Northern Grade Chicago – A Photo Essay

Kiriko - accessories handcrafted from vintage Japanese textiles

Kiriko – accessories handcrafted from vintage Japanese textiles

I couldn’t be happier with my weekend spent at the Northern Grade pop-up market for American-made goods in Chicago. Situated in the heart of Millennium Park, the event showcased a well-curated collection of men’s clothing and accessories labels from around the states. Suffice it to say that I am very grateful to the event coordinators at Pierrepont Hicks for bringing together so many talented and like-minded individuals who share a passion for producing quality made goods here in the US.

Makr

Makr cases at Haberdash

Spotted: Scout Seattle

Spotted: Scout Seattle

It was a pleasure to see some familiar faces, and was equally as exciting to meet the talent behind new and upcoming labels – many of whom will be featured here in the coming months! In the meantime however, here are some notable highlights from this year’s Northern Grade Chicago:

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In Focus: Joshu + Vela

Joshu + Vela is an emerging outfit in San Francisco which produces some of the most carefully considered bags and leather goods out there. While their mantra is to “highlight the beauty of function by creating simple and well made goods,” one would only need to interact directly with any of their products to understand the emphasis they place on quality. Though I wasn’t able to make the trip out, my cousin Rebecca was lucky enough to meet with Noah of Joshu + Vela in their studio to gain some insights into their brand and their process, which she detailed below:

Joshu + Vela – In the Studio

One way of characterizing the brand as a whole is the idea of intimacy. Everything in their studio is made entirely by hand with the best materials available. In addition to custom-cast hardware and vegetable dyes, they source domestically grown organic cotton from Herbert Rice Fabrics Inc in NY, which has been in operation since the 1800’s. The manufacturing process relies on pharmaceutical grade waxes and oils for finishing, and thus is completely free of hazardous solvents. Similarly, they source 100% vegetable dyed leather from animals already marked for consumption in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint.

When it comes to producing their goods, the team at Joshu + Vela employs a plethora of different hand tools, eight vintage sewing machines, and an 80 year-old rivet setter. This reliance on antiquated machinery demonstrates that the underlying concern of the brand as a whole is not maximizing output, but creating small quantities of goods, which can endure the tests of time.

Joshu + Vela – Backpack & Large Tote

            Although their line features a variety of different pieces, the entire collection is aligned by simple aesthetics and utilitarian designs. Branding is kept to a minimum and unnecessary lines are kept at bay. All in all, everything is clean and classic, but ultimately built to be used.

Be sure to take a gander though the gallery below to check out some of their collection and some glimpses into their workspace. Also, stay up to date on their upcoming releases by periodically visiting their website.

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