Styleforum Visits Evan Kinori

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“I don’t like calling it workwear,” says Evan Kinori. We’re standing in his beautiful studio loft in San Francisco, and I’m trying to do the horrible media thing where we pigeonhole something special using as few words as possible.

“It just has so many strong…connotations,” he finishes. “Let’s call it…well-made clothing for everyday life.”

This intentional vagueness is a better descriptor than my SEO-verified marketing lingo. Evan Kinori’s line of beautifully clean and comfortable garments is vague, in a pleasant way – even anonymous. Built for everyone, to wear everywhere.

The garments are familiar on first look: a chore jacket. A four-pocket pant. An overshirt. But it’s the details – or their absence – that make the clothes special. Consider the four pocket pants that I wear while writing this. No one but me will ever see the corduroy waistband facing or the veg-tan leather-backed buttons on the fly. Few will appreciate the beautifully finished seam that shows when I roll the pant cuff, or the subtle darting of the waist, or how good your hand feels in the pocket. It doesn’t matter: I appreciate these gestures, and that’s what matters.

Consider also Evan’s reversible denim jacket, a design he’s played with a handful of times since launching his brand. Denim on one side, and wool (or twill, or whatever strikes his fancy) on the other, the jacket is fully reversible – including double-faced buttons to preserve the left-sided buttoning stance, should the wearer want to swap them. Said wooden buttons are hand-dyed in indigo on the roof of the building.

We could certainly draw parallels to other brands, such as Margaret Howell’s chic utilitarianism or even Adam Kimmel’s short-lived workwear experiments, but that would be short-sighted. The back wall of Evan’s studio displays a collection of beautiful vintage garments, ranging from patchwork noragi to Swedish military anoraks to vintage baseball shirts, and that intelligent cosmopolitanism is much more illuminating of the product than sideways references to other brands. Evan tells me that it helped that he “Knew what he wanted to make” before going to patterning school to learn how to make it. He has taken available inspiration, stripped it down, and re-focused the results – and the results are polished.

Evan’s studio, courtesy evankinori.com

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Details: the 3-pocket jacket and 4-pocket pant in rinsed denim.

The clothes themselves are something of a blank slate, made to showcase the process and the fabric. They are beautiful as individual objects, and Evan takes great pride in the clean construction. Each piece is billed as looking “just as nice on the inside as it does on the outside,” and it rings true for everything I saw. Beyond that, Evan encourages various styling options. He himself prefers to wear an oversized pant with a tighter top, but his website shows how items fit across a range of sizes. The pair of pants I purchased are effectively one size up, but many people buy two full sizes up for extra roominess.

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Various offerings on display at the studio.

Evan calls the seasons his “editions.” Each piece he makes is part of a numbered run, and once they’re gone there’s no guarantee they’re coming back. He’ll keep the pattern – say, the four-pocket relaxed-leg overpant, based on a US Navy model – but change the fabric as inspiration strikes him. This season it’s a black Japanese twill, and he’s done rinsed denims, double-indigo twills (the pair I own), and un-dyed twill.

After laying out his ideas and his fabric on the massive drafting table at the back of the studio, he sews the samples and some of the retail pieces himself on an unassuming Juki sewing machine. The rest are produced by a small factory in LA, but Evan double-checks each piece before sending them out to the handful of retailers he works with: one in San Francisco, two in LA, and three in Japan.

He’s focusing on growing the brand slowly, hand-picking his partners the same way he hand picks the fabrics. Because of it, the brand is intensely personal and intensely compelling. This is one young maker I recommend keeping an eye on – despite the familiar shapes, the clothes are forward-looking, and it’s my guess that we’ll be seeing more of Evan in the near future.

Evan’s most recent releases are up now on his website, including a lookbook featuring the new products. Here are a few shots, but you can see the full thing, as well as several beautifully-shot videos, at EvanKinori.com.

You can watch a great video on the reversible jacket here, courtesy of Jack Knife and Evan Kinori:

Evan Kinori • “The Reversible Jacket” from Jarod Taber on Vimeo.

 


STOCKISTS

Currently, Evan Kinori is stocked at the following retailers:

 Reliquary / 544 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

– RTH / 529 & 537 N La Cienega Blvd West Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA 90048

– County Ltd.  /  1837 Hyperion Ave Los Angeles, CA 90027

Loftman / Loftman B.D. (Kyoto) & Loftman COOP UMEDA (Osaka)

Lantiki / Kobe & Tokyo Locations

–  CPCM /  Tokyo

San Francisco City Map

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Welcome to Styleforum’s City Maps! Remember that these lists are not definitive. They have been chosen by our editorial staff to reflect what we believe our community will appreciate. We are open to suggestions, and are aware that shops close and re-open regularly. If you have a store suggestion or a comment to share, let us know in the comment section

10 Years of Styleforum–we celebrated in style

On May 4 and May 5, we had a celebration for our 10 year anniversary, at the W San Francisco.  Over 400 people took part in the event, which included a screening of O’Mast, our vendor showcase, and a party.

