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After studying industrial and fashion design at the University of Cincinnati and The Savannah College of Art and Design, Brad Shaffer moved to Thailand where he began designing a furniture line for David Jones Australia. He spent the next few years traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Australia before returning to the States to work as a graphic designer. "I always felt pressure to decide and focus on a particular type of design. It was during that time, I realized the fact that my past indecisiveness had become a strength," says Shaffer, who began working for American Eagle Outfitters as an Art Director, eventually becoming the Creative Director of Marketing & Brand Concept. At AE, Shaffer did everything from conceptualizing and designing marketing elements to conceiving typography, window displays, and photo shoots. "I developed my skills and learned a lot about the industry." Proving that point, Shaffer jumped ship a year ago to start ACRE Creative with his wife, stylist Leanne Ford. Specializing in design, concept and branding for homes, businesses and brands, they've worked with everyone from Roxy to American Eagle designing retail spaces and displays, and recently had their home (an old one-room 1908 schoolhouse featured in Country Living magazine). Our favorite ACRE project, of course, is the City Gym store, which Shaffer completed in record time. "When Todd called he asked if I could be in New York the following day," recalls Shaffer. "And open the store in 14 days." The rest, as they say is history.
The City Gym sofa designed by our friend Stephen Kenn is now available for purchase. Hewn from 100% wool blankets made at Minnesota's Faribault Woolen Mills Co., it's a chic marriage of military tailoring, industrial styling, and clean minimalist lines. Place your custom order at the City Gym store or online here.X
Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canadian designer Stephen Kenn got his start in the denim business fresh out of high school after a year-long stint teaching English in Taiwan. “A lot of our friends were starting t-shirt companies, so we thought let’s start a jean company, because nobody was really doing that in Canada back then,” recalls Kenn, who launched his brand, Iron Army, with a friend Steve Dubbeldam when they were both still in their teens. “We took out a loan, bought 300 pairs, went to a trade show in Vegas, met a bunch of people in L.A. and they were all like, ‘What the heck are you guys doing, making jeans in Canada?’” Acting on that advice, the duo moved to L.A. in 2004, where they sold denim to Fred Segal, and hustled on the side. “You know that HBO show How To Make It In America? We were kind of living that out a couple years before that was on TV,” jokes Kenn. “We were selling jeans out of the trunk of our car in Whole Foods parking lots to rich kids in Venice and doing pop-up shops on the corner of Melrose a couple streets down from Fred Segal, totally tarnishing the reputation we had, breaking all the rules, but we learned a lot.”
Though Iron Army would fold, Kenn and Dubbeldam partnered with Hudson Jeans for another brand. It had the misfortune of launching during the recession, but the experience taught Kenn resilience. “Even though I was beat down a bit, I decided to stay in LA, and I started using this old military fabric to sew bags. My goal was to start in the morning, sew a bag a day, take a photograph at night and sell it on a blog,” says Kenn, who ended up hawking 88 bags over the course of nine months. With the money he paid his rent, bought a wedding ring for his wife, Beks Opperman, and proposed to her in India. Kenn later sold the company, Temple Bags, and realized his next move would be furniture. “I started taking a ton of furniture apart, just to figure out how it was made,” he says. “I broke it down into bones, muscle, and skin.” He forged the bones from steel, the muscle (or tensions) from reproductions of Swiss mule belts, and the skin from repurposed WWII military fabric. That breakdown worked. In the past two years, Kenn has grown his eponymous line, crafted in downtown L.A., to include an elegant chaise, ottoman, armchair, and his iconic sofa, a City Gym version of which just made its debut — wrapped in custom Faribault wool — in the Todd Snyder + Champion store. “I just want to use great materials that tell great stories,” explains Kenn.
On Saturday, November 2nd, we're opening our first collaborative store with Champion at 242 Elizabeth Street, in Nolita. It's going to be called City Gym — after our debut Todd Snyder + Champion collection — and the shop is meant to evoke an old school sporting goods store with athletic-inspired industrial furniture from ABC Carpet & Home, the latest Champion gear, and some jeans and khakis from our signature collection. City Gym will also function as a curio of sorts, stocking my favorite handmade American goods, including bicycles and watches from Detroit's Shinola; throwback ballcaps from Seattle's Ebbets Field, Hoosier bats and Leather Head balls; books by Assouline and Taschen; along with a special assortment of curated goods by Kaufmann Mercantile. We'll also have some of my favorite new and vintage magazines on hand, Stephen Kenn furniture, even bottled juice from Liquiteria. So come on by, get some gear, and stay a while.