In a previous article, I mentioned that native prints are not common among Ivy retailers today. This possibly overreaching assessment prompted me to make a more thoughly investigation of current offerings.
I approached O’Connell’s, the purveyor of all things traditional and known for its expansive collection of old stock. I struck out in finding any vintage heyday batik, but manager Ethan Huber shared with me the news that he was successful selling native prints last year and is offering again this year. The supplier of O’Connell’s native fabric items is Bills Khakis.
Readers who have followed the brand over the years have watche it go from one product to many. I asked founder Bill Thomas about native prints, and he said he’s offering the Parker model short in a kalamkari fabric. Kalamkari is an Indian fabric similar to batik. “The patterns were discovered in the archives of an old mill,” says Thomas. “It went back 50 years and took two days to look at all the samples of madras and kalamkari.” The fabric was introduced on a whim and is one of the more playful items in the collection. Thomas admits that Kalamkari is “off the register” both in wildness and in production. The hand-screening technique used creates imperfections in the print design. The shorts offered by Bill’s are in a 4.5-ounce cotton and 9.75 inseam. The Bills website offer two colors of Kalamkari shorts, golden sand and beach grass. Thomas suggests pairing them with solid polos, washed oxfords and chambray.
As we reach the heart of summer, I sense a deprivation. It goes virtually unnoticed, and yet it is there for any Ivy enthusiast to investigate. The stores are full of the requisite madras and seersucker, but little else. Compared to the Ivy boom years, or even the golden age of the 1930s, it appears as if part of the color palette is missing, pattern is virtually nonexistent, and ethnically diverse fabrics are nowhere to be found. Some will contend that this is natural selection, that madras and seersucker won fair and square. Others will point out that in a shrinking market, you offer what sells and no longer take risks. A third faction will wish we not peruse the subject at all. But we are going there.
Before the full ascent of the counter culture, back in the days of in loco parentis, there was a burst of sartorial hedonism on campus that students took to with Tahitian abandon. This was expressed in an appreciation for native fabrics. The first fabric family are those that use a dye-resistant technique. This style of cloth dates back at least 1,500 years, and is found in Africa, the Middle East, India and China. For many enthusiasts, the pinnacle of this style is represented in the batiks of Java and the East Indies. Batik takes it entomological roots from the word “ambatik,” which means “to write with little dots.” The word harkens back to the Dutch colonial period, when various forms of the word like mbatek, batik, batek and battik were used. Dutch records from the 17th century report “highly decorated fabrics,” but it wasn’t until the importation of fine quality cloth in the 19th century that allowed the elaborate style to flourish. (Continue)
When we change the clocks twice a year, we remember the direction with the mnemonic device “spring forward, fall back.” But these days retailers bring out next season’s clothes earlier and earlier, and as soon as July 4th was over there were already signs of fall.
Yesterday Brooks Brothers sent out an email blast plugging its new fall items, so I went to the company’s website to check them out.
As always there’s an endless number of bland products. Most of the creativity, for better or worse, is in the Red Fleece collection, such as the robot tie above, which I kind of like, except that whenever I have a whimsical tie hanging in my closet I never feel like actually putting it on. (Continue)
Today, as you may have heard, is the last game of the World Cup. Germany will take on Argentina, and the nations have met thrice before in the final. I’ll be cheering for Germany, land of my birth (on a US military base, that is).
A couple of weeks ago pundit Ann Coulter remarked that no one whose great-grandfather was born in America is watching soccer. Time for a poll to guage interest in the world’s so-called “beautiful game” among devotees of American style. — CC
The much anticipated return of Duck Head is finally here, as the brand’s website finally features product. “Launching the site has been a huge undertaking and we are so happy it’s finally up,” director of marketing Alex Wallace told Ivy Style.
Products that will garner the most interest are the O’ Bryan pant and shorts. Both are made in the US of 8.2 ounce Cramerton twill and come in at $135 and $100 respectively. The short has 8-inch inseam. Another short being offered, called the Nashville, has a 9-inch inseam and is made of 6-ounce brushed cotton twill with a 3 percent spandex component.
Consumers will notice that the familiar yellow duck is not being used on these trousers. The company is looking past the 1980s, as white was the color of Duck Head’s original label. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
Update: On Thursday morning the company left the following comment:
I wanted to address some of the comments, as we play close attention to Ivy-Style. Hope this is helpful.
