Since first writing about them nearly three years ago, El Naturalista has done some growing up. The eco-fashion brand based in Pamplona, Spain, is making noticeable advancements in its manufacturing, choice of materials, and designs. The FW12 collection looks wonderful, in my opinion. They feature veggie-tanned leather uppers, natural and recycled rubber out-soles and recycled carbon insoles. The latter includes their Shock System to absorb impact. The brand is doing quite well in Europe and is working hard at making inroads here in the States. I really like how the brand is positioned; it’s not easy to crate “responsible” footwear that is comfortable and visually appealing at the same time.
Local bike shops (LBS) are the life-line of the cycling world. When you find a good one, you will have both a resource and a community. Unfortunately, in my experience, a visit to the LBS is something I often dread, rather than look forward to. That’s why I am continually impressed every time I hear about Northern Californian bike shop Studio Velo. I’ve come across the name in various cycling blogs, but only recently sat down and took a good look at SV and what sets them apart.
Studio Velo has humble beginnings as a mobile repair shop nearly 10 years ago. Scott Penzarella offered mobile bike repair and fittings to cyclists around the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years. He drew on his experience in Spain as a premier cycling retailer and injected that European flair into the retail operations once the Mill Valley location opened up. SV is first and foremost a premier cycling shop. It specializes in high-end bikes for demanding clientèle, running the gamut from road to touring bikes. Scott wanted to replicate the European experience where slow and steady and craftsman ship wins the day. SV carries Time and Cyfac, two European companies that hand-make their frames. Similarly, you’ll see Chris King, White Industries, and Paul Components on the shelves; all American companies that represents the best parts and accessories in cycling. On the service side, you’ll often find the employees sipping coffee or even going on lunch rides with customers, rather than rushing them out the door.
The service doesn’t stop once you purchase your frame and gruppo. A good bike is one that fits. Bike fitting has always been more “feel” than science, so I was impressed and surprised to learn that SV employs the Retül fit system to achieve what every cyclist wants – the gray line between performance and comfort. I know first hand how an improper fit can make riding uncomfortable and, frankly, dangerous.
Not content with their incredible brand partnerships and specialized building and fitting services, Studio Velo started offer cycling tours. The SV: Travel arm was formed three years ago and takes clients on adventures all over the world including scenic destinations such as Spain and Italy. Last, but not least, Studio Velo has an entire stand-alone store dedicated to their women clients. called SV: Women. I know many women cyclists and because of their unique physiology, the proper fit on the bike and in cycling attire is often a challenge. SV: Women carries the largest selection of women-specific clothing in the industry and is operated and managed by women. They offer specific clinics for women, catering to their needs.
We all should be supporting our local bike shops but when you have a bad experience, it gives you pause. I have always heard great things about Studio Velo and when I had the chance to interview Scott, I jumped at it. It’s great to see a store that gives the attention and focus that the sport of cycling deserves and to act as a true one-stop-shop for Bay Area cyclists. Next time you are in the area, be sure to check them out.
If you like tea, you’ve probably heard of Lipton or Bigelow and probably of Stash or Tazo, but not Steven Smith. That is ironic, because Steven Smith created (and subsequently sold) both Stash and Tazo. Then, he retired to France! But, being the serial entrepreneur he was, he couldn’t just let things be. Instead, he returned to the state he loved most and opened a tea shop in Portland, Oregon. There, Steven Smith Teamaker produces about 35 different offerings ranging from single dedicated flavors like Yunnan to blends like Fez (green tea with spearmint) or your classic Chai.
I am a huge tea lover. I love coffee too but at work I brew at least two cups a day of tea. I was recently made aware of Smith’s story and became fascinated. I learned that a new coffee shop in town was carrying his wares so I swung by after an early morning and bought a box of Fez. I split it with a friend and we both agreed – this was some good tea. Smith has a knack for blending but also packaging. The boxes hold 15 packets and inside each bag is a sachet. Teas need room to breath and unfurl while they brew. That’s why I always use loose leaf tea and a tea basket. However, sometimes this is not practical. Sometimes, you need the convenience of a disposable, self-contained vessel. The Smith teabags are a light mesh material in a pillow (sometimes pyramid) shape. There’s a a lot more volume for the tea to swirl around compared to your typical tea bag.
