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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Discussing khakis with Gregg Donnelly from Jack Donnelly Khakis - Part 1

"Khakis." The word conjures up a different response depending on your personal history with this seemingly ubiquitous item of clothing.  From military uniforms to an Ivy League staple, from pants to shorts and from expensive to downright cheap, the venerable khaki can be found in closets across America. Debates on "flat front vs. pleated" and "cuffed vs uncuffed" seem to rage constantly on Internet (with no clear winner in sight). Regardless of your opinion, one thing is certain: people love khakis.

Alas, not all khakis are created equal.  A trip to just about any thrift or department store will prove that.  Rack after rack of cheap, foreign-made pants and shorts.   Sadly, these are commodity versions of a piece of Americana with a long, rich history.  It doesn't (and shouldn't) have to be that way.  Enter men like Gregg Donnelly - founder of Jack Donnelly Khaki's based right here in Roswell, GA.  Gregg is an American entrepreneur with a passion for manufacturing and selling classic khakis the right way - they're comfortable, built to last and backed by outstanding customer service.  Most importantly, they're made right here in the USA! 

This will be a two part post.  Part 1 is a short Q&A with Gregg Donnelly and Part 2 will be a detailed review of the pants and shorts we purchased. 

Q: So what made you decide to start with khakis and shorts as opposed to some other article of clothing?
A: First off, I've always been a big fan of khakis.  From that I felt, and eventually came to know, that there was a void in the khaki market, and a general lack of excitement surrounding the khaki pant.  Sure tons of companies make them, but in my opinion, few were putting a strong emphasis on it.  We want the Jack Donnelly name to be synonymous with the best khakis.  We want Jack Donnelly to be the standard in khakis. 

Q: What was more important first, the product or that it was made in America?
A: I always knew I wanted them to be made in America.  I think the level of quality and craftsmanship that American manufacturers produce is superior.   You pay a premium for it, but it is definitely worth it.   Secondly, from a logistical standpoint it is a lot easier and more efficient than sourcing overseas.  It allows for greater quality control and quicker turnaround times.  Most importantly though, there is a sense of pride in American made.  We take a great deal of pride in it and hope our customers do also.  

Q: How much have your products changed from the first pair delivered up to now? What drove those changes?
A: From a style point, we have not changed anything.  We've tweaked a few elements of our fit from the original pair.  For example, on our pleated pant, we lengthened the rise for a more sufficient, comfortable fit.  We try to engage our customers, listen to what they have, and try to incorporate change for the better.   We've always stated that we want to deliver a product that our customers can consistently count on - both from a quality and style standpoint.  We look forward to continuing to  strive to improve on everything we do. 


Q: Do you find that Jack Donnelly has a larger following in the southeast versus the rest of the country?
A: Initially, I would say yes.  That is where we are based and where we know the most people to help spread the word.  I think it's natural for any company to have the strongest following in their home city/state.  As time goes on, and word spreads, our following evened out a bit around the country.  We very much appreciate everyone who has and continues to support us. 

Q: Do you feel that Jack Donnelly is a southern brand?
A: Yes, in the sense that we are based in the south and the fact that I grew up here, so naturally somethings we do will embody certain southern elements.  No in the sense that, I feel khakis are such a universal product, and don't think they should be marketed to one specific region.

Q: What makes your Khakis different from others on the market?
A: First, Jack Donnelly’s are better than the rest because they’re made with the finest sourced materials, constructed by the best American manufacturing, and fit better than any other pair I’ve seen.  More importantly, all of those superior qualities are offered to our customers at an excellent value proposition.  In my opinion, there isn’t a company out there that has consistently dialed in on those key elements the way we have.  That is our main focus and we will continue figuring out ways to make our khakis even better.

Q: What can you tell me about the process of making your khakis that makes them unique?
A: I don’t think it is one thing in particular, but more that each component and process that goes into creating the final product that makes it unique – the fabric, construction, fit, trimmings, style, and wash all combine to make the finished product the best.  There are no wasted steps - everything has a purpose.  

Q: As an American clothing manufacturer, how do you view the future of American clothing manufacturing?
A: I feel we are starting to see an improvement, which is exciting.  I think the increased awareness from the media and consumers, the current economic climate, job market, increased labor costs abroad, and the simple fact that people are starting to realize you are getting a top quality product from American manufacturers, all attribute to what hopefully is a strong recovery.  

Q: Your product line is intentionally small and you're focused on doing what you do extremely well but do you plan on adding to your lineup anytime soon and what can we look forward to from Jack Donnelly in the future?
A: We have plans to expand our line into different fabrics and colors, especially from a seasonal aspect, but plan to remain in the pant and short game.  Our khakis are extremely versatile, but we want to complement them with other fabrics/styles for different occasions.  Anything we do, we want to know it serves a purpose and addresses a need in the marketplace.  Specifically, we just released a British Khaki in our Dalton Pant and have a slim fit khaki and a longer inseam short coming out later this summer.

A big thank you to Gregg Donnelly for answering our questions!  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post when we'll take a closer look some actual JD pants and shorts.  You can find more info on Jack Donnelly Khakis on their website, follow them on Twitter or check them out on Facebook.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My very own vintage Baracuta G9 “Harrington” Jacket

Inspired by the good proprietor of Oxfordclothbuttondown, I began the daunting quest for my own Baracuta G9 Harrington jacket.  Not just any version, but an vintage original. The Baracuta company still produces the G9, which is a wonderful jacket, but I was looking for something more authentic, closer to the original worn by McQueen, Elvis and Sinatra.  The jacket is often referred to as a "Harrington" because it was worn by the character Rodney Harrington (played by Ryan O'Neal) in the 1960s TV Series Peyton Place.  I was lucky enough to finally find one and in corduroy no less.  The Harrington remains a trad classic and has seen versions produced by Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Merc London, Fred Perry, Tesco, Izod, Ben Sherman, Lacoste, Lyle and Scott, Lonsdale and Warrior Clothing.  The original, however, was created in 1937 by Baracuta and remains the quintessential Harrington sought after after by collectors and trad clothing aficionados.  In the words of Ferris Bueller, "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."

