Visiting La Stoffa Clothing

Few clothing companies can lay claim to owning an aesthetic.  The best brands combine beauty with function in a way that is organic and intuitive, when each of their products are simple, alluring, and useful.

This is Stòffa, who I found out about purely by accident.

Months ago, while enjoying drams of Macallan and Highland Park, Ian, a fellow forumite and friend, told me about them in hushed tones of awe.  

“Have you seen their jackets?” he asked, to which I admitted I hadn’t.  “You’ll be hearing about them soon,” he proclaimed, and while my interest was piqued, I never followed up, and quickly forgot.

Later, my editor, Jasper, sends me an email:

Stòffa is doing a trunk show this week in San Francisco.  Write an article.

Since I had to leave for Los Angeles in a few days, I quickly emailed Agyesh of Stòffa.  He was completely booked, but would be doing a trunk show in LA that weekend, so we made an appointment for Sunday.  In the meantime, I did my research: what is Stòffa?

Turns out, Stòffa is everything you ever wanted in a jacket.  And trousers.  And much more.

Sunday rolls around, and I meet Agyesh in a new development in Culver City.  He is keen to meet before he shows me any of his wares, and I’m glad I did.  Over Blue Bottle Coffee, Agyesh reveals himself to be an everyman who loves clothes.  “I was a computer engineer,” he begins, “Developing interfaces for the end user, where their experience was paramount.  Then I worked at Isaia, had an unlimited budget, an amazing mentor and the very best resources at our disposal, and could go anywhere I wanted to creatively.  But the concept felt so detached from the customer – the end user.  And the waste,” his head kicks back and his hands wave. “There is so much waste, did you know that?  

“With Stòffa, it’s practically nothing. With retail, you made so much more than what we sell. It’s almost impossible to get out of that cycle with retailers; I wanted a new supply and delivery chain from the start with Stòffa.”

The way Agyesh is able to do this is simple: take your order, and your order is made.  There is no stock, nothing that may or may not be bought.  There are just four jackets, six options of material, and every piece is made to order.  And more important: made to measure. Also, fabrics are created in such away that they are used across categories, and the same raw yarn used multiple times.

“The guys that I know that are into suits, they are so conscious of fit and proportions,” Agyesh says, “Which is fine, but when they wear casual clothes, they are not nearly as particular. They settle with what is made for them.  That is ridiculous.”

As a man with a stature less like the Adonis-esque models often chosen for menswear, I personally have found that, with suiting, bespoke offers a fit that cannot be achieved with simple alterations to off-the-rack garments.  Agyesh takes that model and applies it to casual wear.  “If you’re short,” he explains, “We won’t simply shorten the sleeves.  We’ll shorten the length, raise the pockets.  Everything to make it look proportional.”

With a background in programming UI and working at one of the world’s most well-known clothing manufacturers, I’m convinced this man knows about how things should fit.  But what about style?

“I had in mind a relaxed and elegant style coupled with a little personality that suits the lifestyle and context of a man in the modern times. Someone who is always one the move and wants to maintain an air of elegance without forced formality through every aspect of his life.”  The result is neither fastidious nor slovenly. Simple and casual, yet elegant.

He then shows me to his samples at the trunk show, and I am awestruck.  Not by anything radical or unusual, but by the distinct approach to an otherwise staid concept.  The four jacket styles are nothing new – their flight jacket, field jacket, asymmetric jacket (similar to a double rider) and longer coat are hallmarks of casual menswear and a staple in most men’s closets.  However, it’s the way in which they are rendered that makes them fresh: large pockets, sweeping collars, and luxe fabrics. 

Agyesh gives me a flight jacket to try on first.  “This is the most elegant,” he says, and I immediately see why.  The clean and familiar lines evoke just enough nostalgia while avoiding gimmicky costume.  Instinctively I reach to put my hands in side pockets, and they’re there.  Agyesh notices. “We wanted to make something practical, not simply an exercise in art,” he says.

Agyesh himself is sporting the asymmetrical jacket in taupe, which looks unassumingly chic with his breezy rumpled linen trousers and beat-up Superga sneakers.  “I’ve had this for over two years,” he says with a smile.  “All of our clothes are tested for a year or more.  It’s something I’ve taken from my years as a developer – nothing was released until it had months of testing.  I wanted to make sure everything not just lasted but looked better with time.”

Finally I tried on the asymmetrical coat, a three-quarter length piece with generous lapels that inconspicuously buttons off-center.  “There is absolutely no structure in this, no lining,” Agyesh explains, “so we had to shape it with seams.”  Indeed, for a coat so light, I’m impressed by its classic cut down through the waist and graceful a-line sweep outward.  This is the  jacket I’m getting.  Or…Agyesh’s.  Or maybe the flight jacket.  

I’m still undecided.

