A little bit of London came to visit the most British part of Pasadena this past weekend.
You guys all know by now that I’m trying my darndest to make classic menswear happen in LA. Every weekend I keep seeing black tie dinners, soirees, and trunk shows in London, Stockholm, and NYC. These cities all have their own menswear hubs (or multiple), so I can see where they’re coming from; all we really have is Dapper Day and that’s not really a place for classic menswear. Sure, LA might have Ralph Lauren or Brooks Brothers, but it’s much different than The Armoury, Drake’s, or Skoaktiebolaget, which are ateliers that practically beg for events to be hosted. Having a few menswear enthusiasts is one thing, but we needed to have a store to hang out in. I’m pretty sure Uniqlo wouldn’t like a bunch of dudded out 20-somethings just standing around for a few hours.
Enter in The Bloke, a new menswear haberdashery tucked away in Pasadena’s Burlington Arcade. Jeffrey Plankser has stocked the store with everything from Kamakura shirts and Chipp ties to Tellason denim and handful of Drake’s pieces. He’s also been sure to host events, which I think was a great success. You might remember how cool his opening party was! Since then, he’s done a few things like Cars and Coffee or hosting a small art gallery, but after about half a year of being open, he’s now ready to bigger things. Imagine my delight when he told me that he was going to be hosting a Drake’s trunk show! Other than Stoffa a while ago, I had never been to (or heard of) another one.
Now Drake’s is a brand that I’m really in love with thanks to their great products and excellent pictures. I know that I’ve written about them here and here, but you’ve gotta let me talk about my passion for them once more. The brand started out as a tie company (started by Michael Drake) but has since moved into being a full service haberdashery, offering their own line of shirting, tailoring, and knitwear. Their aesthetic is very much English meets Italy, with a lot of printed ties and ivy-style jackets but with a soft, unstructured feel. I always like to say that Drake’s is a great case study for fashion (menswear specifically) as they made the smart move of expanding their products slowly and naturally, sensing what the market needed and supplying that demand in their own unique way.
They now have stores in London, NYC, and Tokyo, but utilize world-wide trunk shows twice a year so that other people have an opportunity to see the brand for themselves. No one in LA stocks Drake’s and while other stores in other cities might have them, it’s usually just the ties; if you want ane expanded Drake’s experience, you’ll either need to go to one of their stores or go to a trunk show!
Kinglsey and Chris (from NYC and London respectively) ran the trunk show with Jeff and James from the Bloke. While the Bloke already stocks a few Drakes pieces to sell, the trunk show allowed Drake’s to showcase some stuff that you can’t really get anywhere other than online or in one of their few world wide stores. It does add to the desirability of the brand, which was definitely the case for me. As an LA native, I’ve only touched a Drake’s piece once in my life (compared to my friends who live near a Drake’s store or a place that stocks a lot of Drake’s) and it was pretty damn awesome to be able to see even more product and try it for myself.
Obviously they brought along some of the ties that The Bloke doesn’t have in their regular inventory. I always find it surprising that Michael Hill (creative director of Drake’s) is able to to come up with new designs every season that is pretty stylish and different without going too fashion-y. This latest season has a preppy, Southern US vibe and the ties definitely reflect that. Foulards, medallions, and stripes were done in bright colors (to compliment their standard faire) but they also brought in some fun prints like animals and sailboats! One particular favorite of mine were the art deco exploded box prints, which are pretty darn close to the designs on vintage ties. It’s also important to note that a lot of Drake’s ties are untipped, which not only is another similarity to the vintage ties that I own, but are a mark of quality. Quick, try to find a mall tie that has the same (or similar) construction.
F.E Castleberry also seems to like this season’s stuff, but that’s to be expected; the guy loves his neo-prep!
They also brought some yardage of tie fabric from previous seasons for MTO tie. Costing $225 each and taking 6-8 weeks to delivery, it allows clients to be able to design their own tie! Not only does this help guys who are shorter or taller than the “average” guy, but they assured me that they could even alter the shape of the blade. Perhaps they could replicate the design of the 1910s Novelty tie?
As a guy who likes bold and conservative ties, I liked them all. However, my favorite one is the first fabric in the above picture. Blue, red, and yellow in a geometric pattern is pretty much an “Ethan tie”. Just remember that once these fabrics are gone (each sheet = one tie), they are gone forever!
Shirting was the next thing that Drake’s expanded to once they decided to become a larger brand. I mean it makes sense right? We make neckties, so we should make a shirt to go with that necktie!
The theme for shirting (if that truly is a thing) is “summer stripes”, aptly named for the bold, colorful lines decorating their products. We all know that I love striped shirts and patterned ties, so this was right up my alley. Some might be a little too bold for my taste, but they’re really growing on me!
