Pladra builds the perfect shirt, locally
PLAID OBSESSION We live in a post-Etsy world, people, and the latest homemade, zero-kilometer focus is on small-batch clothing production. As usual, the Bay Area is taking a lead here, weaving its green intentions and entrepreneurial zeal into its free-spirited fashion sense and a strong garment manufacturing legacy — and producing stylish duds with enough professional veneer to take to the runway or just out for a beer.
The three sharp dudes from Pladra (www.pladra.com ) — Scott Ellison, Ian Ernzer, and Jeff Ladra — add another Bay tradition to the mix: classically avid sportiness. "As passionate outdoorsmen, we have never found a flannel that we could wear both in the field and to the bar after getting blood on it," they say, and so they set about combining their love of surfing, fly-fishing, camping, hunting, skateboarding, and nature photography with flawless design skills and vintage beauty. (It doesn't hurt that a good plaid flannel is the one item that still unites many of our current style tribes.)
I admit I'm a flannel freak, and Pladra's three current lines, including an awesome one for women, had me wiping drool off my keyboard. But I wanted a glimpse into the new local-production trend, too, and the Pladra boys happily provided, answering my questions over e-mail.
SFBG Pladra is all about plaid flannel — how'd you come to focus on that? Will you be expanding?
PLADRA I think it's safe to say we've all had a few go-to flannels throughout our lives. You know, the one you camp in, then come home and go straight to a bar or concert in, then wear to work the next day — each stain is a story and a memory. In terms of our growth, we'd love to let everything grow at its own pace, although we definitely have some ideas. For now, we're keeping production small and tight. We wanted to start with plaid flannel shirts because they're timeless and represent an iconic outdoor style we feel really connects to life in the Bay Area. It's funny that people peg flannels as a trend, but even the gold miners wore flannel. Jeff grew up here, and his grandparents spent their whole lives building and racing motorcycles. He still has photos of them wearing flannels.
SFBG Right now you're foregoing retail outlets and selling direct from your website. I'm assuming that's to keep costs down, yes? Has this been a problem in regard to getting your product in front of people?
PLADRA That's true, we're selling direct through our website to maintain the lowest price possible. Our goal is not to turn a profit, but to make the best garment possible at the most reasonable price — and our price range is $89–$109. Truth be told, this is what it costs to have a quality, American-made, custom shirt. We've found that people who initially scoff at our prices backpedal when they find out what goes into making something in the USA. Americans are so accustomed to paying for cheap garments that are imported mostly from Asia. We're not condemning that, the truth is that a lot of production out of Asia has great quality. But at a certain point, we need to step back and consider the ramifications that one of the USA's largest imports is apparel. Many U.S. cities used be the home to some of the best and biggest fabric mills in the world. Now what? All the mills are overseas. Very few companies can afford to use fabric milled in the USA. Even denim companies have to use reclaimed fabric.
The direct selling approach certainly makes it difficult to reach a wide range of people off the bat. But we do want to offer reasonable pricing to our customers. We want to focus on the brand integrity and we don't want to dilute our product and blast it everywhere right away. We are taking a slow and careful approach in our growth.
SFBG What were the specific challenges of designing and producing everything in San Francisco?
PLADRA It was really important to us to keep things local and support local businesses. But limiting our geographic range also meant limiting our accessibility to materials that would maintain our desired quality while not forcing our prices to skyrocket. That meant we had to challenge ourselves to search harder for vendors that could deliver great materials and finishing — and we ended up partnering with some incredible ones who went above and beyond to support our vision.
SFBG Pladra isn't just all about hunting and designing. What are some of your favorite shops and bars in SF?
PLADRA Shopping-wise, we really like Union Made in the Castro. Our friends at Park Life in the Inner Richmond and the General Store in the Outer Sunset offer amazing home-produced goods. And the Aqua and Mollusk surf shops have always been amazing at supporting their communities. As for going out, we could happily spend the rest of our lives drinking our way through the menus at Toronado and Alembic. And we just scored one of our favorite clubs, 111 Minna, to host our official launch party. See you there? *
PLADRA LAUNCH PARTY Tues/26, 5 p.m.–9 p.m., free. 111 Minna, SF. www.111minnagallery.com