Buck Mason leaves the trends to others so it can focus on high-quality, locally manufactured basics with a timeless style.
By Joseph LeMoyne, adapted from The Anti-Trend in Performances Los Angeles Magazine, September 2016
Most establishments with locations in Venice and Silver Lake are trend-driven, but the twin boutiques of Buck Mason are more classically inspired. The company’s mission is to make shopping for gentlemen, whether online or in the store, simpler and less stressful. Buck Mason leaves the trends to others so it can focus on high-quality, locally manufactured basics with a timeless style.
Buck Mason was co-founded in 2013 by Erik Schnakenberg and Sasha Koehn as an Internet retailer, initially offering a single product, a T-shirt that remains one of its biggest sellers. In 2014 the young entrepreneurs opened a store in Venice, followed by a Silver Lake boutique earlier this year. In an era when so many consumers are shopping in their pajamas on portable devices, it was a gamble to invest in brick-and-mortar spaces, but both men were committed to the tactile experience of shopping in person, especially for clothing.
The stores, both less than 1,000 square feet, reflect a clean, minimalist aesthetic; the Venice location features a slightly more refined decor than its vaguely bohemian Silver Lake counterpart. The merchandise pops out against a whitewashed background, and interior accessories suggest midcentury modernism. A third “store,” a meticulously refurbished Bluebird bus named the Open Road, has been stationed at Culver City’s Platform complex and departs this month on a nationwide tour.
Although neither of the young owners is a fashion designer, Schnakenberg has a retail background, and Koehn’s expertise in technology is a valuable asset in an era in which online sales rival traditional retail revenue. “We both recognized the need for someone to simplify the men’s clothing space, and I was looking for an easier way to shop online and tell the story about a product,” recounts Koehn.
The Buck Mason approach, according to its owners, reflects iconic classic styling with a modern fit that keeps it relevant. The collection is designed so that every piece shares an updated California-cool look, prompting Koehn to comment, “Nothing in our collection doesn’t go together, and we want it all to feel effortless.” For internet buyers, shipping both ways is free, a practice that seems tailor-made for male clients, who, unlike their female counterparts, view shopping not as a sport but a necessity.
The Venice wash tee ($32-$34), a popular new variation on the company’s original product, features a laid-back, lived-in look that appeals to Buck Mason customers; the black slim stretch jeans ($175) are part of the growing denim collection. The lightweight, tightly woven Pinpoint oxford shirt ($108) with button-down collar is versatile enough to be worn with a jacket to the office but works equally well untucked over jeans for beachside brunching.
Sand- or olive-colored chino pants ($135) reflect Buck Mason’s classic style, with straight legs made from a soft but durable twill. The look is definitively casual, but the cut is fashionable enough to look at home in virtually any restaurant in town, particularly when paired with one of the company’s classic shirts. Among accessories are handcrafted leather belts ($88-$108) and Stetson beaver-pelt hats made exclusively for Buck Mason, a collection that hints at Western heritage but is surprisingly suitable in a cosmopolitan setting.
According to the owners, Buck Mason customers typically range between 25 and 45 years of age but represent a diversity of backgrounds and professions. “They share a psychographic more than a demographic,” says Koehn, who explains that the brand has equal appeal to a hip ad agency creative director in L.A. and a 65-year-old Midwesterner bored with the usual mall brands.
“I don’t think we could have started Buck Mason in any other city,” says Koehn, noting he and Schnakenberg made an initial investment of $5,000 apiece, having famously turned down an offer on TV’s Shark Tank. This comment, echoed by many local entrepreneurs, highlights L.A.’s relatively unrestrictive creative culture, something now elusive in New York.
Buck Mason 1638 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 424.744.8508; 3532 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323.522.3156. buckmason.com