OK, so it could probably pinch-hit as the name of a secondhand shop in the East Village, but “Unfamiliar Vintage” is actually the term coined by The Garbstore’s designer Ian Paley to describe his approach to designing clothing. Taking classic elements from WWII-era styles, Paley adds just enough modern edge to his creations to make them seem at once familiar and unrecognizable.
It’s a technique informed, in part, by the recreations of mid-century American clothing that that pervade the Japanese menswear market. Of course, as a Brit, Paley had to travel a long way to make his acquaintance with that particular scene. And for that, we’ve got Sir Paul Smith to thank … sort of. Paley got his start in the industry with a job at Paul Smith Jeans, and his position took him across the globe to Japan for a spell. From that initial professional foray into the Far East, Paley developed a number of lifelong connections to the region.
After putting in his time with PS Jeans, Paley made the leap to a couple of other well established brands—Burberry, Levi’s—before breaking off to form a label called One True Saxon. Seven years later, OTS had become a major success in Britain, and Paley decided to sell it to a larger company so he could move on to something he’d never done before: run a store. He teamed with womenswear and home goods purveyor Couverture, and set up shop in the heart of Notting Hill. Of course, considering Paley’s background, an in-house line was a foregone conclusion, and that’s when The Garbstore (the label) came into being. With the heritage movement hitting its stride, his wares quickly found favor at home and across the pond. And that popularity has remained to this day, even as the lumberjack hoards have receded, thanks no doubt to the fact that Paley’s creations have always occupied a space just outside of any easily definable trend. Off-kilter, historically informed, and entirely unique, they’re not exactly modern, not exactly classic, but undeniably stylish.