Profile: East + West
Contributor Adam Pfeifer sat down with Cameron Niederhauser of East + West to chat about their new location in the Crossroads, their roots, and what's next.
What was your first job? Was it in fashion?
Fashion is a bit of stretch, but my first job as a 16 year old was at Pac Sun in the Northland at Zona Rosa. It was a pretty awesome ‘first job’ all things considered. I’ve had at least one pair of Vans Authentics in rotation ever since that gig. My first full-time job out of college was with Baldwin, where I wore a lot of different hats - worked on our wholesale team, managed a few of our stores, was the men’s third-party buyer for a while, and ran our repairs studio.
What led you want to open a men's store in KC?
I had always wanted to do a shop, really. I had known and been friends with Brian Simpson, who started East + West in St. Louis, for a long time and we had always wanted to find a way to work together. So, my desire to do a store and concept that would be really similar to what he had already established sparked this idea where we said, ‘Hey, what if I own and operate an East + West in KC?’ Brian has family in town and I have friends in St. Louis, so we’re in each other’s back yards all the time. It felt like we could partner and build something really special in our cities. We both place a premium on customer service and just genuinely want to give people as positive an experience as possible.
What do you think is the most special part of the store?
For me, it has to be our central lounge area. I wanted to incorporate some sort of seating, not only for the practicality of giving people a place to sit while their friends try on clothes, but also so that it would be a place people felt like they could come and spend time. Plus, I’ve always had a small obsession with mid-century furniture, so that was always going to be a part of the vibe.
Why partner with East + West? What's your relationship with STL like?
The decision to do my own concept or partner with with East + West really boiled down to a simple question: do I want to work by myself or do I want to work with a great friend? Once that thought really settled in, the decision became pretty clear. Plus, having multiple locations under the East + West flag will allow us to work on fun projects with our vendors and mix in more of our own in-house line.
How have you selected the brands?
Most of the brands we carry are brands that I’ve either been a huge fan of or have had previous relationships with. In general, we look for brands that have a distinct and compelling point of view. We’re a casual wear oriented store, but we put a huge emphasis on quality. We believe that products made in the USA deserve special attention and often provide, on balance, a great value for their price, so a lot of the mix revolves around brands that manufacture here domestically. That ethos is important to us.
Name a designer who inspires you.
We carry a brand called Engineered Garments and their designer, Daiki Suzuki, has always been one of the most fascinating and inspiring designers in the industry to me. The attention to detail on Daiki’s pieces are through the roof. He’s a designer whose first principles are durability and utility, with an element of progressive design mixed in. Unsurprisingly, multiple members of the EG team have gone on to start their own lines and projects that build on that ethos as well. I think boutiques like ours get a bit of a reputation for being aimed at young people, but Daiki is entering his late fifties. Age isn’t limiting in the sense that classic design is good design, and anyone can wear it. Daiki represents that for me.
The character of the neighborhood really speaks for itself - incredible artists, James Beard nominated chefs, world class beer. I hope we can successfully add one more cultural element and give some more depth and nuance to the retail scene in the greater downtown area, and ultimately make our neighborhood a more livable and exciting place to work and play in KC.
How do you add to the menswear offerings currently in KC?
I think we add a product selection that’s a big more eclectic relative to what’s currently available in town. With the internet and Instagram, there’s so much access for the average consumer, that to me we add a physical space for a lot of folks to handle in person some of our brands that they’ve only been able to experience online or in other cities. From brands like Engineered Garments and 3sixteen in New York, Rogue Territory in LA, to Norse Projects and Our Legacy out of Denmark and Sweden, respectively, I think our mix plugs in well with the other men’s offerings in KC while filling a niche that to this point, has been largely unmet.
Name 3 essentials that you can’t leave home without.
I carry a Norse Projects tote basically everywhere I go, but the other two things I rarely don’t have on me are a roll-on fragrance from Firsthand Supply, a brand we carry out of Massachusetts, and a piece or two of vintage jewelry.
Current song or album you’ve been listening to, book you're reading, or instagram you're following?
I’m going to give you all three: listening to Conexão by Amber Mark, reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, and following @parlorkcmo waiting for that opening date!
Any specific trends/pieces that you're excited to bring in for fall?
More on a personal note, but I'm excited for fall so I can return to wearing denim jackets. Between 3sixteen and Rogue Territory, we've got some iconic denim outerwear pieces that are perfect fall layering options. Rogue Territory's Supply Jacket has always been a standout.