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.
Snapshots from the opening festivities for the Todd Snyder + Champion City Gym store.
News in the world of style and design we're loving at the moment.
A little industrial DIY holiday spirit brought to you by our friends over at Lindsey Adelman Studio from last night's Sight Unseen x Snarkitecture's Pumpkin Carving Contest in Brooklyn.
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.
As a sculpture student at Baltimore's Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Long Island-raised guitar maker Rick Kelly worked his way through college by hand-making Appalachian dulcimers from reclaimed wood from the city Parks Department. "I'd been making cigar box guitars for this high school project," says Kelly. "But the Appalachian dulcimers were really the first production instruments I made." Kelly took the guitars to juried craft fairs — learning his craft while making rent money. After a few years of producing guitars out of Maryland barn, Kelly packed up for Manhattan, where set up a small shop building handmade Telecasters and Stratocaster replicas. Though he moved to California for a few years in the early Eighties, Kelly's been building coveted custom Kelly Guitars out of Carmine Street Guitars — from reclaimed swamp ash, Arkansas rock maple, and pine from New York City landmarks like the Chelsea Hotel and Chumley's — that have made fanatics of Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Lenny K, GE Smith, James Taylor, director Jim Jarmusch (above, with Kelly) and the late Lou Reed, who still had a pine model on order when he passed away last week.
I've lovedVincent Van Duysen's clean lines for years, and was reminded just how much recently after re-reading this story inT: The New York Times Style Magazine about his new home in Antwerp. With any luck we'll get the chance to work together on a (home or work) project one day.
Anyone who glances at myPinterest page knows I'm a sucker for Leica cameras. The perfect balance of form and function, the Leica M is a marvel of simple, understated design married with precise, cutting-edge technology. Now what happens when you take a near-perfect form and put it on steroids? Apple’s Jony Ive and Marc Newson — two men who know a thing or two about making functional art — did just that for Bono’s upcoming(Product) RED charity auction November 23 at Sotheby’s New York.
A partnership forged by modernism, Charles Eames and Ray Kaiser met as architecture and design students — under Eliel Saarinen — at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. They would later move to Los Angeles and create some of the most iconic examples of 20th century furniture, architecture, and industrial design (all while mentoring future icons like Harry Bertoia along the way). There was a purity of purpose behind their lines that not only influenced designers such as myself, but was influenced by Mondrian modernists and Warholian pop artists alike. In fact, their connection with the latter is being teased out over in London at the Barbican’s Pop Art Design exhibition, opening tomorrow through February 9, 2014. I can’t wait to see 200 works by some 70 mid-century mavericks like Ettore Sottsass, Claes Oldenburg, and the Eameses all under the same roof.X
Inspired by the Greasers in the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, The Outsiders, ourLeather Moto Jacket is the classic cafe racer as seen through the eyes of Dallas Winston. Like Ponyboy, the lightweight natural leather will stay golden for years to come. Pair it with some dark (or dusty) selvedge — and an old pickup, if you’ve got one — to channel that post-rumble rakishness.
Saturday Night Live is dark this weekend, so we thought we’d look back at the hilarity that ensued last week between the men of SNL and host Bruce Willis in their “Boy Dance Party” skit. Though we can’t remember the last time our football fetes turned into an all-male disco, we’re not knocking the practice. Especially when Mr. Willis cut such a sharp profile in our Olive Metal Suit jacket for GQ, while SNL’s Jay Pharoah was looking equally dapper in our forthcoming waterproof tuxedo puffer jacket at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Uniqlo Design Challenge cocktail party earlier this week. Now watch these gents dance.