As I sit here typing this post the first half of the week of Thanksgiving, the weather and general timing has all the feels of the holidays fast approaching. Cold enough to see your breath in the morning air, warm enough to pare down to a single top layer by late afternoon, sun not yet up when you leave the house, but already dark by the time you leave work. The neighborhoods around town all smell of fires roaring as the sun sets and night rolls in, and just about every avenue and thoroughfare is piled on both sides with leaves. But the gist of and feeling behind the word 'festive' doesn't have to be denominational, or religious if you don't want it to, but it does have one common theme we've found while interviewing and speaking with all of the folks behind the brands coming to our annual event: visiting with family and friends who come home, if only even for a brief stint, from near and far or wherever they dwell, is near and dear to us all. They say you're born with a native family, and as you grow up you build a tribal family, and the sense of the word family both strengthens and weakens in ways you once thought of it, morphing into family meaning often those that matter most in your life. It's been a privilege over the last more than a decade to amass a family of folks around our store, which we see not as much profit-focused as it community-driven. We are thankful for all of those who support us, encourage us, and make for and with us, helping Hudson's Hill through the years to become iconically unique, and a gem in our city's crown. It's because of you that we are possible, so thank you.
We're very excited to announce that we will be hosting our 2nd annual Holiday Pop-Up on Saturday, December 16, 2023 from 9am to 6pm. What we're most excited about is that we will host a variety of small brands and talented makers from across the great state of North Carolina, and we're most proud to say they're all friends. It's going to be bigger, with more brands than ever, so you won't want to miss this, I promise you that!
So, I bet you're asking yourself, "what will it be like?" and "who's going to be there?" So, let us begin with the macro details before we dive deeper into the minutia.
-Diamond Brand Gear (Fletcher, NC)
-Raleigh Workshop (Raleigh, NC)
-Opie Way Footwear (Fletcher, NC)
-Solid State Clothing (Burlington, NC)
-Knestknit (Mount Airy, NC)
-Josie Vogel Woodworks (Greensboro, NC)
Additionally, we are excited to announce that our city's own Loom Coffee Company will be popping up and slinging pour overs and drip throughout the first half of the day. Along with some drinkable cups of joe, they'll also bring a medley of bags of whole beans and a few thoughtfully made drippers made by Saint Anthony Industries in Utah to buy and walk away with!
Loom Coffee Co. was founded in 2020 during the pandemic by Christopher and Ashley, focusing their industry experience on building a bean roasting business that embodies their commitment to workers' empowerment, while focusing their efforts to produce the highest quality beans that, in turn, yield the best cup of coffee around! To kick off the tribal connectivity, it's important to note their name, loom, which is the device by which yarns or similar filaments are woven together, is a mainstay of our business, as we specialize in denim, and our very own Andrew Duke has been an integral part of the Loom Coffee business, working as their brand designer and helping direct and focus their creative vision. It is through connections like these that we build communities, which feel woven together and at times interdependent. That being said, we are thrilled to host Loom Coffee at the store, and look forward to sipping on a cup of their already-legendary brew.
We'll also be grilling in the alleyway all day long, thanks be to the hot dog king himself, Mr. Randy Barnes. Part food writer, part blogger, part cook, Randy is literally the master of grilling, and a wonderful friend. If you've been by to one of our events before, you maybe had the pleasure of tasting his cheerwine caramelized onions, or one of his famous Carolina chili dogs. But don't worry, we'll have two separate grills going so we can cook up some veggie options as well. As always, the food is on the house, but tips are appreciated.
So... I'm willing to bet that unless you're just a local yokel OR you have already clicked on all of the links above and gone down a rabbit hole, that you're probably wondering something like "who are all these brands and what do they make?" So, let's dive right in!
