Photos courtesy of NothernGRADE.
One could say that the American menswear pop-up market is the #menswear anti-hero. No models, no runways, very few photographers, and no nonsense. Just people who make things talking about their goods, demonstrating how they’re made, and selling them directly to the people who share their passion.
If you don’t live in a major U.S. city there is a good chance you’ve never been to an event of this sort, so I’ll give you a quick rundown. A collection of brands and stores are chosen or volunteer to meet in a place. The brands are usually smaller, independent ones, and the stores usually stock mostly, if not all, US-made goods. The place is usually one with character and an absence of bright fluorescent lights. The vendors pay a small fee for their spot, and the privilege to sell their products at the venue, and they set-up “booths” to sell their handmade / American-made / vintage products directly to you, the consumer.
This may sound familiar, often people relate a pop-up market to a trade show or even a flea market. But, the pop-up is actually a relatively new idea, and a unique one that’s very important to small brands and companies. Trade shows, especially menswear trade shows, are expensive, pretentious affairs packed with brands from wall to wall in a giant warehouse or convention center. Since the general public is not allowed to attend, we, as vendors, are relegated to communicating with sometimes jaded buyers from “big retail”. Buyers rarely have the passion and knowledge that consumers have, leaving us as vendors feeling generally uninspired.
The pop-up market is free and open to everyone. The collection of brands / stores is generally small, so no one gets lost in the shuffle. And, as a vendor, we have the opportunity to speak directly to the people who are using our products. It is a rare opportunity to speak face-to-face with the people who support us and have a passion for the things we make. To top it off, vendors bring along stock so that attendees can walk out with shopping bags full of their favorite goods. And, unlike a flea market, where anyone who pays for a table can sell their goods, the pop-up market is usually curated to select the best and brightest brands of the city / region hosting the market.
As a small brand with a small wholesale footprint, pop-up markets in San Francisco, Boston, and Minneapolis have given Rancourt & Co. priceless exposure in areas where we are underrepresented or not represented at all. Our business plan does not include brick and mortar stores, so for many of our supporters e-commerce is the only option for purchasing our products. While we do the best we can on the web, nothing can replace those face-to-face interactions and experiencing the product in-person before making the decision to buy.
My favorite aspect of pop-up markets, aside from meeting passionate customers, is the friendship and camaraderie developed between like-minded vendors. Most of the vendors at these events are fiercely devoted to making high quality goods in the United States. Each market also works as a networking platform for small brands and companies to help and support each other in various ways. I’ve personally developed a handful of new business and personal relationships through pop-up markets.
American pop-up markets are a sign of the times. As our culture begins to shift away from consuming mass-produced foreign goods, pop-up markets will grow in popularity. They are becoming a symbol of America’s desire to connect with the people and things that we buy.
Literally born into the Maine shoe business, Kyle Rancourt chose to join the family trade and launch Rancourt & Co. Shoecrafters with his father in 2009. With a passion for quality and tradition driving him, Kyle strives to spread the gospel of American craftsmanship. When not in the factory in Maine, you might find him putting miles on the road on two wheels.