Women of Northern Grade: Grace Gouin

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Grace Gouin hopes that her Asheville, NC based outerwear brand Appalatch (with co-founder Mariano DeGuzman) will be a contagious business model. Ethical, sustainable, and honest, Appalatch is trying to change the way businesses in the USA operate – by proving that a conscious business can succeed, and is better for all of us. Grace is obsessed with the technical craft behind the garments that Appalatch sells (she’s currently studying knitting at Stoll in Germany) making her not only a woman with a passion for craft, but a bona fide pro at it. Read on to learn about this incredible woman and her brand which will be at the Northern Grade NYC pop-up this weekend.

Q. What inspired you to start Appalatch?
A. The inspiration and motivation to start Appalatch came out of a shared desire, between my business partner and I, to create something we terribly wished existed. We were each independently searching for ways to make really beautiful and high quality clothing in a way that matched up with our values and commitment to social and environmental responsibility, and when we met and got talking it sort of steam rolled into something we both really liked.

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Q. You take the approach of sustainability, but not because it’s a buzzword, because it shouldn’t be a buzzword. How are you making your business be a model for other businesses?
A. Of course, the big fear is that if sustainability is that it’s a buzzword. It will eventually be an old buzzword and efforts towards a more sustainable apparel industry will end (in fact I think it’s already “out”, so to speak). The other challenge with sustainability as a buzzword is you see sustainability being used as a marketing tool for a product that is not really all that sustainable. For Appalatch, we want sustainability and ethics to be simply a given in the manufacturing of each product, so that we’ll never need to try to lay those values on retroactively as new initiative. We use the direct to consumer model to keep the prices reasonable, and to give us the flexibility to try out new practices that currently evolving in the world of sustainable manufacturing. It’s a model that we are finding works, and we hope to goodness other business will try it!

Q. How many Northern Grade pop-ups have you and Appalatch attended and what’s your favorite part of NG?
A. We have attended 2 other Northern Grade events so far (Richmond and Chicago), though this will be the first one I am not personally at. I’ll be sad not to be there, it’s really such an incredible experience. The customers are so excited to be there because it’s such a curated experience; each table seems like a dream. It’s so rare to find such a collection of things that you can feel really good about buying. We were also happy to find that all the other brands are so nice! The world of domestic apparel manufacturing is so small that everybody there is in the same boat, on one level or another, and it’s nice to feel that kind of support and camaraderie. You leave each event with new friends!

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Q. You will be unable to attend this year, but are you excited about the opportunity of having the brand represented at the NG NYC pop-up with GQ? How might it differ from NG pop-ups in other cities?
A. This is a hard question to answer – I feel like so many of the details of this Northern Grade have developed since I have been here in Germany (training at Stoll), that it’s hard to grasp the scale of it. Northern Grade itself is such a fantastic opportunity for Appalatch, that to have it partner with a behemoth like GQ . . . well, it’s really exciting! It makes me excited not just for our brand, but for everything that NG represents – a return to domestic manufacturing. We don’t even have access to an American GQ over here, so really it seems like a dream. I think that NYC is going to be more crowded than other events just by nature of the location, but it’s going to be interesting to see how Brooklyn reacts to the spread. Gosh, now I absolutely wish I was going!

Q. You’re a women leading a sustainable American-made brand in the outdoor apparel industry – What advice do you have for other women looking to do something similar?
A. I would suggest that they learn the basics of the technical side of each step of their manufacturing process. Unless you find some fantastic and mysterious middle man, you’ll have to coordinate so many of the details directly with each one of your suppliers, so a healthy understanding of the technical side of our business is really essential. A domestic supply chain is hard to work out in the first place, and if you are going to communicate directly with the mills, be prepared to learn a lot and to ply them with chocolate – because you want to understand them and you want them on your side. Knowing how each step operates is going to tell you exactly how much flexibility you have to change a couple ingredients and come up with something really innovative. On a more intuitive level, go with your gut and follow your instincts – some relationships with suppliers don’t work out well, especially when you are just getting started, and you have to listen to that little voice that tells you to just back away.

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Women of Northern Grade: Kristina Angelozzi

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Kristina Angelozzi founded Fischer in 2010 from her home base in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Kristina utilizes traditional durable fabrics and pairs them with her unique modern design and sensibility. Both her women’s and men’s collections are entirely made in the USA, making Fischer a perfect fit for the Northern Grade pop-up shop. After the McMillans enlisted Kristina and Fisher to join the ranks at the upcoming NG, they proceeded to collaborate on a special edition shirt for the occasion. Kristina shares with us her design process, what it’s like to be a women in the menswear world, and what she’s most looking forward to at this month’s NG.

Q. Is this your first Northern Grade?
A. It is! I’ve always been a huge fan of theirs, so I’m totally thrilled to participate.

Q. What sparked the Fischer x Norther Grade collaboration?
A. A few month ago, Katherine and I met up at my studio and she asked if I was interested to participate at the upcoming show (duh) and if I would also want to do a special piece for it.

