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Plate of the Week: Underground Butcher

Our friends at Underground Food Collective have thankfully opened up an awesome butcher shop at 811 Williamson Street. Stop by for a lunchtime sandwich, a choice of 18-cheeses, freshly-baked bread, all your locally-sourced meat, and much more. Cheers!

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Staff Picks FW12 I The Employees

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Context Interview Series: Sunny Sports

Sunny Sports is undoubtedly one of the most unique and interesting brands we carry. The Japanese brand is enthralled with the culture of the American West Coast from the 1960s and 70s. Their designs, fabric choices, and construction techniques accurately reflect the style and feel of this era.

To give you further insight into the brand's influences, we had the pleasure of interviewing head designer and founder Shinya Kitahara. We have also compiled select inspirational images from photographers Leroy Grannis and David Scott, who were both active in California during the 60s and 70s. Scott, a teenager at the time, shot amateur photos of his friends in Venice Beach while Grannis has long been an admired professional surf photographer. We feel the unique images of Grannis and Scott reflect the ruggedness and authenticity of Sunny Sports Clothing.

Context: What do you admire about the American West Coast?


Kitahara: I admire how the west coast has combined its sunny climate life style with various cultures to make its Surfing, Skating, and Art history.


Context: How do your surroundings in Tokyo affect your designs and production?


Kitahara: Tokyo is very energetic and we certainly feed off that energy, but the city doesn’t directly affect our designs or production. For those aspects of Sunny Sports, I’m influenced by my time in America.

東京の影響は、エネルギッシュですが作品等の影響はありません。 アメリカに行った時に影響を受けます。

Context: Tell us about your fabrics; where do you source them and what do you look for in a fabric? 


Kitahara: We talk with fabric makers who base their work in American Vintage, and really focus on the thread characteristics and unique thread qualities like color and print design that these fabrics have. The most important characteristic of the materials is their timelessness. I look for fabrics that I could wear for 10 years without getting tired of them.

AMERICAN VINTAGEの生地をベースに生地メーカーと話し合い、糸の特徴と糸の微妙なCOLOR、PRINTデザインをこだわっています。 10年着ても飽きない素材を特徴としています。

Context: When designing a collection, do you have a particular type of consumer in mind? If so, what would the archetypal Sunny Sports man be like? 


Kitahara: We don’t have a specific “model” for our brand. Our designs involve dumping the contents of the fashion “toy box” out and neatly, piece-by-piece, joining the scattered parts back together.

特定のMODELはいません。 昔のおもちゃ箱をひっくり返して、ひとつずつ丁寧にPARTSを組み合わせてデザインしています。

Context: Which season is able to emphasize Sunny Sports the most?


Kitahara: From spring to fall, the warm seasons. We’re not very strong with winter because of the cold.

春~秋にかけて温かい季節です。 寒いので冬は苦手です。。。。。

Context: Very few stores in the USA have been selected to sell Sunny Sports.  Moving forward, do you think these shops will continue to expand the Sunny Sports brand?


Kitahara: Our mission is to take the time to spread the brand. However, instead of doing so by selling large volumes of clothing, it would be best to, even if bit by bit each year, gain new Sunny Sports fans and make sure that the people who buy Sunny Sports are happy.

時間をかけて広めていく事が使命です。 ただし大量に売るのではなく毎年少しずつでもSUNNYSPORTSファンを増やしていく事と SUNNYSPORTS買ってくれた人が幸せになってくれることが、一番です。

Shop Sunny Sports' Spring/Summer collection here

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A Formal Breakfast at Bradbury's and Marigold Kitchen

With Spring seemingly upon us, we awoke early this Saturday morning to grab breakfast at some of our favorite local spots and have a walk around the capitol. To put a Context spin on the outing, we each donned our favorite new Harding and Wilson bow tie. Our first stop was at Bradbury's Coffee to get sufficiently caffeinated for the long day ahead. True to his style, owner Sam started things off with two Piccolos, while the rest of us enjoyed tamer espressos. After coffee and a short walk around the area, we got breakfast at Marigold Kitchen. Pictured below are the Chile Poached Eggs. Cheers!

Bradbury's127 N. Hamilton, Madison, WI

Marigold Kitchen 118 S. Pinckney St., Madison, WI

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Context Interview Series: William Kroll of Tender Co.

