A Shop Guide to Atlanta
A Shop Guide to Atlanta
- Words Jacob Victorine
- Date September 18, 2017
Atlanta has been an influential player in American popular fashion for decades, often disseminating the city’s particular take on style through the clothing of its most famous hip-hop and R&B artists, from Outkast and Usher to Young Thug and Lil Yachty. Yet, despite the stylistic influence Atlanta wields, the city has only recently begun to represent that influence in more formal ways, such as through high-end menswear boutiques. Yes, the city has had Walter’s to supply its locals with fresh kicks and athletic wear for the past sixty-two years, but only over the past ten or so has it seen shops with a more selective approach establish themselves as significant destinations for fashion and sneaker-hungry citizens and tourists, alike. The following guide takes a look at a handful of the shops currently influencing the shopping habits of Atlantans, from bespoke tailoring to “tier zero” kicks.
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All photography by Jennifer Grimm.
Founded in 2003 by recent Atlanta College of Art graduate Lauren Amos, Wish is the premier streetwear and sneaker destination in the increasingly hipster neighborhood of Little Five Points. A contemporary art collector and philanthropist, Amos’ background shows in the unique design elements of her shop. The red brick building in which Wish is located was originally a library, and Amos took this history into account when designing the store, which features a basement sneaker space with walls and shelves constructed from stacks of black hardcover books with metallic text on the spines; Amos travelled extensively just to source these books. The downstairs also features tarnished wood floors, leather bound chairs and illuminated glass display cases that highlight nearly every current limited-edition sneaker imaginable: Rick Owens x adidas and adidas Consortium, YEEZY Season 4, Vans Vault Taka Hayashi, Comme des Garçons PLAY x Converse and quickstrike Nike and Jordan releases, as well as in-line releases from numerous brands fill the space. With such a stockpile of limited kicks, Wish does sneaker releases most Saturday and Thursday mornings, which they announce via Instagram. As expected, Atlanta’s most dedicated sneakerheads often line up.
The main floor of the shop is a far departure from the basement: ceiling-high windows, dangling light bulbs, parquet wood floors and display cases and intertwining gray and yellow pipes as clothing racks create an open and almost overwhelming space, especially when the store is busy. A brand list that bounces from Rothco, to Mitchell & Ness, to Alexander Wang and Christian Dada creates an eclectic aesthetic that is both intriguing and, at times, confusing. As the store’s staff explained, customers often gravitate toward brands and items they’ve seen celebrities wear, but Wish is trying to encourage its shoppers explore smaller and more avant-garde brands. It’s exactly why the shop currently has such an extensive and varied brand list. Education, both in and out of store, is clearly an element of Amos’s ethos for her store, which Wish accomplishes through collaborations (with Sneakerboy for adidas Consortium and I Love Ugly, just to name two), community events and sponsorships. Wish has run sneaker drives for the nonprofit Chris 180, and regularly sponsors exhibitions at the High Museum, such as The Rise of Sneaker Culture and currently Painter and Poet: the Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan.
In 2007, longtime fashion insiders Sid and Ann Mashburn moved to Atlanta with their five daughters and opened their men’s store, Sid Mashburn (an adjacent Ann Mashburn store focused on women’s clothing followed in 2010). Sid had worked for decades as a designer for the likes of J. Crew, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Lands’ End, and Ann had served as an editor at Vogue and Glamour, and the duo’s extensive experience shows in everything about their store—from its branding, to its merchandising and even down to its music (they only spin vinyl). Situated in the West Side Provisions District, a shopping enclave on Atlanta’s West Side, the store itself is surprisingly large and filled with light. White walls, dark wood shelves and sand-colored herringbone carpeting create a refined gentleman’s décor that owes as much to Ralph as it does to traditional Southern aesthetics. Taxidermy animal heads, including a giraffe, are mounted on select walls, which will either endear or discourage shoppers depending on their politics. One thing is very clear about Sid Mashburn, and that is the store’s (and the man’s) attention to detail: ties are meticulously hung or fanned according to color and stripe; dress shirts are stacked by neck size, all with the collar facing out; Italian-made shoes are fitted with cedar shoe trees and arranged evenly along robust shelves; even the sleeves of hanging button-down shirts are rolled just so.
Excluding a selection of classic sneakers from the likes of adidas, Diadora and Tretorn—as well as garment-dyed Levi’s available exclusively through Sid Mashburn—nearly all of the merchandise stocked at the store is from Mashburn’s in-house line. The clothing is minimal and refined with a twist—somewhere between tailored Americana and sprezzatura—and made with exacting detail. For example, Mashburn strives for symmetry in the width of his suit lapels, ties and shirt collars: all measure approximately 8 cenitmeter. The store also offers in-house made-to-measure and custom shirts and suits, as well as alterations; the tailors are located near the back of the store and you may catch them cutting fabric, marking a customer’s suit or even sitting and sewing at a Juki machine. This level of customer service is a clear part of Mashburn’s philosophy: “…hopefulness and helpfulness are two of our company’s core values, and we try to reflect that back in the stuff we sell and the attitude we sell it with. The role of our shop is to offer great things and a tight edit as a help to people, not to show off our taste level or position ourselves as people who have it all figured out,” Mashburn explained.