Starting from top to bottom on the list, I will do my best to relay some of what we've gathered in talking with everyone — here’s what you can expect to see:
Diamond Brand Gear, based in Fletcher, NC, which is a suburb just south of Asheville proper, is a storied brand that has been operating in the mountains of WNC since 1942. Interesting Fact: Did you know that the company's second owner (the son of the founder) Dave Kemp invented the Yucca Pack in 1931, which would go on to become the standard backpack of the Boy Scouts of America? Not only does Diamond Brand produce packs, but they also make a wide range of tent products, as well as bags, pouches, fannys, and aprons, among other items. And not just for the BSA, Diamond Brand Gear actively produces a wide range of tenting and pack products for the U.S. military, helping to keep our troops high and dry and out of the elements, keeping their personal items safe whether they're near or far. But, the best part is you don't have to be a Boy Scout or a G.I. to own Diamond Brand Gear, they have a direct to consumer retail arm of their business, where you can buy a wide range of their product offerings, too!
A friend of mine for just shy of a decade, Russell Shurtz, formerly of Circle A Brand, now runs their Moonrise project, whereby they use their production scraps to make American boro cloth, then cut and sewn into one-of-a-kind products in an effort to reduce their overall carbon footprint and execute a truly sustainable effort! When we asked Russell what he plans to bring to the pop-up, he told us we can expect a range of Moonrise products such as waist packs, musette bags, roll top backpacks, daypacks, and totes, as well as products from their Revival project, which are all made from upcycled Boy Scout tents, consisting of utensil rolls, fire wood carriers, and totes. More than anything, it's so good to see Russell plying his trade, leading a team, and working on a small line of anoraks and packs himself under a new brand name. When I first got into making products, he inspired me every time he released something new. Russell is just such a refined talented, do-it-all kind of maker, so we really can't wait to see what he brings to the shop!
Raleigh Workshop, based in Raleigh, NC, has been a hallmark and staple brand in our store since we placed our first order in November of 2012. It's hard to believe we have stocked their jeans on our shelves for over 11 years! Victor and Sarah have been torchbearers of the movement, not only across North Carolina, but across the country, that helped place American-made denim back into the spotlight on a global scale, and their denim products have been best-sellers for a decade here at Hudson's Hill. It's been over 6 years since we last hosted a pop-up with Raleigh Denim, now Raleigh Workshop, but if it's anything like the last time, it's sure to be our best yet! You can expect to see a showcase of products made in downtown Raleigh at their Curatory/Workshop, ranging from Men's and Women's denim jeans, Chore Coats, and Soft-Shoulder Sports Coats, and perhaps a few last-minute surprises!
Victor's creativity and aesthetic have not only led him to be nominated into the membership of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), but also into projects and collaborations with the likes of Kate Spade, Corey Mason, Bernhardt Design, and most recently Allen Edmonds. On a national and global stage, Victor and his team are recognized as always on the cutting edge, avant, and pushing ideas that aren't always simply inside the proverbial box that we know denim to be. Even with global success, Raleigh Workshop continues to keep home, and local, a priority, partnering with local businesses like Fullsteam Brewery, Hopscotch Music Festival, The Umstead Hotel & Spa, and Carolina Ballet, just to name a few, but also garners the attention and support of artists, ranging from J. Cole and his Dreamville Festival to Brad Pitt, Terry Crews to Boulevards, and so many more. More recently, Victor serves on the board for White Oak Legacy Foundation, better known as W.O.L.F., which has since become the caretaker for our city's 127+ year tradition of weaving shuttle denim. We're always excited to see what Victor's been up to, and can't wait to see some of their thoughtfully-made denim pieces, crafted by non-automated jeansmiths in downtown Raleigh!
Opie Way, also based in Fletcher, NC (inside the Diamond Brand Gear factory!), has been making sneakers in the heart of Western North Carolina just shy of half a decade. Very few companies are still manufacturing sneakers stateside, especially from scratch, so alone the fact they have managed to configure this type of manufacturing, and in only 4 years, is a nod to their relentless efforts and passion-driven approach. Justin and his talented team of craftspeople have built a thoughtful product mix that blends timelessness and beautiful lines with premium, scrutinized materials, culminating in a domestic offering that rivals brands with unlimited equipment budgets and economies of scale built over a century or longer. Their efforts and their niche has not only earned them Garden & Gun Magazine's 2020 Made in The South Award, but also a 2020 Our State Magazine Made in NC Award.
