I almost never remember where and when I first heard about a particular brand, but I always make sure to keep it on file. In the case of this brand, I was scrolling down my NUJI feed for some inspiration, when the cute bucket bag below caught my eyes. I actually used it on my social media headers, alongside other neat products.
Danielle Sakry is a 3-year old Minnesota-based brand that offers American made leather goods. The designer, who gave her name to the brand, has a background in law and slowly made the transition to fashion after playing with a few pieces of scrap leather (which gives me hope as I'm currently taking leather goods making classes in Paris). The brand was also a 2014 finalist of Martha Stewart's American made contest.
You can take a sneak peek at their studio and manufacturing process here.
Let me make one thing clear, I do not exercise. I only run for my life and that seldom happens. However, I'm admirative of all the people who wake up at ungodly hours and brave the elements to get their rush of endorphins. There's just one thing I don't understand: why do they need to do so in the least appealing, worst fitting clothing?
Those times are over thanks to Tracksmith, a young New England-based performance apparel company. They use the best materials available such as fabrics from the Schoeller mill in Switzerland and Steele canvas fabric for their bags, while their products are being manufactured in Massachusetts-based factories (Falls River and Bedford to be more specific). Tracksmith blends high-performance clothing with a preppy, Ivy League look, indeed, their lookbook looks like a Dartmouth track team photo from the 1960s. More good news, women running gear will hit the digital shelves this spring.
Icing on the cake, Tracksmith relies on a direct to consumer business model which means no middlemen, which in turn means lower prices. You can also find an in-depth review from an actual runner here.
We've evolved from the victrola to the record, the walkman to the Discman, the iPod to the iPhone, and now the record player is making a comeback, and for good reason. Nothing quite has that vintage sound like the crisp static from a vinyl record. Nothing quite adds nuances of life and movement to a room like a turning record. And it is with this that I introduce Brooklyn-based Grado, a family owned manufacturer of record player cartridges (the important part with the needle) using a unique design to ensure high-quality sound with minimal wear and tear to your vinyl records.
Founder Joseph Grado began as a watchmaker at Tiffany & Company in the early 1950s. He was gifted with excellent hearing which borne him interest in the manufacturing of record cartridges, speakers, and turntables. He began manufacturing in his kitchen, and later he moved into the storefront of his parent's grocery store in Brooklyn. Grado narrowed his focus to cartridges, and for several decades he researched and improved the product resulting in many patents. The business grew and was passed on to subsequent generations.
In the 1990s, still family owned, John Grado, Joseph's nephew expanded to include handmade headphones, their primary product today. Everything about their process has quality in mind. Grado prefers treated mahogany as a building material for its natural tonal properties. Their headphones offer a very broad frequency range to perfectly recreate those low bass and high treble acoustics. The connectors incorporate expensive rhodium to prevent corrosion. Critics have repeatedly lauded Grado products for their outstanding tonal quality.
Based out of the 30,000 square foot, fifth floor of a former General Motors auto research lab, Shinola has in just a few short years branded themselves as an American made precision and quality manufacturer of watches, bicycles, and leather goods. Following mass layoffs, furloughed auto industry workers were trained by Swiss and Thai watchmakers in the art of horology and for the first time in decades, you can own an American made timepiece.
My friend recently purchased the Runwell which has a classic look. It comes in a wooden box, and it included a hand written note from the watchmaker thanking you for the purchase and keeping motor city employed. The watch has a sturdy feel with a stainless steel body and a crystal sapphire face to keep scratch free and looking good.
They diversified their offering to include stationary, pet supplies (such as collars and toys), home goods and even apparel. They don't make most of these products themselves but they are all made in the USA.
Shinola also offers a line of leather goods such as this wonderful duffle bag made out of Horween leather.
Oxford Pennant was founded in 2013 by Brett Mikoll and Dave Horesh as a way to celebrate old school American sports traditions. Their pennants are made in the USA (Buffalo, NY to be more specific) and the company only uses natural materials such as wool or cotton.