High end food/cooking stores like Williams-Sonoma and even clothing shops like Portland’s own Blackbird are catching on; they are carrying his line of teas. This all comes at a price though. The teas do cost a premium, about $12 for a box of 15. However, that’s always been Smith’s style. When he introduced Tazo, he priced them at more than double what other brands were asking. If you’d pay for premium beer or coffee, why not tea? So, if you’re a tea drinker, invest in a box. I’d recommend a variety box to start off with. I keep one at home for guests. It makes a great presentation and they’ll be impressed when you present them with something other than that old package at the back of your pantry.
Six years in the making, the luxury leather goods brand by influential designer Milan Franeta is soon launching their flagship store in the heart of Los Angeles. Starting out with a designer denim, he’s held the title of Creative Director at some powerhouse brands, including Gilded Age. In 2006, as a personal hobby, he turned his focus to fine leather goods, challenging himself to apply the same attention to detail that he had for denim.
Sandast was the result. The brand, named after his three children, produces each handcrafted belts and bags. The initial launch is comprised of two dueling personas – American Rugged and Italian Vintage. American Rugged is comprised of classic pieces that invoke a sense of history; something that is meant to be handed down generations. Meanwhile, Italian Vintage clearly is inspired by Franeta’s European upbringing. The bags are a little bit more chic and would feel right at home on the streets of Milan (no surprise there). The items are produced in America and Italy, respectively.
A limited portion of the catalog is available for purchase in the online shop but for a better look, check out their store on Hill Street, in Los Angeles.
Not content with their already lightweight racing shoes, Nike just unveiled Flyknit technology, just months before the London Olympic Games. The designers at the Beaverton, OR athletic company figured out a way to weave a complete upper while mating it with a stable and protective Lunarlon sole. Flyknit eliminates the use of glue, sewing, or cutting which means a drastic savings in weight for this one-piece silhouette. How much savings? The Racer model that marathoners the world over will be sporting weighs just 5.6 oz, which is slightly heavier than your iPhone 4S. For the rest of us, the Flyknit Trainer+ comes in at 7.7 oz. Me? The consummate Hiroshi Fujiwara fan, I’m looking at picking something up from the HTM collection. The sneakers will drop July 2012.
Check out the video here.
Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, WILL Leather Goods has been making an impact on the leather goods market in the company’s hometown of Eugene, OR and elsewhere. Hailing from New York in the mid 70′s, William Adler tried his hand in Hollywood and enjoyed a series of small roles on TV. In 1981, with the SAG strike bringing production to a halt, Adler needed to find a new outlet for his creativity. He started selling scout belts on Venice and went on to leather goods, eventually employing 150 people.
Today, the family-run operation is recognized for their use of high-end materials and workmanship. WILL Leather goods enjoys using modern techniques to create a classic and vintage feeling that is nostalgic of Old Hollywood. Note the name of their bags: McQueen, Hopper, Lennon. In an exciting capsule collection, FOUND: Made in the U.S.A., WILL takes vintage materials (WWII army bags, military issue belts, etc) and turns them into finished goods. Needless to say, each piece is unique. You may have come across a WILL product and not even known it. Did you know they produce all the Nike Golf and Tiger Woods leather apparel goods? With recent sponsorships of high profile events such as the Tribeca Film Festival and the addition of stockists, WILL is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
With thoughtful features such as including a removable laptop case in the Hopper and space for finger support behind button clasps, WILL products are made to not only be admired but used.
I have always been a fan of Icebreaker gear. The New Zealand company has fostered strong relationships with a handful of farms where they source their amazing merino wool from. When I thought they had shown all their cards, they come guns blazing in their Spring/Summer ’11 line. Of course, you have updates to the normal offerings such as new patterns and prints in the Lightweight Travel series. For the warmer months, Icebreaker is offering 150g per square meter, which is thinner than a typical cotton tee. You can also get 200g weight for cooler mornings or evenings. They sent me some tops to try out and on my month long trip to Australia, it was the only thing I wore. I will eschew praising the virtues of merino as a fabric since I assume you’re already familiar with it’s warming and cooling abilities all the while staying odor-free.
