New trade show Launch LA, which opened its doors at Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hangar, delivered on its promise to serve up a smartly curated mix of apparel, footwear and accessories that spoke to the Southern California lifestyle, but the first brand I want to highlight isn't a clothing label. It's a pocket-sized notebook.
To be honest, I've known about Field Notes for a while now, ever since my wife picked up a three-pack of the 48-page stapled graph paper memo books ($9.95) during a J. Crew shopping trip. It was part of the brand's 50-state "County Fair" collection and each of the blue, red and yellow covers (representing the ribbon colors awarded at a county fair) was printed with the name and outline of the state of California.
At first I didn't think anyone would share my obsession with the retro-flavored, decidedly analog note-taking medium, but when I recently gave one to my sister-in-law and she immediately held it aloft and proclaimed it "so Wes Anderson," I realized she had a point.
Designed, printed and manufactured in the U.S. using the Futura typeface (this information is among the facts printed inside the back cover), they're exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to see turn up in the hands of a character from Anderson's latest movie, "Moonrise Kingdom."
In a partnership between Portland, Ore.-based Draplin Design Co. and Chicago-based Coudal Partners, Aaron Draplin found inspiration to create the 5-year-old company's flagship product in the old-school agricultural memo book used by crop inspectors and farmers.
Michele Seiler, who was representing the brand at Launch LA, said J. Crew started stocking their wares several years ago. "We'd decided we didn't want to go into stationery stores where we'd be competing with a bunch of other brands, and focused on men's fashion stores where we'd be seen as a $10 add-on to a $100 purchase."
And there is a certain element of seasonal style to the books, especially the limited-edition runs of specific colors (including neon hues for summer and icy whites for winter 2011) and themed editions like the aforementioned 2010 County Fair edition (which Seiler says has been so popular that it has been brought back as a permanent offering) and a red-covered fall 2011 "Fire Spotter" edition ("celebrating forestry and tall towers").
The most recent, for spring 2012, which harks back to the memo books' agricultural roots, is the "National Crop" edition ($23.95): custom-boxed sets of six notebooks, each paying tribute to one of America’s top six (legal) crops; corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, cotton and sorghum. Each of the 7,500 boxes in the limited run also contains an embroidered logo patch.
Is it silly to fall in love with a tiny little memo book? Probably. But it's a whole lot less silly than falling in love and not having some place to jot it down.
Local stockists can be found at the Field Notes website, which also offers an e-commerce option.
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-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: At top, three-packs of Field Notes' California "County Fair" edition memo books ($9.95) on display at the Launch LA trade show in Santa Monica on July 25. At bottom, a six-book boxed set of the brand's spring 2012 "National Crop" edition ($23.95). Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times