For discerning dudes, it sometimes seems like shopping in NYC consists of walking into Odin over and over again and thinking, “Oh, I forgot: I can’t afford any of this.”
Enter .Bk, an online purveyor of “small-batch menswear” that’s opening a pop-up store in South Williamsburg this week and will subsequently produce a new “luxury button-down shirt” design each week, in a limited run of just 60 pieces.
Obviously, that’s a world away from the typical fashion house’s production schedule, but founder Teghvir Sethi isn’t an industry newb: he spent time working for his father’s company, which sources clothing to places like Kohl’s and Nordstram, before getting fed up with “seasons, mass production and hyper-macho branding.”
“I ran the men’s division and every season was recycling plaids,” he told us. “And it’s just sad, but that’s how they buy – when they buy, it’s 30,000 pieces, they don’t buy 100 pieces.”
Sethi, who was born in Long Island and just moved from Bed-Stuy to Bushwick, said his company aims to “emerge outside of that industry standard of doing what the color forecasters or trend forecasters tell you to.”
Instead, he says, his designs take their inspiration partly from the people around him in Brooklyn (hence the name .Bk). The next collection, to be launched with a party at the pop-up space this Monday, is called “Old Souls,” and “it’s focused on the idea of keepers of the flame – young people keeping alive traditions,” says Sethi.
The Dartmouth grad is pretty young himself — he’ll turn 24 next week. “There are a lot of people around us in Brooklyn, in this pretty industrial landscape with this industrial history and urban environment – these people are trying to keep alive a shard of the past,” he says.
But even if .Bk has an eye toward the past (its website describes how Sethi’s father got his start selling to Midwestern boutiques out the back of his Dodge Colt), Sethi makes clear that he doesn’t consider himself as nostalgic as brands like Brooklyn Industries and Brooklyn Circus. Rather than “reference an era that’s long gone,” he says, he wants to “represent a Brooklyn both in the past and present.”
To that end, the clothing is inspired by present-day Brooklynites who are documented on .Bk’s website. The brand considers itself “story driven” — the online “dossier” that accompanied its “Founders” collection included a q&a and photo shoot with the founders of Madera Trade, the Brooklyn-based company that made croquet mallets out of Rockaway boardwalk wood. The collection includes a “CEO Chambray” that’s described as “a refined nightlife button-down” and a “Hemingway Herringbone” that’s both “durable and elegant” because “the DIY maker-craftsman doesn’t have soft hands. Brewing, distilling, woodworking — it all requires a shirt that’s inventive, durable & comfortable.”
Despite the name and concept, the shirts ($68 each) aren’t actually made in Brooklyn – “our price point is not so we can do that,” says Sethi, adding that many domestic production facilities have prohibitive minimums. Instead each shirt is produced by one or two skilled laborers who are salaried employees of tailoring houses in India and China. The lack of an assembly line means “a missing ingredient in a lot of clothing these days, which is time and attention,” Sethi says.
Future collections will be called “Back to the Land” (“about people in advertising who leave the city and become farmers”) and “Nomads,” and there are plans to expand the button-down shirt line to knits and pants.
In the meantime, the pop-up shop opens at 188 Broadway on Nov. 15 and will be open through Nov. 22. The Facebook page invites you to “learn about artisanal tea ceremonies, play a Goban match, or read a 19th century antique book” while you’re there.