In the cool neighbourhood of Logan Square Chicago, nestled amongst the hip bars and restaurants, you will find MEYVN – an urban treasure trove of contemporary menswear, accessories, curated books and vinyls. MEYVN is the project of three creative partners who wanted to bring their own spin on urban men’s fashion and lifestyle to the windy city. We spoke to co-founder Noah Zagor, about his background in fashion and this super-cool menswear store.
“We don’t just put nice clothing in a space and sell it… We think about the appearance of the store, the music we play, the way we look, and the other items we see and showcase.”
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and the store.
MEYVN is a men’s lifestyle boutique that opened in Chicago’s rapidly developing neighbourhood of Logan Square in March 2014. We also launched a full ecommerce website (that ships internationally) in February 2015.
I grew up in NYC and started working in retail in the late 90’s. My best friend was into Helmut Lang, CDG, and the Antwerp 6 at an unusually young age, and introduced me to that side of fashion. Meanwhile, I was collecting Jordans and going to underground hip-hop shows. So when I started working for companies like Helmut, Stone Island, Steven Alan, and Odin I was one of the few guys in SoHo wearing designer gear with a pair of AM90’s. Basically, I always thought of my style as an extension of my other creative and lifestyle interests. It was all sort of holistic in that sense—and we try to project that attitude at MEYVN. I worked for several stores, figured out what I thought worked and what I thought didn’t and after years, of treating retail as the job I had while focusing on other academic and creative pursuits, I realized that I had built up a ton of experience and a strong point of view.
We think about the holistic point of view; meaning, the shop strives to create its own culture within the greater creative culture of Chicago, Logan Square, and hopefully, the world over. We don’t just put nice clothing in a space and sell it—although we do hand pick each piece that we sell, many of which are from bands all over the world, and some of which don’t sell any where else in North America. We think about the appearance of the store, the music we play, the way we look, and the other items we see and showcase—from local artists on the wall (currently Stephen Eichhorn) to the antique Japanese fabric panels dating back to the 19c. Most importantly, we foster a culture where the owners and the employees are friendly (which can be a rarity in fashion!), engaged, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. Its place where the fashion crowd can find exciting things, but anyone who is interested can come in and find an open mind and a conversation.
The store is an accumulation of three different people, with different talents. How did the three of you first meet? How do your different skills complement each other?
The three main partners are Noah Zagor, Tony Kim, and Ryan Bardsley.
I moved to Chicago in 2010 without any real friends or ideas of what I wanted to do. Although Tony and I had never met before, we had mutual friends in NYC through the hip-hop world. Everyone thought we’d get along and sure enough we became fast friends. Tony wasn’t involved with the fashion world at all, but as a DJ who travels the world and someone who generally takes a deep interest in anything he becomes involved with, it made complete sense that he would become really into being part of MEYVN. Tony works mostly as a brand ambassador introducing the brand to people outside of the fashion community as he travels around performing.
I met Ryan as an extended member of Tony’s social circle and mine. Also not really involved with the fashion world, Ryan is a designer who works on furniture and interior spaces. What started as a consulting role evolved into a partnership where Ryan was responsible for the final designs and construction of the retail space.
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“I tend to look at collections where the designer has a strong point a view and isn’t too wrapped up in playing catch up with a current trend. This gives the collections somewhat of a soul if that’s possible.”
You carry menswear brands from all across the world – do you have any particular favorites?
It’s almost impossible to pick favourite collection. I really love everything we carry. It’s one of the reasons the store feels so cohesive. I suppose I currently own more ts(s) than anything else I carry at the shop. So, interpret that how you will.
What makes a brand stand out for you and suitable for MEYVN?
There’s no one thing that makes a brand suitable for MEYVN. We look for pieces that are designed well, made as ethically as possible, and are high quality. I tend to look at collections where the designer has a strong point a view and isn’t too wrapped up in playing catch up with a current trend. This gives the collections somewhat of a soul if that’s possible. I tend to gravitate towards warm textures and softness over hard and angular, but there are no steadfast rules. Occasionally, I like to mix in a few quirky and extremely progressive pieces, but overall we don’t want things to feel costumey. We like things that are modern, but never austere. The clothing should fit into the space and make sense with the music we’re playing, the branding, and everything else. It’s that holistic experience that I hinted at before. Ultimately, it’s important that I can imagine all the collections and pieces in the store working together as part of one wardrobe.
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You have your own line of accessories. How did this idea come about? Where did you get the inspiration for this line?
From the get go I wanted to have some private label pieces in the store. I always admired how Steven Alan (who I worked for in the mid 2000’s) was able incorporate his own pieces into an otherwise perfectly curated collection of third party brands in his NY stores. Each season he added more and more of his own product establishing Steven Alan as a brand unto itself. We started with accessories because it seemed like the right way to start the process. Ultimately, I envision an entire MEYVN capsule collection.
You have collaborated with different craftspeople from ceramic designers to leather workers. What has been your favorite collaboration so far and why?
Again, picking a favourite is near impossible. I’m really pleased with how each collaboration has turned out. Currently, I’m really excited about our upcoming collaboration with Victory Sportswear. Victory produces hand made, re-solable running sneakers in New England. We designed 4 colorways for this coming Spring and used some interesting material combinations that haven’t produced before. I’m can’t wait to see how they turned out.
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Mevyn is based in Logan Square, Chicago. What made you start a business here? How does Chicago inspire you / influence your designs?
Moving to Chicago from NYC, I didn’t know what to expect. What I’ve found is that some of the most creative and interesting people I’ve ever met live in Chicago, many of them in Logan Square. However, most of these people were involved with the food and drink world, or with music and design. There seemed to be a disconnect between the retail/fashion scene and the other creative communities in Chicago. I really wanted to bridge that gap, essentially adding a new voice to a conversation that was already taking place.
How would you describe Chicago’s style?
Chicago’s style is evolving and shifting rapidly. When I got here just over five years ago, there wasn’t much of a men’s fashion scene. On one hand you had the luxury stores down in the Gold Coast and on the other, there was a very functional sense of style. Thanks in part to the internet there’s been an explosion of young men interested in dressing well. All the archetypes are covered—from the well suited, to the streetwear aficionado, to the drapey gothic, to (with our help) the quirky textured effortless guy, and so on. I think style as a whole has become democratized and has less to do with where you are from and more to do with what is interesting to you. Anybody can see anything on the internet and be inspired now. It’s been really interesting to watch it grow.
If you could choose one other place in the world to open Mevyn part 2, where would it be and why?
Man that’s a tough question. As a native New Yorker, I think it would be amazing to have a store there. However, there’s so many great small stores there and although none do exactly what we do, I’d want to make sure there was space for us to execute our vision exactly the way we want. When the time is right to expand, it’s going to come down to several factors and so ultimately, time will tell.
36-45 (I’m 36, so right on the cusp)
Archaeology, Hip-hop (but really music in general—yeah I know it’s cliché—everything from classical to folk to jazz to rock and more. Saul Williams once said “most of my conversations with men tend to revolve around music” and that’s always struck a chord with me—no pun intended), Basketball, going to the movies by myself mid day to escape from the world, debating everything, reading novels from my favourite authors during train rides, travelling whenever I get the chance, attempting to cook overly complicated meals, Soup Sunday with the Donkays, chicken parmegiana heros, the original Muppet movie, Marx Brothers movies.
People who have no sense of the other people around them, putting the toilet paper roll on the wrong way (pull from over, not from under), inefficiency, bad customer service, poorly constructed sandwiches.
The only way to find out if your ideas will work is to test them.