One of their most popular shirts is the chambray button down collar. Spencer and I have always wanted one because it’s like a more rugged, workwear-esque OCBD. The Bloke regularly stocks these for $165 and Spencer made the jump to get one. We’re probably going to see it on him all the time since it goes with everything!
In addition to RTW options (all done by neck size), they also were taking orders for MTO shirts. This means that you figure out your closest RTW size and then they make a few tweaks to the size (collar and body/sleeve); fit can be done with either a regular or slim fit. I didn’t get to ask which mills they use for shirting, but everything felt great. I especially loved the plethora of stripes, which is always right up my alley. They had bengals and university stripes in both poplin and oxford cloth, which was super tempting.
You could also pick your desired collar. Even though they mainly have spread collar and button-down options on their RTW, this would be your chance to get a tab or club collar option. One collar that I thought was interesting was the collar seen on the left. They are exactly the same shape as a collar on an OCBD just sans button. I think they call it a “long point collar”, but I think that they’re pretty much just a spearpoint. The only difference the ones I like are that they have a lot more spread and tie space, which makes them more late 60’s-early 70’s in terms of style.
I believe I caught these during my trip to London!
Let’s talk about their tailoring. I was lucky enough to try on some of their jackets when I was in NYC, but I loved seeing it on my friends! Spencer wears one of my dream jackets that is absolutely necessary for SoCal: a navy jacket made in linen twill. Like all their other tailoring, it is unstructured and unlined, with a 3-roll-2 closure and two patch pockets. Can you see the ivy influence yet?
The 40 was pretty much a perfect fit for Spencer, though neither of us had the $1.2k for the jacket. It’s definitely aspirational!
They also had a great Madras jacket to go with their ivy-prep summer theme. I expected the jacket to be scratchy like other similar jackets, but this one was extremely soft almost spongey. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any jackets in my size but I’m glad that Spencer and Ryan were able to try on Drake’s for themselves.
Drake’s has also complimented their tailoring with pieces of outerwear. Spencer and I like this one as we’ve been on sort of a military jacket hype (M-43 and Jungle Jacket). It’s a cool move for Drake’s to make up their version of an M-43 in a sturdy olive linen. Like the navy jungle jacket, having a military outerwear in non-traditional fabric is a great way to shed the “surplus vibes” that tend to come with similar pieces. Honestly, having a linen field jacket is a good move since it can be worn year round instead of our heavy twill ones which will only be seen during fall/winter.
The overshirt/shirt-jacket has been a big thing in menswear the past few years today. Drake’s approaches it with their breezy casual style, by making them up in super soft linen. Design wise, it’s sort of a mix between a chore coat and a safari jacket which makes it perfect to thrown on over their OCBDs or a crew neck tee (made for Drake’s by Fedeli). RTW was offered in blue and brown linens, but they also had swatches for MTO.
Snapshots and Style
What I liked about this trunk show wasn’t just the cool Drake’s products but being able to hang out with people who share the same interests! The best part is that it was very casual; no whiskey or cigars, just cool well dressed people. Not only was I able to talk contemporary menswear with my friends, but I also had the chance to meet some new people! I always knew that there were more menswear enthusiasts out there (apart from vintage) and that it would take an event like this to bring us all out to hang out and expand the community. I guess we all just like Drake’s!
Damon was one guy I met at the trunk show. I noticed him almost immediately, since he was wearing one of the sharpest suits I’ve ever seen! With it’s strong roped shoulders, wide peak lapels, and trim trousers, it was definitely very English. I later found out I was right, as Damon later told me that he drew inspiration from Edward Sexton and the suits he made for 1970’s rock stars.
As a lawyer, he’s had a bunch of commissions made through a tailor in Koreatown and has some great accessories, like shoes from Carmina and a few Drake’s ties (though the one he wore is from Benson & Clegg). I’m sure we’ll see more of him, now that there’s a place for us to hang out!
Hector joins us after being our resident Dapper Day pal at the Expo and the Natural History Museum. He’s a big tailoring enthusiast originally from NYC, so it’s been interesting to see him adapt his suiting to the SoCal heat! Hector wears a unstructured cotton suit that is pretty darn Neapolitan with wide lapels, 3-roll-2 closure (sensing a theme here?), and la spalla camicia. I like that goes all in on the casual vie with a knit polo shirt and a paisley bandana; very French riviera chic. It’s a bold move that I have yet to do, but this is giving me some great inspiration.
I’ll probably have to start by getting a light coloured, cotton SB suit though. It’s quite different than my DB!