New to Context, Tender Co. has thoroughly impressed both staff and customers of the shop. The attention to detail and the uniquely dyed fabrics give each garment a distinct heritage feel and look. Not surprisingly, a great deal of research, time-consuming work, and love goes into making each Tender Co. piece. To give you a greater understanding and appreciation for Tender Co., we had the pleasure of interviewing the brand's founder and designer, William Kroll.

Context: What initially sparked your interest in heritage production practices?

William: I took 18 months out to be a bespoke tailor's apprentice, which taught me a huge amount about hand made clothes and traditional craftsmanship. We were making classic bespoke suits, but the idea of inherited techniques, and evolution of ideas in clothing, rather than reinvention for the sake of fashion, seems very applicable to the kind of things I'm now producing. Before that, when I was at high school, I really enjoyed woodwork, and making things with my hands. I think all these things link together, and if you have the kind of mind which enjoys working out how to make a table steady you can work out a good pocket.

Context: In what ways do you conduct research about specific production techniques, fabrics, dyes etc.?

William:I think it's very important that I thoroughly research into the shapes and design details of the garments, which I do at archives, museums, and looking through collections of old clothes wherever I can, but the production techniques usually develop as a conversation with the people who are making the things themselves. Somebody who has been casting brass for 30 years is likely to have good ideas about mould shapes!

Context: Is there any overall inspiration for your Spring/Summer collection?

William: Spring/Summer 2012 is an evolution of the ideas that have been going on in previous seasons. I've found some nice ideas from Victorian railway uniforms, which is always an underlying theme (the Tender was the coal truck on a steam engine). For instance, the semicircular calico patch at the top of the pockets on jackets in this production is an adaptation from a similar leather patch on the pockets of a 19th Century railway guard's overcoat, used to protect the wool fabric from heavy leather gloves when they came in and out of the pocket. In this lightweight left-hand twill jacket it supports the fabric, making the pocket corners stronger.

Context: Do you look to any specific era for design inspiration?

William:As I say, I particularly like 19th Century railway clothes, but I think it's important for the scope of Tender that it doesn't get too closely tied to reproducing anything in particular. There are elements of 17th Century tailoring in the jeans and shirts, 20th Century construction in the Tshirts, and some of the dyes I've worked with have been used since the Stone Age, so it's a broad sweep! One of the lovely things about having your own brand is that you can look into what ever seems interesting, and see where it takes you.

Context: How does your English heritage influence your designs and production techniques?

William:I love England's tailoring and manufacturing tradition, but I think you can find influence in many different things. Japanese production, of course, or American Shaker furniture, or Scandinavian ceramics, French food. Any designer will pick up ideas all over the place, and how you put them together is what makes an individual handwriting.

Context: How involved are you in the production process?

William:I work with excellent, skilled producers and small factories, who make the pieces, but at the beginning of any style I always make the patterns and prototypes myself, and once the first samples have been made I always wear them myself to feel how things wear in and function in real life. At the end of the production process it's me that does up the buttons, checks everything over, stamps the labels, pins on the swingtags etc, so every single garment still goes through my hands. It's nice to say goodbye to each piece in this way!

Context: Aside from your denim jeans, what is your favorite garment to produce?

William:It's not exactly a garment, but I really enjoy working on belts. The leather I use, tanned for 18 months especially for Tender with oak bark, in a tannery operating since the Roman invasion of Britain, is incredible. The buckles are all 'lost wax' cast in England, which means that for every single buckle, a fresh wax model is made, which is then packed in plaster and has liquid-hot brass poured in, melting away the wax. This is a very time consuming process, obviously, but it gives beautiful castings, of the quality of brass or bronze statues which were made in the same way. The resulting belt (which is hand cut and hand sewn, also in England)  is a lovely object, but over time the leather moulds to the wearer, and darkens, and the brass tarnishes and eventually softens round the edges, making something really tangibly personal.

Context: How well do you think Context aligns with your brand identity?

William:I'm really delighted that Context is stocking Tender. I've hung out with Ryan and Sam every time I've come to New York to show the collection since I started, and we've always got on great. We've had some very good dinners! I think they share a sense of enjoying special things, in lots of different fields, and they have a real love of product. Context has an excellent list of brands, of course, but there's also a great sense of picking out interesting pieces from each line and presenting it in the best possible way. 

Shop Tender Co.'s Spring Collection

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