Saturday, January 09, 2010

Retail (& RTW) thyself: Epaulet, Nau

Thanks to this write-up by Sartorially Inclined and a mention by Components of Enthusiasm, I stumbled upon online and Brooklyn-based retailer Epaulet.

Epaulet combines modern urban style with traditional elements - denim paired with Alden shoes for example - at reasonable price points backed up by a philosophy of working with local suppliers to produce small runs of products. If I were just out of college looking to build a decent sports and casualwear wardrobe on a budget, this store would be on my short list. You'll find enough basics and interesting trimmings to get started: tie bars, shoes, hats, belts, denim, jackets, slim fit shirts and khakis. Being in shape also is key since the store tends to carry slim fitting garments.

Epaulet shop

When I visited the store in late December, co-owner Mike walked me through their retail lines. Most of their online customers are in fact in their 20s working in design, publishing and media (though the local customers who shop the physical store are more of a mix). Their shirts, ties and trousers are all made in New York City using local shirtmaking or trousermaking workshops. Their ties are a slim 2.5" wide and the shirt sizes go from XXS on up (again a boon for slim fitting guys). The bestselling item is their moleskin pants.

Given the price point of around $300, the Epaulet jackets are not fully canvassed but they do use something called "weft fusing" (sourced by a fellow who works at Rocco Ciccarelli). This is an advance over traditional fusing since the chest feels as if it semi-floating. Looking ahead to 2010, Mike mentioned that they are working on a new line of belts.

Interestingly enough, I think the customer experience is similar to the one I wrote about when I visited the bespoke atelier of Cifonelli in Paris. They are two very different animals (one is a RTW retailer and the other a bespoke tailor) but the experiential result is the same - you know why you are wearing a Cifonelli sportscoat or an Epaulet garment. Both present a very clear and distinct philosophy of dressing that appeals to a certain type of customer. And the clarity of this message means the customer and the retailer (or tailor) will click. Add a dash of enthusiasm and repeat visits and orders follow.

Epaulet also carries outerwear made by Nau. Mike pulled out a Nau Blazing down jacket and remarked it's the best constructed jacket he's come across. I'd have to agree it's an extremely well-made jacket in a slim cut using eco-friendly, high performance technical fabrics. One area where bespoke tailoring lags is technical fabrics. I think RTW houses do a better job in designing and producing garments in these materials.

Additional links
- Styleforum Epaulet affiliate thread
- Coolhunting piece on Here/Nau pop up store

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