We kicked it off Friday evening with cocktails and a sneak preview of the next installment of Put This On, a video series by Jesse Thorn about dressing like a grownup, followed by the featured screening of O’Mast, an acclaimed film about Neapolitan tailors and traditions from Gianluca Migliarotti, who traveled from Milan to be with us.  From there, we proceeded to dinner at Credo, in the private dining area, where translucent walls surrounded us with statements of belief from leaders around the world and throughout time. I had the scallops, and I know that they were delicious. The night concluded with port and espresso at The Wingtip, a private club owned by the proprietors of On The Fly, a San Francisco haberdashery which also participated in our vendor showcase the following day.

On Saturday, I was up at 8 a.m. to start setup for the vendor showcase, which started at noon, sharp.  I was nervous about the turnout, but we had a  steady stream of shoppers from the moment we opened the doors.  Fifteen vendors traveled from as far away as Hawaii and New York City.  The range of vendors reflected the diverse readership of Styleforum.  Goorin Brothers, hatmakers, a San Francisco institution whose goods are sold nationwide, brought a large sample of their heritage hats. Greg Walton of Louis Walton, a one man show, demonstrated how his hand makes the ties he sells.  Yuketen, shoemakers and leathermakers, brought their famous outdoor shoes, as well as bags (always sold out, everywhere,) and accessories, from Hermosa Beach.  On the Fly and A Suitable Wardrobe, Bay Area haberdashers who adhere to impeccable standards, brought fine ties, apparel, and gentlemen’s accoutrements; and A Suitable Wardrobe brought a shoeshiner to boot.  Jimmy Au’s for men 5’8″ and Under, from Beverly Hills, brought many suits, shirts,  and jackets to serve men from just below the national average to very much under the average.  Sette ties, from Washington, D.C. showed off substantial sevenfold ties.  Epaulet, from New York City, brought a full range of their own sportscoats, shirts, trousers, and accessories, made in the USA or in Italy, as well as Carmina shoes, for whom they are the sole stockist in North America.  The Brooklyn Circus also brought its brand of urban dandyism from New York City.  The Hanger Project, a business born of Styleforum, from Texas, came with shoe care products and accessories in addition to their signature hangers; local San Francisco retailers Taylor Stitch brought shirts, jeans, and belts; and Revolver, which proprietor Robert Patterson describes as “a little hippy,” featured a DIY scarf dying booth as well as goods from anyone from Yuketen to Reigning Champ to their own line of casual clothing.  Jack Knife Outfitters took measurements for custom jeans; and Joe Hemrajani of Mytailor.com took measurements for custom suits and shirts.  Leathersoul brought an extensive number of Aldens all the way from Honolulu, as well as examples of bespoke shoes from St. Crispin and George Cleverly, rarities anywhere.

As dusk settled, we settled into eating some snacks and having an immoderate number of drinks with a few hundred of our best friends.

 

SF10: Jack Knife Denim

I met John Alburl and Nick Kemp of Jack/Knife Outfitters in their SOMA (San Francisco) workspace when a friend of mine was getting his jeans finished.  Tailors for the well-known SF shop Unionmade, and former tailors for Levis, John and Nick create custom jeans from paper patterns for individual customers.  While the styles I saw were in the “heritage” and “workwear” vein, they stand the idea on its head. Denim was originally an industrial garment, made purely for utility, and the very idea of unsanforized “shrink to fit” jeans was that a uniform garment could be customized post production.  The trend to buy raw denim, and watch it become personalized with wear, is a natural extension.  This is in stark contrast with the bespoke garment, a piece made for a specific customer, a one of a kind.  Jack/Knife Outfitters makes bespoke versions of uniform garment.  I got to ask John some questions.


Fok-Yan Leung: Could you tell us a bit about how and why you started Jack/Knife Outfitters?

John Alburl: Jack/Knife came about as a desire for us to be professionally involved in a space where the only focus was on quality.  In an age of instantaneous education, the modern consumer has become more savvy than ever—consumers are interested in the “story”; the who, what, where, and why of a piece made are questions the market demands answers to. Companies tend to make up a gimmicky story that ultimately, over time, loses dimension, but with Jack/Knife our pieces are the story.

