Kith Takes Streetwear to the Mountains

Founder Ronnie Fieg discusses the new Snarkitecture-designed Aspen location

Streetwear as a truly ubiquitous element of pop culture is a relatively nascent phenomenon. Limited sneakers and boutique hoodies in the pre-internet age were largely relegated to global downtown centers of fashion in major cities like New York, London and Tokyo. But thanks to the rise of social media and online retail garm aficionados in Everytown, USA can now follow (and shop) trends as fervently as their urban counterparts. The growing consumer base creates opportunities for brands and retailers to experiment with both their products and how they’re sold. The latest example is NYC-based sneaker and streetwear label Kith’s Aspen pop-up location and accompanying capsule collection featuring mittens, a rain suit and a snowboard, among other offerings.

“We launch a pop-up shop every year, and with last year being Kith’s fifth year anniversary I wanted to expound on the experience we create,” says Kith founder Ronnie Fieg. A hustling New Yorker to the core, Fieg started out in the stockroom at a local sneaker shop at age 12. He eventually worked his way up to head buyer and led collaborations with brands like Asics, Sebago and Red Wing. In 2011, Fieg and co-founder Sam Ben-Avraham opened the Kith locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

From the beginning, Fieg placed an emphasis on heightening the shopping experience. For the Aspen pop-up, all of the inspiration came from the location. He knew a mountain town was what he wanted, but it wasn’t until he said, “Kith Aspen” aloud that the idea started to become real. After one visit to the famed Rocky Mountain resort town, it was settled.

“Aspen is the perfect balance between luxury and rugged as the town and surrounding sights are gorgeous but the weather and elements are very harsh,” Fieg explains. “This juxtaposition served as an exciting motivation for this project.” Combining the brand’s minimalist New York aesthetic with a mountain-ready collection involved bringing in a number of collaborative design and manufacturing partners including Columbia, adidas, New Era, Capita, Union Binding Co, Tumi and Timberland. Ranging from technical outerwear to a full snowboarding setup, the capsule collection is a comprehensive Kith treatment of all things mountain style melding function with an aesthetic that’s fit for the lift line or NYC sidewalks.

While the capsule is available online, to get the full experience you’ve got to visit the Aspen store. Working with longtime retail design collaborators Snarkitecture, Fieg sought to create a shopping experience that is both in line with the brand’s aesthetics and pays homage to its high elevation home. Design manager and Snarkitecture partner Benjamin Porto sites openness and an affinity for perfection as the keys to success for the continued partnership.

The bright, stark interior of the store is focused around a series of precision-cut wood panels that lead the eye throughout the space. “Referencing the familiar mountain landscape, each panel is cut to create a jagged archway,” explains Porto. “These arches get progressively smaller and their color increasingly darker, giving the impression of an icy cave.”

A cursory look in the store suggests extreme minimalism; with virtually no products on display save for an artfully lit snowboard and a dressing room. A few paces past the entrance and various parts of the capsule collection become visible creating a literal experience of discovery. “The products are displayed on the wall space in between the panels, initially hiding them from view until the visitor moves through the store,” Porto says. “We try to create environments that encourage movement and unexpected moments.”

It’s the type of environment Fieg sets out to create in all of his Kith stores—one in which consumers who are as passionate about detail as he is can intimately engage with products—whether it’s a pair of knit sneakers or a pink fleece hoodie. Bringing the culture and design of streetwear to the mountains was unexpected, but like everything else Fieg seems to touch, it’s turned to sold-out gold. On New Year’s Eve there was a line down the block anticipative a midnight release, with many buyers driving over four hours from Denver. On any given afternoon when the chairlift stops spinning at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, the store suddenly becomes a hub for the town of under 7,000’s budding streetwear community. It’s a visceral reminder that though streetwear is now everywhere thanks to social media, it’s most alive in brick-and-mortars.

Images courtesy of Kith