When we relocated the Battenwear design studio from Manhattan's Garment District to Topanga Canyon, CA in 2017, we moved our family to a sleepy little neighborhood nearby with a great school. We went from being surrounded by Brooklyn row houses and bodegas to being nestled into hills filled with mid-century bungalows, coyotes, owls, and centuries-old oak trees.
As context, Shinya lived in Tokyo for the first 30 years of his life and New York for the next 15 and is definitely a big-city subway kind of guy. The ever-changing crowd on his commute has always served as his daily inspiration—revealing trends in color and introducing different ways of styling. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is very much a car-centric city, and while there is a subway in a few places, it's just not the same kind of experience. To be honest, the subway-deficit was one of the toughest adjustments involved in Battenwear's move.
However, the longer we lived in LA and got into the city's rhythms, the more we realized that our neighborhood has plenty of other ways to get daily inspiration, not the least of which is morning drop off at school. We walk with several other families from our street and by the time we get to school, we've usually picked up a few more friends along the way. There are a lot of parents with creative jobs in our neighborhood (film/tv industry, musicians, artists) and as a result the outfits at the school gates are often as eclectic and fun as a Brooklyn subway car.
Today, we'd like to tell you how our daily school drop off with neighbors led us to organizing one of our favorite photoshoots to date.
“Nice hat!” we yell across the street at a pair of good-looking dads, one of whom is wearing a Travel Cap. It may seem like we’re fishing for a compliment but really, we just are physically unable to stay quiet when we see Battenwear in the wild.
It’s a school assembly day, so we are walking with our full cohort of 8 parents from our block and what feels like roughly 300 children, and the dads turn to us, wondering who had called out. Mr. Travel Cap puts 2 + 2 together and laughs and gives us a thumbs up. “Wait! What about me?” complains another dad, who had also been to our recent open studio event in the canyon. He opens his jacket to show us his Reach-Up Sweatshirt. “Heyyyy!” we yell.
Meg and Corrine, two friends from down the street, are watching this and laughing. They also have lots of Battenwear, since that’s what we give people for holidays and birthdays, and Meg dryly suggests using exclusively middle-aged neighborhood parents in our next photoshoot. Corrine immediately starts making a list of all of the photogenic moms and dads in the school community. Other parents start brainstorming, one offering the skate ramp in his back yard, another suggesting the local, ancient liquor store as a good set.
It’s about a 17-minute walk from our block to the school and by the time we reached the gates and joined the other loitering parents, we had a complete photoshoot planned out. Meg would style the outfits, Pat and Corrine would bodyguard and child-wrangle, Kristin would be on make-up and hair, Logan and Josh are our dad models, and Shinya and I provide the clothes.
We joked about it for another couple of weeks, and then, after we had joked about it long enough to know that everyone was actually serious, we brought Kevin in from New York, ordered a bunch of pastries from Sugar Bloom to keep everyone happy and fed for the Sunday morning shoot, and got started.
To check out more photos from the shoot, please scroll through our Instagram page. We hope you enjoy the results as much as we enjoyed our day shooting Battenwear in the wild in Los Angeles.
Meet Logan, a TV producer originally from San Diego who played “Harmonies” by Lord Echo at our last neighborhood dinner party. Sometimes we talk about how great it would be to have a random front door on our street that if you opened it, it would allow you to go anywhere in the world. For Logan's chance to go, he would pick Perast, Montenegro along the the Bay of Kotor.
Meet Meg, a stylist and personal shopper originally from Cleveland, Ohio, who played "Abandoned Luncheonette" by Hall & Oates the last time we sat in her yard, exhausted and drinking wine. We always ask our friends what kind of international art thief they would be if they had the chance. Meg's sticky fingers would land her one of Ed Ruscha post modern works - a version of HEY or the GAS STATIONS.
Meet Josh, a lighting technician for film and television, originally from St. Petersberg, Florida but most recently from Oakland and NYC. Josh is one of the several avid surfers on our street, so it's no surprise that his turn knocking on our street's imaginary, go-anywhere-in-the-world door would take him to the beautiful blue waves of Biarritz, France. Josh makes killer mix tapes, and the most recent one he sent us included tracks by Orchestra Gold, Getatchew Mekurya, and Marc Ribot and The Prosthetic Cubans.