Sep 27 2013
Coast-Wide and Cosmic Collaboration

We seem to love it when the past meets the present whether that’s in a re-mastered film or in this case, a chambray shirt typically reserved for the blue-collar worker getting a second life. Here The POP Studio’s, John Moore expands on the rich history of Coast-Wide and how he and his team are taking the brand beyond the boundaries of a typical relaunch and into the future as a canvas for cosmic collaboration.

We’ve connected in the past about the element of discovery that prompts reimagining a brand like Coast-Wide. Is there a back-story behind uncovering a vintage chambray shirt at an out-of-the-way flea market or thrift store?

There were three specific moments that sparked my interest in the brand. The first was about four years ago when I bought my first vintage coast-wide shirt at the Rose Bowl in a dollar pile amongst hundreds of other chambray shirts. I happened to like that specific shirt because of the label art. I’ve always been inspired by good labels in vintage garments.

Cut to a year ago and I was in General Store, and Hannah was sorting through some vintage and there was another Coast-Wide chambray shirt. I was blown away because this one was even cooler than the original one I bought, so I brought it back to show my business partner. Coincidentally, the trademark had been abandoned in 2012, so we registered it immediately.

Then last October I went to Japan with Chris from Pilgrim and Matty, our POP director of sales, and we were doing some vintage shopping and I came across another vintage Coast-Wide shirt.  This one was dead-stock in perfect condition, so I took it as another good sign, and we were off to the races.

Have you uncovered any interesting stories about the history of chambray in your research?

I’ve always loved the way chambray cloth wears into your daily activities; it’s tough, it’s rugged and at the same time it’s cool. However, we felt that the world didn’t need another dusted off work-wear label so we definitely wanted to reinvent the history of the brand.

Chambray washes similarly to denim and different weaves have different textures and depth of blues. It’s also important to us that everything we make has a domestic core. However, trying to find an America-milled chambray proved nearly impossible so we brought in Japanese cloth to be sewn in Los Angeles. Ideally, we’d like to work develop our own quality of chambray on domestic soil once we are producing enough to meet minimums.

Coast-Wide seems like a peculiar name for a chambray shirting company. Where did the brand originally have its roots?

We uncovered a company by the name of M. Fine & Sons, who I believe still manufactures apparel in the south. They have always manufactured items in the uniform world and have been heavily involved in American menswear over the ages. And our research pointed to them being the mother-company when the original trademark was filed in 1934. But I still didn’t know where the name Coast-Wide was derived?  Then I discovered that earlier in 1934 there was a strike that happened on the west coast. Evidently it was the largest “coast-wide” strike in the history of America to that date, maybe still. The dockworkers wanted better wages, better hours…the whole package.  So I’m guessing the name Coast-Wide came from this strike, but I have no idea?

The embroidery modernizes this classic shirt and you’re tapping into the talents of friends for the designs. Who are some of the individuals a part of this community of global artists?

We see Coast-Wide as a canvas for collaboration and that’s a key part of our story. A lot of us grew up with the graphic t-shirt as a canvas for collaboration so we thought we’d do something similar with chambray. We have such an incredible internal team of artists here at the Pop Studio, and we looked to them to design the inaugural season. Christi, our lead designer, took the lead on developing the artwork and inspiration ranging from vintage embroideries from the 60’s and 70’s and Native American motifs, but we wanted to give them a futuristic twist.  We’re saying that we’re treating chambray as a canvas for cosmic collaboration and craft. Phase two is to work with artists who inspire us.

Which design has your fingerprints on it?

The Cosmic Dreamer. I also wrote the descriptions for each shirt and those will point to the deeper meaning of each style.

People like the idea of feeling part of something special and I understand each piece is hand-numbered, correct?

Yeah, and we were very literal about it. Two of our studio staff sat on the factory floor and hand numbered each piece, so the numbers are all perfectly imperfect.

Coast-Wide appeals to both men and women. How did you treat designing for both? Some brands will shrink it and pink it but that doesn’t always translate.

For me, a chambray shirt represents this common thread across all mankind kind of like a white t-shirt. Clearly we’re talking about something that was born as part of a uniform, but look what we’re doing with it. In many ways I almost see the brand as unisex although we do create both men’s and women’s sizes. My guess is that a lot of the women will buy the men’s sizes.

Where can people find Coast-Wide?

At our on-line store and in person at General Store (San Francisco and Venice), Ron Herman (LA and Japan), Garb Store (London), Mohawk General Store (Los Angeles), Pilgrim Surf Supply (Brooklyn & Amagansett) and Journal Standard (Japan).


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