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Q. How did you go about designing the collaboration with the McMillans? What were the inspirations?
A. We looked through some past seasons samples, and I got a good idea of what do that they liked- the rustic fabrics and sharp tailored shirts. I’ve been really into challenging myself in the menswear dept, so the end result was a natural progression of where I was going. It’s been a total honor working with them- they’ve got so much going on that’s way over my head and yet they’re completely down to earth.

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Q. You have a men’s and women’s collection for Fischer, but the collection as a whole is very cohesive and gender neutral in a lot of ways. How does gender come into your design process?
A. Mostly through the fit, and there’s a natural evolution that’s happened over the past few years. When I started, the female product was a lot more feminine, but I wasn’t really wearing it. So I started making more and more of the styles I wanted to wear, which is a bit more tomboyish and it seems to be clicking. The mens started a bit more conservative, but as I get my sea legs- I’ve been slowly stepping out a bit.

Q. Northern Grade is a menswear pop-up. What’s it like being a female maker in the menswear world?
A. It’s really not a big thing, I guess the only real downside is I can’t wear the mens stuff myself and show em how it fits and all. But I throw a lot of clothes at my guy friends and ask a zillion questions- and they’re very good with critical feedback. Men know what they want in their clothes, and how it should fit. It’s nice to have that challenge.

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Q. Is your own personal style inspired by menswear?
A. More and more every day. But I do love me some heels.

Q. What are you most looking forward to at this coming NG?
A. Mostly, meeting the people behind the other brands, and the people coming out to support it all. There’s a real community vibe at events like these, and it’s nice to work with such passionate and talented folks.

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Women of Northern Grade: Katherine McMillan

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The queen bee of Northern Grade (and maybe the entire Americana movement) Kat McMillan is a woman to be reckoned with. One half of Pierrepont Hicks and Northern Grade with her husband Mac, Kat also runs their women’s footwear brand Mrs P Hicks. Oh, and she also has two adorable daughters. How does she do it, you might ask?

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Kat and I met several years ago at one of the menswear trade shows in NYC after chatting back and forth online for months. And I have to confess, she’s been a bit of an mentor for me ever since. So when she reached out this year about creating some content for their March pop-up in NYC, I jumped at the chance. As two women who are very much engrossed in the menswear market (and who often wear men’s clothing themselves), we decided to shine some light on the women that play an integral role in the Northern Grade weekend. Whether they are designers, brand members, or shoppers I want to share a little of their perspective, their style, and their story here on N’East Style. In the coming week and into the Northern Grade weekend, I’ll be interviewing, chatting with, and taking pics of the amazing women I encounter. I hope you enjoy this week’s posts and that you’ll follow along as we build up to the main event at Powerhouse arena in Brooklyn on March 22-23, 2014. First up, a chat with Kat herself!

Q. What inspired you and Mac to start NG?
A. When we were living in Minneapolis in 2009, and had just launched Pierrepont Hicks . . . subsequently we met the folks at Red Wing, Duluth Pack, J.W. Hulme and more. All of the brands in that region were either 100-year-old legacies or “new heritage” brands. We decided to hold a one-time event to celebrate the USA-made brands all together and it went so well it started to grow from there.

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Q. You guys are working with GQ for this NYC event. How did that come about?
A. GQ contacted us to partner with them to glam it up for this market. They’ll be bringing in a few extra things like a photo booth, big bar and more to swank it up. Magazines are really becoming “brands” and a place for the consumer to trust about where they buy goods that are in their same vein at GQ’s style. Media is changing rapidly . . . retailers have amazing editorial and magazines have online stores. I think GQ sees an opportunity to work with us to explore this.

Q. What are you most excited about having NG hosted in NYC?
A. Well I was born on the Upper West Side and raised in Brooklyn Heights so it’s a really special thing for me to bring it home. My love for New York City runs wide and deep so it means a lot to me to share my menswear friends and brands with my friends here.

Q. What’s it like being a woman in this menswear world?
A. It’s very fun and I consider some of the people I have met through working in menswear to be my closest friends. I love it.

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California by Mikael Kennedy

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A book of Mikael Kennedy’s photos of the fantastic state of California has been published by Chris Black of Done to Death Projects. Today you can order the books from Done to Death Projects. Pick up a copy, get in touch with the wandered inside of you, and get carried away with Kennedy’s beautiful photos.

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Rayland Baxter

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My husband and I have been listening to Rayland Baxter religiously since we first heard him at last summer’s Newport Folk Festival. The Nashville-based roots artist was one of our favorite performers from the weekend, so we’re thrilled to be seeing him again this evening at Atwood’s Tavern in Inman Square, Somerville. Rayland released his premier album feathers & fishHooks in 2012 which made a lasting impression. Last year was his first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival and his performance was nothing short of honestly good and thoroughly enjoyable – with an unassuming improvised song to boot. To know more about the man (such as his wardrobe of choice and his ability to freestyle songs from any given word), check out this rather fun and witty video “Who is Rayland Baxter?”.

This post marks the beginning of a series of sketches I’ll be doing of my favorite artists who performed at last year’s Newport Folk Festival. Hope it will get you all excited for this year’s lineup!

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