Resting at the edge of Downtown Laguna Beach, North Menswear is home to a hearty curation of rugged novelties and modern workwear essentials. The leather clad walls of North Menswear house rich, indigo dyed denim, timelessly woven garments, and vegetable tanned accoutrements for every working man’s needs. While North Menswear paves the way in sourcing meticulously produced clothing, it also offers Laguna Beach a distinct lens into the quality of heirloom manufacturing.
Inside the shop, we are welcomed by Pete Surprenant, founder and owner of North Menswear. Amidst the space of heritage workwear and World War II memorabilia, Pete guides us through the carefully conceived story of the shop as he reflects upon its origins and roots within the community.
Please describe the atmosphere and clothing within your shop.
I want the atmosphere of the shop to be really welcoming. I want it to be somewhere that you walk in and spend some time. Hopefully it’s captivating, as your eyes wander from one thing to the next. I hope the atmosphere sets the stage for the clothing. It’s rugged and vintage inspired. If you look at the clothing, it certainly holds that notion.
How does this space reflect your background in clothing?
I was raised by my grandfather. If you break the clothing in this store down, it’s really everything our grandfathers wore ― sturdy denim, work shirts, canvas jackets, plain white tees. These staples have been around for a very long time.
Does your grandfather influence your view of clothing?
He was a World War II pilot, stationed in England. My grandmother and grandfather raised me, so I had a special opportunity to hear about the war all the time. I was very influenced by their stories. All of the clothing I try tapping into is rooted in workwear. In their time, there was heavy denim because it needed to be heavy; there were canvas jackets because the jackets needed to last. Watching my grandfather dress in a manner that put his best foot forward as he left the house, day in and day out, definitely had a large influence on me.
How might you describe the quality of pieces in your store?
Heirloom quality. Things you buy once and keep forever, and hopefully pass down to your boy.
How important is the manufacturing of the clothing you host?
I try to focus on buying domestic made goods. I try sourcing from as close to the store as possible. There’s a lot of stuff in here that’s made in Los Angeles and even as close as Dana Point. Our leather goods are made just down the road. It’s all manufactured at the highest quality. Going back to the quality of the pieces: if the manufacturing is done well, you’ll keep a piece of clothing forever.
Could you explain the origins of North Menswear?
I had been thinking about opening a shop for about ten years. The amount of notes and images I’ve saved over the years would blow you away. I had sat on it for a long time. It wasn't until I was in Austin, Texas, and I walked into a store named Stag ― It was the first time I had seen such a beautiful men’s store like that. I started keeping my ears out and eyes open. Places like Unionmade popped up in San Francisco. I went there and it was completely amazing. In New York City, I take my hat off to J. Crew and the Liquor Store, which blew me away also. Like I said, it all started ten years ago. I had always been attracted to timeless menswear that has stood the test of time. Trendless pieces. Pieces that will be around forever.
Are you inspired by Laguna Beach or surrounding neighborhoods? How do these inspirations reflect in your product?
Laguna is a really creative town. There are a lot of artists and clothing brands that were born here; Stussy, for instance. I’m constantly inspired here. It’s a beautiful town and there are a lot of stylish people. Being in a surf town definitely has an effect on the shop.
What makes North Menswear a unique store within the community?
It’s something that’s never been here before. Years ago, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there was a proper men’s store with suiting and things like that. We have plenty of amazing surf shops. But something that touches on what I’m trying to do hasn’t been here. It’s definitely a unique offering. If someone’s looking for a good piece of denim, there’s nowhere else in town to go.
Any brands you’re particularly excited to carry this season?
Almond Surfboards, who are just up the way in Newport Beach. Everybody loves their stuff and I love their surfboards. We’re also bringing in Wellen, out of Los Angeles and Aloha Sunday, out of San Diego. These brands will fit nicely here for the Spring and Summer.
Could you elaborate on any collaborations you’ve produced? Any to come?
This past holiday we did a collaboration with Dixon Rand. He’s a one man show. Cuts and sews everything himself, from start to finish. No one else touches his garments. We did a sherpa lined denim trucker jacket. They were beautiful and exactly what I wanted. A really rich, raw indigo denim with beautiful off-white sherpa lining. It was spot on. In the Fall we’ll do another collaboration with Dixon Rand. We have an exciting collaboration with Almond Surfboards coming. I won’t go into too many details, but it’s pretty exciting. We’re up to some fun things with them.
What else can we expect from North Menswear in the future?
More of the same. We’ll continue what we’re doing now, while expanding our collaborations. I hope to expand our in-house brand beyond tees, sweatshirts, and hats. There will hopefully be a little more time focused on our brand in 2015.
380 Glenneyre St Suite C, Laguna Beach, CA 92651