Let me dispel any misunderstanding. I don't care about American football, hockey, baseball and, well, sports, in general, but I do appreciate a bit of classic, old school, sports-related Americana in my life. Now I present you with a cheap, effective and US-made way to primp your man (or woman) cave with a bit of hometown pride.
Most of Oxford Pennant's designs refer to sport proud cities such as Pittsburgh or Buffalo, but some sport more tongue-in-cheek designs (such as the Kanye one).
After a long, arduous quest I finally found my style Holy Grail (hyperbole, much?). Anyways, it's classic, affordable and Made in the USA!
Dear reader, I present you with, American Giant's Men's Baseball Jacket.
It's made of 100% cotton, heavyweight fleece, reinforced stitching for extra strength and its interior is brushed for added loft and softness. It's made in California and North Carolina-based factories out of American cotton and retails for $89. Yes, eighty-nine dollars.
The women's version exists but I find it to be too closely fitted for my taste.
San Francisco-based American Giant was founded in early 2012 by Bayard Winthrop and sells a line of basic apparel, for men and women, ranging from tees to sweatshirts to sweatpants.
Prices are kept low (compared to competitors) by having a direct to consumers approach (no middlemen, no retail store, online only). This business model seems to be gaining a lot of ground lately as it allows entrepreneurs to offer better quality products at more accessible prices. AG also relies on word of mouth and media coverage to reach potential customers instead of a bloated marketing budget.
A Slate article even called one of their product "the greatest hoodie of all times", which caused AG's inventory to be wiped clean in 36 hours.The company's CEO called this article the best thing that happened to its company which shows how important it is to reach potential customers through the proper channels (a Slate article rather than a billboard on I-95).
After Tennessee, New Jersey and Massachusetts, let's explore the best Pennsylvania has to offer.
I did not have to look for long until I stumbled upon Bills Khakis (among many other interesting things).
The story behind the brand is pretty inspiring. The company founder, Bill Thomas found a pair of WWII khakis in a military surplus store that made any modern day equivalent pale in comparison. In 1990 he decided to quit his advertising job in Chicago and move back to his hometown of Reading, PA, to start a clothing company.With only a few thousand dollars and a slew of part time jobs (what we, wannabe entrepreneurs call "bridge jobs"), he started Bill Khakis.
Which now boast 32 employees and 500 retailers.
Located in the heart of Reading, Bills Khakis is a prime example of how of a 21st century business can compete in a city built on 20th century economy.
Head over to their website and you'll be delighted with the wide range of cuts and fabrics to choose from. From twill to poplin, linen to cashmere, you're bound to find something that will suit your tastes.
They also expanded their offering by selling coats, knitwear, jeans, shirt and accessories.
The products shown below are currently on sale (pants: $87.50, cardigan: $205, shirt: $87.50)
Hardwick Clothes (originally known as Cleveland Woolen Mills) was founded in the late 19th century and is still located and operated in the South (Cleveland, Tennessee to be more specific). The company is the oldest maker of tailored clothing in America and its mission is to provide their male customers with high-quality American-made clothing.
Mission accomplished since 1880.
The company was owned by the Harwick family until June of this year, when businessman Allan Jones acquired it, on the verge of bankruptcy. He said about Harwick's, "the company has survived two major fires, two World Wars, the Great Depression, leisure suits, NAFTA and – worst of all – making us watch China manufacture our Olympic team’s blazers.”
Sterlingwear of Boston's story starts in 1965 as Viking Clothing, until the acquisition of Sterlingwear, then a rainwear manufacturer with a solid sales team and experience in distribution management. Run by the Fredella family ever since, the company thrived and has been the official purveyor of the US Navy peacoats for over 40 years.
The company is based in East Boston, MA and employs over 250 people in the New England area.
