Happenings: Pierrepont Hicks

We should all be so fortunate to have a year in our lives like the one currently being enjoyed by the tie makers at Pierrepont Hicks. Faster than you can say “made in the USA,” the two-collections-old label has built itself a devoted – if not cult-like – following, counting many of the menswear blogosphere’s top names among its loyal customers. “It’s completely humbling and emotional for me,” says brand co-founder, and lead designer, Kat McMillan. “I am in love with this path I am on and feel really happy. And it’s completely a result of the menswear bloggers who are so passionate and creative.”

With the brand now firmly established, the dynamic duo behind it – being the generous types they are – have decided to channel their ever-increasing notoriety into something other like-minded companies can benefit from: the NorthernGRADE Market. Says Kat, “We wanted to find a way to celebrate the multitude of brands who really exemplify authentic American style. So, NorthernGRADE was born. Our American economy has had a tough time, and we love that there is this movement of independent designers across America, building small businesses, creating jobs, manufacturing in their backyard – all of which enables hands-on quality assurance.”

And quality there will be. A veritable who’s who of heirloom-grade producers, the NorthernGRADE line-up is enough to get any quality hound’s motor running. Vendors include Baldwin Denim, Bemidji Woolen Mills, Duluth Pack, Freeman Transport, Gitman Vintage, J.W. Hulme Co., Red Wing, Russell Moccasin Co., Taylor Stitch – and that’s just part of the list. As Kat tells it, “Each and every one of these brands has USA-made goods – which was the primary requirement. Plus, a philosophy of putting out top-notch product without skimping on customer service and quality. Also, each vendor is unique and completely amazing at what they do. We’re so excited about this ‘market,’ although I think it’s going to end up being more of a party (I hope it does).”

Alongside the vendors, there will be live music, food and drinks, hot shaves from local barber Moustache Larry, and a book signing by Rules for my Unborn Son author Walker Lamond. “We’re going further than just menswear, in that we are celebrating our Minnesota artisans, and small folks who have amazing businesses we want to help promote.” As for what she hopes visitors will get out of the event, Kat says, “I hope they see that they can find American-made goods pretty easily. I hope they have fun celebrating Minnesota and the surrounding states’ brands. I hope they meet a designer they didn’t know before, learn their story, bu something they like and maybe keep track of what that designer is doing in the years to come.”

In addition to organizing NorthernGRADE, Kat and her partner in crime (and life) Mac have been finalizing their FW2010 collection, working on a range of reversible D Ring belts, preparing to launch a new PPH luxury range called Hatchery, and readying the release of the brand’s first ever pocket square. “The pocket squares are going to be made from a custom fabric we designed with an artist in Napa, California named Michael McDermott. It’s called the “Hairy Coo Hank” and it’s our signature pattern. We’re doing our first run now so we’ll see how it turns out.” Anything else? “Learning to get more sleep – we don’t really get enough.” But, as Kat is quick to point out, the trade-off is more than worth it. “The response we get when folks receive our ties is so wonderful; it’s pretty great to get an email thanking us. It’s rewarding.”

The NorthernGRADE market is happening Saturday, September 11th at Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis. For info and updates, check out the NG blog, and / or the NG Twitter. I’ll see you there.