Shoplight - Office Hours SLO
Effortlessly cool with years of effort - I think this is the way James Fucillo, owner of the SLO clothing boutique Office Hours, should be described.
Having spent the past 25 years becoming an expert on all things sustainable menswear, James is at the top of his game. A master thrifter since high school, James can pick out quality simply by running his hands along a rack of clothing. In his suit-wearing business days, he fell deep into the online rabbit hole of tailoring theory and practices. More recently, James has become an advocate for what he terms “farm to closet” clothing. James is a #slocal example of the conscious consumer described in Elizabeth Cline’s new book The Conscious Closet.
James’ passion for complete transparency in the clothing industry is apparent— most notably in his “farm to closet” ideology. The idea behind “farm to closet” is that a consumer can know everything about their garment—from where the textile plant is grown, to where the finished garment was sewn. This “farm to closet” idea aligns itself with the organic and closed loop fashion movement. Organizations like Global Mamas, Pact Organic, Mata Traders, and Winter Water Factory all have information on their websites about the fibers used in their clothing, the process for dying their garments, and who made the clothing. If there is information the consumer is interested in that is not listed on the organization’s website, the patron can email or call the organization to find out what they want to know. A lot of fair trade products even have the artisan’s name signed on the tag.
At Office Hours, James can tell you almost everything in the "farm to closet" journey of each article of clothing he sells. During our interview, James picked up a pair of Mister Freedom jeans and described its journey to me:
organic cotton for the denim was grown in Texas
indigo for dying was grown on a co-op tobacco farm in Tennessee
textile was woven at (the now closed) Cone Mills White Oak in North Carolina
garment cut and sewn in Los Angeles
James was pleased that he could inform his customers that every part of that pair of jeans was grown and constructed in the USA and had never left the USA. James is also quick to note that things being "made in the USA" is not the be-all-end-all. However, he acknowledges that products completely developed in the USA might lend themselves to more transparency.
All of the hand picked items in Office Hours also align with James’ desire for men to have a “swiss army knife” wardrobe-- meaning that everything in a man’s wardrobe should be useful and serve a purpose. The “swiss army knife” of a man’s closet is equivalent to a woman’s “capsule wardrobe”— having a handful of classic pieces that can be mixed and matched endlessly. The practice of building this “swiss army knife” wardrobe relies predominantly on the willingness to invest in well made pieces that will last a life time.
James echoed the sentiment Cline poses in her book The Conscious Closet, “Men’s clothes are still on the whole better made than women’s, as the styles change more slowly and more durable design is expected”. The example James gave me for the well-made, slow to change style of men's clothing was a pair of Levi's jeans. He told me to go online and look up a pair of Levi’s jeans from the late 1800’s, then note how they look almost identical to a pair of Levi’s jeans still in production today.
However, just because men’s silhouettes are slower to change and there is a general expectation that men’s clothes be sturdier, it does not mean that menswear is not also being pushed through the fast fashion wheel. Walk by the window display of H&M and you will see mannequins flaunting hip, cheap men’s clothing. James’ wish is that men will realize that if they come in to Office Hours and buy a pair of $99 jeans that are built to last a lifetime rather than buying 5 pairs of cheap jeans from H&M that will fall apart within the year, the consumer will actually be SAVING money. Additionally, the consumer will experience the joy and satisfaction of watching their clothing naturally fade, break-in, and evolve over time. Again, to reference Cline, “ . . . many quality natural materials break in and age beautifully, rather than wear out and break apart.”
I asked James what his advice would be to help those who struggle with fast fashion addiction. He stated simply and poignantly, that the first step is finding a personal style and then accepting that investing in well-made clothing will save you money over time. Throughout the rest of our conversation, James indicated to me that once a consumer understands these two things (personal style and the importance of well-made garments), they are free to buy only the things that they truly love.
Go into Office Hours and talk to James. As I took notes in the store, I watched as he assisted each patron one-on-one and talked them through their purchase decisions. James can show you what to look for in garment stitching, give you tips on how to care for each item, and even has a portable mini denim loom to demonstrate have the textile for a pair of jeans is made.