Followers of Pennsylvania-based cult favorite Gitman Bros were on hand this past weekend to experience the label’s first San Francisco custom shirt event at Hayes Valley boutique Acrimony. Known for its idiosyncratic, quirky and off-beat array of colorful prints, flannels and plaids, Gitman Bros has become the boutique’s best selling shirt brand, so it should come as no surprise that Acrimony owner Jenny Chung specifically sought out the brand for a one-of-a-kind event for San Francisco shoppers.
Gitman Vice President Chris Olberding introduced the brand’s “Vintage” collection two and a half years ago. For Saturday’s event Olberding brought his Autumn/Winter 2010 swatch book of fabrics, about one-fifth of which originated from Gitman’s Autumn/Winter 1984 collection archives, for customers to create and order made-to-measure shirts on the spot.
“We had an overwhelming response for doing something like this, so that’s why I called upon [Olberding] to do it,” says Chung, who has carried the line in her store for the last four seasons. In addition to a custom shirt, a matching tie could be thrown in — there was even a whiskey tasting to add to the experience. Ladies were not left out, either — shirts could be custom ordered for Gitman Sisters, their line for women, as well.
With such a well received event comes the question, is there a new demand for custom shirting today? While both Olberding and Chung are in agreement that custom shirting may not be a large volume builder for business, there is a place for its use in developing a brand.
“I do have customers around the world who have fabric on hand and a customer who’ll come in and they’ll have their measurements file,” Olberding says, “It’s an old way of making things, and if you go into a classic men’s store or haberdashery, a lot of things are custom, and guys will come in and they get all their clothing measured. And that’s how clothing originated.”
The event and its focus on custom apparel is a perfect fit for a town like San Francisco, where standing out and maintaining individuality are large parts of personal style.
“This brand warrants people wanting something unique,” Chung says, “and because people want to buy a size small in every color, it’s like, why not come in and also get a custom shirt in a fabric that you have never seen on anybody else before, and have it in four to six weeks for the same price? And that’s really what the draw is.”
Gitman Bros Vintage is characteristic of the hard-to-find, unusual brands prides herself on offering local shoppers.
“We don’t carry a whole lot of brands in the store,” Chung says, “but the brands that we do carry are unique to us, so – Wings and Horns, Nom de Guerre – you can’t find those anywhere else [in San Francisco], and that’s the point. Gitman Bros Vintage, the same way.”
Chung hopes offering in-store experiences like last weekend’s event will add to San Francisco’s overall fashion scene.
“Doing something like a custom shirting event, where you feel like you have ownership over a piece — over something that you really like — I think that’s pushing people in the right direction,” she says.
For more upcoming Acrimony events and happenings, look for store updates on the shop’s blog. Gitman Bros Vintage fans can look forward to the company’s next visit to San Francisco at Unionmade Goods this spring.
Top photo courtesy of Acrimony, remaining images courtesy of Kizza Chadiha