Unionmade, according to GQ magazine, is one of “those rare shops that are…likely to make you rethink the way you dress entirely.”
That would explain why the San Francisco–based upscale men’s clothing store has garnered an international customer base that has looked to it for fashion cues since it opened its doors in 2009. And also why in 2015 it was voted one of GQ’s Top 10 Men’s Stores in America.
Unionmade was founded by Todd Barket, a retail veteran with more than 30 years of experience in the apparel industry. Pennsylvania-born Barket started in retail at age of 15, working in a mom-and-pop men’s clothing store in his hometown. At 17, after moving to California, Barket landed a job at Gap Inc., where he worked for 20 years in various creative capacities, and eventually ended up heading the advertising department at Old Navy.
Shortly after opening Unionmade, Barket brought on a partner, Carl Chiara, former concept director at Levi’s, to help run the business. Together they have not only created a store, but an experience based on understated, classic West Coast aesthetic and a carefully curated inventory of rare finds from Europe, Asia and the U.S.
Add to that its top-notch customer service and clientele perks, like home delivery and complimentary hemming, and it’s clear to see why the boutique is so popular.
“We can’t beat people on pricing, shipping costs and speed necessarily. We’re really small, so the people that are coming to us are expecting a great experience, which is what we offer,” Barket said. “And we pride ourselves on offering the best service, a nice in-store experience and the best visuals possible, in both the store and on the website. People come from all over the world to our store.”
Barket took some time to chat with RIVET about color making its comeback in apparel, the store’s best sellers and this season’s winning silhouettes.
RIVET: What is the best new brand you’ve added to your store recently? And what makes it a keeper?
Todd Barket: Universal Works from England has been great. It’s everyday easy, and also provides something fashion-y and special. The easy stuff is always the best. Brands that everyone can participate in, or totally unique fashion brands. Alex Mill is a great-selling democratic brand for us. And for fashion it’s Kapital.
RIVET: What is your best-selling fit?
TB: Things are getting looser and bigger. Levi’s Vintage Clothing is our best seller. The 1954 501 is great for us.
RIVET: Which washes are performing the best at retail right now?
TB: Stone and medium wash is what people are looking for. We’re finally seeing the shift from rigid.
RIVET: Which styles are starting to slow down or fall out of fashion?
TB: Denim, funny enough, has been slowing down. People are definitely looking for more non-denim options that have a bit more interesting silhouettes, like cropped pants, pleated cropped pants and dropped loose-crotch pants. Skinny bottoms are definitely on the downturn.
RIVET: What trends are you anticipating being popular for spring?
TB: Color and pattern. Menswear has been devoid of it, and it’s making a big comeback. Silhouettes have all opened up in a major way, and continue to get bigger through to fall.
RIVET: What would you say is the average price consumers are willing to spend on a pair of jeans?
RIVET: If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?
TB: Calm down on animated finishing.
RIVET: Looking at the state of retail, what is your prediction for 2018?
TB: People are going to have to refocus in a big way and hone in on what they’re about. Also, fashion and trends keep getting faster. Fashion has really become more about availability rather than quality and taste. We are staying in our lane and doing our thing. We’re lucky to be in San Francisco and have an audience that likes what we do.