All the pieces that have ever received a Jack/Knife stencil were constructed for a reason. The use of heavy selvedge denim came not because the blogs thought it was cool, but because it was the only material that wouldn’t keep ripping on motorcycle rides. Bandannas also were constructed for dusty trips on the motorcycles. Bags came to carry tools, and it grew from there. Consumers are losing interest in the workwear/heritage/vintage trends, but luckily Jack/Knife does not technically lie in any of those categories. The influence from decades past for us comes not in fit or design, but more in the quality of construction and materials used.

Now we operate in a work studio in the old garment district of San Francisco. We take pride in doing everything ourselves and taking our time to aim as close as possible for perfection. These days there are very few operations left that design, draft patterns, and construct all in-house like we do at Jack/Knife.

FYL: Could you bring us through the process of how you work with a customer to get him the pair of jeans he wants?  How do you get him to the right denim, the right cut, the right details?

JA: Describing the entire experience for being fitted for a pair of Jack/Knife jeans would be a bit overwhelming to take in all at once. So I’ll give the “cliff’s notes” version:

The process for being fitted for Jack/Knife custom jeans begins with the first visit—a tour of our operations, a showing of our selvedge fabric selection, the machines, etc. The goal is to knock out fabric selection, thread color, rivets/buttons, pocket shapes, etc. There are myriad details to go over and each client is given the opportunity to bring forth their individual detail requests as well. Measurements are taken, and we also discuss with the client the desired fit of the finished jean. There is much more that goes into the first fitting, and overall this stage is the most comprehensive.

After all the necessary information has been gathered from the client during the first visit, we begin drafting by hand the pattern for the jeans. The pattern-drafting phase by far is the most time-consuming step of the overall process. Once we have your pattern, we construct your jeans, which you’ll try on during your second visit. When you come to try on your jeans in the second visit, there is no waistband yet. Trying on jeans with no waistband can be a a bizarre experience, but the second visit is simply for us to see how the jeans are fitting up to that point. Based on how the jeans fit during the second visit, we either adjust as needed or move on to the next phase.

Past the second visit, all that is needed is a waistband, belt-loops, and a final hem. We attach the waistband and belt loops once we are past the second visit phase. The final visit from you will be to try the jeans on one last time to confirm that you are happy with the fit now that the waistband has been attached. We also take a final measurement for your hem. The final hem is done during this last visit, as it only takes Nick about 10 minutes or so to hem a pair of jeans. And lastly Nick dates and signs the jeans at the very end.

FYL: Could you tell us a little about the details that sets your jeans apart?

JA: Aside from being completely custom—the entire manufacturing of Jack/Knife jeans is done using hand-worked, single-needle construction. All of our patterns are individually hand-drafted by us in our studio. We use a cotton twill binding on all our raw seams, because in our minds we would be cheating if we used over-lock or cover-stitches. We hand-hammer all of our USA-made hardware to Jack/Knife jeans. The fabric we offer is all selvedge fabric from either Japan or Cone Mills out of North Carolina. We also incorporate the use of selvedge details in the waistband, belt loops, out seam, and coin pocket. Each pair of jack/Knife jeans is hand inscribed, dated, and signed. Oh, and our jeans come with a lifetime warranty.

FYL: What if I have some really specific details I like on my pair?  If they are really dumb, how would you tell me?

JA: The only time I would intervene in someone’s design is if the idea lacked a functional purpose. We are all very honest at Jack/Knife, you would be able to tell if we thought an idea fell short of making sense.

FYL: On the other hand, there are guys who probably don’t really know exactly what they want.  How do you guide them through the process?

JA: Through a series of dialogue we can guide just about anyone through our custom experience. We try in every way possible to make this this process simple to understand. It is during that first visit that we take the time to play host and develop a sense of understanding of the individual’s lifestyle. There are basic design details that can alter the feel or styles of jeans. An example would be that dressy jeans are different in styling than workwear style jeans.

FYL: Everyone I know loves their Jack/Knife jeans.  What would you say is the secret of your success?

JA: Our unwillingness to sacrifice quality. We will always go the extra mile to make the best product possible. In these early days of Jack/Knife we have done everything possible to ignore the standard industry prompts of “selling out.” We have never outsourced. For Jack/Knife, we could never trust an outsourced entity to follow through on a project with the same passion as is practiced in our shop.

FYL: What vision do you have for Jack/Knife going forward?

JA: To continue growing. The introduction of Jack/Knife for women, a series of reproductions from the old mine finds of Mike Harris and Gang (author of Jeans of the Old West), a collaboration with Tellason, Jack/Knife limited edition pieces, and more are all happening just within the next 6months for Jack/Knife. For those coming to the Style Forum 10th Anniversary event, Jack/Knife will be unveiling a yet-to-be-seen limited edition cotton/hemp Japanese chambray shirt.

Thanks John!

Jack/Knife Outfitters
372 Ritch St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
info@jackknifeoutfitters.com