Union: kids these days

Union LA

110 South La Brea Ave. Los Angeles

It started as a bunch of counterculture kids in NYC, then they expanded to LA, where Chris Gibbs continues to move forward today.

The racks feature design centered casual and streetwear. They are all unique and all wearable.

Price points are what you would expect of direct from the designer items but if you have the money this place beats every big box out there.

Maxfield: design design design

I was very politely (no snark at all, they were so kind) asked to not take pictures.

8825 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles

I suppose I am in fact, a leopard.

Maxfield is avant-garde in the best possible way. It is full of things I would love on my shelf, my wall, or worn by other people on the street.

But only because I present better as Andy Warhol than as one dressed by him (no snark at all, I would love Andy as a stylist).

Just One Eye: to look at

Pardon the worst comparison ever, but Just One Eye feels to me like someone with taste, and money, opened a flea market.

915 N Sycamore Ave, Los Angeles

This speaks more to my class than anything else, but there are booths, or stalls, each with what appear to be a different vendor, all under one industrial roof.

But in between, or in front, or above, there is art. At flea markets I look for large scale images to paint over (cheaper than buying raw canvas) while at Just One Eye there is art to which I would only aspire.

Virgil Normal: is not

I am not an expert, nor even minimally informed on high fashion, but I would still venture to say that what one finds at Virgil Normal is not that.

4157 Normal Ave, Los Angeles

What it is, is independent, artsy, and the sort of cool that might get picked up by high fashion, yet exists in its own sphere without “them”. I am guessing they are cool with that.

It has the vibe of the sort of Los Angeles that exists on the flip side of the glossy Hollywood coin. The sort of place where hippies gave birth to skateboarders. Artsy but with scraped up knees.

209 Mare : appropriate clothing for nice places near the water.

Federico appeared on our Zoom call wearing a light blue terrycloth robe with a black shawl lapel. Behind him were two paintings, one a recreation of a Dali mural, and the other a loosely rendered Basquiat-esque  image, possibly a skull but in light blue and orange. He speaks English with the sort of accent that is hard to place and often pauses between ideas as if he is mentally translating through three other languages in order to pick the right word. He is exactly what one would imagine the models in a 209 Mare ad would be. Cosmopolitan.

Federico was born in Bogotá but spent time growing up in Hamburg, then, when his family moved to London, he shipped off to a sports oriented boarding school in Florida. To play golf. From there it was on to University in Atlanta, a job in D.C. and finally an MBA in Spain.

After graduating business school Federico found himself in Chile, as one does, and while there he attended lunch at a beautiful beach house. He described the scene as a beautifully set table, in a wonderful place, but there they all were sitting at lunch in sloppy wet t-shirts. It just didn’t fit the environment. That is until a guest arrived at the meal wearing one of the resort’s bathrobes. It made more sense. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave Federico an idea.

That is how one starts a luxury brand based solely on resort wear made from toweling material. If you cruise the catalog you find blazers with shawl lapels, or notched. With piping along the edges or not, contrast lapel, double breasted, monogrammed- or not. Federico was looking to make functional beach or poolside clothing appropriate for fine dining. Or just stuff that helped you look nice in a nice place that might also be proximate to sand and water. It was simple cream single button notched lapel, no monogram, that fist caught my eye. I’m not afraid to admit I love it. But I don’t frequent posh places nor am I big on crested pockets, and my skepticism surrounding those who do, is in large part why I reached out to Federico. I wanted to know if what I was seeing was something dreamt up by Instagram branding hacks or maybe someone who lived in a world different than mine. I’m glad I did.

Dude checks out.

That is how I would say it. From my conversation with Federico, I think he would say something a little classier with no hint of snark. I found him absolutely lacking in snark or snottiness of any kind. He’s better than me in that way. He was more than happy to talk about his clothes, his brand, his business model, as well as art, travel, sports and food. He told me that the Monaco Grand Prix is indeed as cool as it looks whether you are a Formula 1 fan or not. He also admitted that, just like the rest of us, He found Formula 1 mostly through Netflix. I appreciated that.

I also appreciate the Paradiso long sleeved polo he makes in vanilla or navy blue. I imagine I would look much less kooky wearing that among the longboarding hippies at San Onofre or among the Doheny regulars… but I am a kook and would 100% rock that cream colored Solenzara blazer.

But oh, yes, there is also the name. 209 Mare.

Mare is Italian for ocean or sea. People in Monaco would probably know that. I did not. What they might not know, but I do now, is that 209 is a reference to the date September 20th. That is the day Federico fell from a 3rd story balcony in Spain, through a glass ceiling, landing in a paved parking lot- and lived. He described it as miraculous (despite his not being religious) and a date that for him, merits remembering. For me it paints a scene out of a James Bond film where the hero is at a fancy party filled with Spectre agents plotting to destroy the world, a fistfight ensues, and as Bond goes over the railing his descent stalls into slow motion flailing, Adele starts singing, and a large text reading 209 Mare is imposed over the screen. Once the song is over and the opening sequence credits close, our hero simply picks himself up off the pavement, brushes dust off his terrycloth blazer, then walks calmly onto a yacht headed that sails off into the night. Perhaps I’m a bit irreverent but, but then again so is wearing Kambuku print swim shorts under a double breasted terrycloth blazer with white piping.