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Saturday, 28 May 2016

GarconJon meets Andrew J. Livingston

It's not always easy to believe in the American Dream. We live in a time when corporate capitalists control much of what we consume and upward mobility is at an all time low. Being able to find honest examples of creating something from nothing is tricky, but Mr Andrew J. Livingston is living proof of the possibility. In only 3 short years, he's gone from asking an old outdated factory in Bushwick to manufacture a short run of hats, to creating an Internationally recognised menswear brand focused on American ideals .

Buying the business in 2013 with the help of a few thousand friend on Kickstarter, Andrew founded Knickerbocker Mfg to service the community of fellow designers and makers. It has now grown to be a collection of menswear essentials based around a workwear aesthetic that is producing some of the highest quality threads in New York City. We caught up at his expansive showroom and factory in Brooklyn, where we talked American design, entrepreneurial skills and the New York menswear community.

See the full shoot below and more from the brand at

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I was born and raised in San Diego, California. I'm now living in Brooklyn, New York.

Describe yourself in 5 words. "Nicest guy I ever met" Austin Perrotta

You're quite a young entrepreneur, why do you think you've been successful? Well, I think the greatest asset I have is my young age. For many of us the older you get the more there is to lose. Taking risks becomes a much more calculated action rather than an instinctual moment of passion. It's a funny thing but skateboarding as well as snowboarding has always helped me to maintain that childhood feeling of curiosity and invincibility. I think there are many parallels between skateboarders and entrepreneurs. You take risks, you build a community, you don't let the bruises get the best of you and you learn to make the best of a situation. The adventurous and ingenious characteristics of both skateboarders and entrepreneurs feed off each other. When you believe in yourself and the ability to use your ingenuity in making the best of a situation then you can inherently take greater risks. MLK, Farnsworth, Curtis, Tesla. I bet they all would of been great skateboarders.

Do you remember your first experience with design that stands out from your childhood? I used to ride for Billabong when I was younger. I visited them at their warehouse in California where they would let me hook up what looked to be a laundry basket hanging from this overhead trolley type system, which traveled from row to row as you went through their entire offering of clothing. I'd go through and pick out whatever I could find in my size, which wasn't much since I was a small kid. At that age, being overexposed to clothing and what was out there, I began to crave simplicity; something timeless. The graphic print with the fire breathing dragon, spewing out the words "Billabong" across my chest, just wasn't something that resonated with me. As I'd walk out of the Billabong warehouse I would see a sea of designers working away and that's when the thought kind of clicked I guess. I wanted to create something that resonated with me. Not just the clothing but also the culture around it. For me, it'd be a dream if I could create something that meant as much to someone else as it does to me. Hopefully it would inspire them to go and do the same.

Talking about community, it seems you've really created a home in Brooklyn. You're based between Williamsburg and Bushwick - why do you enjoy the Borough? The people and the places. There's this beautiful juxtaposition between things old and new here. You have the 20 year old graffiti tags and barbwire fence next to some up to the minute coffee shop the New York Times is raving about. I enjoy living between both worlds. I think being here is important for my work and understanding of the world around me. I've never been anywhere where you see such a culture clash as you do in NY. There is also this great ecosystem in Brooklyn, filled with amazing resources and talent. There's an advocation for creativity and the failure, which comes with it. For any new endeavors or projects all those things make the area a great proving ground and thus home to many entrepreneurs such as myself. Certainly the area is expensive, which makes living here a matter of survival at times, but it teaches you to have grit and to really re-evaluate what you hold onto most closely.

Andrew wears Knickerbocker 8-Quarter Herringbone Cap​, Himel Bros. Leather Jacket, Knickerbocker Chambray Service Shirt, 1955 LVC Levi's, 1970's Chuck Taylor's, Fine Light Trading Rings, Journal Standard Silver Bracelet, Knickerbocker & LHN Brass Keychain, Moscot Lemtosh Frames.

