The King of Cool feat. Kevin Carney
December 21st, 2015
When we first moved from NYC I didn’t know much about the menswear scene here in Los Angeles. As it turns out, New Yorkers don’t talk about LA nearly as much as Angelenos talk about New York. One guy that I did hear about, though, was Kevin Carney, owner and operator of the Mohawk General Store in Silverlake.
After cruising the Sunset store and meeting Kevin in person, I could see why this was one of the few shops that I’d heard about from across the country. With more than 25 years experience on every side of the menswear business (branding, buying, pattern-making, design, shopkeeping, etc) it’s no secret why all three of Kevin’s locations have seen success.
The guy is a student of the game with a uniquely critical eye for design. He and his team routinely travel the world (never missing favorite design hot-spots like Paris and Tokyo) to add to the meticulously curated selection of rare garments hanging on the singular rack in his menswear shop. His expertise, in my opinion, is discovering classic-inspired menswear that is versatile and wearable, but incorporates innovative design and technical fabrications. Think bonded interior-waterproof cashmere overcoats, t-shirts in slubbed Italian linen/silk blends, eyeglasses with clip-on shade lenses hand-carved in Japan, lightweight patterned scarves straight from Paris fabric houses, etc.
In the spirit of LA’s fashion season (“winter”), we caught up with the Poughkeepsie NY/Raleigh NC native to talk menswear and get a lesson in the art of staying cool.
On Finding Inspiration
“It started in my mother’s sewing room when I was about 10 years old. For me sewing was a creative challenge and a way to customize garments.
In Junior High School I was influenced by my music heroes like Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) and Paul Weller (The Jam). At the time I was buying alot of cultural / fashion magazines like I-D and The FACE. I was also influenced alot by Sean Stussy and surf culture. I was on the east coast but really connected with what was going down on the west coast; the surf and skate scene, both fashion-wise and also with their graphic design aesthetic. When I was 17 I was going to clubs in NYC like The Tunnel, The Red Zone, Nell’s, so at the time the convergence of west coast publication, New York street style and the craziness of club culture was the ‘runway’ for me.
I’d say I’ve been in a constant ‘phase’ of change and discovery ever since…”
- Glasses by Eyevan ·
- Scarf by Our Legacy ·
- Shirt by Our Legacy ·
- Pants by Engineered Garments ·
- Ring by Mohawk x Matt Ready ·
- Shoes by Hender Scheme
It Starts in Tokyo
“Later I went to college and graduated with a degree in clothing and textiles from UNC Greensboro, which at the time, was a major textile and apparel center. I was hired as a designer for a clothing brand on the west coast and finally made the trek. After a few years designing menswear I took a break and, somehow, ended up being a pattern-maker and sample cutter for a women’s brand. In 1991 I took my few years of experience and decided to start my own company in San Francisco called Biast, with about $3,000. I began selling a lot in Japan and was able to build the brand relatively quickly with an international following.
In 1997 my curiosity got the best of me (again) and I decided to move (again) to NYC where I started a brand called Generic Costume…then moved on to shoe design and started Generic Man and Generic Surplus. Now here I am in Los Angeles with three shops and an online store, and it’s all coming full-circle as we design and develop our own in-house brand SMOCK… We have an office set-up in Tokyo and are working on some collaborations with local brands there.”
From my conversations with Kevin I learned that the Tokyo market has the most diverse menswear offering, and local manufacturers are constantly pushing the envelope in terms of innovations in technical design. Combined with their appreciation for classic menswear (and old-school Americana) it’s easy to see why designers that are on the cutting-edge of menswear are spending a lot of their time in Japan.
- Glasses by Ahlem ·
- Coat by Officine Generale ·
- Shirt by Engineered Garments ·
- Scarf by Needles ·
- Pants by NLST
Location, Location, Location
“With the internet new brands are popping up frequently and easier to find, but many do not operate in the normal delivery schedule so it can be a challenge. I try to find brands that I can incubate and grow. Brands that I personally connect with.
OAMC is one of the brands to watch. The designer Luke Meier was my design assistant before he went to SUPREME, so he really knows his details and can dream up new ones…he’s a very creative guy. Hender Scheme footwear from Japan is also incredibly well-made. The price is quite high but don’t sleep on it…quality footwear is an investment.”
So Kevin, as someone thinking of starting a menswear store, what are your top 3 pieces of advice?
Can I repeat the word location 3 times…?
- Glasses by Eyevan ·
- Jacket by OAMC ·
- Sweatshirt by Issey Miyake ·
- Wool jersey shorts by White Briefs ·
- Leggings by John Elliott ·
- Shoes by Our Legacy
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Yours in style,