The Great Indoors

Wednesday  June 17, 2009

There are lots of reasons to go Vancouver, Canada. Snowboarding, skiing, hiking, climbing, mountain biking…The natural beauty of British Columbia draws outdoor adventure seekers from all over the world. The good news for those of us more at home in urban climes is that Vancouver offers up at least two great reasons to skip the back country altogether, namely the stores Lark and Roden Gray.

Lark in Vancouver

The first thing you notice when you walk into Lark is the whale of a piano right in front of the long rectangular space. The 100-year-old-plus Steinway isn't just for merchandising; occasionally the shop keeper on duty will double as the resident pianist, entertaining patrons as they browse the well-edited goods. The husband-and-wife team behind Lark, Dane and Veronika Baspaly, along with sharp-eyed buyer Natsumi Akatsuka, have put together a diverse group of clothing and accessories from brands like Lova, Gilded Age, Alexander Olch, and Zeha-Berlin. Plus, in a nod to Vancouver's rainy tendencies, Lark stocks a strong collection of Anglo-outerwear from mainstays Barbour and Mackintosh. Besides the musical display area, Lark compliments the space’s natural hardwood flooring (left intact by its previous inhabitant, a dance studio) with neatly organized displays crafted from reclaimed Canadian Fir and four handsome-looking changing areas complete with comfortable seats and wool slippers—a set-up that leaves you with a North-Woods-meets-Tokyo vibe.

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The ladies of Lark. Veronika Baspaly (left) and Natsumi Akatsuka.

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Located in the heart of Gastown, Vancouver's old-timey nod to NYC’s SoHo, is the men's store Roden Gray. The shop, one of the very best in Canada, would be at home in any major city in America or Europe, with a stock list that includes lines like Band of Outsiders, Robert Geller, Filson, Hyden Yoo, Tim Hamilton, Generic Man, and Vancouver's own Wings + Horns, among others.

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h(y)r Collective founder Ryan Willms (left) and Roden Gray owner Rob Lo at the launch of the h(y)r collection.

Recently, Roden Gray formed another local partnership with the men's style website h(y)r Collective (pronounced higher, like that feeling British Columbia's other well-known product delivers) to produce a great looking limited-edition series of oxford shirts from Pennsylvania's Gitman Brothers and canvas and leather duffel bags from nearby maker Tannis Hegan. All of which, combined with the store’s already strong roster of brands, will keep guys looking sharp whether they're in the city or the wilderness.—michael williams

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Limited-edition button-down shirts from Gitman Brothers at Roden Gray.

Lark: 2315 Main Street, Vancouver, BC V5T 3C9; 604-879-5275; www.lark.me

Roden Gray: 231 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 5A4; 604-689-7302; www.rodengray.com

Go Here: Craft (Los Angeles, CA)

Friday  May 22, 2009

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Photographs by Michael Williams

With the exception of a few clothing stores—namely, American Rag, South Willard, and Secret Service—the West Coast retail scene always leaves me wanting more. As a New Yorker, I get excited to shop in L.A., but normally end up seeing a litany of the same brands (Nice Collective, Wings + Horns, Surface to Air) at different stores all over town, and finally just leave empty-handed.

But the new West Hollywood men's store Craft—which was founded by husband-and-wife team Pete Arbelaez and Rosa Diaz, formerly of Union (a bi-coastal streetwear shop)—seems to be ushering in a new era of coolness. A lifelong New Yorker, Pete's been living the easy life in Southern California for the past five years. But he became frustrated with a customer that he says "he had little in common with," and eventually it became apparent that Pete would have to take matters into his own hands and open his own place.

And so, accordingly, Craft's concept is based on Pete's own personal style—mixing tailored clothing with workwear, or, as he describes the store, "more of an expression of how I would like my closet to look."

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The sparsely-filled space—which would make a great closet on any coast—stocks a strong combination of under-the-radar Japanese and American labels, with an emphasis on jeans (something sure to make SoCal denim-heads happy). Brands like Buzz Rickson (purveyor of super-accurate vintage denim reproductions), Sugar Cane (a top-notch Japanese selvage denim line that also incorporates other workwear-inspired clothes), and another Japanese favorite of mine, Left Field, who make a great button-down shirt. Craft was also able to secure a distribution deal (no doubt through its East Coast connections) to be one of the few shops in L.A. to stock the venerable New England shoe brand Alden.

For fall, the folks at Craft have a few more tricks up their sleeve. Labels like Nigel Cabourn (who recently designed an entire collection inspired by the famous mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary), Lower East Side optician Sol Moscot, Japanese denim maker Kato, and a few other special lines will join Craft's already strong roster of stylish goods. Hopefully the airlines will relinquish the bag-check fees by the time I'm back in L.A.—it seems my empty-handed days are numbered.—michael williams

Craft: 513 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA; 310-855-3976

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Memo to the Partners

Friday  February 27, 2009

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If you're on the market for gilded motorcycle helmets, antique staplers, or Marcel Proust wrapping paper, then Partners & Spade—the gallery/vintage store/studio that officially opened Wednesday night on New York’s Great Jones Street—is the spot for you. Partners & Spade is the branding consultancy started by Andy Spade (he of the ubiquitous Jack Spade bags) and Anthony Sperduti, the duo who most recently brought their old-school sensibility to bear on the J.Crew Liquor Store in the West Village. This new space will serve as their office during the week and as a gallery open to the public on weekends.

Despite the amount of stuff they’ve packed into the space (and stuff is exactly what it is), it manages to feel uncluttered. That's because everything is impeccably displayed, from a mounted technicolor bicycle to a rubber ball collection tucked away in a drawer to an aviary in the front window. (There's a sign assuring passers-by that the birds are happy and well cared for.) One of the sharpest displays was a glass case exhibiting Lehman Brothers schwag (golf hats, paper weights, a baby's onesie) as if they were artifacts from another time—which, of course, they are. In fact, the Lehman display was the only sign of the recession to be found last night. Most items for sale have price tags that only those with disposable income could realistically justify: antique globes for $650; 18th century nature books for $25,000. Even the moderately priced first-edition books and prints can't be an easy sell right now. "We planned the space a year ago," Sperduti acknowledged on Wednesday night. "Who the fuck knew what was going to happen?"

At the launch party, girls with bangs and high-waisted skirts lined up to have their auras photographed, giving the place the feel of a hipster bar mitzvah. Adults opened and closed drawers and touched the exhibits much as kids would at a children's museum. Do you need any of this stuff? No. But is it fun to look at? Well, yeah. Partners & Spade feels like a curated and better-lit version of your grandparents' attic. Someone's already dusted and labeled and gotten rid of the junk; what's left is to marvel.—sarah goldstein

Partners & Spade, 40 Great Jones Street, New York, NY; partnersandspade.com

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