Your factory and showroom is an incredible space and I love that you've kept so many original features - do you know it's history? I found this factory out of an outdated directory. I had a few clients in Japan who were looking for caps and no source for production. The number didn't work and there was nothing else other than an address. The space was close enough so I decided I might as well make the trip. I showed up and was greeted by Felix Pantaleon, the factory's master hatter and one of my greatest influences. The factory was part of a 60 year old family business under the name Watman Headwear Corp. Felix had worked for the father and was now working for his son. We worked on caps together for about seven months before Steven Watman, the factory owner approached me about buying them out. I was only 19 at that time and not sure what in the hell would come of this but I knew I wanted to be more hands on with the process. I also knew I wanted to keep goods in the States and with a dying supply chain, I now had an opportunity to do something about it. Steven offered up the business for only $15,000...I know, crazy right? After a successful Kickstarter campaign, with my partners in the space Kyle Mosholder and Daniel Rickard Guy, Knickerbocker was then born.

It's incredible that these situations are still possible in an overcrowded city! Since that time you've perfected quite a distinct brand, can you describe it in a sentence? A contemporary take on traditional silhouettes and fabrics, manufactured in a meaningful manner.

There's a truly American take on design too, what makes you interested in the American aesthetic? The history. America is a young country. It became a landscape for new ideas and opportunity. Some of my favorite clothing comes from this country's trivial times, when clothing was either made as a symbol of class or for strict utilitarian purposes. You have overalls, which were born during the Industrial Revolution, jeans from Levi Strauss during the Gold Rush, peacoats and flight jackets from the WW's...the list goes on. Similarly, the same can certainly be said for other country's as well. That being said, I'm an American, being born here and with a lineage going back to the Cherokee Indians, Americana just resonates with me. When it comes to applying that American aesthetic to Knickerbocker I always look to the mid 40's to 50's. You have your military influence with soldiers returning from WWII, many of which going back to their blue collar jobs, which is your workwear influence and then you have the wild ones and rockabilly happening too. Not to mention we have many of the timeless styles from the 20's to 40's still lingering. I think after such a traumatic war, the 50's made for a very beautiful and exciting time. People seemed to have a new lease on life; grateful for the breath they shared and to still have their freedom.

If someone was to visit 3 places in Williamsburg, where would you recommend they go? Ah that's tough. Hotel Delmano is perhaps my favorite bar in the area. Great drinks, very low key and a beautiful setting. Secondly would be House of Small Wonder. Along with Hotel Delmano, they are two spots in Williamsburg, which don't just jump out to you but have to be sought out a bit. House of Small Wonder is a Japanese influenced cuisine tucked away with no street facing windows but all the natural light in the world once you get inside. Last on my list would be Stella Dallas. They have an amazing collection of Chimayo style rugs and blankets along with all sorts of other great upholstery materials and antiques. I'm definitely a sucker for all they have to offer over there.

What about 3 places in Bushwick? Looked like some cool places around Jackson Avenue when I visited. Urban Jungle definitely. Its a thrift outlet that is actually well managed making it easy to find what you are looking for and there are tons of steals to be had. I don't know why I'm sharing this with you actually. Also a big fan of Montana's Trail House, you can find the Knickerbocker crew there every Monday for their burger and beer special. Then you can't forget about Roberta's. Roberta's has been around longer than most of the joints in the neighborhood and serves up some of the best slices of pizza I have ever had.

Andrew wears ​Knickerbocker Sack Suit in Black Cotton Twill, Rickard Guy Dress Shoes, Accessories as before.

As you said community is a big part of your business. You've got Max Poglia and Ouigi from BK Circus doing great work - could you maybe tell me a little about each and how you came together? We all come from different countries and each of us runs our own business. Max Poglia runs Poglia, while you have Ouigi who does the Brooklyn Circus. We come from diverse backgrounds with entirely different experiences that led us to here. We also share many interests and beliefs I think that is what always makes the conversation interesting when we come together. We always ran in similar circles, I think it was only a matter of time before we all linked up.