I wanted to do something very Drake’s inspired, which is pretty close to my regular style anyway. Underneath my prized brown sack jacket I wear a bold stripe button-down collar shirt that is definitely similar to the striped Drake’s shirts. It’s from Brooks Brothers, but it’s not oxford; it’s actually just a simple end-on-end fabric that I prefer, as it’s much more lightweight. I also decided to go with a bold foulard tie for some extra personality. A few people actually said that it reminded them of a few of the abstract Drake’s seasonal ties but just a little bit different. That’s why I love vintage ties!
You’ll also note that I’m wearing dark brown on light brown, which is a good way to approach spring/summer tailoring. It’s not as stark as navy on grey, but it allows you to have fun with your shirt and tie combos. Bold ties are for summer after all!
Cody Wellema was able to take time away from making the best hats in the world and come check out the Drake’s selection. Like we noted on his podcast episode, he’s been moving away from doing period-accurate vintage looks and more into contemporary menswear with a twist.
Thanks to his relationship with Bryceland’s, he’s been expanding his wardrobe, which makes me incredibly jealous. He rocks a W.W Chan sack jacket with a Bryceland’s/Ascot Chang OCBD and Sevenfold tie. While the top half is pretty darn ivy, Cody changes it up by wearing olive military chinos instead of the traditional grey flannels or khakis. It’s a move straight from Kenji Cheung.
Gooch (of the Josh variety) came to the trunk show as his last menswear event in Pasadena for the next year (he’s going on tour). Even though he wasn’t suited up, I think he dressed stylishly and appropriately for the weather. We all know that I like aloha shirts, but it’s been a while since I’ve worn one. Breezy khaki trousers and high top sneakers seems like a good way to go! We’re really going to miss this guy.
Chris is the head of wholesale for Drake’s and actually heads up most of the trunk shows around the world. It’s funny, because I got a bunch of DM’s on instagram when I posted a picture of him on my story; a lot of the guys in the menswear scene know this guy! He was incredibly pleasant and eager to answer any questions I had (or just to hear my praise of the Drake’s brand).
I really loved his linen jacket (it’s a good summer version of my own), but I also took note of his MTO chambray shirt, which features the not-spearpoint spearpoint. I especially liked the green sailboat tie. I’m telling you, these guys were really selling me on their neckwear!
Jesse came late to the trunk show but I was glad I got to run into him before I left! He does visual merchandising for Suit Supply, which is probably the closest thing we have to a cool menswear store in LA (other than the Bloke). He wore a dope vintage aloha pullover underneath a great cotton patch pocket suit. I honestly considered this one when I was searching for a summer suit.
We didn’t get to talk too much, but like Damon, I’m sure that we’re going to see more of him!
Last but not least, we have Spencer. Like me, Spencer has been opting for more of an ivy look as we move beyond vintage menswear. He’s got a pretty Ethan approved look with a university stripe shirt and an amazing brown tie, but goes an extra step by wearing an actual navy blazer. I say actual because this is a 3-roll-2, brass buttoned jacket that has a school crest on the breast patch pocket; that’s the traditional way, as blazers were traditionally for a specific school rather than just a plain jacket. These jackets can sometimes look costume-y, but I think Spencer makes it look really natural and great; it probably helps that he’s not wearing a thick polyester repp tie and baggy, ill fitting khakis.
I think that trunk shows are incredibly important. Like I said in the intro, they allow people to get a feel of a brand without having to visit a brick and mortar. In a classic menswear-starved place like LA, it’s probably the only way we’ll ever get a chance to check out a brand’s full range of products and try it for ourselves. For menswear nerds like me, it’s a big deal! But trying on shirts and ties isn’t all it’s used for. Most of all, a trunk show brings people together!
Not only was I able to talk to people who work in the industry, but I was able to make some new menswear friends! I honestly wouldn’t have met them any other way! I might go to cool events like the Gooch Collective every once in a while but this type of thing is what brings out the real menswear enthusiasts. It’s not everyday that I get to talk to a guy in an immaculate Prince of Wales suit or a aloha shirt + suit + sneakers guy. Even just regular professionals who have a small interest in menswear were present at the event; the intimate yet sizable collection of well dressed guys even attracted regular people off the street to check out the trunk show.
Honestly, I was a little concerned about the trunk show, considering the environment of LA. Sure, I would certainly enjoy trying out Drake’s, but it’s important for both them and the Bloke to have good business! I expected there to be a tiny turn out (just my friends and I), but I was surprised that we had a good group of people pile in. I was completely overjoyed that Chris, Kingsley, and the Bloke team were pretty busy throughout the entire day taking orders and making sales.
I think that the the trunk show was pretty successful and will not only encourage Drake’s to come back, but attract more people (both enthusiasts and brands) to come to Pasadena. Perhaps the classic menswear scene was never meant for the west side; maybe the allure of Lake Avenue is where it belongs. You can be your ass that I’ll try my hardest to make it happen.
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by Ethan W.