Tuesday, December 30, 2008

& Still [So Fresh, So Clean]

114 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

    Sandwiched on the La Brea strip off the corner of 1st avenue lies an absolute gem. Well, not in the sense that it's hidden or obsure--it's within ten feet of Stussy and Union, but in the sense that the store & Still is a one-of-a-kind shop and purveyor 
of vintage deadstock sports gear. And that's very becoming, especially in such a progressive and diverse fashion scene of L.A.
& Still is throw-back/retro in its truest sense: it's a museum of never before worn deadstock sports jerseys, t-shirts, and hats, primarily from the 80s and early 90s. Remember all those things you thought were ugly? Bright, gaudy neon colored track jackets, caricatured big-head t-shirts, flat-brimmed snap back caps? What about those tacky looking Jordan posters or old school arcade video games? Apparently they're cool, and owner Jermeny Shapiro is at the forefront of this burgenoing revival.
   It's also not suprising that a unique store such as & Still opened up on La Brea this past May, which is part of a growing scene of street-culture apparel--just five mintues away lies a paradise for eager shoppers 
off of Fairfax, just south of Rosewood: The Hundreds, Hall of Fame, Freshjive retail, Supreme, and Crooks and Castles. This small, concentrated area, within the parameters of 4 blocks, is the hub of a local but ardent street culture that lines up at three in the morning to check out a sale (trust me, was not worth it).
Owner Jeremeny Shapiro, a USC grad and California native who grew up on the east coast, was hip to the idea of establishing a store that could crystallize the years of his childhood growing up as a sports fan. Shapiro who talks with almost a drawl that seems to come out of nowhere, is very methodical, and one might remark 'slow' in his responses, contrasted by his slicked back hair that exudes a savvy business man. Majoring in Sociology, Shapiro chuckles that it was the easiest way to graduate 
college--but it's safe to say he's found his niche in the fashion industry. Remarks Shapiro, "I look around and saw what we had in LA and what I felt was missing. And I grew up on all these clothes, and they just weren't around anymore. I wanted to see if I could bring them back to where they were still in mint condition. And I started doing some research on the Internet and getting in contact with people and saw that there was a ton of this out there, like vintage unworn starter jackets and all that stuff."

Shapiro had been involved with real estate for the past five years, purchasing raw land, razing it, and developing it to eventually resell. Worried about the collapsing economy and uncomfortable with the long period of time it took to sell a project, Shapiro called up a friend who had previously owned the space where & Still resides. Before it was called Publik Park, a women's clothing retail 
shop. Shapiro,who was reluctant to simply take over the shop claiming that he knows next to nothing about women's clothing, began to brainstorm and think of brands that weren't popular in L.A.

Shapiro's idea is not necessarily ground-breaking, but is rather simple and logical: "I grew up on vintage deadstock sports gear. And not to knock other stores, but people have been down on sports clothing for so long because it's all the same and all generic. So I knew I could do it, but it had to be done where it's cool. But I don't want to be labeled as a sports store because if you look at a sports store, it's recycled, you've seen it a million times. People haven't seen this before
 and if they have, it's been 15-20 years ago." & Still transcends chain-retailers like Footlocker and Chick's, who sell large quantities of the same items to many consumers. Contrary to this modus operandum, & Still hunts down the rare sports gear and that is one-of-a-kind. It's a high-end shop selling vintage clothes, with very limitied items that leave as quickly as they come in.
Traditioanl vintage stores sell tattered, pre-worn clothing, whereas & Still searches for mint condition pieces that are no longer being issued. But the items themselves can't escape the quirkniess that 
seems to pervade all vintage stores: collector's items suede Patrick Ewing caps, wonderfully ugly but fresh WWF track jackets with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man, and T & C Surf Company t-shirts. Shapiro's collection includes brands such as Nike, Adidas, Starter, Salem, T & C Surf Co. which he explains was the shit in the 80s and brings in "mad traffic". Including the T & C stuff, the snap back starter hats are the most popular purchase, "number one without a doubt." Some of the rarer items Shapiro has includes hard to find Run DMC sweatshirts. Shapiro said there are only four or five out there in the world and were basically never produced.
  The one thing Jeremy isn't willing to talk about is where he finds these prized posessions. I remember I stopped by the store when it first opened, wondering where he had purchased this Malcolm X rastafarian set, which included a snap back and shorts. All I got was a smile. And I can respect that from a business standpoint, so this is all he could muster: "you'll get [clothes] from being on the hunt looking for hints, such as a store that would have Starter signs. I get a lot of customers who pass leads on to me. The 
Internet is another medium." That's pretty much all he would divulge. As far as buying, he told me that "there's a big market for snap back caps, but I don't go crazy and buy too much else because I don't want to sit on product. Because this stuff is original and people wanna rock something that no one else has."
For instance, my interview with Shapiro was interrupted by an inquiring customer, "Are the sugar ray leonard t-shirts old?" "Yes, everything in this room is original and unworn" "Oh okay I thought you made another one" "No that'll be why we only have one seize, deadstock unworn." That's the gist of his store.
Although it opened last May, & Still has gathered the interest of some big names: Nas, Rick Ross, Baron Davis, Usher, Busta Rhymes and many USC athletes. Says Shapiro, "What's cool about it is that they're asking me questions, saying where do you get all this shit from. Nas kept saying this is fucking crazy." As for the future of & Still, Shapiro isn't considering opening another location. He wants to open an online shop, which will be available this coming January, 2009. He will also be producing an & Still clothing line inspired by what the store is, and plans to put on musical performance and events at the store with some big name 

So when I asked the avid sports fan where his allegiances lie, he gave me an answer I didn't expect: "Here’s the problem--I have zero alliances. It’s hard for me to get behind any team because the players flip from team to team. I originally was loyal to LA teams. Not anymore. I support the LA clippers cause Baron Davis shops here." 

The name of the store has dual meaning.  Explains Shapiro, "&still—it’s a boxing reference— [as in] and still heavy weight champion of the world. And it's also saying and still the best without coming out and being boastful. The other reference goes to the clothing, and still here."

While still a clothing store, Shapiro attempts to capture and engender a certain spirit or era of sports that has become obsolete--before money superseded the loyalty to one's team.  Especially during the 80s, players felt a duty to their fans and stuck with them for many years.  This is sports in its raw form, as opposed to the sports our generation deals with: huge, jaw-dropping contract negotiations and an unflagging ruthlessness of agents over the s
ports organizations themselves. & Still harks back to a time where 
Scott Boras doesn't rule sports, but the players do.  Michael Jordan of the
 Chicago Bulls, Patrick Ewing of the NY Knicks, Hakeen Olojuwan of the Houston Rockets--they're all exemplars of a golden era of sports, with the underlyi
ng idea that it is the players who are championed, not the agents.