The Starkweather Crux is now for men, too.
And this dapper style is just the first of many to come.
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Lee Anderson Design
It was a really wonderful day in Chicago at the Casino where Starkweather went back to its roots. The weather acted accordingly, changing from summer to fall almost overnight to set the mood for the layering and cozy wrapped up feeling you get when trying on these pieces in a setting such as the venerable building in downtown Chicago.
It was great to have a chance to highlight the fabrics that are the most critical element of the pieces. Some favorites were the cashmere wool backed with weather proofing nylon from Colombo in Italy and the buttery lambskin leather from Bodin Joyeux in France.
Showing some pieces for Fall / Winter and some pieces for Spring, there was a feeling of harmony that fit so naturally on the fantastic women who came through to try on, discover and acquire a piece of the Starkweather story for their own wardrobe.
You read it here first: Starkweather will be back in Chicago on November 13 for a follow up show and party with a surprise that we are anxious to reveal.
Products carry a lot of baggage. We associate a lot of emotion with our things. Think about how hard it is to give up things that we loved in our youth or that belonged to past loves, how we choose one brand over another for a comparable product, and how fashion is such a powerful tool of individual communication.
We make choices with our clothes that tell a story about us. We make inadvertent assumptions about others based on the way they dress. These associations are universal enough that they’ve become a system of sartorial codes that we interpret when we interact with others.
How did this come to be? We can’t ignore the following facts: Brands have celebrity ambassadors, official and unofficial. Brands have price tags. Brands tell stories. Brands advertise. Consumers read magazines, emulate celebrities, go into debt for designer goods, often associate with people who dress much like themselves.
And so through our purchases we buy into the brand’s narrative, and project that story through our own personal narrative. Associating ourselves with the outdoor lifestyle of Patagonia or the edgy luxury of Balenciaga, the trend-loving-ever-changing wardrobe of Topshop or the budget conscious, design savvy Target.
As consumers, we empowered brands, over time, to play this role because we get something in return. It takes the guesswork out of decision-making, and gives us the power of the brand to tell our story. Through storytelling and advertising, a brand can speak to the consumer, but we know how that it is on the street through people wearing the products that the brand finds its voice.
As brands, in order to develop these narratives we curate and design experiences: The experience when discovering a brand or a product, then during the purchase whether on or offline, and then with the product in the world.
Brands are learning new ways all the time to create novel opportunities of experience for their customers. Today this exists as a constant back and forth between the brand and the consumer. And, much like I discussed in the article on apps accelerating consumerism, these methods can work for the consumer or against the consumer depending on your perspective. Here’s a list of some ways it’s going down:
Increasingly, brands are using consumer-generated content to tell their story. A company like olapic, which collects the instagram photos of products taken by customers for their brand partners. The brands then curate that content on their site, creating a celebrity moment for that customer, and also driving aspiration for their customer base with fresh new ideas of how to wear those Steve Madden shoes or that J-crew cardigan.
Street style has become it’s own commercial operation. The old story of bloggers becoming brand ambassadors was a lesson to brands that the street has a strong voice and a lesson to normal folks that they could reach the brands & even become part of their sales strategy & communication (advertising).
These are all commercial opportunities for brands that can then inform their product development based on the way the consumer is engaging with their current offering.
This is a tool that eco-brands & companies like Everlane and Honest By are based off of. It is their prerogative to communicate as much as possible about every element of the brand the same way it the prerogative of Armani to communicate on the men and women wearing the label on the red carpet.
Where is the garment made? What is it made of? Where does the material come from? What does “Made in Italy” or “Made in France” really mean? How is the price determined? Were the celebrities paid to go to the show? Were they paid to wear the dress or the tuxedo to the Oscars?
The label inside a product used to be more than enough to tell us the value of a garment. But now, there are many more elements weighed into that decision. The product no longer speaks for itself. The product needs a story.
Having online and offline accessibility is becoming common practice. Online presence provides a platform for the storytelling side, and the physical world is where you back up your claims with tactile reinforcement, gaining trust & loyalty.
Being online is also a portal for people who aren’t nearby to browse discover a brand, browse its products and inquire, read about your story and get to know the brand. Being on social media so they can hear your voice and converse with you.
A brand needs to be wherever the potential customer might stumble through their door.
The customer experience depends on the brand treating the indivudial as such. Personalization is a buzz word these days, and although sometimes misapplied I do believe it to be a key in the customer service process.
Brands need to listen to the consumer and make adjustments. Often now brands make themselves available to customers with customer service twitter feeds, 24 hour customer service, and live chats built into their websites.*
Companies hire people to go through their platform, place an order, experience the brand anonymously and then report back on their experience.
*Recent and frequent experience reminds me this is still a very American quality (the customer is always right, no?). Customer service in France, for example, has a long way to go.
In many ways, it’s all advertising, all marketing, and so it’s nearly impossible to tell what part of a brand’s narrative is genuine and what has been bought. As the consumer becomes more educated and more empowered, the most important code of a brand experience becomes honesty and transparency.