Baracuta was produced and sold by Van Heusen in the US under a license agreement.
The Fraser Tartan lining which is unique to the G9
  

The kings of cool (in Harringtons) ...

Elvis in King Creole.
Steve McQueen  
And the COOLEST of the Kings, Sinatra in Assault on a Queen


Saturday, May 12, 2012

World class cupcakes in Marietta, GA

Marietta, GA is basically my second home town. I live in Kennesaw, but I could hit an 8 iron into Marietta (and I'm not that great a golfer). As such, we spend a lot of time there. I'll be doing a separate post in a few days on the city and it's architecture, but for now we're going to talk about cupcakes! One of the treasures on Marietta Square is Miss Mamie's Cupcakes. For those that don't follow cooking shows on The Food Network, Mamie Doyle and the fantastic team at her bakery recently won Cupcake Wars. Based on our visit today, that was a well-deserved victory.  Mamie's humble bakery turns out some of the most unique and delicious cupcakes you're likely to find anywhere.





Thursday, May 10, 2012

My new visor and some Q&A with State Traditions

As I wrote in an earlier post, I ordered and received a new visor from State Traditions.  The entire process, especially their communication and shipping speed, was flawless. 

First off, here's the visor:




I'm really pleased with the quality of the visor.  100% cotton and well-constructed. Not thin or flimsy - very well made. What more can you say about a visor?  Well, for starters it has a great logo and it's made right here in the USA!  It's very comfortable, with the adjustable strap providing enough width for an adult head of even the largest diameter. As you can see from the picture, it has a stainless buckle, not velcro, which is something I prefer.  I washed it twice (in a hat washing cage) and not even so much as a frayed string or a blurred color!

When I find a company I like, I generally want to know more about them and State Traditions is no exception.  After I received the visor I reached out to Maury at ST with a few questions that he was gracious enough to answer:

Q: So what made you decide to start State Traditions?
A: We started State Traditions because we wanted to provide customers apparel and accessories with imagery they already have a deep seeded connection with. Different from other lifestyle brands, we wanted to produce classic, quality products for people wanting to show their state pride and look good doing it. Our state flag “Traditional” logos started with Alabama and grew from there. 

Q: What was more important first, the products or that they were made in America?
A: To be honest, the products and the imagery were first. The reason for that is, in the beginning we weren’t able to leverage purchasing to get American made products and be able run a sustainable business. Now, we are better positioned to provide high quality products, and try whenever possible to have these made in these United States. 

Q: How much have your products changed over time? What drove those changes?
A: It really depends.  Some products that have been popular have stayed very similar for a long time.  Some we've refined and some are new.  There's always opportunity to develop a new product to offer our customers, and we strive to do that.  But any products we release will always reflect our initial mission of providing the highest quality products to highlight the pride in one’s state. Staying true to this mission is part of our brand identity. 

Q: Do you find that State Traditions has a following only in the southeast or have the products done well across the country?
A: We’ve been very fortunate to have a great following across the country, but starting in the South, naturally that’s where we’re most popular.     

Q: Do you feel that ST is identified as a southern brand?
A: I believe that State Traditions has been identified as a southern brand to date but that is because our product offering have been geared toward the southern states.  By no means are we limited to the south or plan to offer products geared toward the south alone.      

Q: What can you tell me about the process of making of ST products that makes them unique? 
A: Most apparel brands have one singular image they create as their logo and put it on everything.  We don't.  We have images for each state, multiple images for each state even.  But juggling as many images as we have on a variety of products, all while maintaining consistent branding, and efficient processing, is what we do and we think makes us very unique in our market.   

Q: As an American clothing manufacturer, how do you view the future of American clothing manufacturing?
A: Unfortunately, the additional cost that comes with manufacturing in America is difficult to balance when you're trying to create a sustainable business model.  For American manufacturing to have any chance of gaining traction there is going to need to be more American clothing manufacturers to create more competition which will allow the pricing to be more competitive.  

Q: Do you plan on adding to your lineup anytime soon and what can we look forward to from ST in the future?
A: ST has big plans for our lineup and we look forward to revealing each of our new items as they are ready for release.  There will be something for everyone in the ST lineup in the near future.

Thanks again to State Traditions for answering my questions and I certainly hope this helps readers understand the company and the brand a bit more.  Personally speaking, I will be ordering some additional visors and a polo.  I had a chance to see the polos in a store here in GA and they're very nice.  You can find their website at http://www.statetraditions.com/ or follow them on Twitter: @StateTraditions

Watkinsville, GA

Historic Eagle Tavern - 1820

Elder's Mill Covered Bridge

Ashford Manor

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Inman Park, Atlanta

Spring means festivals throughout The South and one of our favorites is the Inman Park Festival in Atlanta. For background I would suggest  reading the write up on the history of Inman Park on their Neighborhood Association site. The festival takes place every year on the last full weekend of April.  It consists of a tour of homes, a large and colorful parade, the market (consisting of over 250 vendors and artists) and live music all weekend.  If you happen to be in the Atlanta area for a visit, the neighborhood is well worth visiting.  Just park and take a stroll along the tree-lined streets and you'll almost forget you're just a stone's throw east of downtown Atlanta.  Here are some views of this year's festival and some of the homes.