“The Neighborhood, in many ways, was both a success and a failure to be honest” says founder Joah Spearman of the 4 day fashion infused event which premiered during SXSW this year. Because the Neighborhood was the result of founders Joah Spearman and Jon Patillo’s desire to break off from SXSW and put together their own unofficial event, the Neighborhood had a lot to not only live up to, but also prove. Their previous fashion endeavor, Style X, had been an official part of SXSW for the past 2 years taking place in the Convention Center and bringing in 30,000 shoppers, as well as hosting panels with fashion industry professionals.
If you went to check out the Neighborhood last week expecting it to be anything like Style X, you might have been a little disappointed. That is, first of all, assuming you were even able to figure out where the event was. There was hardly any publicity or advertisement for the Neighborhood, and seeing as the specific information about the event was only made public a few days before it actually took place, it was definitely an easy event to overlook. But even if you knew what was going on and were able to attend the Neighborhood, it might have been a bit of a let down.
While the 2nd St. district seems like the perfect setting for a door to door shopping event, this area was not a major thorough fair for festival goers. In fact, being a downtown dweller during SX myself, I walked over to the 2nd St. district to actually get away from the madness happening near the Convention Center and the 6th St. area. It was a much calmer scene if you wanted to have a nice place to sit down and eat. But if you were a pop-up shop wanting to get noticed by foot traffic, it might not have been the best spot. By the last day of The Neighborhood, some of the pop-up shops had taken matters into their own hands by moving closer to the crowds to grab more foot traffic.
The turnout for the panels wasn’t much different than the pop-up shops. The quality of the panels during The Neighborhood was on par with the panels that had taken place during Style X, and actually could boast bringing in bigger names like Billy Reid and John Varvatos. But, the audience was lacking in numbers. When the Man Repeller herself, Leandra Medine, along with the founding members of StyleCaster filled up only a few rows of seats, I thought the only person who might attend the panel I was to speak on a few days later might be someone who stumbled in on accident looking for a bathroom. Joah admitted to me “The traffic was much lower than we hoped for, so we’ll have to go back to the drawing board there, but I do hope people see that our partnership with 2nd Street District makes a lot of sense long-term and that we have a starting point that we’ll be able to build and grow from over time.”
Personally I think there is a lot of potential for a fashion-centric part of SXSW. While the Neighborhood didn’t do enough to grab a huge audience, I think the audience is there. Much like I found at Style X in years past, this year at the Neighborhood I discovered several new brands (many Austin-based) which I was unfamiliar with. The Neighborhood was a great opportunity, especially for bloggers like myself, to personally connect with brands, other bloggers, and people in the fashion industry. When Joah says the Neighborhood was both a success and a failure, I think this is the success he is speaking of.
The whole idea of the Neighborhood, and why it was named “The Neighborhood”, is to connect people and to “democratize” fashion. The key concept I had left Style X with last year, was the idea that the “fashion elite” was gone. This year the Neighborhood reiterated that fact and when I/O Denim founder Anand Venkatrao was able to ask famed designer John Varvatos what he thought of his new smart phone-friendly jeans, I knew this was the type of interactions Joah had been wanting to achieve. By the way, Varvatos’ advice to I/O Denim was to create a story and a brand beyond just a special pocket (a little more on that brand later…). During his panel Varvatos also emphasized the importance of knowing your brand and being true to your own style.
If The Neighborhood takes place again next year, I just hope it is done so on a larger scale and marketed in a bigger and better way so that those like myself who benefit from events such as these, can make an effort to attend.
Some of the interesting and innovative brands that made up the Neighborhood this year:
You may or may not already be familiar with this brand that supports the Global Village Initiative, because I hosted a Giveaway with them awhile back. Since then, Teysha has expanded by offering several other brightly colored and patterned products besides just their “Kuna Kicks.” One of the coolest additions to their supply of products is the Guate Boots which are customizable and made to order.
This is a new denim brand with products being handmade out of East Austin. Although there wasn’t much denim to physically check out at their booth, they instead had plenty of awesome handmade leather goods, and is definitely a brand to watch. Creator Richard Cole will be launching a Kickstarter for Paleo Denim soon. It’s about time a denim brand launched in Austin, no?
Need a new tote bag to tote around because of the recent plastic bag ban? The Esperos “Hope” tote is a great option. Esperos is a socially conscious brand based out of Austin which for each bag sold, helps send a child in need to school for a year. The Esperos backpack is their main product which is a classic canvas backpack that besides giving you good karma, is simple and stylish.
Bucketfeet is a sneaker brand that gives different artists from around the country a chance to get their designs onto footwear. Pictured below is local Austin artist Sophie Roach’s design. Not only are these sneakers super cool to look at, but I actually ran into a friend during SXSW who was wearing a pair of Bucketfeet sneakers (they’re awesomely recognizable and distinctive) and he said they were even more comfortable than Vans! They come in several different styles and all kinds of designs.
A lot of “feel good” fashion products aren’t always the cutest, it’s true. When I first checked out Thirty One Bits jewelry I didn’t even realize it was completely made of recycled rolled paper! It’s actually pretty amazing. This stuff is cute, unique, good for the environment, AND it brings jobs to women in Uganda.
Bed|Stü is a shoe and accessories company that brings old school traditions into modern day. With their “Cobbler Collection”, each pair of shoes is hand-crafted by a small team of skilled cobblers. Yes, cobblers still exist! The look and feel of these vintage inspired shoes and boots fits in well with the casual style of Austin. Plus, they’re made from high quality materials and are built for comfort and durability.
Ok, I’m not gonna lie, when I saw the Kickstarter video for this new design of jeans I actually thought it might be a joke. The whole concept seemed to be based around the fact that you need a side pocket on your jeans so that you can easily access your smartphone while driving…ummm…please DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE. There should be a disclaimer on these jeans, I swear. When I finally saw the I/O Denim jeans with the “smartphone friendly” side pocket in person during the Neighborhood, I still didn’t quite get what the point was. But, what do I know? If someone had brought the Snuggie to me and asked for my opinion I would have laughed in their face. Maybe I/O Denim is the future.
Did you attend any of the Neighborhood events during SXSW? What did you think? And, of all like 10 of you who attended the panel I spoke on, did I sound like a total idiot, or was I okay?
keep austin stylish