The Richmond gathering is one in a series of Northern Grade productions around the country, which are led by the Minnesota-based husband and wife team behind the menswear accessories brand Pierrepont Hicks.
These markets bring together a number of up-and-coming entrepreneurs and offer a convenient means for online brands to present their products and image in person to a captive audience.
One challenge as Northern Grade and others like it, such as Mark Bollman’s American Field, seek to grow is working to attract an audience wider than avid made-in-America enthusiasts and high-rollers who can spend three figures on men’s accessories.
(Side note: There is some low-hanging fruit here. One easy step towards greater visibility would be to post a sign or two letting the public know about the event. I knew that this was going on and where it was to be held, and still couldn’t find the unmarked entrance.)
The reality of the market is there are legitimate deals, such as Stock Manufacturing Company’s beautiful $20 made-in-Chicago cotton pocket squares and Lumina Clothing’s sub-$50 cotton ties. Khakis from the likes of Georgia’s Jack Donnelly and jeans from Shockoe Denim in Richmond are comparably priced to higher-end department store offerings. You can also lock onto some not-outrageous gift options, like a $40 leather passport holder from Moore and Giles, and unique finds, like Appalatch’s remarkably soft 100 percent wool t-shirts.
Yet the $500 magazine racks and extravagantly-priced leather goods (and $60 wool t-shirts) that mingle within the old power plant can leave visitors with a different overall impression.
I asked someone who had wandered over from the nearby coffee shop what he thought about the market. He replied, “I’m all for made-in-America and I try to buy local as much as I can, but the reality is I’m not going to pay $90 for a wallet or $200 for a belt.”
Still, it was nice to meet some of the folks who made them.
Northern Grade market in Richmond, September 21-22, 2013. Photos are property of Modern Fellows and were taken with permission.