In Medias Res: Josh Peskowitz
In Medias Res: Josh Peskowitz
- Words Christopher Fenimore
- Date February 05, 2018
"In Medias Res" is a column in which photographer Chris Fenimore links up with some of fashion's most interesting people to see what they're wearing throughout the week.
How old are you? What was your career trajectory like before you opened your Culver City shop, Magasin?
I’m 38 years old. I’ve been working in and around the men’s clothing business since I was 16. I haven’t really done much else. My most relevant career trajectory was when I started working at The Fader in 2001. I held positions at Cargo Magazine, Esquire, Esquire’s Big Black Book, men.style.com, Vibe. I did contributing work for The New York Times, VMan, GQ Style international editions, amongst other things. Primarily, as a writer and a stylist, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with really great people that have taught me a lot over the years. The biggest learning experience before opening my own shop was the six year period I worked in retail. I worked at the Gilt Group for two-and-some-change years helping to launch a men’s editorial website called Park and Bond. I was there from its inception through the launch of the site, and I was also the Men’s Fashion Director at Bloomingdales for four years before deciding to open my own shop.
Describe Magasin for me. Why did you guys open the shop?
The idea behind the shop is really to put a place together that celebrated brands and clothing that people who are interested in style and have their own point of view, to give them a place where they could find a lot of the kinds of things they were looking for all in one place. Most men that I know who are really well-dressed and inspire me don’t wear outfits from one designer head-to-toe. They take things from a bunch of different places and put it together in a way that’s unique to them. It’s about personal style, so we opened the store with our point of view. We wanted to put something out there that felt grown-up and could be presentable and dressy, but still could be funky and have a little edge to it. We wanted to give guys options and celebrate brands that don’t necessarily always get the full shine—they don’t have big marketing budgets and all that, but the people who are making the clothes have a lot of integrity. The places where they are making the clothes are very skilled.
The main principals we’re looking at when we’re trying to find out what we’re going to sell in the store is: Does it have a certain level of craftsmanship? Will it last? Is there innovation in it, whether it’s the thought behind it, or the cut of the garment, or the fabric used? How does it feel relatable but unique? And is it rare? Is it hard to get a hold of? Are we providing a service to our customer so they can discover something new when they come in?
How did your past experience shape the store?
Everything I’ve done up till now has informed what we’re doing in the store. We’re trying to tell stories with the clothing and the way we merchandise the store. We don’t put brands together; we put individual items together in a way that flows and hopefully makes sense… tells a story or at least puts things in context. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. Trying to put clothing in context for men. I think it’s a really important thing, how you present yourself to the world, and clothing is that first line. That’s the first thing that people are gonna see when they see you and so—it doesn’t mean it isn’t fun—but, it’s serious, you know? It’s a real thing. That’s what we focus on in the store.
All my career, whether it’s shooting and styling for magazines or ad campaigns, writing articles, doing interviews, merchandising a big department store, launching an online platform, all those things have been hugely influential in me being able to know what I want to do. I’ve learned things from people who are the best at what they do in the world, and I’m super lucky that I’ve been able to do that. But being able to work for so many different people who are so good at individual things, I’ve taken something away from all that and I think we’ve really tried to distill that down into what Magasin really is.
Retail is in a crazy place right now but I think you guys are doing something different from what most other stores are. You don’t carry Rick Owens and Gucci. You have brands with real "menswear-head" clout that make garments of actual quality at reasonable prices for said quality. I have to ask how business is going against the theoretical grain, and if you see any sort of pushback or if you’re reaching the exact customer you’d like to reach.
The thing about the modern landscape of retail is that it’s certainly challenging, there’s no question about that. What I do know is that the way people have been doing it for a long time isn’t working the way that it used to. People take different tacts on how they want to tackle that problem. For us, we decided that we wanted to be something really special to some people. Instead of trying to be something for everybody, we’re trying to be a lot to some people. It takes a while for people to find out who you are—to relate to you. But what we do is build a sense of community around the people who shop with us, and around the people who work with us, and around that brands that we choose to work with. There’s the narrative that’s out there in terms of the way people dress and what is coveted by a number of people but there are other options. In this world, there are a lot of voices that can be heard and we’re just trying to be in our own lane. What can I say? So far, so good.
What’s your relationship with Levi’s? I know you have a collection coming with them?
When we first opened the store, I asked Levi’s to produce a special jean for us, and they did. We only made 40 pairs of them, all handmade in San Francisco. They sold rather quickly. During that process, I got to know some of the design team at Levi’s Made and Crafted and they reached out to me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing a little capsule collection. Of course I was very flattered and I jumped at the opportunity. We sat down and I took my ideas, sketched some things, sent them my mood-boards, and the idea was to try and do something that was a little bit outside of Levi’s’ main focus. I wasn’t going to go to Levi’s and be like, “I can design a better jean than you,” you know what I mean? That would be hubris, and I’m not like that!
So we focused on doing some casual pieces that could fit well with denim but could also work on their own, and just some things that I was interested in when we were designing it. The color palette that I was interested in, adding textures through embroidery. I’m always interested in texture. I’m always interested in embroidery, in those little things that make something different or makes them stand out, but in a subtle way. We put together a couple outfits and so far the response has been great out in public. We just launched it in Europe last week and we’re doing it here in L.A. next week.
I’m not going to front like I didn’t used to peep street style pics of you for 'fit inspiration. Is it weird for you to be in that crop of editors and dudes who were street style legends? I assume you have some interesting fanboy stories.
