Adsum is a company from New York who make really smart, stripped-back clobber for everyday life.
It’s the sort of stuff our measly words can’t really do justice, so to save you the nonsense, we thought we’d get them to talk you through it instead.
So without further ado, here’s an interview with designer Peter Macnee about Adsum, NYC and the future of clothing…
First things first, what does Adsum mean? Does it mean anything?
The name means ‘Here’ or ‘I Am Present’ in Latin. Students in Latin class would say "Adsum" for attendance roll call. I liked the way Adsum looked when I came across the word and that its meaning is simple.
How would you describe it? Is it outdoor wear? Is it sportswear? Is it something else?
I think it's more outdoor wear than sportswear. Sportswear gives me the heebie jeebies because we're not trying to be the next Nike or Adidas. We like making quality clothes that you can wear anywhere. We end up making outdoor and sportwear styles because raincoats, down filled vests and fleece zip ups are staples in our closets.
How did it start?
After working for a few big brands in New York I decided I wanted to start making clothes of my own so I approached Mark McNairy's pattern maker in the city to help make a Balmac coat I had designed on my off time. It snowballed from there.
Am I right in saying you used to work at Woolrich Woollen Mills? What was that like? How did you get involved with clothes?
I did a couple seasons of graphic design for Mark when he was the creative director for Woolrich Woolen Mills. I met Mark while I was a product developer for Billionaire Boys Club. Working with Mark was cool. He's been involved in menswear for so long that he knows exactly what he wants when it comes to design. I was also lucky enough to visit Japan with him and they are crazy for Mark. It blew my mind getting to casually meet some of the most influential Japanese designers over there through Mark.
I learned how to make clothes in Manhattan though Mark. I’ve learned how to manage a business on the fly — lots of trial and error and asking people I trust for advice. I’ve also learned that advice is cheap. At the end of the day, you have to know what you believe in and follow your gut.
How many people are involved in Adsum?
There are four of us now. Me, Jason, Christian and Joon. But like I said, the wider circle is much bigger. I’m always talking to friends, family and people in the industry I respect.
I’ve got no experience designing clothes. Is it hard? Where do you start with a design? How long does it take to get an idea out of your head and into production?
I think good design comes from honest, original ideas. If you're following others in the industry too closely you'll never do anything amazing. Creating a piece of clothing from scratch is tough because it requires a lot of focus.
Each collection takes around a year from start to finish. I always pick a jump off point, a book, a musician or a sport. It's important to have a general point of inspiration that you can refer to throughout the entire design process. It helps with decision making.
Looking at your stuff, it’s all pretty luxurious stuff. Where do you get the fabrics from?
Thanks Sam. We get our fabrics from all over the world. We try to sniff out the best mills in the world that are renowned for making a certain type of fabric. Japan for wovens / knits, Korea and China for taffeta and three layer tech fabrics, Italy for wovens and the USA for wovens and knits.
Going on from that… is it important where things are made?
We started making stuff only in the garment district in NYC, but there is a ceiling to what you can make well in the city. We slowly moved production to where we needed to go to make things at the quality level we want. We're doing our technical outerwear in China now and we're very happy with the product. It is hands down better than what we would be able to make in the US.
I find it a bit frustrating that a lot of our customers have a preconceived notion that anything made in China is crap. It's not true.
Do you think there’s a right way and a wrong way to make clothes?
There is good sewing, nice fabrics, nice trim and there are shit fabrics, bad sewing and bad trim. We always want to make clothes using the best fabric and trim possible. One of the core tenants of Adsum is honesty. I'll never pull the wool over our customer’s eyes.
Your stuff is fairly technical, whilst still looking pretty subtle and classy. Is this a conscious thing? Do you think a lot of tech gear can sometimes look a bit too futuristic for the normal man?
That is Adsum in a nutshell. We love technical clothing but we don't need our clothing to stand out for being technical. We try to make clothing that you'll hold on to for a while. I think that some of the tech sportswear clothing in the market can be a bit silly, but that's just me. I prefer restrained style rather than being someone that stands out in a crowd.