Their commercial line boasts the same attention to details as the coats they manufacture for US servicemen and women: densely woven virgin wool (80% to 100% of the fabric content depending on the model), flannel-lined pockets, heavy weight satin lining, a high stitch count to ensure a tight bond between the coats components (10 to 12 stitches per inch), authentic anchor buttons and all of that, complying with the exact quality control standards issued by the US government.
Ninety percent of the company's revenue come from DOD contracts so it's understandable that they would want to diversify their customer base by opening brick and mortar stores in the Northeast, aneshop, and take on wholesale accounts.
You can watch a video made L.L. Bean (for which they created a couple coats) here.
The Navigator 100% Wool Peacoat is featured below is priced at about $265. Not much higher than poorly-made, imported coats from big brand names.
Todd Shelton founded his homonymous brand in 2002 and has been steadily growing ever since. While not a household name yet, the brand is one of the few on the market that designs, manufactures and sells directly to consumers through their e-commerce website. American Apparel does the same thing, but they also rely on a high number of brick-and-mortar stores (even my small, southern France hometown has its own AA store). Todd Shelton is based out of East Rutherford, New Jersey which is a short ride from NYC. Factory tours are available and I resent myself for not knowing about this earlier.
Besides its singular business model, Todd Shelton's particularity is, what I would call, a no BS aesthetics. No frills, no over bleached or torn fabrics, no loud prints and colors. Just classic designs paired with quality materials, a subdued color palette and punctilious stitching. In its own words, Todd Shelton's collections are defined by consistency and purpose, the latter eliminating the superfluous.
The shirt and jeans below are on sale for $69 (each!) and the Merino wool sweater for $79.
Shuron Ltd is based out of Greenville, South Carolina since 1865 and is one of America's oldest eyeglasses manufacturers (if not the oldest). You probably saw their frames on plenty of Hollywood actors' noses, from Kevin Costner in the 1991 JFK movie to Michael Douglas in Falling Down. Furthermore, their Ronsir Zyl frame accounted for half of all eyeglasses sales in the 50's which gives you an idea of how big and prominent Shuron really is. The funny thing, this model is as elegant and appropriate now as it was half a century ago.
Shuron's factory still employs about 80 employees and produces about 10,000 frames per month. According to Charles Whitehill, Shuron's current owner, their secret to longevity is "if it's not broke, don't fix it", which seems to be a pretty effective business model.
So please ditch your $5 dollars drug store glasses and invest in a real pair made by hand from high-quality materials (and that's also backed by a one-year manufacturing warranty against any defects).
See below for models available at Morrison, a Belgium-based store (about 200€ for a pair of sunglasses).
And if you're not willing to take advice from me, take them from the ever stylish Malcolm X.
Dehen was founded in 1920 by a German immigrant, William Peter Dehen, who moved to the States in 1903. After holding several jobs at knitting factories on the West coast, and smuggling liquor from Canada during the Prohibition (side business for which he did a short stint in jail), Willam Dehen started his own business which boomed until the Depression hit. When the bank foreclosed his factory, he paid a night time visit to the facility and moved all the equipment to his house basement where he kept making his products, selling them door to door, sometimes accepting food as payment. By 1936, his business was back on track, as school sweater and work apparel orders were piling up.
Noteworthy fact: the Dehens hired Otto Rutherford, an African American worker at a time when it was still newsworthy to do so and he ended being a master knitter and played a part in getting a key anti-discrimination bill passed by the Oregon legislature
While the US textile market was starting to get flooded with cheap, disposable, Asian made goods, Dehen survived by focusing on quality and craftsmanship and customers looking for custom manufacturing as well as exceptional service.
Dehen 1920 is the retail line of Dehen Knitting Company and it offers reproductions of original pieces manufactured during the past 94 years, even though the length and patterns have been updated for a more contemporary fit (learn more here).
The varsity jackets below feature Pendleton 24 oz melton wool, American bison leather sleeves and pocket welts, 100% worsted wool trims, a quilted lining and a snap front closure. Prices are high (over $500 for a jacket) but it's definitely on my bucket list of things to get. I've noticed they have no retailers in France so I guess that will be my opportunity to shine if I ever decide to open my own store (my not-so-secret dream).