If you’re interested in seeing Stòffa’s wares for yourself, you’ll have to make it to one of their trunk shows – remember, everything is made to order, and you can’t buy the clothes online. Stòffa  has trunk shows every 5-6 weeks in LA, San Francisco, New York, and Stockholm, which hopefully will give you enough time make a decision.

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It’s Time for a Field Jacket

Lightweight outerwear is, in my opinion, the best category of clothing. And the king of lightweight outerwear is the field jacket: it’s versatile, it’s variable, and there’s pretty much a model out there for you, whatever your tastes may be.

Like just about every menswear classic, the field jacket is originally a military piece. And really, it has no definite beginning, since any jacket worn into the “field” became, by definition, a field jacket. But the best-known models are the American-made M-series jackets that replaced the original OD-3 (Olive Drab 3) field jacket, which itself replaced the four-pocket service coat that had been in action through WWI: the M-43, M-51, and M-65.

The latter has become the standard-bearer for the clothing genre, but it has an equally compelling cousin in the form of the Safari Jacket, or Bush Jacket. These also have their origins in military use, particularly as warm-weather British uniforms in khaki drill, but were rapidly adopted into casual offerings as well. Now they’re often referred to as “Hemingway Jackets,” thanks to Ernest’s penchant for wearing them while shooting things in Africa. Similar in style to the American service coat, these jackets share the four-pocket style with the addition of a waist belt.

As you might expect from a style that’s been around for the better part of a century, there are now endless options for safari jackets. They range from vintage M-65’s (still very popular due to their robustness and movie-star appeal) to modern interpretations made from luxurious materials like suede, soft wools, or supple leather. My own field jacket – yes, I own just one – comes from the short-lived but excellent brand Cloak. Unlike some of the lighter-weight examples, this one is fully quilted, and is at its best over a roll-neck sweater on a chilly day.

However, most field jackets are still true to their origins as a versatile, always-applicable jacket. The cloth versions can be sported with sleeves rolled up, which is perfect for confusing autumn weather. I’ve never understood the aversion to rolling the sleeves on a jacket – there’s nothing odd about the look, and I find it comes in handy much more regularly than you might assume. Besides, a field jacket can be worn over a linen shirt or even a medium-weight sweater, depending on what you need. And best of all, you’ll never run out of pockets.

I’m not really a fan of out-of-control luxury interpretations of utilitarian pieces, although I certainly understand the appeal. And I think that a suede field jacket is a truly handsome piece – I’d go so far as to say I’d love to own one. But if you’re looking for a real workhorse of a jacket, I would stick to fabric offerings – especially as you can find lots of models that are water- and weather-resistant, which turns the field jacket into a dependable standby every time you pack a suitcase.

Shopping for a field jacket is really case of being spoiled for choice. Because it’s such a classic style, it’s pretty easy to find a model that won’t break the bank. You’ll find examples at brands like Orvis, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean, and if you’re looking for a purely utilitarian piece, the truth is that you probably won’t be disappointed with a budget option.

Of course, you can always go vintage. A quick web search will show hundreds of options for surplus and vintage suppliers, as well as from brands like Alpha Industries. You can also find exacting replicas at Buzz Rickson’s or The Real McCoy’s, if you’re looking for period-correct details and fantastic build quality. In these cases, expect to pay orders of magnitude more than you would at your local thrift shop.

The internet menswear set has embraced the suede field jacket, which is just fine with me. While these were never exactly hard to find, it does feel that they’ve seen yet another resurgence, and Menswear designers have certainly cottoned (sueded?) on to the trend. Now, you’ll find suede models everywhere from Hickey Freeman to Brunello Cucinelli. Hell, Mr. Porter even has an entire section of their website devoted to field jackets.

Here’s the thing: if I were going to add another field jacket to my closet, which is already bloated with light jackets, I’d go for one of two options: first, I’d check for a budget option that fit my fancy for a dose of boring but functional style. Barring that, if I had the spare cash, I’d look for a suede option.

I first heard about Stoffa from Derek at Die! Workwear, and after stalking their offerings for a year I think they’ve really hit the perfect mix of clean lines and functional details – and I don’t think that’s easy to get right. I also happen to like their colors; all of which are a bit whimsical and exciting as opposed to standard drabs. You’ll have to inquire directly about materials as well as fittings.

The other maker I’d consider is Styleforum affiliate Craftsman Clothing, a Hong Kong-based made-to-measure leather company. Their Hemingway jacket is a bit more traditional, a bit less clean, which I find very appealing. And so far, Styleforum members have shared nothing but praise.

Even if we’re in the middle of a field jacket craze, it’s a very safe buy that I really doubt anyone would come to regret. Like most menswear classics, it’ll have its moments, but it’ll also never look outdated or out of style. And while I’m not a proponent of having a wardrobe made up entirely of classics, I think a field jacket is a piece that can easily be styled to the wearer’s tastes.

Regardless, best of luck on your search, dear reader. And if you have other favorites, feel free to mention them in the comments below.