I’ve had some stories. The thing about it for me is this: when I was getting ready to get into this industry, knowing that this was what I wanted to do with my life (which I knew pretty early on), you didn’t know what anyone who was doing the things that you wanted to do looked like. You might know their byline, you might know their name, you may have seen a picture of them here and there in a magazine, or maybe they were interviewed on television, but you didn’t know who they were. You didn’t see who they were.
I’m not particularly comfortable being in front of the camera. It’s not my favorite thing, I’ll be honest. The street style phenomenon, for men at least, has been a good thing because it has shown a younger generation that you don’t have to look like a model or an actor to have fun with the clothes that you wear. The guys that have their picture taken when we’re going in and out of shows...I mean we’re working, you know? We’re there to do work. We’re not there to get our picture taken, but if you get your picture taken and somebody else says, “man, that guy looks cool,” and it gives them some inspiration, I’m all for that because you know what? I’m a regular guy. I’m a very regular guy, it’s just that this is what I do for a living and this is what I love. If other people take inspiration from that and say, “Oh, that’s a dude that I can relate to that’s doing it,” and then they want to get into the industry or take that opportunity to dress a bit better, I’m all for it.
Most of the times that I’ve had interactions with people that have come up to me and said something along the lines of, “I’ve seen your picture,” or, “I used to watch your little videos on men.style.com and it made me feel like I could be a part of this industry, or I could be a part of this culture,” to me, that’s great. I really think that’s great. Does it always make me comfortable? No, but hey! I look at it as something to appreciate and to feel humble about, that people would look to me as a source of inspiration. I don’t see myself that way, but if other people do, I’m not going to argue with them about it [chuckles].
Where did you grow up? Where do you currently live?
I currently live in Los Angeles. I was born here in Brooklyn, but my family moved to the Washington D.C. area, so I did grow up on East Coast urban environments and that definitely impacted me. I grew up during the golden age of hip hop. That music, that culture, graffiti, B-Boy culture, rapping, MC-ing, all that stuff was hugely impactful to me as a young man. Wanting to participate in that culture, feeling passionate about it, really brought me to the clothing because I think that people my age—and a little bit older and a little bit younger—we were a generation of people where what you wore really represented who you were. Obviously there are other subcultures that have had uniforms on that mantle, but I really think that a lot of the current environments and the climate of fashion, and particularly men’s fashion, is directly related back to that period of time.
That’s what got me interested, that’s what I got excited about. Moving back to New York, shortly after September 11th, 2001 and starting to work for a music and street-culture focused magazine, The Fader, definitely impacted me a lot and introduced me to things that, before that, I wouldn’t have been exposed to (in terms of rock and roll and punk culture). It all sort of permeates you. All your experiences inform the next decision and the next move that you make. I love D.C. I love New York. And I’m getting to love L.A.
You travel a ton—do you consciously buy clothing with that fact in mind?
I definitely like to buy clothing when I travel. There are stores that I really love in other cities. There are stores that I love in Florence, Italy, and Milan, and Paris, particularly Tokyo, but also Hong Kong. I like to buy things when I travel that remind me of those places—something that’s specific to those places. In Italy, a bit more tailored clothing, in Japan, some wild shit. If I find myself in Istanbul, maybe I’ll buy a scarf. If I find myself in Hong Kong, maybe I’ll buy some swim trunks ‘cause it’s mad hot there. When I do pack to travel, I try to keep it simple. I don’t take a whole bunch of stuff with me. I just try to focus on putting together a couple of color groups so that I can interchange things and get the most work out of my clothes. I definitely have pieces that I never like to travel without, and I definitely have pieces that I will never take on the road with me, ‘cause I’m not trying to get them fucked up, especially when they don’t fit into a suitcase.
I feel like even when menswear at its peak was hot, you always looked comfortable, even with a couple layers on. Do you have any sort of style tips for staying warm and looking good in the winter?
Layer. Listen, your 40-below goose down jacket, that’s necessary a couple times a year, and I get it, but for me, I would rather put together a couple layers—you pay attention to how things fit. If you buy something that’s a bit oversized or has a bit of an A-frame to it, you can probably fit something underneath that. For me, I have to have a scarf because that’ll keep you warm. You’ll rarely see me without a beanie on my head. That’s about it. I believe in layering. It allows you to play with texture, get a little more color in there. That’s my thing.
For some reason, you’re going to die after dinner tonight, what’s your last meal?
If I’m dying in Brooklyn, New York, my last meal is Di Fara Pizza on Avenue J and 14th Street.
What’s a typical weekend look like for you?
These days, I’m in the shop. I don’t really get weekends right now. But you know what? I’ve never really had weekends. If I was doing something that I hated during the week, my weekends would be something different, but I do something that I love every day. You know the old adage: “find something you love and find a way to get paid for it.” I have. I don’t really get weekends, but that’s okay. You have to make time when you can for your friends and for your loved ones and family, of course, but, you can fit it in.
What are your current favorite pieces in your closet?
Those Garrett Leight glasses I was wearing with the second fit are real cool, they have those light lenses. I really like this shearling vest that I have here, from a company called Sannino. They’re a Neapolitan leather jacket manufacturer, who I’ve done some consulting work for and I asked them to make—for their collection—essentially a shearling Patagonia vest, and I think it’s pretty fire.
What’s your ultimate grail?
There is a Ralph Lauren, Navajo, double-breasted, belted, felt-wool jacket, one of those ones with the shawl lapel. Mordechai Rubinstein has one, Kurt Russell has one, and I really fucking want one.