As brands, we have the choice whether to pioneer transparency before the demand from consumers forces us to do so, or we can continue to sell a dream, for the same of an outdated idea of luxury, with no real tangible provenance. To me luxury is in the choice and empowerment of the consumer, not the vague aspiration of a dream. This is the route we choose at Starkweather. Building a foundation on transparency, it’s a narrative I’m proud to sell.
As a consumer, we have the choice to buy things because some marketing campaign told us to, or because we are informed and we know what we’re getting for the hard earned cash we’re dishing out. When I make a purchase, empowered by my knowledge of the product and where my money is going, that positive experience lives on with the product and I’ll become an unofficial ambassador for that brand. It becomes a story I’m proud to tell.
Going back into documents from the early days of Starkweather, I dug up some great juice that has been absorbed into the DNA of the brand but that I rarely think of anymore. There are certain subjects that I have always been drawn to and that resurface across all areas of my work and projects, my own philosophies of living, and my design preferences as an aesthete and observer. I have collected hundreds of images, dozens of books and life experiences in locations that tie back to these themes. It’s that natural pull that guides our choices, designs our environments, and brings us close to people who share our affinities or who want to learn more about them from us. Some of those for me are space travel and future technologies, Native American culture and binary design, and American barns.
We were told in design school that, if we had our own businesses, designing would become about 10% of our job. And that has turned out to be 100% true. It has been almost six months since I picked up a pencil and paper to lay down a new design, as I have been completely focused on the design of my business.
Remembering where the garment design comes from is not on the top of my mind, because now I am seeing the garments as products and numbers rather than art or creations. This is strange and satisfying in its own way, but I miss the sensation of putting something down on paper and watching it come to life through the prototyping and sampling process. Then the moment of first seeing it in motion, on the body.
I miss digging through image libraries to find that graphic or rural portrait that informs the lines of a design or leads to the cross disciplinary (with biology, in this case) design of the crux. I miss the imagination I have when my brain is full of the visual references that fill up and mix up in my mind to create new compositions and arrangements that I can put down on paper, adding my own images to the world. And the curious dreams that I have after this research is done.
Sometimes it’s not the most fantastical, but the most pragmatic that blows my mind. The North American barn, for example, keeps me constantly in awe. Cross state lines, all over the country, cross generations, new and old, modernized and defunct, they all share one fundamental design principle: every structural decision is made with function in mind. This means that, if you close your eyes and picture a barn, what you'll see in your mind's eye is much like the image of a barn 200 years ago. The function has not changed, so the design has not changed. It is only optimized by scale and, advances in construction methods and building material. For hundreds of years we see it repeating itself in the way of the tried and true.
And while I haven’t looked at my books on American Barns for ages and that phase of my research has long been over, that sentiment still resonates with me fully.
This is what I hope for Starkweather, that the design of the business and the design of the garments will follow the path of the barn. That they will serve their function and be beautiful in their minimalism and enhance the landscape while also representing the hard work that takes place within those walls. That they will adapt to improvements in structural integrity, but outside of the pressures of trend and fad, and that they will stand the test of time.
There were some beautiful local textile moments in Naxos, Greece.
On a hike from Halki to Moni, we walked into a quiet corner of Moni where a woman was sitting, working on a textile pinned to a pillow on her lap, sitting on a stoop near a marble square while she chatted with her daughter. We said hello and asked directions to a café and she asked us if we were interested in seeing the process of the weaving. I jumped at it, and was so glad to have done so. She showed us the process and how the loom worked, and then we browsed her textile collection: traditional long & narrow sizes mostly with stripes in red, natural white and blue. All of them in cotton, and much like you see in shops in all of the towns as typical Cycladic souvenirs. And then there was this one in wool:
The above photo is the back side, made of local Naxian wool and hand woven on the loom. There was only one made of wool out of dozens made of cotton. The wool fibers being rare as they spool the fibers for the wool themselves from the sheep of the village. This small, 2x4' piece of woolen love is a true treasure.
Eleftheria Krpodini showing us her process at the loom.
A view of dusk on the hills, hiking back towards Halki.
A doorway at one square where the village children were practicing dances for the Panaghia festival on 15 August.
The Loom: Greek made, organic clothes in central downtown Naxos. Rustic and rough around the edges, but with good stuff inside.
A beautiful Greek designer Ioanna Kourbela. This black cotton voile vest with herringbone cotton ribbon trim blew my mind.
Greek (Hellenic) knitwear, made in Greece of "environ mentally" friendly Greek cotton.
This is where it all began.
It builds up and down from here. Snaps in, Snaps out. Keeps you feeling warm and looking sleek. Suede traction on the shoulders keep straps in place. Pockets for hands are separate from pockets for things. Collar bone shaping on the collar expresses the conversation between the form of the body and the form of the garment.
Cashmere wool is backed with wind proof, water resistant nylon. The function is on the inside, the style is on the outside.
Get lost in the details.
Love the weather.