When I first met Justin back in late Summer of 2020, I knew that not only had I discovered another passionate, amazing talent in NC, but I instantly knew I found a best friend. Within a month, I took a daytrip up to meet in person, brought along a bag full of original footwear examples from our vast company archive, and Justin and I quickly were off to the races, plotting how and where we could begin working together on projects. By 2021, we released a throwback canvas sneaker collaboration, consisting of six different styles of hi-tops. This first release was essentially the Cadillac version of Chuck Taylors, way before Nike bought them, when the rubber sole was thick and took a good long while to wear down, all of the ingredients would stand up to the test, and the colorways looked bygone. Then, when we got the Draper X-3 shuttle looms online and running efficiently at the beginning of the year, my mind began racing on ideas that wouldn't fit into any normal box.
TLDNR: The pandemic had us all feeling distant, sometimes alone, sometimes leaving us with question marks about the viability of our business models. When I say this, I think I speak for small businesses and artisans across the nation and across the globe. When we were making medical-grade face masks during 2020 for Cone Health, a tagline appeared in my mind that stood out more than others: #BetterDaysAhead and we posted a lot with this to help people remember that these feelings weren't permanent. Something just felt right when we began sampling with package-dyed colored fill yarns from Meridian Specialty Yarns, the first thing that came to mind was ship samples to Justin and call it Weft Out. Denim, by nature is a warp-faced fabric, warp being the yarn that runs the length of a pair of jeans, which is standardly indigo blue in shade (yes, we know there are lots of exceptions). The weft, i.e. the yarn that interlaces the blue warp, can easily be changed to any color. So, we made denims with colored weft, purple, goldenrod, turquoise, french blue, orange creamsicle, royal blue, silver, dark grey, dark tan, and navy, and we began collaborating with Opie Way for a Weft Out series using the sneaker pattern from the first collaboration round, the underlying idea being that those weft yarns are often overlooked, sometimes left out of the product description or lost/hidden in the product itself, and we all emerged on the other side of the shutdown feeling slightly left out, so we aimed to spark hope and positivity through combining cloth woven in Greensboro with vibrant colors and sneakers made in Fletcher under the Weft Out trademark. Don't feel left out, wear Weft Out!
Opie Way has been hard at work building their best-selling James Court lo and hi, which you may have recently seen offered in collaboration with Huckberry, putting them on a global map! But, to further narrate the interconnectedness of our community here in NC, Opie Way has been collaborating with Raleigh Workshop for two consecutive years, attending NYFW together and showcasing one-of-one sneakers, helping further place the Opie Way brand into the spotlight and putting them in front of eyes of international designers and buyers. Let's take this even one step further... Russell and Justin have been actively working throughout the year to optimize his cloth patterns with Diamond Brand Gear's automated cutting system, streamlining the process of making the canvas and twill sneakers, which have been painstaking to make until this was made possible through hours of hard work and putting their heads together. But, what you may be able to expect from this is the re-release of some of our canvas sneakers, overhauled with even better materials, updated nuances, in their best version yet!
Along with their James Court collection and Classic Canvas Sneakers, you can expect to see NC-made shoelaces, NC-made socks, and USA-made hats, as well as a few surprises, maybe a few one-offs, and also have the opportunity to discuss custom one-of-ones with Justin at the shop during the event! We're so glad to not only get to host the Opie Way brand at the shop, but we may even have a few tricks up our sleeve after the event! Stay tuned on that one.
Solid State Clothing, based in Burlington, NC, is the direct-to-consumer brand of TS Designs. For those who don't know, Eric Henry has reconfigured his business strategy from what was once one of the largest screenprinters in the Southeastern U.S. to an industry leader and torchbearer B-corporation that champions local supply chains, and consicous/transparent apparel manufacturing, through which he has built the Cotton of The Carolinas, a 600 mile dirt-to-shirt product, among so much more. When I think of the value sets of each of the businesses that are stocked on our shelves or attending the pop-up, I find that so much inspiration comes from folks like Eric, who champion shedding light on where things come from, how materials are sourced, and working diligently to retool the current broken model, which is centered around the rhetorical question of which upstream direct manufacturer or blue collar laborer usually gets left holding the proverbial bag? It is through efforts like the Dirt to Shirt Cotton of The Carolinas, the 10K project, and others that help shed light on the fact that broken systems don't always have to be allowed to continue if things can be done in an ethically responsible, alternative method.
