Wrights early works can be seen throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. None more than Oak Park, where Wright not only lived, but where he would start his own studio and develop his own, unique style of architecture. After outgrowing the offices of his windy city mentors, Adler & Sullivan, Wright took his vision and commissions internal, starting his own practice in 1889. Throughout the western suburb, which lies some 11 miles from downtown Chicago, you’ll find nearly 30 different buildings where Frank Lloyd Wright was the commissioned architect of record – the most remaining of any other city in the world.
The residential structures found throughout Oak Park are among some of the earliest examples of Wright’s design philosophy that consisted of organic architecture and later his development of prairie style architecture. It was in his studio, situated at 951 Chicago Ave., Wright would develop and perfect his prairie style which would later become a defining characteristic of his work. Rather than continuing the popular reinvention of European influence found throughout the United States, Wright sought to create something new, something truly American. Something that made sense in the American landscape of the time. And so his famed prairie style of architecture was born. In a dramatic shift from traditions of the times, this style would evoke elements of the surrounding Midwestern landscape. Working with, instead of against nature, these homes would consist of long straight lines, interesting angles and heavy masses.
A tour of the neighborhood yields a surreal experience. The impeccably manicured properties line each street, which is silent and void of crowds. Many of the homes designed by Wright, others designed to mirror his style. At every turn his influence is evident, his techniques replicated, repeated and perfected. As intended, nearly all of the properties are privately owned and lived in, making the experience a personal one.
In total, Wright spent 20 years (1889 – 1909) in Oak Park and would spend these two decades designing approximately 150 structures, nearby and further afield. Following this tenure, he continued to develop some of the most influential structures of the 20th century and is arguably the most important American architect to have lived. Later in life, Frank Lloyd Wright would go on to live and work throughout the middle west and western United States.
Unique isn’t something typically synonymous within the menswear trade show circuit. Many shows bring a similar vibe and often place the emphasis on size. Not the case with Jumble. The Japanese trade show makes an added effort to focus on the experience along with the brand selection, making it worthwhile for buyers and visitors alike. The difference has been noticeable and has led to considerable growth since its Tokyo based start in 2004.
Since Jumble’s inception, its presence has increased both within Tokyo as well as abroad, hosting installations in Berlin, Paris and Florence. The open layout has created an intimate relationship among brands and buyers. Although the roster is global and the international presence is strong, a clever selection of local Japanese brands are an added highlight. The offerings consist more than just wearables. Throughout Jumble you can find clothing along with home goods or locally sourced ceramics. The resulting mixture is a welcomed change-up to the alternative.
Hosted twice a year in Tokyo, Jumble’s founder Shinji Kitada has his sights set on expanding the event internationally. Bringing a different feel to trade shows and further growing the Japanese brand presence is goal of Kitada’s. With Europe and Japan in full rotation, a plan to reach New York is under way, you can count on seeing Jumble on more foreign shores soon.
Jumble kicks of their Tokyo show next week, September 10th – 12th at Belle Salle Shibuya, Hall B1.
From day one, Billykirk has had their sights trained on the details. For the last 15 years they’ve been producing what are arguably some of the best leather goods available. Not only will many of their products outlast its owner, they’re thoughtfully designed and all made stateside.
To commemorate their 15 year milestone, the brothers at the helm have opened their first brick & mortar retail store. Like their bags, belts and small leather goods, they didn’t forget about the details. Throughout the space, there are subtle touches to the company’s past and appreciation for well-worn vintage items. That said, the space’s design is a breath of fresh air to a nostalgic heritage movement that has been done well throughout New York, but been done several times over. Chris and Kirk Bray took inspiration from Danish and other Scandinavian spaces, creating a clean, modern, simple space where the product is the primary focus, not what type of reclaimed wood was used to create some one of a kind ceiling display – or something along those lines.
Over the company’s life, which started in Los Angeles, they’ve expanded and grown considerably. Today’s collection is robust and has typically been available through a whole host of vendors, both domestic and international, Japan being a big customer, or through their own e-commerce site. Now, for the first time the whole collection will be available in one place, with a custom area for monogramming and adding other details right on site. Simple touches, subtle details, and a mixture of third-party product make the space a nice experience and well worth a stop.
Visit Billykirk 16A Orchard Street, New York.
An arsenal of well-made things is a description best suited for a company such as Kaufmann Mercantile. The Brooklyn based online store has created a single source for everyday and lifestyle products that are simply better. Their search for products, designers, old companies, new companies, foreign, domestic, has taken out the leg work in finding good things.
When Kaufmann initially launched, they offered only a handful of products for sale, mainly items founder Sebastian Kaufmann was either inspired by or appreciated the design. Today, the product list has grown to over 750 objects that not only look great, but serve a very useful purpose. And although there is more to offer, the same level of careful consideration still exists when deciding what makes the cut, and what doesn’t. The selection criteria at KM is what helps them stand out from a typical online retailer selling a wide range of different things.
The vetting process isn’t one to be taken lightly at the KM offices. Four main criteria are considered with each product, whether scouted, pitched or suggested. One, is the product even worth looking at and are the aesthetics on-point? Two, does it serve a purpose and have function, or is just another widget that takes up space? Three, is the product designed well and capable of lasting a long time. And four, are the materials earth friendly and free of plastics (KM uses no plastics)? If all the boxes are checked, great. If not, it’s back to the drawing board which may mean asking the manufacturer to make a revision, which in some cases works, in others it doesn’t. Sticking to your guns and saying no isn’t always easy. And while these standards may not seem tough, only about 20% of all products reviewed make the cut.
Where is all this going? During this summer Kaufmann Mercantile has decided to open a temporary retail shop where you can check things out in real life. They invited us over to the new Amagansett outpost for a look at the space and to discuss all the great looking objects for sale. Located right between Montauk and East Hampton, the Amagansett store is parked in the middle of town on main street in a cluster of beautifully aged buildings. Inside you can find a streamlined selection of their typical online offering that ranges from clothing to housewares to outdoor goods. Although shopping online is easy, relatively painless and pretty fast, it’s always nice to get a feel for a new purchase. If you didn’t have an excuse to escape out east this summer, now you do.