Photo: William Waldron, courtesy of Elle Décor.
On the weekends, Frank loves to entertain friends. His signature homemade Dutch apple pie and cheeses from the renowned Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg are entertaining staples. “Every cheese has a mouthwatering description that defies you not to buy it,” he says.
Frank isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He grows sea holly in his Hillsdale garden because “they’re spindly and look very masculine.” (He even uses them in our menswear presentations and office decor.) His faithful gardening companion? Dutch, his two-year-old vizsla.
Frank is obsessed with old-fashioned American hardware stores and collects an assortment of timeworn objects. He’s particularly fond of a brand called Estwing that produces hammers that become “even more beautiful as you use them.”
Frank constantly collects books for his country and city houses. One of his favorites is a collection of books from the 1930s and 1940s called “La France Travaille,” which is about French workwear. “I’m inspired by garments that tell a story,” he says.
One of Frank’s favorite home furnishings stores, beloved for its selection of French industrial-style pieces—which he mixes in with Marcel Breuer armchairs and mementos such as turtle shells and antlers—is Germain, located nearby in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
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The name Billykirk comes from Kirk’s full name: William Kirkland. “Our father called me Billykirk,” he says. “Southerners have a thing for melding together first and middle names.” In the workroom, Chris handles the finances and big-picture planning, while Kirk is more focused on each season’s designs, which include everything from wallets and belts to padded briefcases and carryalls.
—MEN AT WORK—
Chris and Kirk started Billykirk while they were both living in Los Angeles. They learned the art of leather making by apprenticing with a third-generation craftsman named Arnold in downtown LA for three years before moving back to the East Coast. They now have a workspace in Jersey City, where they do much of the hand-stitching and -finishing.
—TOOLS OF THE TRADE—
After standing over Arnold’s shoulder and watching him work with leather all day, Chris and Kirk started to buy jack shears, cutting tables, belt strippers and cutting dies from Arnold on layaway. Many of the old-fashioned machines had been previously owned by Arnold’s grandfather.
Chris and Kirk sketch the original designs in their Jersey City studio and source their leather from U.S.-based tanneries such as Wickett & Craig, which specializes in vegetable tanning. They’ve enlisted the help of Amish craftsmen to work on many of their leather goods, and all of the designs are cut, oiled and edged by hand in their studio.
“We’ve always been intrigued by leather and how it changes over time,” says Chris, who points out that often something as simple as a hook or a buckle will inspire a design.
“We work with an heirloom mentality, where you pass things down,” says Chris. “Our products last. They’re not throwaway items.
Photography by Alan Gastelum.
Shop our full collection of Billykirk accessories here.
FABRIC WITH HISTORY
Oxfordshire-based mill Marling & Evans’s fine woolen cloth is renowned for its refinement—it was first established as a hand-weaving shop in the 16th century in the West of England.
READ BETWEEN THE LINING
The inside of our topcoat has a luxurious Bemberg lining, a bespoke-inspired detail you’ll recognize from our Ludlow suit. We like the Bemberg lining because it has an extra-silky hand and is favored by suit makers for its breathability and moisture absorption.
MARK OF DISTINCTION
The red design on the logo is the merchant’s mark, which hundreds of years ago would have been stenciled onto the cloth bales before they left the mill to be exported across Europe.
Ours features an exterior ticket pocket, a detail borrowed from traditional topcoats. Nowadays it’s handy for storing modern equivalents, like MetroCards, your iPhone or tickets to the Giants game.
© 2014 by J.Crew. All Images and materials are copyrighted by J.Crew unless otherwise noted.