Archive for the ‘Perfect Places’ Category

L.A. Story pt. 2

Friday, March 1st, 2013

My body-clock remained on Minneapolis time our entire stay in Los Angeles, which meant I’d wake up at 5:30 each morning, with empty hours to fill before any worthwhile shop would bother opening. So crazily early on Saturday morning we drove to the Chateau Marmont for an old-Hollywood style breakfast.

Two summers ago I’d slowly read a book all about the legendary hotel, so it was interesting to see it in person. It was more Gothic-y and Grandma-ish than I’d thought, but it was a dreamy reminder of the beauty that comes from keeping something the same, for years and years and years.

After I ordered my almond-crusted french toast, I tested the service bell on the wall behind me in the restaurant/bar and wondered how many times Dean and DeNiro and Dunaway might have done the same thing.

Once regular business hours resumed we hit Heath Ceramics hard.

Then swung by the other Lawson Fenning location where I flirted with at least five different chairs, especially this mesh ‘n leather one.

Since chairs don’t ever seem to stash that well into carry-on bags though, I opted instead for this vintage, volcanic-rock pot.

As far as our visit to Charlie’s Angels Headquarters, here’s a close-up of the bolt-holes where the Townsend Detective Agency sign had once hung to!

But the iconic building that was once the pretend home to the sexy sleuthing of Tiffany Wells, Kelly Garrett and the Munroe sisters is now a G-Damned vacuum store.

What a fucking karate-kick in the gut.

During our visit Hurly said, “I guess it’s true. You can’t go home again.” No, I can’t. And neither can Sabrina or Julie or Bosley! Obviously I miss everything about 1980 all the time, but never moreso than the day I stood, slump-shouldered, under that moronic Miele logo.


L.A. Story pt. 1

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

A lifetime ago I lived in Los Angeles for half a year. I’m nothing if not a nostalgist, so it finally seemed time to book a flight to LAX so I could stroll down Memory Lane/Ventura Boulevard.

The dozen or so retail spots that made up the bulk of the itinerary, however, weren’t a part of my past, but the path to future treasures, I hoped.

Straight from the airport, Hurly chauffeur-ed me to Silver Lake, where the first shop we stopped at was The Mohawk General Store. They had a Gitman Vintage shirt I almost bought, and bundles of sage to burn, and liquid soaps so super-natural there were actually chunks o’ stuff floating within.

Next up was the first of two Lawson Fenning furnishings stores we visited. The Silver Lake store was more affordable and antique-filled. They stocked incredible lamps, and hempy pillows, and tarnished wind chimes. So so So-Cal, I so totally loved it!

The store I was most excited to check out was RTH Shop, with its New Mexican brand of crafty chic. I was scolded by two separate staff members for taking photos, but I’m a rebellious little rascal when I want to be.

I thought I might buy all sorts of smocks and suede totes from RTH, but in the end I just picked up this over-sized greige pin I’ll probably fix to a duffle bag or display in a dish or something.

Sometimes a site is worth it just for its signage alone. Fred Segal’s font and ivy-covered storefront are throwback-y classics, and shap-shooting musts.

Our second day in L.A. brought us to the Santa Monica pier, where further font-fueled photo shoots were mounted.

And then!!! Not until we arrived in L.A. did the lightbulb go off in my head that we totally needed to visit the location they used as the exterior of The Townsend Agency in Charlie’s Angels, and shoot me in front of it for fourteen or fifteen hours.

Before we got around to that though, we drove past The Sportsmen’s Lodge near where I used to live in Studio City, and I was almost certain it’s where they filmed the episode of Angels where Jill goes undercover as a hotel maid, Sabrina poses as a near-sighted waitress, and Kelly makes a joke about Pat Nixon and a pot of chili.

So I had Hurly pull a sharp right into the parking lot, and we stormed inside. I don’t know for certain yet if The Lodge was indeed where they’d shot that episode, but the place was so gloriously stuck in 1977 still that the clues certainly seemed to add up, don’t they, Bosley?

Tune in tomorrow-ish to see what happens when I finally arrive outside the Angels’ office. It’s quite the shocker!

