The denim landscape, while expanding, has no doubt become more crowded. It’s a veritable ‘Where’s Waldo’ to find something that’s not strictly heritage nor streetwear. And, even when a brand takes up the identity of the nail that sticks out, they often end up getting the hammer.
Evan Kinori (the person and the eponymous brand) is something else. Born on the East Coast and growing up with a passion for skateboarding, he says that he first got the design bug as a teenager when he came across the skate shoe brand Ipath. They offered a clean, classic, and functional product – something counter to all the puffy and overtly technical shoes that were coming out at the time (e.g., Osiris, Adios, etc.). They offered something that, when beaten up, gained beauty.
He later moved to San Francisco to do two things–get a college education and skate the hills. So he began studying philosophy and French at San Francisco State University.
Eventually, however, he felt that there should be more passion involved in his work and left SFSU to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising where he learned pattern-making and design. Though textbooks taught him the tricks of the trade, his sewing skills and construction know-how were heavily influenced by Nicholas Kemp of Taylor Stitch.
When you check out his garments, any and every one of them, you might accidentally wear them inside out if you’re not paying attention because he’s left no seam exposed. No raw edges, no overlock stitches, and every rivet is backed with a leather washer.
There’s also a simplicity to his designs. The kind of simplicity that sees utility and design as one in the same. We talked in his studio about the military and how so many designers look to vintage military pieces for inspiration. But aside from reproduction or radical re-interpretations, there aren’t too many brands that are doing something fresh and simple. It’s usually done differently and not well, the opposite, or just really poorly.
Take for instance, the Lounge Shirt. It’s a simple, cardigan-style shirt with a belted closure and two front hand pockets. Last season’s version (which is unfortunately sold out) was done up in an 8 oz. Japanese 2×1 indigo x indigo selvedge twill and it’s a perfect example of the brand’s ethos. Aside from the silhouette and style itself, much of the outward beauty comes with time as the garment fades.
Naturally, it doesn’t end there. The Lounge Shirt is clean on the inside with the selvedge detail running all the way from one end of the placket up through the collar and back down to the other end of the placket. A single, continuous piece. The side seams are single-needle stitched finished with French seams making the piece beautiful inside and out. It’s perhaps less workwear-inspired than the rest of his collection, which makes it a standout.
Evan’s story is truly authentic, but not in the buzzword-y, Kickstarter-y way that’s now become the denim diluent. As he says, “Vintage inspiration, modern application.” He skates in his clothes not because it looks cool nor for a bullshit motif. He skates in his clothes because his clothes can take the beating. He skates in his clothes because that’s who he is.
It’s not gimmicky. It’s good.
You can shop the collection on his website or find it in store at Reliquary SF.