Archives: Featured Company

Colorado Style, Part 2: Valentich Bags

dress shirts looking like new

Over the past several years, it has become evident that Denver is becoming a bit of a “maker” city. In other words, there are countless studios and shops popping up where makers and creatives are doing interesting things – think: craftsman and distillers and tie companies, to name a few.

Perhaps one of the best examples right now is Valentich Bags. And so this week, we are featuring our second installment of the BE Colorado Style campaign, and taking a close look at what Ryan Valentich (yes, another Ryan!) is doing in his studio.

If you’re familiar with our Colorado Style campaign, you’ll know that we gave Ryan the opportunity to design a dress shirt.

I sat down with Ryan earlier in the year to get an idea for how his business began and the thinking behind his BE shirt.

1. [BE] How did Valentich Bags get started? And what prompted you to move out to Colorado?

[Ryan Valentich] I was inspired to make my first bag eight years ago when I found a weathered leather jacket while I was walking my dog in Capitol Hill. The jacket was super 1980s — baggy with big shoulders,  but the actual leather still had lots of life and was very pretty. The ski bum life was what brought me here a short time after high school graduation.

2. How would you describe the style of your work?

I honestly couldn’t narrow it down. I like a lot of variety. On one end of our business we make very bicycle specific packs, built with cordura and plastic hardware; on the other hand we make duffles, purses, and man bags built with leather, waxed canvas, and metal hardware. We also make custom chef rolls, bartender bags, and dopp kits.

3. What has been your favorite creation to date?

It’s hard to choose just one, but I’m currently working on a series of carryall’s that I’m really loving.

4. Can you describe your thinking behind the BE shirt that you created?

The BE shirt you made for me is my first piece of tailored clothing. I wanted it to be something that would stand out, but not scream. I incorporate floral prints into a few of the bags we make and out of the hundreds of fabric swatches Ron had for me to choose from, I was immediately drawn to the flowers.
Ryan-valentich
Ryan-valentich-shirt
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5. What’s the future of Valentich Bags look like? New products?

Flipping sweet!  We will be launching our new line in the Fall so be on the lookout!

Valentich Bags

Valentich Bags is making some amazing products – from bags to chef knife rolls to aprons – and all hand made right here in the Denver area. Check out their online store below to see what they are currently offering.

Web: http://www.valentichbags.com/

Contact Ryan here: valentichbags@gmail.com

Valentich-floating-shirt

About the Colorado Style campaign:

Bespoke Edge set out on an adventure during the summer of 2015. Hoping to answer the question, what is Colorado style for men, we interviewed 6 of Colorado’s most innovative creatives and asked them to design a dress shirt – anything that they wanted. This blog post is the second of 6. We will summarize our findings at the very end. Stay tuned.

Colorado Style, Part 1: Where Wood Meets Steel

where-wood-meets-steel

The smiling gentleman above is Ryan Dirksen, founder and builder behind Where Wood Meets Steel – one of Denver’s most innovative furniture makers.

I’m sure he has plenty of reasons to smile, especially when he continues to make pieces like these on his homepage, but more recently, it was because of his new Bespoke Edge shirt.

To be more precise, it was a shirt that he designed entirely on his own after we approached him to help us with our summer project – the BE Colorado Style campaign.

If you recall from our earlier blog post, we set out with the ambitious goal to learn what men’s style is all about in the Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins area.

This week, we are diving in.

And first up is Ryan. We sat down to ask him a few questions, here’s what he had to say.

1. Can you give us an idea of your beginnings in the custom furniture business?

What began as a woodworking hobby in a small apartment in San Francisco gave way to a welder, table saw, and more ambitious projects. One we moved to Denver, I soon found myself following the sounds of chainsaws through the neighborhood, by foot or bike, to hunt down the latest casualty. I convinced the tree companies to save the larger chunks and soon our yard and garage were stacked with wood – trees turned into slabs by a local mill, old railway beams sold on Craigslist, various specimens collected on road trips to the Midwest.

After years of professional cooking, low pay and grueling hours, I decided it was time to work for myself. Marina, meanwhile, was commuting to Boulder and working long hours at a stressful job with freelance web work on the side. As an alternative, we considered an offer to buy a restaurant in a small mountain town. During this time, I had also taken on a large project building out all the fixtures for an upscale boutique. We soon came to realize that the restaurant was too risky for us while this new passion for urban trees and furniture design was undeniable. We decided to stay put in Denver and put all our energy into this new venture.