Norman Porter is a denim and leather goods brand based out of Fishtown, a Northern Philadephia neighborhood and founded by two brothers and one of their friends. Read an interview of one the founders here.
At the turn of the 20th century, Philly was one of the world's textile capitals, fast forward to the 21st and this is a long gone memory (read more here). If you tried to dress yourself exclusively in Philadelphia made clothing and accessories, you would probably go around half naked.
Half, because Norman Porter's got your butt…err, your back.
Featuring North Carolina-made Cone Mills denim and Japanese selvedge denim, a classic, straight cut, no scratches, no bleaching, no weird stitching, their jeans nail the super clean aesthetics. Also, they age beautifully (see an example below).
Their products are currently available in five stores as well as their e-shop.
Would pair well with your Eagles jersey, if only NFL jerseys weren't made in South East Asia.
Moore Boxer Shorts is company founded in 2013 by Tim Moore, a then senior year student at the University of Pittsburgh.
Featuring premium, 100% cotton Japanese shirting fabric (pinpoint oxford) as well as American made thread and elastics, the brand's goal is to offer comfortable, well made boxer shorts manufactured in the USA (the production facility is in the Millvale neighborhood of Pittsburgh).
As the founder could not meet the high order minimums US based manufacturers asked for, he began to sew them himself, which involved a lot of trial-and-error, including sticking a needle through his thumb.
To all the guys out there: if your current array of boxer shorts is baggy, distented, and features characters your little brother is watching, it's time to join the grown ups club, and a pair of Moore's might just be your membership card.
As they have a vertically integrated business model, their products are only available on their website for $25 a pair and are offered in two colors (light blue and light pink). Moreover, if you sign up for their newsletter, you'll get a 20% discount on your first order.
Chippewa Boots, originally known as Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Company was founded in 1901 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin as a manufacturer of work, snow and rain footwear.
Their boots represent a perfect alternative to Chinese made Timberland boots, which came under fire from Greenpeace activists for potentially supporting slave labor, destroying Amazon rain forest and exacerbating global warming. Yes, apparently all of that simultaneously. (Read the Harvard Business Review article here)
The boots feature a full-grain leather upper, Drill Vamp lining made from a material designed to help, waxed cotton laces and Vibram soles. Some of their models also feature steel toes for those of you who actually perform some physical work.
Price range: $120 to $350
Pairs well with the American Trench previously presented on Un Beau Travail.
Founder Dan Castelline started Concord Button Downs as a tribute to New England, with shirts cut and sewn in a Massachusetts facility and a look that incorporates characteristics found in traditional Ivy Leagues attire. The shirts feature a tailored, traditional fit, a rear box pleat, adjustable round barrel cuffs and are made in the USA of 100% untreated cotton. The shirts go through a 65-step fabrication process that meticulously covers every detail from button holes to barrel cuffs.
I think I should create a new category for my blog: "Over the top".
Because this company's brief cases are over the top in every possible way: from the craftsmanship to the price and the materials used.
Every possible way except one: their timeless, understated elegance.
Passavant and Lee is a men's accessories brand developed by Jon Passavant and Benj Lee who launched -—after three years of development—a briefcase made out of the finest materials: aircraft grade aluminum, full grain Horween leather and entirely handmade by British and American craftsmen. The interior is made of fine suede and silk with leather trims, and can welcome a 15-inch laptop. The only way to make it more luxurious would be to have a Champagne dispenser.
The hexagonally shaped swing is made out of sustainably sourced Black Locust wood, one of the most durable hardwoods in the United States. Thanks to its rot-resistant properties and natural strength, Black Locust wood does not require treatment, which makes it the perfect outdoor accessory. It was even used to build ship masts. The rope is made out of manila hemp (which is not really hemp but whatever) and has a lightness, strength and durability that is hardly matched by any other natural fiber. These ropes were popular with sailors because they are flexible and not easily disintegrable by seawater.