What really stands out for me and came as a shock was the introduction of their road and mountain biking cycling apparel called GT Bike. Cycling is a sport Icebreaker had not previously supported. Based on the jersey and bib I was sent, it’s clear that they were just biding their time; sitting back and observing the industry to figure out the best way to make a first impression. Again, merino is the basis of all the collection and it turns out to be the perfect fabric whether you’re going on an early morning by the beach or bombing hills in the afternoon on your full-suspension. Enhanced with LYRCA for just the amount of stretch, the fit is on point. The products are an investment (merino is not cheap), but details like a gripper at the hem and hardy zippers put a smile on your face each time you get out.
Guest Post by David Vo
Having finished an amazing morning at the National Gallery of Victoria, my companion and I made our way to Federation Square, the long way. With a few kilometers under our belt and a hunger that demanded some sustenance, we found ourselves in one of Melbourne’s infamous laneways, standing in front of Movida Bar De Tapas. We put our names down on the list and explored the ever-changing graffiti art on the brick walls just outside the doors. Within twenty minutes we were seated at a high table.
We went though the entire tapas menu, sharing just a bite of each. The Gazpacho Andaluz really stood out for the flavor profile and creativity. The croqueta with the saltiness from the jamon and the silkiness from the egg really hit home for me. We also ordered a main course of the pork jowl. Extremely unctuous with the right amount of counter-balance from the Borlotti beans. We wrapped up with the churros and drinking chocolate plus a chocolate ganache with vanilla bean ice cream.
Next time you are in Melbourne, be sure to check out this gem of a restaurant. Make sure you bring a few friends so you can try each of the dishes. Just watch your wallet as things add up quick!
Movida Bar De Tapas
1 Hosier Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
(03) 9663 3038
Nau is one of my favorite clothing companies right now. They are producing fashionable technical clothing that looks natural in an urban setting but still holds its own on a back-country hike or sloshing down the deep powder of the Swiss Alps. From an operations standpoint, they donate 2% of every sale to Partners for Change and have detailed goals regarding renewable fabrics, shipping, and sustainability.
After a brief hiatus a few years ago, Nau is back. Their Fall/Winter line includes some favorites with small tweaks (Vice Blazer, Slacker Jean) but also a handful of completely new products that may challenge what you know of the brand. A standout for me is the Shroud of Purrin Blazer (above) with its water repellent exterior. It would be great to wear to dinner on a brisk evening. The interior is lined with a soft lining; one of the unexpected details that Nau hides in every piece. The Free Range Plaid Shirt (below) shirt looks perfect for the globe-trotter. The certified organic cotton moderates your temperature and the design is a good mix between casual and dressy to work in nearly all situations.
I can attest to the performance of Nau’s clothing. I bought a few of their pieces and brought them to Chicago during a particularly wet and windy spring a few years ago. Just recently, they sent me a Modus Trench, Long Sleeve Snap Polo, and a Flip Scarf to check out on my trip to New York. The shirt and scarf kept me cozy and within minutes of exiting the pouring rain, the jacket was was bone dry.
Check out the products discussed here and this season’s latest at Nau.
I don’t care how old you were when the first Matrix came out, you were wiping drool off your chin when you saw the bullet-time effect for the first time. Now, over a decade later, the team who brought you Neo and Trinity in all their ass kicking, 360 degree glory, has teamed up with Rip Curl and a team of champion surfers for something totally different. Filming in Malaysia’s Sunway Lagoon Wavepool with a rig of 52 Canon SLR’s, the team shot spectacular footage of Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore doing what they do best, shredding waves. Timeslice Films and Rip Curl were able to pull off an impressive shoot, giving fans a glimpse of what it’s like to be the world’s best, from every angle imaginable. The project wasn’t without its casualties though – a couple of Macbooks plus half a dozen hard drives gave their life to bring you this goodness.