2. What has been one of your most memorable projects to date?

Our first large job was building all the displays for a new clothing store, A-Line Boutique, in Greenwood Village. Having just started the business, we were still working out of the garage and backyard and built out the entire store. Eight years later we still have a great relationship with the new owner and have designed and built pieces for both the store and the owner’s home and friends. It has been a great relationship both personally and professionally.

3. You seem to source some very unique materials for your designs, what do you look for when you’re hunting for just the right piece of wood or steel?

It is actually usually the opposite. We have an ever growing inventory of local slabs and it is often the wood itself that informs and inspires the design. Each tree is different and surprising – you never know what you will get. We do certainly source other materials, including wood, for our clients, but our favorite projects are those that allow us to turn a stunning piece of wood otherwise destined for landfill into a piece that people will enjoy for generations.
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4. Ryan, can you describe briefly the thought process behind your shirt selection for our Colorado Style campaign?

I wanted a shirt that was versatile and could be casual or dressy. White goes with everything, but the fabric I chose had a pattern that changes with the light. This paired with the mother of pearl buttons, accent fabric and colored thread made for a shirt that was unique, but could still feel at home in a bar or a swanky restaurant.
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5. What’s the future of Where Wood Meets Steel look like?

We will continue to work on our high-end custom designed furniture and semi-custom product line. We are also expanding our milling operations and growing our impressive inventory of local urban slabs and lumber.
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wwms-usa

Do you like this shirt? You can buy it here!

Where Wood Meets Steel

A quick glance at WWMS’s website will convince you right away that they are making some of the most unique wooden pieces in the area. Check them out if you want something truly one of a kind.

Web: http://wherewoodmeetssteel.com/

5280 Profile: http://www.5280.com/magazine/2013/02/sharp-design

Contact Ryan here.

About the Colorado Style campaign:

Bespoke Edge set out on an adventure during the summer of 2015. Hoping to answer the question, what is Colorado style for men, we interviewed 6 of Colorado’s most innovative creatives and asked them to design a dress shirt – anything that they wanted. This blog post is the first of 6. We will summarize our findings at the very end. Stay tuned.
Featured photo credit: Ashley Kidder Portraits

Featured Company: HIM Clothing

I recently stumbled across a very cool tie maker in the Denver area called HIM Clothing.

The company is run by two entreprenueral guys – Hugh and Chris. And they have been making some big waves recently. After they attracted the attention of 5280 Magazine, I knew I had to contact them and take a close look at their products.

A few weeks back I sat down with Hugh Hartigan. He was smartly dressed and brought with him a nice looking briefcase filled with a colorful assortment of ties and bow ties.

Now, there are a handful of people making ties in Colorado today. So I’m no stranger to vintage and cotton neck wear. When Hugh passed me one of his ties, the first thing I did was flip it over and look at the construction. It immediately became clear that this guy knew how to make ties.

Suffice it to say, I knew that we had to feature HIM Clothing on the BE blog. Their quality and passion mirrors our own.

I followed up with Hugh and had him answer some questions for me…

[Ryan] HIM Clothing offers hand made neck ware and accessories for men, can you give us a little background on how your business started and what made you want to learn how to sew ties and bow ties?

[Hugh] My best friend, Chris, and I have always been artists at heart. We have known each other since kindergarten and we used to run a drawing club in elementary school. We went to different high schools, but we kept at it. I pursued painting and drawing and Chris started to get into music and ceramics.

We both graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2012 where we each received a degree in Psychology and I also received a degree in Studio Arts. Right out of college I decided to attend law school, but shortly after I started my mom lost her job and financially the schooling did not seem feasible. After getting a bartending job to help my mom out, I started looking into the fashion industry. I thought about studying it, but a friend told me that most schools were geared towards womens’ fashion and I knew I wanted to do something for men. One day I just tore apart an old Christmas tie and reconstructed it from the ground up. My mom taught me how to sew on the only machine we had available, which was a 1950 Singer Featherweight 221 (we still use the same machine for everything we make).