Think of this article as a super early idea for next summer. There's no such thing as over planning, right?
Industry Standard NY is a new denim brand founded by Nicole Najafi. A bridge between the east and the west coasts, based in NYC and made in LA, the brand's vision is to offer the perfect pair of jeans without breaking the bank. How do they achieve that? Thanks to their direct to customer model, which allows them to cut down the final price of their products.
I have to say, I'm a denim snob. Thrift shopping is one of my favorite pastimes and I have several brand new looking, US made J Brand jeans that I paid a maximum of $15. So when a new denim brand comes around, I'm always eager to learn more about it.
Industry Standard NY jeans come in three different models (Margot, Odette and Simone, how very retro) and the price point is accessible at about $100 (after all, some Gap jeans can cost as much as $80, for a much lower quality).
Bonus point: made alongside the greatest LA made denim brands, Industry Stantard uses fabrics from the Cone Denim Mill, which is the oldest, still-running denim mill in the USA, located in Greensboro, NC.
It's always interesting to discover a century old brand and realize nobody really knows about it. Google Kaehler1920 and you won't find much. The Chicago-based fine leather goods brand was founded in 1920 by locksmith Walter Gustav Kaehler. After witnessing an increase in trunks lock repairs, Walter Kaehler set up shop and decided to create better travel goods to provide its customers with.
Bonus point: Kaehler1920 products are still made in Chicago using leather from the world renowned Chicago-based Horween Leather tannery.
Chief Trunk is a NYC based luxury luggage company. What makes it special, beside its well proportioned design, Brooklyn based manufacturing and high quality materials, is its history.
Indeed, Chief Trunk is the revival of a much older manufacturer, the Oshkosh Trunk Company, launched in 1898. It quickly grew into a world renowned travel goods manufacturer, found at retailers like Neiman Marcus and with a flagship store in Paris. But as travelling habits changed, Oshkosh failed to adapt and had to close shop in the early 60's.
Another distinctive feature is its crimson and gold stripes which could be spotted all over the globe, from ocean-crossing steamers to the lobbies of the world's finest hotels. Those stripes echoes the Spanish flag for a reason, they used to be on the diplomatic pouches in the use during the 19th century by Spanish embassies in the Americas. After Spain lost its remaining territories in the US, the canvas producing mill got stuck with excess stock of red and yellow striped canvas. Oshkosh bought the canvas and used it as a base to be painted, until a buyer spotted a few unpainted ones. This is how the Oshkosh Trunk Company, and later Chief Trunk gained their unmistakable look.
Launched at the beginning of this year, California Tailor was born from “the desire to create the perfect, American made, button down woven shirt” and it seems that London raised designer Gill Mclean succeeded. The shirts are a perfect mix of British refinement and Californian laidbackness, they manage to be feminine but not girly, as if you borrowed your boyfriend's shirt. Boyishly feminine would be a good description if not an oxymoron. As of today, they only offer one shirt (the appropriately named shirt No.1), in ten declinations.
The name of this brand couldn't be more straightforward. American Trench is a company founded by two friends, Jacob Hurwitz and David Neil, who were looking for a US made trench and couldn't find one. One of the most practical, stylish and timeless pieces one can own, America didn't make. Made out of Italian and British made 100% Egyptian cotton with a durable water repellent coating which does not inhibit breathability as well as 100% cotton interior plaid lining woven in North Carolina, this trench represents a great alternative to pricier brands such as Burberry or Aquascutum. And if the next 4th of July happens to be rainy, you'll be able to stay dapper, patriotic… and dry.
They also offre accessories such as socks, beanies and scarves, also made in the US.
S. W. Basics is a Brooklyn based skincare brand that makes its products using solely natural and organic ingredients. In order to deliver the most potent skincare, they use only a maximum of 5 ingredients per products. No, there's no typo. Let's ditch the digits: five ingredients! They also support sustainable agriculture by buying their raw materials only from organic, fair trade, or small-farm sources.