1. Price: We made a conscious effort when we took over Duck Head to make sure we make the very best quality goods, whatever the cost. We didn’t think about price at the start. Initially, we were planning to make the product overseas like everyone else in the space. Then, once we began to un-cover more of the story about The O’Bryan Brothers, 1865, the Civil War, Nashville, the Duck Head story, etc we decided in order to be Authentic, we needed to make our Pants and Shirts here in the USA. Having come from the apparel world, we knew this would be very difficult, and very costly, but it is important to us to do things the right way. We made an effort to make things in the USA because its the right thing to do, its who we are, and what we believe in. If we made goods overseas, we’d make significantly more money, but its about having the brand be authentic, and to do that, we must make our pants and shirts in America. The prices we are charging are fair, and we don’t have a significant markup on them. For whoever referenced that Duck Head’s used to be $50…. They were in fact. In the early 80′s I remember buying Duck Head’s for around fifty bucks. However, I’m sure you all are familiar with inflation, and if you take inflation and calculate the difference of $50 in 1983, it would be $120 in 2014. Just FYI… We believe in American made products, and quality. We are confident our pants are the best made, and best designed, period. We can be assured of this, because we sit in the factory and watch each pair coming off the line. That comes at a premium. We make less as a company making them here, but we believe in it. I’d pay $10-$20 more for something made in the USA that is premium, and I’d hope our customers would care enough to do so also.
2. Fit: While the model we shot our pants on is in great shape, we realize that not everyone is (including any of us). Our pants are not “ball huggers”, they’ve got a great, appropriate rise, and the leg opening is generous. In our shorts for instance, the leg opening is 11″. Its not a boxy, wide leg, but its also not slim by any stretch. We want our pants to fit everyone great. We’ve done extensive testing and fitting on both guys w/ “chicken legs” and guys w/ thick legs. Another benefit of US production, we can easily alter things and we have for months to get it perfect. Our fits are great, but we have not done a good enough job on the website of letting people know that. Expect to see detailed fit comments on the site ASAP. Great feedback, and something we’re very mindful of.
3. Label: The yellow label that many people remember was only on Duck Head’s for about 15 years (10% of its lifetime). For a good period while that label was on it, the brand was owned by Goody’s. Goody’s was a discount chain dept store, and over-assorted the brand, and changed quality and moved production off-shore and the brand became a discount brand as a result. We needed people to remember the brand, but not associate it with that yellow patch, because we’re a different, and a better company now. We are not a discount brand anymore. We’re focused on quality and doing things right. I remember Duck Head from the yellow patch as well, but the brand for most of its life had a white/off-white patch. That is when the product was hand made by people here in the USA, that’s what the brand will be going forward. We may do some heritage pieces going fwd w/ the yellow label, so stay turned
4. Position: To be clear we are not “chasing” a Southern Market. We are who we are. This brand is a southern brand, and has the south in our DNA, its who we are and what we stand for. Should we have marketed it as a New England Sailing company, or a NYC fashion company? That’s not who we are, that’s not authentic. Personally, I don’t care if the southern market is big, is small, etc. We are a southern company, we’re in the south, so we can’t be something we’re not. We can only be who we are. If people appreciate that, and want to be a part of it, great. If they don’t, that’s ok too. We’ll always be authentic, its one of our company values and to be authentic we’ll continue to be the original southern apparel brand and made to be worn.
We have a lot of great product in the pipeline, but wanted to launch the brand “small” and do things right, before we try to offer all things to all people. We want to make great chino’s, and I know after wearing them, that we’ve got the best chino’s on the market, period. Believe me, it would be a helluva lot easier to make them overseas, charge the consumer less and make more money, but that’s not what we’re about. I realize that’s not for everyone and we’re ok with that.
Knowing there is a premium, we’ve tried hard to make every experience premium. I won’t give away any secrets, but when you purchase one of our items, the experience of opening it, is like getting a gift and one you won’t soon forget. We’re thankful for our customers, we listen to them, and they mean a lot to us. We are trying hard to get this right, and working really hard to ensure it is. Keep the comments coming.
Appreciate all the comments, we’ll keep listening.