I made a few prototype ties for my friends’ birthdays to get a feel for the craft. After designing a logo and spreading it around social media I had more and more people asking if I had a tie company. A couple of months later I brought Chris on board, taught him how to sew, and the rest is history.

HIM Clothing - Noir Tie

Regarding quality, what is it that men should be looking for when they shop for neck ties? What’s a mark of high-quality construction?

Chris and I are constantly striving to improve our wares, so high quality is something we are consistently trying to achieve with every new product. We had actually studied under a self-made tailor who wrote the literal handbook on making ties. There are two crucial things to look for in a high-quality neck tie:

The first is the slip stitch. This is the largest undertaking of our ties and is the most crucial step because it is what holds the entire tie together. The slip stitch is a thread that runs the entire length of the tie, holding the fabric together, but also allowing it to slide up and down the thread. If this is done improperly, the tie may bunch up awkwardly when tying. Most commercial ties machine stitch the length of the tie and simply turn the tie inside out. This saves a lot of time, but drastically reduces quality, causing the fabric to have unnatural twists and turns along its body and affecting the overall drape of the tie.

HIM Clothing - Slip Stitch

The easiest way to tell if your neck tie has a slip stitch is to delicately pull the tie apart in the back where the fold is. Here you should see little bits of thread peeking out, which indicates a slip stitch. Some commercial ties have even developed a machine that does the slip stitch, however, there’s one more way to tell if it is hand made.

On either the blade (front end) or tail (back end) of the tie, you can pull open the fabric and check for a small piece of dangling thread. True handmade ties leave about half an inch to an inch of excess thread at each end of the tie, which gives just a little extra length for the tie to slide along when tying it. This bit of thread should have a small ball knot to keep the thread from coming undone, as well as about an inch or two of excess thread past the knot. This excess thread became a calling card for old tailors to show that their slip stitch was truly hand sewn.

HIM Clothing - Slip Stich and Bar Tack

The second thing to look for is the bar tack. This is a small horizontal thread that can be seen on both the blade and the tail. This keeps the ends of the tie closed and helps to maintain its overall shape. Most commercial ties will simply use a thick piece of string as their bar tack; a handmade tie, on the other hand, should have a more ornate and intricate woven bar tack. This is done by wrapping thread around a primary stitch to strengthen the bar tack, adding to those little extra details we love in our ties. Chris and I have been amazed at how complicated bar tacks can get and we are constantly trying to invent more intricate weaving patterns.

About how long does it take to manufacture a neck tie? Bow tie?

Chris and I have done what we call a ‘speed run’ to see how fast we can construct a tie from start to finish with each of us working on it. There are five essential steps to making a tie: cutting, stitching, forming, sewing, and what we call ‘details’. With each of us ready at a different station as the tie was made, the fastest we have made a tie from start to finish was about an hour and a half. Working on our own, it probably takes closer to two hours. When we first started it took closer to three, so we have made a lot of progress. A proper hand sewn slip stitch alone takes about thirty minutes.

HIM Clothing - Taches Bleus Bow Tie

Bow ties, fortunately, are not as daunting of a task to undertake. From start to finish, the fastest I have finished a bow tie is just under forty five minutes. This includes cutting, stitching, flipping, forming, and ‘details’.

With the warm weather approaching, do you have any style advice for men that still want to dress sharp, but may shy away from wearing a tie in the summer months?

Personally, I am a huge fan of bow ties in the summer as well. They are less intrusive and less cumbersome than a tie. They lend themselves to more sessions of spontaneous activity like a pick-up game of basketball or a bike ride. More often than not, to keep your tie from flopping around, you either have to tuck it into your shirt or take it off.  No such issue with bow ties, just strap it on and get outside.

My best advice for ties is to do something light. As is often the case with suiting in summer months, you want something that breaths easy like cotton or linen. You have to remember that this thing is going to be strapped to your neck, so you’re going to want some air circulation. Personally, I recommend our Essential line of ties. Each of them is constructed from locally bought cotton fabrics, which gives them a little more weightlessness. The color palette is also something I am fonder of for summer, with more muted pastel colors and minimalistic patterns.

What’s the future of HIM Clothing look like?

Chris and I have big plans for the distant future, including custom products of all kinds from shirts to boots to belts to shoe laces. However, for more current projects, we are sticking to what we do best: accessories. Chris and I have been studying different creative methods over the past few months, including wood working, metal working, and textile weaves. We are hoping to work with some other Colorado crafts people to create some exciting new products, including tie bars, cufflinks, lapel flowers, and wallets.

