If you are a long time reader and a friend, you know I am not shy about my fondness for Unionmade, one of the better men’s stores in San Francisco.
I have been a customer from the day it opened back in 2009. It was their ability to pick and present some of the smaller, artisanal and heritage brands made them particularly appealing to me. I don’t much care for mass produced goods, especially clothes, and instead opt for products that have a history and where the maker isn’t too far removed from the process of creation.
Yesterday, when I across an interview with Carl Chiara, one of the two forces behind Unionmade on The Gilt MANual I decided to visit the store. I wanted to buy some magazines and frankly I needed some relief from preparations for RoadMap 2012. It was a perfect excuse to get out of the house. The store, has nearly doubled in size and now incorporates what used to be a dry cleaner.
It is a masterfully appointed and well designed retail space, probably one of the best. It is packed with wares, but nothing seems overwhelming. When the store opened and during its first two years at least, it seemed to speak in a fresh and interesting manner. The labels, the clothes and the styles were very much in keeping with the local weather and sensibility.
Three years into the future, however, the sameness of selections at the store are getting tiresome. The “heritage” look is now pretty much table stakes at big stores such as Barney’s and Bloomingdales. The plaids, the small batch denims, the Barbour jackets — they are everywhere. Yes, Unionmade has added some new offerings — Mackintoshes and Margaret Howell for example. It is true they have sporadic selections of Oliver Spencer. And there are several other brands, but they are overwhelmed by the same old tired stuff. But on a broader scale — and I hate to say this about one of my favorite retail locations — it has become predictable.
They need to take a step back and bring some interesting new brands from across the globe into the mix. And while they are at it, it is time for them to find new local American design stars and most importantly, nudge the San Francisco style towards a new direction.