Through Solid State Clothing, led by Courtney Lochemer, new heights have been achieved, imploring the use a natural dyes program at their in-house paddle tub dye facility, investigative research conducted at their dyestuff testing laboratory, and partnering with local upstream suppliers, such as yarn mills, and knitters, as well as cotton farmers like the Burleson family in New London, NC (which is also home to Burleson family-owned Rolling Hills Gin, which is where we've been to the annual cotton harvest) to forge relationships and create new narratives with tangible end-products like never before. Courtney began managing the Solid State Clothing line in Summer of 2020, prior to which she had been actively involved in Piedmont Fibershed, where she initially met Eric Henry. Fast forward just 3 short years and she's running natural dye programs at the dyehouse, collaborating with brands and developing new products for their line. And, since we're mentioning awards, they took part in a collaboration beanie project that won Our State Magazine's 2023 Coolest Thing Made in NC Award! These beanies were made possible through a project that partnered Carolina Textile District, Fonta Flora Brewery, Opportunity Threads, Material Return, InnovaKnits, and Solid State Clothing, made using recycled wool yarn, spun and knit, and then naturally dyed using marigold flowers, tagged, and sold all in 135 miles! It is through Eric and Courtney's vision and execution that I constantly remind myself with a smile and a laugh that it can all still be done here, if you try!
While we do carry a wide range of Solid State Clothing at the shop on a regular basis, you can expect to see the aforementioned beanies, along with their limited edition tie dyes, including a recent indigo tie-dyed long sleeve, as well as the 2023 hemp dyed short sleeve, along with numerous other colors that we do not stock! And, maybe there will be a surprise or two in store, but you won't know unless you come on the sixteenth!
Knestknit, based in Mount Airy, NC, is a one-man (and sometimes friends to help out and wise industry sages with more knowledge than any book holds) sock knitting business owned and operated by Dane Nester. For those who don't know, many of the skilled artisans that are working hard at their craft don't always come from textiles degrees, and Dane is a fine example of an out-of-the-box thinker from a Fine Arts background, who is building wearable art in the form of socks! I've been trying to get up with Dane for over a year now, but it was only about a month ago that we met in person for the first time. You know when you know, you know? He's definitely of my tribe, as we share so much in common, ranging from outlook on life to approach to design, and so much in between, including our affinity to North Carolina (raise hell, praise Dale!). Honestly, it's just been a blast to rapidly get to know him better. During our first visit, Dane came to Greensboro and we spent hours talking all things cut, sew, machine, went over and turned on the shuttle weaving machines, perused some of our yarn stockpile and found some for him to take with him, and of course we had a row about socks! Get it, of course we had a row(knitting joke)?
Living in Mt. Airy, Dane is surrounded by and steeped in hosiery history, with other large and small sock manufacturers still plying away at their trade, and even more skilled laborers in the community with vast tribal knowledge of knitting, sock cylinder machines, and so much more that books just can't quite teach. And it's not just that, but also his being in the foothills of the mountains, he's in the perfect place for field testing product. His design techniques and yarn selections, coupled with his small volume production strategy using high-end yarns and inputs, have landed him collaboration projects with brands all over the country, William Ellery, Eckhaus Latta, and 1733, to name a few. Being in the art niche allows you to connect with passionate designers and makers on a more intimate level, ones that can realize their visions because of the nimble size of the brand they own or work for, pushing the envelope of design and product, and this is where I see Dane truly thriving.
