MILAN — Cool Americana lovers and Woolrich collectors have found an ally in designer Spencer Phipps, who has curated a selection of vintage pieces for the outerwear brand.
The Parsons grad, who previously worked at Dries Van Noten and Marc Jacobs and was shortlisted for his own label for the LVMH Prize in 2019, did not have a personal attachment to the brand, he said, but has always shared the same penchant for Western Americana, making the tie-up all the more fitting.
The partnership, unveiled with an in-store event here, was plotted over the past couple of years, after Phipps started selling vintage Woolrich items on his website as part of his Gold Label selection of higher-end vintage pieces introduced in 2019 to flank his main Phipps brand.
“That’s how Woolrich found me,” the American designer said. “We put the first drop on the website, and we had this woolly poncho jacket, in green plaid, and I received an email [from Woolrich people] saying, ‘What is this? Can we talk about it?’,” he explained.
That triggered a conversation on Gold Label and how its upcycling and secondhand approach could fit into Phipps’ main collection, which led to Woolrich fabrics making a cameo appearance in Phipps’ Los Angeles show last July.
That partnership has evolved again with the first Phipps Gold Label Vintage for Woolrich collection comprising a selection of 150 items that will make its retail debut this week.
About 50 pieces will be sold in Milan, Berlin and New York at local Woolrich stores. The collection includes, among other items, plaid overshirts, puffer and padded vests, cargo pants, rugby polo shirts and Phipps’ favorite, a peacoat with generous lapels bearing a forest green and red plaid pattern. Each piece bears a dedicated Gold Label patch.
“As Gold Label kind of evolved we were able to start something that was a little bit more ambitious, such as trying to find specifically [vintage] Woolrich items, or in a bigger picture way, Woolrich items and things that either feel like in the spirit of Woolrich or update that language into a conversation for today, sort of a contemporary curation,” Phipps explained.
“I love vintage and old stuff… but I don’t want to be nostalgic about it, I want things that fit in the conversation of today, that people can wear in a modern context, a nice bridge between the past and the present, I guess. Woolrich has a ton of stuff, hunting for it was great,” the designer said.
“We tried to curate the edits a little bit locally, for Milan with some Italian flavor, for New York it feels more like American lumberjack, and as for Berlin I can’t really explain it… it’s a more technical, cleaner [selection],” he said.
The collection includes mainly vintage Woolrich pieces thrifted at secondhand stores around the globe in addition to a small selection of pieces rooted in Americana from other brands.
Phipps said he toured about for thrift stores far and wide. “I’m just constantly going to these giant warehouses, dig through and dig through and keep going back. I probably went back five or six times to each of these places to just pull first of all Woolrich [items] and on top of that nice [things],” he said. “Stores would get bales of, say, wool jackets and sort through them and held all the Woolrich pieces for me.”
Phipps didn’t rule out a second installment of the project in the future. “Now I’m trained to spot all the Woolrich pieces,” he said with a chuckle.
Here are Phipps’ top three vintage spots for the best thrift bargains:
Search & Destroy
25 St. Mark’s Place
New York City
Rose Bowl Flea Market
1001 Rose Bowl Drive
Portobello Road Market