Ouigi has his 100 year plan, but where do you see Knickerbocker in 10 years? Its an interesting time for our industry right now. When you look at the speed at which it is moving and the rise in accessibility for products, it is important that we don't fall victim to trend. With that in mind we focus on essentials. A lot of brands talk about "essentials" as if its a sort of predetermined category, which often goes undisturbed. For us it is our goal to rethink essentials; for essentials to be celebrated for their diversity while still being uniquely yours, the consumer. We would like focus more on our end consumer. To find ways to consistently provide them with variations of these contemporary takes on traditional silhouettes; our essentials. We're trying to break away from our retailers seasonal buying structure of only a few buys per year. With that model the brand becomes increasingly controlled by its retailers and cannot address the needs of the consumer as he would without such control. Our end consumer does not but everything we do for Autumn in September. He picks maybe a couple items then, a few in November and a few in December lets say. If our end consumer shops that way, I believe we should produce accordingly. In moving in that direction we will need to produce quick and efficiently. This fact shifts our focus to the supply chain. To address this, we must ask how can we work within out current manufacturing capabilities but also harness new technologies and manufacturing stateside? I think we will focus a majority of this next ten years on building the supply chain into our foundation and retail model. We will shift our focus to online and look to open a New York flagship. Wholesale will still remain an integral part of our business with our sales teams goal to be finding key retail partners who will embrace this shift in our industry with us. We also have new initiatives such as our Service Program and Souvenir Program where our focus is on creating products with our client. One example would be our project with Unionmade, which will actually be up for sale this week. If your interested more information on these programs is available on our website.

In focusing on direct to consumer one of our first initiatives will be launching The Cutting Room, a web based platform on our website for monthly releases. The Cutting Room is a crowd funding platform, which rewards participating consumers with below retail prices, for helping us in bringing new products to life. Not only will this help the wallet of our consumer but it also allows us to increase cash flow through steady releases and gives us the ability to be more creative and less wasteful as quantities manufactured will be in tune with consumer demand. Consumers will also have the option of purchasing products similarly to say a Spotify subscription where they can purchase the product through monthly payments. This option is already live with our current products. Materialistically speaking I believe people want less items, but with those items they look for greater value, which is where we come in. We aim to give them that added value they seek in their purchases while also giving them the ability to afford such purchases. The Cutting Room is really the beginning of what we are working towards. By focusing on the supply chain I believe we will be able to move quicker, be more creative, more affordable and ultimately satisfy our consumer.

What advice would you give your 18 year old self? I heard something Jonas Salk said, which really resonated with me. He spent all his hours studying and working towards being part of this notable laboratory, which ultimately rejected him. He goes on to say, "There are only two great tragedies in life. To get what you want or to not get what you want. If I had gotten what I wanted it would have been a greater tragedy then my not getting what I wanted because it allowed me to get something else." The event led Salk into working on vaccines where he then developed the first Polio vaccine. At a young age it is easy to get lost in your head. A lot of things seem unfortunate until you change your perspective.

Leave us with some words of widsom. To be consistent but to never lose your creativity. The progress that comes from consistency is astonishing but the familiarity with consistency becomes dull. Creativity then has much less to feed off of. As a child I was totally unaware; using creativity as a problem solving outlet to make sense of the world around me. I believe this is where opportunity lies and it is what led me to where I am now. To continue to innovate and better myself as well as my business I must still find the time and the outlet to open my mind to new opportunities. This is the greatest challenge as a creative business person but it must be embraced. To everyone it is different, but ask yourself how do you remain calculated as an adult is and totally unmethodical as a child is.

Andrew wears Knickerbocker Chambray Service Shirt, 1955 LVC Levi's, 1970's Chuck Taylor's, Accessories as before.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Exit Movement: Avenue de Friedland, Paris

Grey wool scarf placed over the shoulder of a white shirt. Photographed while exiting the Haider Ackermann show in Paris for Vogue Hommes.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Blanc White: Place du Châtelet, Paris, France

Photographed outside the Théâtre du Châtelet for Vogue Hommes during Paris Fashion Week.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Friday, 20 May 2016

Aztec Aura: Via Savona, Milan

No man can pull off a white pant like a Milanese man. Pairing this with an aztec cardigan is a brave move but it works well in being clean and bold simultaneously. See the details by clicking here.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

GarconJon meets Ivano Marino

Mr Ivano Marino, Creative Consultant

While in Italy, shooting imagery for the launch of House of Peroni next month, I caught up with one of my favourite Instagrammers Ivano Marino. Last year Ivano co-founded social agency Grumble Creative and has seen huge success, most recently working on the upcoming Jungle Book film. Meeting at his office in Milan, we walked around his local neighbourhood west of Parco Sempione with Bacco the whippet on a typically sunny Italian afternoon, chatting about life, love and lessons. See the full story below and more of his life on Instagram at @MarinoIvano.

This year's House of Peroni Residency is opening its doors at Proud East in Haggerston, East London. Check it out from Thursday 19th May – Friday 1st July.