As we move forward, I am thrilled to not only say we are so excited to host Dane for the annual pop-up, which we hope he will regularly join us for, but also that he's been working on a sock using some yarn we recently developed that will likely be used for the first HH x Knestknit collaboration products! We've found that making socks in NC is a good way to further support our state's textile industry, but I would be remiss to not realize that the majority of what we've produced thus far are classic staples that lack a lot of technical construction, utilize much heavier or plied yarns, and require overlocking sewing closure of the toe. So, I'm also looking forward to regularly stocking Knestknit products as well as a few collaborations by the end of the year and into 2024 and beyond! Dane, mi casa, su casa.
Josie Vogel Studio, with a workshop in Greensboro, NC, thoughtfully makes simple, minimalistically designed wooden utensils, homewares, and furniture for practical, everyday use. Like Dane, she too is an alum of MICA, where her focus on the arts led her to become an expert craftsperson with good wood. Josie concurrently serves as the director of the Woodworking department at Sawtooth School of Visual Arts in Winston-Salem, NC, where she teaches courses and oversees the department's programming.
I've been close friends with Josie and her husband David for many years now, spent the night at their house, worked on countless projects, sat around dozens of bonfires, and I look back and reflect on my friendship with the two of them and easily note that what I admire about them is that they don't boast or brag, they don't act showy or austentacious, and they don't claim to be the best, but they both certainly are experts of their fields (David is an expert welder), and they are constantly pursuing the expansion of knowledge within their field through their endless curiosity. It's been a few years ago now that I pitched the idea of Josie selling her wares in our store, at which time just about everything she made was one-off. I walked her through my idea of her assembly line and building a production run versus one at a time, and since then we've been able to regularly stock her beautiful cutting boards, brushes, and ramen spoons, and manage to still carry a few of her amazing one-of-a-kinds. Honestly, I think I see a bit of myself in Josie, in that some of the most beautiful things she's ever made are never for sale, but gifted to the right caretakers. You know, I've always been one to think that the most useful gifts are those you use every day, and I constantly find myself remembering this every time I cut up veggies or fruit for my stepdaughter's lunch during the weekdays. Thanks, Josie. I can't wait to see you at the event, and to see what all you've come up with, and I also can't wait for you and Dane to meet and talk all things MICA!
At our pop-up event, you can expect to find a variety of wooden spoons, decorative vases, and cutting boards, as well as other useful tools for the home, all made from scratch by Josie Vogel.
If you've made it this far, I first want to say thank you. I know it's likely a novel and either taken hours or your time and/or drained a decent chunk of your screen's battery life. But, I'm not done yet....
So, what do we have in store? Well, I've been working with Marshall of HARDENCO to dream up a new product to release for the holidays. We're going to launch double knee broken twill jeans using Proximity Denims, with a tan filling yarn to deepen the color of the denim. The thread combinations are going to be a beautiful olive drab and rockweed, which is kind of like a dijon stone ground mustard, and adjustments have been made from the field testing samples Greg and I have worn over the course of the year, tightening the aperture at the bottom of the doubled panel to keep a knee pad in more securely, doing away with the rivets on the double knee panel and replacing with bartacks, and using a thread color that doesn't pop as much, emphasizing the fabric more than the pattern. We have a couple dozen pairs of these slated to arrive just before the event, along with a full restock of the three styles we currently carry in denims we weave just across town.
What's more? If there's time, I plan to make a few things out of some double-sided camoflauge fabrics I've just gotten more of, and we do have lots of new product incoming from several major brands we stock.
And, I suppose they say that we should save the best for last, so I do want to mention that we plan to host a small after party at the shop, where you can enjoy some ice cold suds, and we'll crank up the tunes, and maybe I'll bring a bottle of two of vintage unopened alcohol to get into and see where it takes us. This will be a casual, lowkey annual gathering of the Hudson's Hill Beer Drinking Club, so I will bring along my 1980's laminator and some more membership cards, and maybe just maybe we'll gain a few more members to close out this year! Whether the membership goes up or not, I promise you this, we'll make some memories that will last forever in a few weeks.
Speaking for all our HH team, we look forward to seeing you at the shop on the 16th.