Vestis is a relatively new menswear boutique in Lawrenceville that I stumbled across when I interviewed The Gilded Girl Emporium back in October. It was perfect timing, as I’d been looking for something to buy Alex for his birthday at the end of the week! I left with a little bag for hiking and a ton of ideas for future gifts!
Vestis has a great laid-back and homey ambiance. The combination of the simple decor, the old record player churning out tunes, the relaxed seating area in the corner of the shop, and Phil’s welcoming smile, make it feel like you’ve just stepped straight into his home. The stock he carry’s is all extremely well made and consists of the perfect mix of established, well known-brands such as Woolrich, and smaller, American labels like Corridor which he explains are harder to find.
In our interview, Phil talks about his experiences setting up shop in Pittsburgh and the stories behind the collections he carries, he also describes how he see’s Pittsburgh’s style and I think he really hits the nail on the head!
Scroll down to see more and read our interview!
Q. How long has Vestis been open and what inspired you to start the business?
A. Vestis has been open almost exactly 6 months at this point. I was inspired to start the business by a combination of dissatisfaction with my (former) corporate desk job, a deep and abiding love of a lot of the brands I’m carrying, and because nobody was carrying what I have in-store and I figured there would be a market for it.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration from for the décor and how do you choose which collections to carry?
A. The interior aesthetic of the store is a weird mishmash of mid-century modern (like the eggshell chairs, tile coffee table, tiki cash register and the vintage magazine rack), industrial décor, like the pipe racks which are cheap to make and functional. Cost is also a factor too, as I try to spend most of my money on collections and not décor! I’m also working with someone named Taylor Shields who used to do décor for Anthropologie, for my window and she’s had some really great ideas. I enjoy gardening so I’m trying to incorporate some plant life into the store.
As far as collections, most of what I’ve decided to carry was a result of obsessive research (particularly at my old office job while I was bored). I definitely have that obsessive part of my personality that makes me do extensive research – probably one of the few ways that my background in English Lit has helped me! I have a combination of some classic names who produce great pieces like Gitman Vintage, Woolrich, and Randolph Engineering. In addition to these tried-and-true manufacturers, I also love to carry really small labels that are hard to find and are producing really quality items. Two of my favorites are Sock Hop and Corridor, both based out of New York City, who are really putting together some unbelievable collections with an emphasis on beautiful fabric and construction, combined with great fits. Both are manufactured in the United States, which is really important to me.
Q. I spotted that you carry a large number of socks! What’s the story behind that?
A. I love socks! That actually totally stems from not being able to find good socks (particularly wool, but patterned too!) around the city. I resolved that when I opened the store, I’d carry a mix of socks that I’d actually like to buy. Also I feel like even though my own particular style (and that of the store in general) is a bit conservative, it’s one of the few areas where guys can express themselves and mix things up a bit. Seemed like a no-brainer to me!
Q. Pittsburgh is a city that really seems to support local businesses, it’s one of the things I really like about the city. Tell us a little about your experiences setting up Vestis in Pittsburgh, and what plans you have for the future.
A. Pittsburgh has been really supportive in helping me set up my business. There’s no way that I could have gotten everything together without the help of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s an incredible resource for helping one navigate the difficult parts (and often boring) parts of setting up a small business, like applying for permits, help with financing, and getting a business plan together.
For the future, I’d really like to start expanding my repertoire of local products and producers. Right now, we have some incredible backpacks in from a very talented dude named Anthony Kovacs who makes incredible Cordura backpacks. We also have plans to bring in locally made leather goods from Homestead Supply and ties from Knot and Tie based out of Grove City. Otherwise, I’m trying to keep my current customers happy by offering clothing and accessories that they may not be able to find on their own, and trying to reach out to new customers and spread the word.
Q. What do you think about Pittsburgh’s style, and how would you describe it?
A. Pittsburgh’s style has been stepped up enormously in the last few years. I’ve lived here fifteen years and it keeps building on itself in a way that seemed inconceivable when I first moved here for college. I think in Pittsburgh it’s harder to bullshit people with a name – people seem to be aware of quality and know what they like. I’ve got a good amount of people in here (and I won’t name names) who are incredibly put together, but in a subtle, understated way. I also see less of the transience that you see in larger cities – people seem to be in it for the long haul versus blindly jumping on a trend. It’s a real inspiration and makes me want to step up my game every time I see them in the store!
Q. How about your own style? Describe your personal style, what (or who) influences it, and why it works for you?
A. I try to dress for functionality and comfort, in addition to trying to look good. I like to mix up some nicer, more enduring pieces with thrifted garb on occasion. A lot of my wardrobe is incredibly simple I wear lots of beaten up denim and take it from there. Otherwise, The biggest things I look for in my own clothing is great fit and nice fabrics. I don’t necessarily have a style icon, but in 2016, it’s ridiculously easy to seek out those who have it via the internet. It’s awesome because it’s so decentralized.
Q. What’s your most treasured item in your closet?
A. A leather weekender bag from Land that my father bought in Morocco. He died when I was 9 so all I have are memories. It has incredible sentimental value. It’s been across the world with me, and the first thing I reach for any time I travel. It’s 40 years old, and only gets better with age – the same goal I have for all the clothes that I’m selling here.
If you’d like to check out the other stylish Pittsburghers I’ve
interviewed, and find out more about #stylishpittsburgh campaign then
head over here!
if you’re a local boutique or style-obsessed Pittsburgher and would
like to be featured, or maybe you know someone who you think deserves to
be featured? Get in touch!!