Los Angeles retailers share their tales
The Stronghold originated in 1895 as the first denim brand manufactured in L.A. It shuttered in the mid-1950s and laid dormant until 2005 when Michael Paradise, a lover of history and fashion, bought its trademark and brought it back to life. He relaunched the brand as a dual venture, opening up both wholesale distribution and a retail shop on Abbot Kinney in Venice. Every piece in the collection is recreated according to its original design using selvedge denim in a range of weights and fabrications; retails are from $285 to $495. “The store is like a time capsule,” says Paradise. “When a customer walks in, he’s immediately transported back to a time period between the late-19th century and pre-rock & roll ’50s. Everything in store has to be a style that could have existed then. We only stock brands that still manufacture the same styles they once did and manufacture in the original country. Most of our products are made in America, but we do carry some European and Canadian brands that follow those guidelines. An example is Borsalino hats. I’ll only introduce a new style to The Stronghold if I can find it in historical reference books or old Stronghold catalogs.”
New for fall 2012: We’re adding categories like footwear and leather outerwear.
Celebrity clientele: The most amazing people shop at our store: musicians, actors, directors, artists. And they have a real appreciation for what we do because it’s very specialized. We’ll serve scotch and they’ll come in and hang out. Some of our male celebrity clients include John Malkovich, Orlando Bloom, Kid Rock, Jeremy Piven and Jason Lee.
Branded vs. private label: 65% is private label and 35% is branded (Alden shoes, Filson, Stetson, Red Wing and Wolverine).
Garret Colton got his start interning for Scott Sternberg at Band of Outsiders. “I knew nothing about the clothing industry, but I e-mailed Scott and he had me come in and intern. I was there when we were working out of Scott’s house. From there, it just took off and I started handling the daily financials, assisting with shipping worldwide and became Scott’s assistant and office manager. It was a lot of work but ultimately led me to open this store.” He opened Standard Goods in September 2011 because as he says, “there are a lot of great stores in Los Angeles, but because the city’s so spread out, you have to drive all over to find what you’re looking for. I wanted to open a store that mixed a little bit of everything all in one place.” What’s more, everything in the store is for sale including furniture, books, art, accessories, vinyl, food, etc. As far as menswear, he stocks all of the essentials (and nothing seasonal) from brands like Velva Sheen, Our Legacy, Velour, Universal Product (the first store in the U.S. to have the Japanese brand), Armorlux and their own private label brand (belts, socks, boxers and hats).
Lessons learned: Where to begin? I’m still learning! But an important one is to spend money on the important stuff. It’s not worth it to penny pinch because you end up spending more correcting the mistakes. Apply this to a web developer for example (wink, wink). It’s better to bite the bullet and do it correctly than try and find some person who is going to half-ass it.
Funniest story from the sales floor: Three film people came in to the shop right around the same time: an actor, writer and director who were all meeting later that day for a reading. They’re all friends but didn’t plan on seeing each other at my store!
Favorite quote: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” —Whole Earth Catalog
Exciting projects: My girlfriend Christine Brown is producing and directing all the videos for our Guest Buyer Series. We ask people in various job fields to literally act as the buyer for my shop. They pick out things that inspire them and their craft and half the proceeds go to the charity of their choice. We’ll go to flea market and estate sales to find products. We’ve done four so far with a NY-based photographer, an actor, a band, and a food maker. (Check it out at standard-goods.com/gbs.)
JP Plunier hails from Brittany, a peninsula on the north coast of France, and has always been inspired by the sea. He started designing “Brittany” sweaters (traditional striped sweaters with shoulder button detail) which were often worn by the local sailors. He’s since expanded the collection and now Plunier and his wife and business partner, Shaheen, have a full wholesale collection and retail space under their brand Feal Mor. They opened the store on La Brea in November 2010 to create an environment for the brand. “We wanted to show the whole picture and lifestyle of Feal Mor, so in addition to apparel, we stock surfboards, bikes, housewares, and ceramics all with a similar vibe.” Hot items for fall 2011 were the classic “Brittany” sweaters ($300 retail), zip coats ($925 to $1,000) and deck jackets ($695).
Funniest story from the sales floor: The store’s dressing room is a teepee, so it was around the holidays when two girls came in. They both went into the teepee and all of a sudden we started to hear music. So I looked in and found them sitting on the floor playing ukuleles. They said that the music they were playing was their Christmas present to me.
Heroes/mentors: Eric Tabarly, a French transatlantic sailor from my hometown who died at sea about 15 years ago. My father, who is 83 years old and recently took a month-long trip to Australia all by himself.
Future plans: We want to expand the wholesale collection. We currently sell to Colette in Paris and Union in L.A.