 Ivano wears relaxed suit and undershirt by Armani.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I come from a small village on the sea of South Italy, Santa Maria del Cedro, one of those where you know everyone, but currently I live in Milan.

Why do you enjoy living in Milan? Milan has impressed me with its energy and with the dynamism and versatility of its inhabitants.

What does Italian culture mean to you? The Italian people have always been at the forefront of art and culture. When I think of Italy, I think about our artistic heritage.

Describe yourself in 5 words. Mental, precise, passionate, insightful and lucky.

Do you have a motto for living? For sure! “Will is power" I believe that all that we desire, if we really want it, it’s within our reach.

 Ivano wears studded leather jacket, knit tee and tailored pants by Fendi. 

You first came to public attention on the Jump, what made you enter the show? One night I was together with some friends who attended TV auditions: Once I went with them to one of those and apparently they liked me and choose me for the TV format: to me it was just a funny thing to do!

How was the experience? It was a very funny and formative experience: when one relates with sportsmen, you must lead a very rigorous life. I love it and, for this reason, the most difficult thing was to give up with training for the TV show.

How were people’s reactions when you left the show? They expressed their sadness through social networks.

Instagram is obviously huge for you, what do you think makes a great Instagram account? I always try to express the emotion connected to the specific moment that I’m living. There’s no a supreme rule to do that: for a good picture you just need patience.
Social media has changed our lives so quickly and it’s constantly changing, where do you see yourself in 10 years? I little more boring than today.

I first met you outside the Missoni show, a brand that is so steeped in Italian heritage. We shot in 3 classic Italian brands too, what do you think makes Italian fashion so internationally popular? We have a unique artistic and cultural heritage in the whole world. Italian design stands out for the preciousness of our craftsmanship and for the super high quality.

Tell me about Grumble. How did your agency come about? Grumble was born after a year of preparation from three friends and from the willingness to communicate our vision of beauty and taste.

You’ve had a lot of success very quickly. What’s been your most exciting project so far? The project with Disney – The Jungle Book was the funniest I had ever made. I grow up with all their wonderful tales and the idea of being their testimonial made me full of zest.

What is your greatest love in life? I had a long relationship with a girl for 8 years, during high school: she was my princess and sometimes I think about her again. Great memories.

If you could give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would you say? Live and let others live.

Leave us with some words of wisdom. The highest wisdom borders the greatest folly.

Ivano wears cotton shirt and plaid pants by Missoni.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

GarconJon meets Andrew Jennings

Within 5 years, Mr Andrew Jennings has turned a part-time project into an International megabrand. As the co-founder of Larsson and Jennings, he created a new genre for the time piece market and effectively changed the game, and by last year I feel like everyone I bumped into had one of these Swiss-made watches on. Due to the meteoric rise of the brand I wanted to find out more about what it takes to be a successful young entrepreneur in the internet age.

I shot Andrew around Covent Garden, where he lives and works, and we chatted about moving to New York City, the birth of the brand and his plans for the future.

Mr Andrew Jennings, CEO & Co-Founder of Larsson and Jennings

Describe yourself in 5 words. A motivated, ambitious, humble global citizen.

Where are you from and where do you live now? I’m from the Wirral and now live between London and New York.

What do you think about the contrasts between the two cities? I find both cities have many similarities and love them equally. New York is a more dense version of London, everything's on your doorstep. When I’m in New York I miss the relaxed culture of England as the Big Apple is so hard-hitting and on-the- go constantly but when I’m in London I miss the convenience and summer weather of New York. Americans are more direct and Brits are a little more relaxed. I feel so lucky to be able to experience both worlds.

With that in mind, have you found it a challenge to manage American’s now you’ve opened across the pond? One of the hardest things in this expansion has been hiring good people. In London we now have a pretty well known brand and started by hiring friends of friends effectively. Going to a city that’s new, where there’s low brand recognition makes this process much more difficult. Not only do we end up paying extortionate fees to recruiters but I found that a few people in New York have been excellent at selling their abilities in an interview but not matched my expectations in the role.