Life-Changer: The Tides South Beach

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

When traveling, I typically like to save all the splurging for the shopping or the sightseeing – and not the hotel room. But for our two and a half day stay in Miami, we reversed our position and booked a fine, fancy suite on the fifth floor of The King & Grove Tides South Beach.

We’ve stayed at some allegedly luxe establishments before, but The Tides was the first hotel Hurly and I have ever stayed in that completely silenced our (semi)-sarcastic snobbery. Revamped by design deity Kelly Wearstler, The Tides shimmers with brassy beauty from top to bottom.

Walking around Miami’s a bit like being bombarded with fireworks. It’s color, heat, light and noise bursting everywhere around you, so stepping into Wearstler’s dimmed and muted space is striking initially in its serenity and restraint.

As your eyes and ears adjust to the aesthetic hush, Wearstler’s signature boldness then shifts into focus through avant-garde furnishings like side chairs ensnared in sea rope, and table lamps seemingly snatched, half-finished, from some Caribbean potter’s beach-side studio.

The revival of Miami’s endless empire of art deco hotels tend to tether their redesigns too tightly to a 1930s rehash of old glamour, whereas Wearstler’s work with The Tides exudes a more eclectic and earthier aura of glitz that references everything from Druids to Dali to Dynasty.

Up in the air of the beach-view suites, the feel is lighter, cheerier, but still serene.

I spent quite a bit of time in our room wondering how many guests had, like me, considered swiping the pony-hide upholstered desk chair, and the arched brass lamp, and the fossilized wood cocktail table-ettes.

The quiet pool was situated in the shade of the mezzanine level in the rear. Capped by two epic cabanas on each side, the water was warm and reviving, and every time I dipped in I had a devil of a time ever getting out. (Even Hurly, a non-swimmer if I ever knew one, lapped it up.)

Eventually a snorkeling excursion in Key Largo pulled us out of The Tides, but before it did, I wanted to soak up a few more drops of paradise.

We stopped back into the main lobby restaurant for a made-to-order glass of fresh-squeezed carrot/apple juice, an old favorite I hadn’t enjoyed since before I got old.

Considering how much I enjoyed every single second of being at The Tides, one would think that I’d miss it immensely. But I sorta don’t – just because, I feel very grateful I was able to stay there at all (thanks, Hurly), and moreso: because already I can tell that I’m carrying the peaceful, beautiful feel of luxury that The Tides has perfected into how I’m gonna live from now on.

Florida For The 14th Time

Monday, June 4th, 2012

There was a wedding in Sarasota last weekend I initially attempted to weasel out of attending. When that didn’t seem to be working, I bartered with Hurlyburt for a post-wedding splurge of a sidetrip to Miami as my reward for smiling politely through the sweatiest marriage ceremony ever endured.

Florida is like my own personal mob. Every time I try and get out for good, something sneaky always pulls me back in. If nothing else, the sunshine state’s one enormous set for the photo shoot that my life basically is.

I mean, even the airport elevators and same lame chain drug stores that we have in Minnesota tend to be more beautiful in Florida.

Also working in Florida’s favor is the presence of Krispy Kreme donuts/shops – completely extinct in my state since about 2006.

Shopping-wise, this trip was a bummery bust. I bopped optimistically to Zara, and Armani Home, and 1111 Lincoln Road, and, last but not least, The Webster Miami, and didn’t snag even a single souvenir during my six day vaycay.

I left with something a little better, though, I think. A serene and cinematic stay in my favorite hotel ever, The Tides South Beach, that I’d say was sorta life changing.

An entire Tides post is obviously in order (and on its way).

Preview: SnowGRADE Men’s Market

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

It speaks volumes about Minnesotan style and values that the state’s quickly become home to arguably the most beloved men’s pop-up market in America, September’s annual NorthernGRADE.

Event founders Larry Felitto of J.W. Hulme Co. and Kat MacMillan of Pierrepont Hicks and @mrsphicks Shoes are at it again, launching NorthernGRADE’s cooler, if not frostier, spin-off SnowGRADE on Saturday Feb. 25th. Here they share the story behind their new pop-up, and tip us off on which American-made goods they’re aiming to take home.

Why did you decide to spin-off NorthernGRADE into SnowGRADE?
Larry: The response for the last NorthernGRADE event was overwhelming and more and more I kept hearing from attendees and vendors alike that we should do more of these throughout the year. People really had a great time.

