Jared and Brooke Zaugg have a deep appreciation for the classics. It's an aesthetic the San Francisco-based couple honed in the years they ran the Legend of the Motorcycle, an annual showcase of exotic, two-wheeled machines that, according to the Zauggs, "have been giving men instant sex appeal since 1869." Now the husband-and-wife pair are bringing their same taste for history to a new online men's clothier, Bench & Loom, launched Thursday. [Updated Nov. 11, 2011, 11:45 a.m.: The original version of this post said the company's name was Builtwell. The company has since changed its name to Bench & Loom, citing unexpected confusion regarding the company's name.]
Featuring storied fashions from the past that have been in production for decades, the site sells handmade leather jackets from the 179-year-old French tannery, Chapal, and quadruple-ply worsted wool sweaters from the almost century-old Portland atelier, Dehen.
The Dehner strap tank boots the site sells are the same military design General George S. Patton ordered for his tank operators during World War II. The Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Automatic timepiece dates back to the Bauhaus era. The Levi's denim pants and peacoat are classic designs produced in modern times through the San Francisco manufacturer's vintage division.
"All the clothes have details or nuances that make them special -- the way they clasp, the special buttons. They find a way to add flair or uniqueness to something that would ordinarily be standard," Brooke Zaugg said.
Prices on the site are, likewise, exotic, ranging from $80 to $800 for most items, $1,500 to $3,800 for select luxury pieces and as high as $250,000 for the Brough Superior motorcycle replica sold in Bench & Loom's "specialty shop." While every product is priced as one would expect for such longstanding craftsmanship, the goal, said Jared Zaugg, is to expand the site with more $200 to $300 items.
The details of the craftsmanship, and how each item came to be, are all part of Bench & Loom, which seeks to tell the stories behind the fashions that were each selected for authenticity and purpose. The back stories of individual manufacturers are told on the site's Livewell blog and in its workshop section.
"We wanted to create a site and design it in a way that appeals to men and the way they shop," Brooke Zaugg said. "It's very different from a website for women. It's curated, simple."
And it's also a place for customers to engage with the classics and be a part of the Bench & Loom story. Shoppers can participate in the site's Phoenix Project -- an area that highlights a classic film and lets visitors vote on what clothing item they'd most like to see revived. The James Dean film "Giant" is the currently selected feature. Bench & Loom is asking visitors to choose the jacket they'd most like to see reproduced.
"People can vote, and the jacket that's most wanted is the one we'll manufacture," Brooke Zaugg said.
The site is also highlighting "Men of Character," who, for its opening month, is Ernest Hemingway. "He had a great style, but he lived purposefully and accomplished great things that real men would aspire to," Brooke Zaugg said.
The character section features quotes, photos, even a video clip of the author -- and a couple of the items he may have used to fly fish in Idaho or to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, including a 100% wool gentleman's sporting coat and a traditional bota bag.
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-- Susan Carpenter
Photos (from top): 2011 Brough Superior Pendine ($250,000), Gilded Age double-breasted cardigan ($398), Cherchbi Squires Holdall ($1,155), Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Automatic ($2,250), Dehner Strap Tank Boots ($425). Credit: Bench & Loom