What sort of stuff did you wear growing up? Do you look back at all for influences?
My mom used to order me and my brother the same style in different colors from the Patagonia catalogue when I was a kid. We would have matching drawcord shorts and jackets but in different colors. My mom would stitch labels with our last names on the outside of our clothes when we went to camp.
I am heavily influenced by sports because I played a bunch growing up. I was always really into the warm up gear and the jerseys we got for each team I played on. I’ve always liked to hang out with people in different groups. I think I’m drawn to the outsiders, or maybe it’s just people who are really passionate about what they’re into, whether that’s sports, music, skateboarding, or even academics (which wasn’t my thing at all). You can tell when someone is authentic, and I find people who are authentic tend to have authentic style.
Recently, we’ve been looking to vintage clothing found in books or local BK stores for inspiration. It’s been an important part of our development, and a lot of what we pick brings me back to my earlier days.
How important is culture when it comes to designing clothes? Do you find you’re influenced a lot by films and music and that sort of thing?
Definitely. Our current collection was inspired from an article I read in Outdoor magazine. The article is about a guy named Stealhead Joe and the time he spent fishing the Deschutes River.
Do you have a favourite Adsum item? Which bit are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of the tech stuff we do, but one of the things that stands out is a really simple hoody we did early on. It was one of the OG pieces that we started with. I think the fit is perfect. There are ample amounts of room throughout the body with perfect raglan sleeves.
What other clothes brands are you into?
Nananimca, Beams, A.P.C, Patagonia and Battenwear are a few of the obvious ones. I’m also inspired by stuff like Gill Sailing gear, Vintage LL Bean, Bottega Veneta and Anatomica.
Adsum is based in New York. How long have you lived there?
I've been in the city for six years but I lived outside the city for half my life as a kid. I moved around a lot as a kid, which has definitely influenced how I see the world. I live in BK currently and our office is right around the corner.
Why do you think New York is still such a big force when it comes to clothes and art and music and all that stuff? Do you reckon this will change in the future as it gets more and more expensive for young people to live there?
New York is a beautiful city. It attracts the world's best talent in all fields. There is a pulse in the city that makes it unique. It has to do with its density and the people that make up the city.
If you look at the history of NYC, artists always move to the outskirts of where the people are living to get their buck to go a little further. Soho was a cheap place to live back in the day so artists and musicians flooded the area. It got developed and the artists bailed. I find that a lot of the younger people live in Brooklyn, Astoria, New Jersey and Long Island now. It only takes 45 min on a train to get into the city.
My research suggests you grew up in Canada. I’ve never been there. How does it differ from the United States? And how do Canadian’s differ from Americans?
I was asked the same question a couple weeks back. Canadians and Americans are very similar. I like to think Canadians have more of a laid back demeanour. You spend more time getting roughed up in the outdoors growing up. I think that it does something to help you not sweat the small stuff as much.
People pay a lot of money to go on holiday in New York. Where do people who live in New York go on holiday?
It's pretty expensive to get outside the city. The real wealthy folks have places out on Long Island in an area called the Hamptons. There are stereotypes for the Hamptons but it's beautiful out there. I prefer heading upstate for hiking and swimming holes.
What do you reckon clothes will look like in 50 years?
I think it's inevitable that technology will be more heavily built into clothes. The kind of thing where it will be normal for your sweatshirt to be able to tell your heart rate or having a solar panel on top of your hat. That said, classic design stays in style. Call me in 50 years and I’ll probably be wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.
What do you get up to when you’re not designing clothes? Do you find it hard to switch off from Adsum sometimes?
It is really tough to switch off from Adsum. It requires a lot of attention for where we're at right now. I try to play soccer a couple times a week. We've got an Adsum soccer team and we play against other clothing brands and marketing shops. I listen to a lot of music and cook quite a bit.
Okay, I think that's all I've got. Any words of wisdom you'd like to pass on?
Try to always stay positive. Don’t drink milk past its expiration date.
See the Adsum stuff here.
Portrait by Josh Rothery, clothes photos by Adam Hindmarch.