SnowGRADE is adding workshops into the mix. What can people expect to see and learn?
Larry: There will be an axe restoration workshop, a home brewing 101, leather care workshop, leather tooling workshop and the fellas at Marvel Bar are talking about doing a cocktail workshop. I’ll be front row for this one!

Kat: Peter Geye is a local author, who wrote a book called Safe From the Sea. He’ll be there talking about his book and signing copies. His book is about a man and his father, an old sea captain, coming to grips with their relationship… it takes place outside Duluth. It is such an appropriate book for SnowGRADE. And Peter is quite a guy.

Tell me about some of the new vendors who’ve come on board for SnowGRADE.
Larry: Best Made Axe Co. and Northern Brewer are two that I’m most excited about seeing. Both companies, although not menswear, exemplify the heart and soul of SnowGRADE; the idea of American made, craft, durable and quality.

Kat: I am so excited to welcome Byrd and Belle’s modern and gorgeous iPad covers. Moonshine Coffee is providing the coffee, which is so delicious I will probably be highly caffeinated all day long.

Kat: Rancourt and Co. is coming in from Maine. They make traditional handsewn shoes and boots. Frost River is coming. Their bags are awesome! We’ve got a great crew.

How have you tempted out-of-towners to brave the Minnesota winter and attend the event?
Kat: I think folks from elsewhere feel Minnesota in February is something they have to do at least once in their lives. It’s about character building. Or something.

Is there anything you’re hoping to bag at the event for your own wardrobe?
Kat: A Cause and Effect belt. A Byrd and Belle iPhone case. There is a pen at Askov Finlayson that I have to have. It’s apparently used by the State Department and it’s very heavy and can write upside down or underwater, since I am always writing notes while scuba diving I have to have it!

Larry: Fairbault Woolen Mills just launched a line of beautiful new scarves in a variety of colors, I’ve got my eye on one of those.

Larry: I’m also a little disappointed I didn’t pick up a hat from Ball & Buck at NorthernGRADE so I might have to spring for it this time around.

- – -

And there you have it. Better pad your wallets and bundle up, boys. SnowGRADE’s gonna be ice hot!

‘Tis The Season For Fleet Farm

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Tough guys nearby stomp into Mills Fleet Farm for macho-man basics like jerky, deer bait, and cordless chainsaws. I, on the other hand, tend to trot on in when I need strange boxes of ginger snaps or silly chocolate rabbits for the girls in my films to snack on as period-perfect props.

But I am particularly drawn to the timeless charms of The Farm this time of year when stocking stuffer season comes ’round.

Fleet Farm’s somewhat random, retro-tinged merchandise offers up everything from suspenders to saskatoon jam, and 1980s board games to Brokeback-ready wrangling shirts.

So while you may stop by in full-on Santa mode to scope out rugged, all-weather gifts for the dudes and Dads and dunces in your life…

It’s likely you’ll end up leaving with some marshmallow fluff, Carhartt carpenter pants, or bubbling Christmas tree lights for your own greedy life.

I mean, maybe it’s better “to give than to receive”, but what’s totally best is shopping someplace where you can do both at once.

I mean how could you seriously be expected to pick up a quirky-cool can of saskatoon jam for your divorced Aunt LuAnn, and not snatch some up for your own amazing self?

A Downside to Upgrading?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Next week I’m eligible to upgrade my phone, which I’m only partially excited about because the subpar camera on my iPhone 3GS has taken some really above-par images the past year that it’s been stashed in my pocket. The fuzzed up photos it captures I’ve found to be rather dreamy and almost Polaroid-like. (With or without post-effects apps.)

I’m crossing my fingers that the three extra megapixels, better optics, and built-in flash that’ll be heading into my hand next week won’t perfect away all the awesome imperfections I’ve gotten so used to.

Because I don’t really want to document my daily life in crisp, accurate reality. I want to keep capturing it abstracted and veiled, like it all took place 25-extra years ago on the sets of strange Sissy Spacek movies.

Speaking of which, I now present a series of never-before-seen images from the past seventeen months, taken and never Tweeted while on the sets of strange Sissy Spacek movies while I lazily lived my life.

