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Now open: Feal Mor, an upscale menswear boutique for pirates of every (Breton) stripe

December 3, 2010 |  2:05 pm

Rage feal mor

I've started to loathe the term "curate" as it applies to the retail experience -- it sounds pretentious (What ever happened to calling it a "tightly edited collection" anyway?). But Feal Mor, a new men's boutique that just opened its doors on La Brea (just across from American Rag), actually earns it.

First, about that name: The closest English pronunciation may be "feel more," but "Feal Mor" is apparently a Breton phrase that translates as "of the sea," a fact that instantly makes the whole operation seem a thousand times less cheesy.

That language lesson comes courtesy of of J.P. Plunier, who originally hails from the Brittany region of France, who has called Claremont, California, his home for the last  decade and a half. The 51-year-old already had an extensive resume before launching into the menswear business -- first as a freelance photographer and more recently as a record producer (Jack Johnson) and manager (he's been Ben Harper's manager for the last 15 years). He's also a partner in the Everloving Records label. He says he used the phrase for his Feal mor interior knitwear-heavy menswear line he launched in 2005 for several reasons.

"It means no land, no borders," Plunier said. "Faithful only to the laws of the sea." If that sounds like something out of the pirate code, there's a reason; according to Plunier, the first pirates to sail under the skull and crossbones hailed from Brittany.

"It's ours," he said of the symbol that adorns the black shoulder buttons of his sweaters. "And I'm taking it back!"

That peninsular region of France is also the point of origin for the horizontal Breton stripe that today is associated with all things nautical (and a famously favorite motif in the work of designer Jean Paul Gaultier). So it makes sense that Plunier's wares are based on classic Breton stripe sweaters and longsleeve T-shirts, some tweaked with modern details like cycling pockets that button against the small of the back, others sport contrasting chenille cuffs.

In addition to the assortment of sweaters (which range from $200 to $400), the Feal Mor label includes Plunier's slighlty more fitted version of the naval pea coat which replaces the traditional buttons with thick, jaunty contrasting zippers -- making what Plunier calls a "Zip P coat" ($800 to $880), a range of longsleeve T-shirts (starting at $198), button-front shirts, slim-cut trousers and cycling-inspired knit caps ($98).

Feal mor hats Cycling is right up there with sea-faring as an inspiration for Plunier -- in fact the Fall/Winter 2010 collection currently in his store is called "SOB" (short for "sailors on bikes"). "Brittany has a strong cycling history," Plunier explained. "No one wants to drink and drive so instead we have drunks on bikes."

The Feal Mor label has been stateside since 2007 and is currently available at a couple of local boutiques (including Lost & Found on Yucca and the nearby La Brea boutique Union ), but Plunier said he felt compelled to open his own 1,200-square-foot bricks-and-mortar space.

"This helps fully show who we are -- and I have a chance to put all these really cool things in my shop -- most of them made by people who are my friends." Among the other offerings for sale are vintage U.S. and French military parkas with fur-lined hoods (from Plunier's extensive personal collection), custom-made Gato Heroi surfboards, vintage restored bicycles and Amsterdam wetsuits (handmade in Japan, Feal Mor has the U.S. exclusive at retail) and swirling colorful resin lamp sconces sculpted by surfboard shaper Chris Ballreich.

Feal Mor, now open at 165 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: At top, left, Feal Mor's sweaters, inspired by the Brittany region of France. At right, skull and crossbone emblazoned buttons. Middle, the new store on La Brea includes custom-made Gato Heroi surfboards. At bottom, knitwear cycling caps are part of the merchandise mix. Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times