We are also planning on doing a line of ties with hand drawn and painted patterns from local Denver artists. In return for contributing their designs, we want to give 20% of the proceeds back to the artists to help them continue to practice their craft. Being artists ourselves, we understand how hard it can be to find success in the art world, so we want to try and provide an opportunity for those ‘starving artists’.

HIM Clothing - Points Chameaus Tie

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Contact Hugh and Chris by visiting their website, himclothing.com. And stay in the loop with their current events by liking them on Facebook.

Are you familiar with the brand? Let us know in the comments below!

Ryan Wagner

Featured Photographer: Ashley Kidder, Urban Safari Photography

If you’ve been to our homepage recently, you’ll notice a new portrait of the three of us at BE. The original one was fine, but we wanted to step up our game a bit. So, we went searching for the best new photographer in the Denver area.
Where we ended up was having a discussion, and subsequent photo shoot, with Ashely Kidder of Urban Safari Photography.
And after hiring her to help us with our latest photo shoot at Union Station, we are convinced that Ashley is our new BE photographer. Indeed, you’ll continue to see a few photos on the Instagram/Facebook/Twitter circuit that are taken by Brett with his semi-professional eye and me with my, ummm, cell phone skills, but for the important shoots, we’ll be working with Ashley.
Consequently, who better to interview on the BE blog than the girl behind Urban Safari Photography?!
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1. [Bespoke Edge] So, you have an interesting background – you used to teach high school French, right? What made you want to take the leap into photography full time?
 
[Ashley] For the past five years, I was a high school French teacher and department chair at Northglenn High School.  While I was teaching, I realized I didn’t have a legitimate hobby, aside from grading papers, planning lessons and chaperoning dances (and those don’t really count as hobbies anyway, let’s be honest).  I had always enjoyed photography when I was younger, so I decided to invest more of my time + interest into learning the craft.  At the start, it was exactly as I had wanted: a weekend hobby to distract me from the ups and downs of teaching.  However, after shooting more and more, and branching out into portrait photography and weddings, the time I spent working on building my photography business slowly transformed into a full-time job.  All the while, I was still teaching and working at the school upwards of fifty hours per week.  I didn’t really have a personal life or any time for interests outside of teaching + photography, so this past May, I resigned from Northglenn High School in order to focus all of my efforts + time on my photography business.  I really miss my students, but I do not miss the politics and negative atmosphere of teaching.  It is a draining job, and I knew that I just couldn’t do both photography and teaching at full-speed at the same time any longer.
 
2. Obviously, there are many wedding photographers out there, how have you managed to stand out?
 
Many of my colleagues + friends have noted that I have a keen eye for urban photography.  I find it so easy + nerdily exciting to seamlessly blend my portrait subjects with the textured urban backgrounds + striking architecture of Denver, without having the cityscape overpower the subjects of the photos.  My clients have also remarked that they’ve never felt like they were “taking photos”; they felt more that we were simply out on the town having fun together, and I happened to have my camera along with me.  I never want my clients to feel uncomfortable in front of the camera.
 
3. What’s the most challenging thing about running your own photography business? Any tips for aspiring business owners?
 
More than anything else, I would recommend upping your business game.  You can be the best, most amazing photographer in the world but if your marketing + business skills are lacking, your career will fall flat.  Having excellent customer service, consistency in delivering your product and upholding your professional persona both online + in person are a few of the key traits I believe all successful business owners possess.
 
4. Are you seeing a lot of grooms wearing suits for their wedding versus the more traditional tuxedo?
 
I am, and I’m loving it!  There is something so chic about a custom-made, fitting-in-all-the-right-places suit on a groom on his wedding day.  Nothing against the traditional tuxedo, but I love seeing grooms experiment with less classic colors + options on their wedding days.  I would love to see more tweed, all shades of grey, suspenders + vintage navy blue suits.  The bride shouldn’t be the only one on the wedding day to have a little fun with attire + accessories.
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To contact Ashley or learn more about Urban Safari Photography, visit her at her website here.
Those of us at BE consider her to be the best in the business – smart, professional and with a great eye for urban landscapes!