Goodbye, ol’ phone!

New York Stories pt. 3

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Saturday morning we wandered through Brooklyn and into a new shop called Goose Barnacle where I shuffled through thirty or so assorted packs of Afro-jelly bracelets to select the perfect color combination.

At the Barney’s Co-op we met up with Yuko whose lovely New York life I’ve followed on the internet and Twitter for years. She suggested we walk to an old Pharmacy turned Soda Fountain which sounded super to me.

I tried to select something that wouldn’t ruin my upcoming stop at the Shake Shack, so I went for the Red Velvet Twinkie Sundae. While we snacked Yuko told us about the dream-like shopping in Japan, and we recounted our survival story of being stranded in Paris last Spring at the hands of the Icelandic volcano.

We stopped into a few more hipster-worthy stores on our way back to the subway. Yuko mentioned she doesn’t actually venture into Brooklyn that often because she has a hard enough time stopping herself from buying clothes and shoes and important stuff like that all throughout Manhattan. That’s pretty much half the reason to know and love her!

Another New York blogger, Kwannam, told me about the Cured Olive Shortbread Cookies at a coffee shop called Abraco, so later in the day I tracked one down and adored its offbeat amazing-ness. I think I’ll try and bake some at home myself, sometime sorta soon.

Our final day in New York began at Barney’s where I’d wanted to see their R&Y Augousti accessories since I’m never fast enough to add any of them to my cart when they show up on Gilt. I’ve totally got a thing for shagreen, and after leaving the shop without anything, we trekked all the way back later in the day and bagged one of the boxes above!

I’m always way early for everything, so while wasting time until our lunch reservation we walked past the Apple Store to witness firsthand the fan memorials to the life and work of Steve Jobs. I actually got pretty choked up seeing all the people weeping and hugging and laying down their tributes to the man who changed the world. It’s been such an exciting and impacting decade or so; I guess my almost-tears were a silent little “thank you”.

Needing a AAA battery for the plane ride home, we then darted into a Duane Reader drugstore, where I added a bag of Utz Potato Chips to my souvenir stash. Cuz you don’t see Utz in Minneapolis very often, and Don Draper did do their creative, after all.

The day’s main event was a grand tour of Bergdorf Goodman’s, the retail kingdom where the turban-crowned Kelly Wearstler is now reigning queen.

Having just added clothing and accessories to her brazen line of brassy home goods, our tour climaxed with a two-and-a-half course lunch in the Wearstler-designed BG restaurant.

The best thing about a vacation to a big city is you can curate it with only the topmost shops, and the snappiest snacks, and the most atmospheric eateries, making it as if, for those four or five days, you live in a time and place where everything is beautiful.

Cause that’s the kind of time and place in which we should all be living.

New York Stories pt. 2

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Our first full day in New York began at the Doughnut Plant. It wasn’t situated near any of the shops we’d assigned ourselves to visit, but when there’s playful Pistachio, Creme Brulée, and Peanut Butter Frosted/Jelly Filled doughnuts baked fresh in the city I’m waking up in, I’m gonna do whatever needs to be done to try them out.

The bulk of the day was spent in Soho. There were very few shops I cared to return to from my 2005 visit to New York, but Opening Ceremony was definitely one of them.

Although last time the shop was just a floor and a half worth of inventory, and now its spread out over two adjacent buildings with staircase after staircase leading to endless levels of sequin bow ties for him and lucite pumps for her.

The two-headed or pinata-topped mannequins throughout were every bit as kooky-cool as the merchandise. I’d thought about picking up a Carhartt blazer for myself there, but like every blazer manufactured anywhere in the Milky Way since the early 1920’s, even the Small was way too Not-Small for me.

To keep up our strength we stopped into the Mariebelle Chocolate shop where I ordered a hellishly hot Banana/Milk Chocolate drink.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced Hot Chocolate so thick it needs to literally be chewed, but now you at least know someone who has. I almost needed a damn fork to finish my “drink”.

