I think it’s time we call it like it is.
The times are changing. We will look back on this moment with the privilege of knowing we saw it with our own two. I don’t know if you feel it too. Who can say where it will take us but it doesn’t feel ordinary and every breath of it feels pivotal. From business, to politics, to culture, the way in which we live, operate, and understand evolved rapidly and there’s no sign of it slowing down. I sat down with two men with their fingers on the pulse, communicating this shift via the language they know best: clothing.
This era is all about you and it is important that you know that.
Eison Triple Thread is a made-to-wear men’s shop located in downtown San Francisco. Eison is a family name representative of three generations of San Franciscans before Julian, the founder. He describes incorporating his family name into the brand name as a statement of “solidarity, roots, and stability.” This is an especially potent statement to make in a city undergoing an immovable facelift. The Eison name is literally engraved in concrete on Louisburg St. and Julian seeks to further make its mark in the city by way of his business. He apologized for a very minor scuff on his slacks before we officially greeted each other.
How we present ourselves is a tool of communication no different from the words we choose.
Dario Smith, Director of Product at Eison, made that fact clear when detailing the journey that led him to this point. He was in a bike accident while working a “shit job” and underwent reconstructive surgery. After recovering, it was time to interview for new gig so he researched menswear to best make that first impression. Through that process it dawned on him just how important the concept of a first impression is. Then as time went on, his interview-style attire trickled into his every day and he slowly noticed people treated him accordingly. His new wardrobe communicated an air of respect distinct from his usual, more casual style. Eventually he became peoples’ source for fashion advice and a light bulb went off. These concurrent events domino-effected into a mission to help people make good first impressions; not by dressing up as a thing they are supposed to be but more so really getting to the crux of what it means to dress as themselves.
“Some people don’t know how or don’t get a chance to express their character,” he emphasized.
This era is all about you. Let’s call it like it is. We are on the other side of a major power shift in every industry that serves the people. Obsolete is the idea of any kind of authority figure telling you about you. Today we the people get to create civilization in our image; tailoring life to fit our desires. I see it on the level of entertainment. By way of streaming services, we the people have the freedom to choose and tailor what it is we want to watch or listen to. We aren’t forced to tune into whatever’s on. I see it on the level of politics and culture. By way of social media, we the people have access to information. We have the power to mobilize on a mass level, the ability to communicate at rapid speeds, come to a consensus about what we want, and succinctly demand it. We can more accurately choose and tailor who is fit to be in positions of power and what ideas and institutions we do and do not condone. Think #blacklivesmatter. Think #metoo. Think #neveragain. These are lasting and powerful movements that succeeded in unifying the people and whistle-blowing those misusing their positions in power. Obsolete is the idea that someone in power is too big for consequence. I see this same shift in commerce. The three of us talked about the now infamous H&M ad that made light of racially discriminatory language: a Black boy wearing a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” hoodie. Just the same, Snapchat found themselves in hot water over an ad making light of domestic violence: a quiz asking “would you rather punch Chris Brown or Slap Rihanna?” In both scenarios, the public backlash was not only fiery but managed to instantly hit both companies precisely where it hurts most: their profits. In that same vein, a company that adjusts product to consumer demand shows clear reward: think Black Panther, a movie that answered moviegoers’ cries for representation, and its immediate and historic success. I only mention those examples to say those that serve us don’t so much influence us to change the way we consume, but rather now more than ever we influence them to change the way they produce. We are on the other side of a power shift and the name of the game when it comes to consumerism in the 21st Century is understanding and capitalizing on this new dynamic. Personalization is the name of the game. This era is all about you.
We the people get to make the world in our image.
Eison Triple Thread does not sell clothes. At least they don’t on the forefront. They sell a customer experience. They do not have an inventory. They do not have a backstock. The hallmark of their business is the collaboration between you and them; a journey to nail down exactly who you are and how you want to present that to the world. They have materials from all over the globe. Listing off such exotic locales as Shanghai, Italy, Turkey, and Japan, Julian describes their travels as somewhat of a “modern day silk road.” Quickly making the distinction between fashion and style, he defines fashion as something more market-driven and dictated by those doing the selling for the purpose of selling. Style, however, is something personally curated. Recognizing that firm distinction feels like the driving force behind Eison and the core characteristic that separates them from more traditional tailoring shops. There are no leather couches, there is no taxidermy on the walls. That was the old world. And it’s distinction from the new world came up a lot in our conversation as did the name of their first collection: Antithesis.
The shop felt bright when I walked in. The dictionary definition of antithesis is the negation of the thesis. It is the contrast, the opposition, or the anti to the standard. Go to any tailor and per tradition, they follow a more dark color pallette. This one feels bright. This one has art on the walls. This one doesn’t have suits, it has materials. This one takes customers step-by-step, piece-by-piece, material-by-material as they collaborate with the shop to construct an outfit best for them. It relies on a partnership between the taste a customer walks in the door with and the information Julian and Dario gathered from spaces said customer couldn’t go and time they couldn’t spend. By the time they walk out the door for the last time, the goal is to not only have a piece of clothing, but also full knowledge of what it is, what it means, why it works, and what its value is. And value is an important piece of the Eison Triple Thread philosophy. They broke down the industry and how value is manufactured out of exclusivity. Exclusivity of knowledge, exclusivity of class, and the resulting exclusivity of access are the parts that sum up value in the fashion industry. Experts know, the wealthy can afford, and the few can obtain.
That was the old world.
In this new world, Julian and Dario envision dismantling that model and instead providing the average person background knowledge, fairer price points, and access to top shelf materials from around the world . Make no mistake, in this era you have the power and Eison Triple Thread is a shop that lopsides the dynamics accordingly. They call it Honest Luxury, a new world definition of luxury that isn’t “defined by traditional notions of exclusion and alienation, but rather by innovation, dynamism and inclusion.” In other words, they present you a value not invented out of thin air and dictated by a gatekeeper to your literal expense, but rather a value tailored to your own personal taste. They don’t want to teach you how to dress up as the thing you are supposed to be, but more so teach you how to better dress as yourself. And you shouldn’t like it because you’re supposed to like it, you should like it because you know what you like and this is that. Eison doesn’t have a backstock because no one piece would be like yours; because no one person is like you.
And this is all about you.
Personalization is key. In this era of you, customer service as an industry is ripe for innovation. Eison does sell clothing, but the driving force of their sell is their customer service and you are the focus of their growth moving forward. These guys are stylish, they are well traveled, and they are well learned. They could take these qualities of theirs and be any other shop that sells you clothes in their image and make sales based on their knowledge and your lack thereof. But the times are changing. This is a new world and truth be told, you know you better than they do. And their main objective is to get to know you over time. Their shift into the digital space reflects this. They plan to further innovate their online experience, incorporate an app that works in tandem with Spotify to create an outfit based on your mood and music taste, and eventually expand to areas outside of menswear.
San Francisco in a lot of ways retained the same energy from the gold rush: a destination for the innovative, hungry, and imaginative, and Julian and Dario are carrying on tradition; once more marking the city with the Eison name and doing it with style.
Shoutouts to the guys over at Eison Triple Thread!