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Brand talk with the owners from 3sixteen
A quick interview with Andrew Chen and Johan Lam of 3sixteen, and a sneak preview of my favorite pieces from their new Fall 2022 collection.
Last week I was in NYC and naturally did a little retail tour of lower Manhattan. One of the brands I’ve been bullish on over the years is 3sixteen. They’ve been in the game for a while, and when I was in town I finally got to chop it up with Andrew Chen (the co-founder) at their new retail store on Elizabeth Street in Nolita.
Andrew is an absolute homie. We talked about clothing, culture, raising kids, playing the long game, and all kinds of other good shit. It was refreshing to talk with somebody who carries modern knowledge of working in the clothing industry.
3sixteen is dropping their Fall collection on September 2nd in-stores and online on September 5th, so I wanted to introduce y’all to Andrew and Johan, the two founders, and let them explain more about the brand they’ve been building over the last 20 years.
How'd you guys meet?
Johan: Andrew and I were both groomsmen in my eldest sister’s wedding. He met my brother-in-law at the University of Chicago and they became close friends. We got to know each other the week before the wedding and realized we were both into the same independent streetwear brands.
Back then, it was rare to meet anyone outside of the internet that was into or even knew about those super niche labels. We kept in touch after that week, and when Andrew decided to launch 3sixteen, I wanted to get involved and help out however I could. The rest is history.
What's the spirit of 3sixteen as a brand?
Andrew: As we celebrate 20 years in business next year, the word we’re thinking about is longevity. We try to approach everything we do with a healthy dose of humility. We’ve been in this world for a while, and there are plenty of brands who’ve come and gone over the years, so we’re hyper-aware this could all disappear at any time.
So when I say longevity, it’s something we’re aspiring to every day, on every level.
Longevity in design approach: we want the clothing we make to be relevant for decades. Longevity in construction: we want it to be made at a level that will withstand continued wear throughout the many seasons of life. And the hope is that we can continue to build something that customers will be excited for and inspired by for another 10, 20 years - hopefully, more.
What's the focus of this FW22 collection for you guys?
Andrew: With this collection, we explored the intersection between nature and manmade. Our color palette is influenced by rich northern evergreens and rust-colored southwest canyons. We were particularly interested in the way nature is employed to form new things that age beautifully.
From George Nakashima forming a bond with every tree he selected to Le Corbusier’s beautifully lived-in summertime cabin in France, we took inspiration from the patina that natural materials take on over decades of use - much like a good pair of jeans.
Our lead designer, Wesley Scott, went on a Pacific Northwest road trip several months back with his wife and they got to see firsthand what informed this collection.
We are excited to showcase the prowess of our various manufacturing partners. Fatigues and Officer Shirts for the season feature a hefty washed herringbone twill that’s custom woven for us in Japan but cut and sewn in San Francisco.
Our knit program highlights Pima cottons and alpaca wools that are all locally grown, harvested, spun, and knit in Peru. And our factory in India specializes in handwoven textiles, hand-stitched detailing (like the Sakura blossom shirt - all the stitching on that is hand-done), and rich natural dyes.
There’s a heavy Buffalo check flannel that features yarn-dyed indigo that will fade to a lighter blue over time as it’s worn and washed. We’re very excited about how the season came together overall.
You've been in the game for a while. Lived through Americana, #Menswear, to a post-genre moment we're having. How has 3sixteen evolved with those shifts?
Johan: Styles are always changing around us, and naturally the world around us influences our designs. But, after nearly twenty years, we have a good understanding of what 3sixteen is and what it’s not, and a lot of that coincides with what we’re personally into wearing during those years.
There was a time when everyone was trying to buy raw denim, which was great for us. Then, everyone moved on to double monks and tailoring, and we still kept on making good jeans. Then everyone wore jogger pants and yet we still just kept chugging along in our lane.
We knew a lot of those things simply weren’t 3sixteen.
For us, it’s always been about the product. We’ve grown as designers simply because we understand the production process better. and, through many years of experience, are more adept at making good clothing. We’ve honed and tweaked and refined these pieces over many seasons, believing that we can always make them a little bit better.
We’re also painting with a much wider palette of colors since we’ve partnered with new factories worldwide over the past few years. The factory that we’ve worked with for over a decade in San Francisco is great at making jeans and heavier items, but that limited the types of clothing that we could design.
The makers that we’ve partnered with in Peru, Portugal, and India have allowed us to dream much bigger and delve into knitwear, leather goods, and hand-loomed fabrics that we couldn’t produce previously.