Near the end of the day, my shopping dry-spell was broken at last when a mix-matched set of vintage Italian dishes were snatched up at Aero, and a sparkly slab of pyrite was unearthed at Evolution. On the subway ride back to the hotel, I started to realize I was going to need to base the success of my New York trip on something other than how many shopping-bags worth of sweaters and bookends I slammed into my suitcase once it was over. I vowed to enjoy my visit, and my hunt for new treasures, regardless of how much I ended up buying/not buying.

While still in Minneapolis, I’d made dinner reservations for Friday night at the Oyster Bar under Grand Central Station.

It seemed just the sort of place Holden Caufield would’ve weaseled his way into and then out of, filled with all sorts of over-drawn characters.

In fact we sat at a table next to two college prep pricks who, now that I think about it, I know Holden would’ve royally hated.

But watching the almost fictional-feeling Taiwanese tourists, and lackadaisical latin waiters, and jock-itchy jerks around you is exactly what makes dining at The Oyster Bar so Salinger-esque, and so New York.

RTH Shop

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

When I recently was sorting out which coast to select as the stage for a fall shopping spree, everything that New York has to offer was nearly trumped by the rough-hewn cool of a single Los Angeles store: West Hollywood’s RTH Shop.

I’m dead serious when I say I think I’ve had at least four separate dreams about visiting the shack-chic store since I stumbled upon it on the internet last fall.

The creative outpost for former Club Monaco, Polo, and J. Crew visionary Rene Holguin, RTH Shop stocks its shelves with a unique take on Americana that’s earthier and artier than the standardized Dean ‘n McQueen curriculum of USA cool.

Drawing from the beauty and materials of our country’s original artisans, the American Indians, RTH offers unisex leather and suede bags and accessories crafted on-site.

Tribal pieces carefully selected from around the world mix with RTH’s creations, layering with new and vintage ponchos and wide-legged pants to suggest the randomly rugged wardrobe Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe might have shared during one of their winters out west.

I purchased a trio of pieces from RTH over the phone in January and instantly found that even one little dose of Adobe-style cool  lends one’s outfit a unique and eclectic edge.

I’m aiming to finally step into the store in real life and make those four dreams of mine come true. If I can get New York Retail out of my system this fall, then next I’ll definitely be booking an extended stay in L.A. as close as I can to RTH.

Time Capsule: The NorthernGRADE Film

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

This is what we looked like.
This is what was important to us.

We went searching for boots and bags and better bow ties,
and on the way we found ourselves friends.

This is a document of what it felt like in our American-made world
when we came together for goods we believed in.

Thanks to Larry and to Mac & Kat for setting up this Minnesotan magic,
and for letting me capture it for everyone to see.


Q & A – J.W. Hulme’s Larry Felitto

Friday, October 15th, 2010

In the wake of last month’s Northern Grade Men’s Market, I was invited by J.W. Hulme’s Head of Sales and Product Development, Larry Felitto, to stop by their St. Paul storefront/factory for what ended up being a four hour tour!

Talking at length with Larry, it really struck me what an exciting and empowering time it must be working within an American heritage goods label in 2010, with consumer trends being what they are. Just years ago J.W. Hulme was on the verge of collapse, and now their bags receive top-billing at Barney’s.

I find it endlessly interesting to look across our great land to see the various ways in which these “comeback companies” are altering their business or design approach to either celebrate, capitalize on, or sourly shun the undeniable trends in men’s fashion and the new generation of buyers now interested in old-timey out-fittings.

Speaking with Larry, it’s clear J.W. Hulme’s approach to these changes in the market and their customer-base is as solid and sturdy as the goods they produce.

- – – – -

WR: A few years back, just as the rugged, heritage movement was about to
 make its way into the men’s fashion scene, J.W. Hulme had a near-death 
experience. How did that come about and how was the company revived?

LF: After our current owners bought the company in 2003 the company began to grow very rapidly. The rapid growth out-stripped the company’s ability to fund that pace. At that point an investor was brought in to re-capitalize the company. With a healthier balance sheet we were able to make some strategic moves to grow the brand. We contracted with the Steven Alan showroom to represent our line in New York; they started getting our products into high-end retailers such as Barneys. A broader customer base began to respond to American products, and we were able to expand our collection while staying true to our quality craftsmanship and design.

WR: With a younger and perhaps more trend-driven demographic suddenly 
interested in J.W. Hulme, has that affected how your company is approaching business, either in marketing or product design?