When did you first become interested in watches? I inherited a Rolex Daytona when I was about 10 years old. As I was so young my Dad decided he’d look after it but ended up wearing it himself and that created a real sense to desire around the watch for me. When I turned 17 I saw an article about that particular watch in GQ valuing it at £20,000 so I phoned Dad immediately and told him to put it in the safe! When I started the business I came close to selling the Rolex and I’m so grateful that didn’t happen, and it was at around that time my fascination with vintage watches grew which has been a strong influence on the aesthetic of Larsson and Jennings watches as we reimagine classic design.

At the time of starting the brand I was in a job I didn’t enjoy much and so the idea of launching an independent watch brand came to me. Ten years ago, the only nice watches you could get were all created by huge companies that were very heavily branded. They put little care, attention and detail into the watches being unique as all production is outsourced. I thought there was a great opportunity to introduce an independent to the market. I wanted to create something cool and relevant with a twist on classic design.

So it’s been 4 years since you started Larsson and Jennings, right? On the 26th April 2012 we sold our first watch online so it’s been exactly four years. There was a year before this when I was sampling and formulating the company; before we launched online I sold to friends and extended family and this provided enough funding to build a basic website. Back then I was working as a Private Wealth Manager in the City and was an underpaid guy with a dream of working for myself. I was yearning to use my creative energy so once the ball started rolling I was full steam ahead. I would assemble the watches at home, pack them up and cycle to work with the packages in my backpack, mailing them off at lunchtime. Within the first year I learnt to manage all aspects of the business from helping to build the brand’s website to coordinating our first photoshoot and arranging production. After all that hard work our first Christmas was spectacular and I was able to leave my job and focus my attention on Larsson and Jennings full time from January 2013.

Was there a eureka moment in the business where you knew you were on the right track? Between April and September of our first year we sold about one watch a day and after being mentioned on we sold around 30 watches in one weekend. I think that was when I really sat up and realised what social media could do for our business. I started gifting influencers via Instagram when it was just starting and that helped us to sell over £100k of watches over our first Christmas period. That was a crazy time as I’d had an operation on my shoulder so I was packing up watches with one working arm, queuing for hours in my local Post Office to have sacks of packages individually franked and sent. It’s a time I’ll never forget.

What are you most proud of? I love that our growth has been totally organic. I started the business by taking out some pretty chunky credit cards and it’s grown naturally from that. I want to keep control of the business so that I have a creative voice and also to protect the future of the brand. I’d love to see my kids coming into the company one day in the future. There are always investors that are interested but this business is a long-term vision.

You have 30 full time employees, 2 stores in the UK and US with more to come, and 150 retailers stocking your product! As a young man in his 30s how does that make you feel? Is it ever overwhelming? It does hit me sometimes but that just comes with the job. I make decisions that can carry risk in order to push the business forward but I have an amazing team. I take huge pride in our business and there’s still a lot further to go. At the end of 2016 we will have opened four stores globally in London and New York; a significant step that will hopefully enable us to become a globally recognised company.

How would you describe Larsson and Jennings as a brand? Understated and progressive as all our watches are made in Switzerland so our product is always of the highest quality. Scandinavian and British heritage are still intrinsic to our values while our brand begins to become more experimental, particularly through our creative content - I can’t wait to release our latest campaign shoot.

What’s your average day like? If I’m not travelling, then I usually wake up around 6am, check emails from Asia in bed then get to the gym by 7am. I’m in the office by 8.30am every day but that’s the only set agenda. During my day I could be in sales meetings, interviewed by press, photographed by gentlemen like you or be designing new products and working with our operations team. Making sure the team is happy is a huge part of a successful business so I like regular check- ins. During the day I may take time out for myself or have a long lunch and if I do that I’ll stay late. Interacting with Tokyo or New York means my hours can be 24/7 and it’s quite difficult to switch off.

How do you unwind then? I love kite surfing and skiing. Being outdoors is important to me.

If you could give your 18 year old self a piece of advice what would it be? Don’t go to university. Although I matured a lot during that time I don’t think I learned much. I studied Business Management so it may have helped subtlety but I think I would have preferred to start my business earlier and to have been more ambitious. I didn’t take myself seriously until my mid-twenties.

Leave us with some words of wisdom. I’m all about trying things out and taking considered risks. I think a bad decision is better than no decision at all. If you do screw up then at least you gave it a go and learnt something from it - if you play it safe then you aren’t progressing. I have failed plenty of times and I will fail plenty more but as long as I learn from my mistakes then I am moving forward. The road to success starts with failure.