While many know SXSW for its innovative interactive panels and unbelievable music lineup, its style sessions are also worth note. A three-day series of fashion industry talks kicks off the festival every year, and later in the week, exhibitors present their shops at the SXSW Marketplace in the Austin Convention Center. I was granted a day pass to enter the Marketplace, peruse the stands, and talk to the artists and creators behind the brands. My “favorite shop” criteria included some sense of intent–brands with a purpose that exist to bring something new to the consumer, whether that comes in the form of unique technique, inspired design, traditional culture, or just a sense of fun. Check out the links below. You just might discover your new favorite brand.
In the spring of 2012, founder Chuck Mumford traveled to the Teton Mountains to ski, when his “high-end sport” sunglasses quickly broke and left him blinded by the sun and unable to shred. He started developing Pit Vipers in the Spring of 2012 as a rugged product that could be shot, sat on, shoved in pockets, run over, and mostly maintain their sun and wind bucking ability. But aside from practicality, Pit Viper is one of the most fun brands I’ve come across. They take something that could easily be pretty dull and make it exciting.
Leatherandvodka founder Kay bought her first Louis Vuitton bag in the summer of 2015. She saw it as a rite of passage — her first designer bag, bought with the money she earned herself. Yet Kay soon felt unfulfilled, that she had the same bag as everyone else, and wanted to make hers unique. A practicing leatherworker, she created a custom handle for her Speedy 35 Bandolier, added some tassels, everyone freaked out and wanted their own Leatherandvodka creation, and the rest is history.
Lacy VanCourt creates every Die Trying TX product using the same hand-operated vintage chainstitch machines that were used to create traditional western wear back in the 1950s. Instead of mass-produced, mechanized processes, the work done on these vintage machines is done by human hands and made one piece at a time, making each item unique and like a work of art in itself.
New Orleans native Mimi Holaday is an immensely talented designer whose love for–and authority in–fashion began when she was young when she’d direct her runway model mother’s wardrobe choices. She uses unique materials to create hats for both men and women, and often seeks inspiration from the 1920s era, self-described “Gatsby meets Gypsy.” Her “Stevie” hat even has an authentic Fleetwood Mac concert ticket from 1977 on the brim. (WOW.)
The Distillery Market’s one-of-a-kind jewelry isn’t just unique, or vintage, but it comes from all over the world. Catelyn Silapachai travels across continents, scouring markets for unique, often literature-inspired pieces. Each one is carefully curated and guaranteed authentic, thanks to Catelyn’s expansive experience and family history with identifying antiques.
“Anyone can sell socks,” according to the Pride Socks website, “but we sell socks that spread love, pride, respect, and inclusion.” The whole purpose behind Pride Socks is that anyone can wear them, and anyone should wear them. Pride Socks encourages individual freedom and expression, and even has a collaboration with nine-year-old Japanese skateboarder Sky Brown, with proceeds going to ISF to help struggling kids in Cambodia. “No gesture is too small to change the world, and we want to change the world from the feet up. When you feel that sense of pride in who you are, we’ve succeeded.”