Nontraditional customer engagement is also becoming a bigger aspect of the Mashburn identity. The store recently started its “Summer Saturdays” series, a pre-opening event in which customers and employees mingle while drinking coffee and munching on Krispy Kreme donuts while Mashburn himself casually offers his perspective on style. During a recent Summer Saturday, Mashburn discussed his technique for tying a four-in-hand knot, as well as memories of his dad showing him how to tie a tie: “We like a little imperfection,” Mashburn said via video chat. Recently, Mashburn started the WSID vinyl-only AM radio show: “…it airs locally on Wednesday nights on a very cool AM station called AM1960 The Voice of the Arts, then re-airs on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings,” Mashburn told me through e-mail. “They’ve been great partners because they have a similar approach—they’ll play Harry Nilsson and then Act III of Othello. It’s all over the place. The right playlist has something for everyone, just like (we hope) our shop has something for everyone.” As a tie-in, the store even sells a couple of WSID t-shirts—just another example of the way Mashburn’s exacting eye influences every part of his business.
Opened earlier this year, the Atlanta chapter of Social Status is the seventh location of James Whitner’s burgeoning streetwear empire. Now owner of the Whitaker Group, which will operate seventeen boutiques by the end of the year including Social Status, A Ma Maniére, APB, and Prosper, Whitner opened his first space in his hometown of Pittsburgh, before rapidly expanding: “I developed Social Status in 2007 first as a denim collection and decided in 2010 to open it as a boutique,” Whitner recounted over e-mail. Although each Social Status presents its own unique vibe, all locations take a sneaker-centric approach: “60% sneakers and 40% new street and apparel,” according to Whitner.
The shop in Atlanta feels like a cross between an installation at the F.I.T. Museum in New York and the Hickory High School team’s gym in Hoosiers. Stained wood and glass cases display limited edition sneakers and pop art books, which are also stacked on square cement blocks on the stained wood floors; mannequins with black barcodes printed across their faces stand amidst retro wood and metal gym benches. The barcodes are a nod to sneaker boxes, of course, and sneakers—which are displayed in numerous mounted glass cases throughout the store—are, after all, the centerpiece of what Social Status does; the store boasts quickstrike accounts for Nike and Jordan Brand, Consortium for adidas, as well as releases from Reebok and Diadora, which Social Status collaborated with on two colorways of the B. Elite. The shop will also release two pairs of adidas Consortium sneakers at its official grand opening in the coming months: the Superstar Air Boost ST and an Ultra Boost SE.
The Atlanta chapter of Social Status may be one of many locations, but it separates itself from a number of the streetwear boutiques in the city by carrying women’s sneakers and also stocking/merchandising unisex clothing, as well. And, although Social Status carries some streetwear heavyweights, including Off-White, Neighborhood, Stone Island, and Gosha Rubchinskiy x Kappa, the store also has clothing from a number of up-and-coming brands from Los Angeles, such as Pleasures and Babylon LA.
A Ma Maniére
A Ma Maniére (meaning “my way” in French) is the newest venture in James Whitner’s streetwear takeover. “After opening Social Status, it became a lot more sneaker focused than I originally planned, I wanted my business to have a bigger apparel presence and I wanted it speak to the entire spectrum of fashion and luxury, but through a streetwear lens,” Whitner clarified via e-mail. “This was 2012-2014 and I was spending a lot of time in Europe, mainly Paris, which inspired me to open A Ma Maniére in 2014.” The shop in Atlanta is small, but beautifully executed and, although Whitner cites Parisian fashion as his main inspiration for A Ma Maniére, it feels more akin to smaller streetwear shops in Tokyo. The space has a single main floor, plus a loft area, that features white walls with built-in wood clothing racks and sneaker shelves, as well as a few wood hanging racks and display cases in the center of the store.
However, the highlight of the décor may be the numerous oil paintings by local artist Markeidric Walker that hang on walls throughout the shop. Walker’s art pairs traditional technique with portraits of modern Atlanta hip-hop royalty and it perfectly represents the way A Ma Maniére toes the line between traditional ideas of luxury and street culture. Not only has the store featured an interview and photo shoot with Walker, but it has also collaborated on events, such as a pre-show to Walker’s solo exhibition at the shop in which the artist painted Gucci Mane on a quilt and presented flannels featuring paintings of Ludacris, Rihanna, Future, Big Boi and Andre 3000. A Ma Maniére’s ongoing relationship with Walker is indicative of the way Whitner sees the space engaging with Atlanta’s creative community: “We just took the space next door to A Ma Maniére to create a lab space to really let the world see what Atlanta creatives are about. I don't want to give away too many details, but it’s going to be something Atlanta will be extremely proud of,” he explained.
In terms of merchandise, A Ma Maniére is very much on the pulse of the current state of luxury clothing and streetwear; the shop carries the likes of Human Made, Neil Barrett, Rick Owens, OAMC, Visvim and J.W. Anderson and will soon stock Mastermind Japan. As far as footwear goes, the store has sneakers from adidas, Fear of God, Golden Goose, Hender Scheme, Margiela, Visvim and quickstrike releases from Nike. Along with the aforementioned hallowed names of streetwear and high fashion, the store also carries brands like Amiri, whose designer used to work for Buscemi; based out of Los Angeles, the rock-inspired line offers silk bombers, ripped and repaired denim and distressed t-shirts that have been shot with a shotgun in the California desert. And, along with its normal stock, A Ma Maniére has some additional gems—like a single OAMC Leather Blouson in Blue Leaf, which features hand-painted leaves and a burgundy knit basket-weave hem—one of only five produced by the brand.