LF: We are not a company that chases trends; our designs are timeless, made to last a lifetime or more.

WR: What have you learned from your customers who’ve been buying your 
goods for years and years?

LF: They have  taught us that “legacy” really means something to them. It gave us the liberty to tell our story more fully; touting our truly American-made product philosophy and history. We used terms like “heritage” and “legacy” long before the recent heritage buzz started. Those terms have had true meaning to our customers for decades. Many of our customers have shared sentimental stories like remembering “the bags in the attic” that their parents took out to the summer cabin, or the shell pouch their grandpa always took hunting. When our customers invest in JWH products they know they are choosing family heirlooms.

LF: Our customers regularly tell us that quality is worth paying; some say “cheap is expensive; I have to replace it every few years!” They make a direct link between quality and made in America; it’s one of the key reasons customers buy JW Hulme. The quality they expect from us also applies to our customer service. All of our products are guaranteed for life; we even repair and recraft vintage JWH bags. The fact that we are made in the USA allows us to deliver that kind of service.

(Photo: Vintage Gokey dopp kitt on display at the store. J.W. Hulme produced many bags for the Gokey label up through the early 1980s.)

WR: And then, what would you say you’re learning from this new batch of younger customers?

LF: When our products become heirlooms the next generation is confident we are there to take care of them too. The most exciting thing we have learned is that this younger consumer has really started to appreciate quality. This is not a throw-away generation. They place a high value on authenticity—they see right through gimmicks and faux brand stories.

(Photo: Left, a vintage Gokey bag. Right, the traveled/pre-washed Sporting Originals Canvas Carry-On Bag created to invoke the worn-in wonder of the original.)

LF: We didn’t have to make our story up; customers in the younger generations are engaged and intrigued with our 105-year history, and continue to ask us great questions about it. They want to know how things are made and who made them. It is fun to see these younger consumers discover JWH. We just keep doing what we do best and that’s exciting to them.

WR: Since coming on board at J.W. Hulme last year to work in sales,
 you’ve since stepped over into product development as well. What’s been 
informing your work in that area? Do you feel constrained by the legacy
 of the company or empowered by it as you explore new designs?

LF: Working closely with our sales reps at Steven Alan has been incredibly helpful, in that they are really listening to the desires of our national–and international–wholesale buyers.

LF: I have the unique opportunity (being a small company) to answer customer questions personally, and listen to our retail consumers’ requests and desires as well.

(Photo: Prototype for an upcoming JWH tote.)

LF: At least once a day I read through the old Gokey catalogs that we have archived (some dating back to the early 50’s). These catalogs are chock full of old designs just waiting to be updated to meet the demands of the modern customer.

LF: Definitely, I feel empowered by the JWH collaborative environment in creating new products, modifying traditional designs. It’s incredibly exciting that in our small company ideas become reality in just a few months, rather than taking years!

WR: Having co-hosted the Northern Grade Men’s Market with Pierrepont Hicks earlier this month to celebrate American/Minnesotan-made goods, what insight did you gain that you’re taking back with you to J.W.

LF: Authentic matters! Additionally, it was very insightful to see a young “fashion forward” consumer excited about our products and the whole idea of made in America. Maybe there is hope for my grandchildren to know what an antique store is.

WR: You’ve got a lot of new endeavors coming up at J.W. Hulme. Looking 
out at the year ahead, what’s exciting you most?

LF: Obviously, I’m really looking forward to our new line of bags coming out in Fall 2011 (my first foray into product design for an entire season) but in the meantime, we’ve got a series of small leather goods that are really going to be fun… leather can coolers, snap hook key chains, and our recently unveiled Hamline Pocket Journal, an iPad Case to name a few.

(Photo: iPad case prototype.)

- – – – -

After my half-day field trip with Larry, it seemed to me that what JWH seems to be doing so smartly in navigating the current trends in the men’s market is they continue to honor their company’s past without being imprisoned by it. They both acknowledge and invite the interest and input of their younger customers, and adjust their designs and product-lines to serve the men (and women) of today with the quality we all associate with yesterday.

The best part is, it isn’t calculated, and it isn’t a strategy. It’s just who J.W. Hulme is.