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There’s a movement that began in the local pockets of places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Nashville, and Brooklyn. A movement that quickly outgrew its small time influence and began sprouting up in places for the masses, the non-locals. This is known as the artisan culture of American made goods which has put companies from fashion, beauty, home, and food backgrounds onto the consumer map. Independently owned shops quickly took up the vacant building spaces and created stores that are far from a standard retail outpost. Now those shopping excursions involve hunting for paper goods in a tiny letterpress studio, picking out new clothes at a stylist’s pop-up boutique, or sourcing home-wares from a co-op of like-minded designers. This is definitely a movement I am a fan of and when I dropped into a local independent store called Shelter Half I was introduced to The Essential Man a designer working in this great new group of artisans. The crisp cotton pocket squares were the first things that caught my eye from the brand The Essential Man; they were neither the silk variety hanging in the department stores, nor the white linen ones tucked into the coats of grandpas worldwide. These were thoughtfully crafted patterned squares, packaged neatly in a simple sleeve stamped with “TEM”, the brand’s graphically minimal logo. I had the chance to visit the owner and designer Lorezo Diggins in his downtown LA studio where we chatted about blogging, music, and an eye for minimalism.

Lorenzo is a ten year blogger veteran, turned merchandiser, turned designer who garnered a pretty large following with his fashion blog. The brand The Essential Man began in 2011 and featured only the three essentials that Lorenzo considers to be part of everyday life, a hat, tote, and notebook. Equipped with those goods his company began to attract an organic following, people who were engaged in his work and followed the same belief that being close to your buyer base is more valuable than your number of Twitter followers. He compares this to an independent artist, one with no label versus those on a major label. During this time he traded in his blogger name to focus solely on his design passion. His run at a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 didn’t end too well, but it gave him the confidence to grow the brand creating a real life example of that phrase we all hate hearing “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”. Today Lorenzo offers a collection of shirts, men’s accessories, jackets, aprons, and a new venture into home goods. Sitting at his small work table in his office we flipped through the new fabrics that will be part of his home line. These are the same striped, solid, and floral patterns found in his popular pocket squares, but with a soft texture and minimal house logo in place of the “TEM” moniker on his clothes. Lorenzo approaches entertaining at home with that same clean and minimal approach to his clothes. It’s a masculine view of home life styled by and for the modern guy.

I was lucky enough to get a peek into his coveted moleskine journal. The pages are filled with fabric swatches, sketches, logo ideas, and little notes of inspiration. He showed me how he pairs the patterns on his pocket squares with contrasting colors and designs them to be the exact size of a jacket pocket. No flourished folding or peaked points needed, his squares fold in half and slide right into the breast pocket. This isn’t just for the guys who know the importance of the pocket square either, it’s for the clueless dresser and the fashion forward male, which makes The Essential Man an inclusive brand, not an exclusive one. From the pages of his journal to the walls of his studio, Lorenzo lines his workspace with things like images to inspire new designs, books, and propped up cards with phrases, all arranged in clean intentional ways that highlight his aesthetic. Lorenzo himself has that easily approachable attitude found among the artisan designers taking over the shopping scene. He selects the stores that carry his pieces much like you would pick a partner, meaning there needs to be a mutual admiration for good design and a shared investment in each other’s work. This explains why the San Francisco shop Little Paper Planes, along with LA’s Individual Medley and Shelter Half stores carry his work. Everyone is in the venture together and their carefully curated selection of artisan wares is quickly building the new class of cool kids outfitting the closets and homes of the savviest of shoppers.

 

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Thank you Lorenzo for letting us take a look into your great company! You can find more of Lorenzo’s work on his website The Essential Man.

Photos by Popover and Lorenzo Diggins