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With wind gusts and snow slapping my photographer and me in the face, we take shelter outside of the minimalistically designed store named Meyvn.

Our interview subject is late, and as I look through the glass door, I’m starting to wonder if he’s ever going to come. With a hand over my eyes to get a better view of inside the store, I see a reflection from behind of a well-dressed man approaching us: Noah Zagar. With a black knit hat slightly tilted, a long parka and smooth suede moccasins, he comes toward us and offers a full apology for being late. The moments that transpired after that introduction would lead into passionate talk about menswear and individuality.

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Why would a menswear boutique make a home for itself in the middle of Logan Square among eateries and coffee shops? For Noah Zagar, Meyvn is exactly where it needs to be. Linking up with DJ Tony Kim and Ryan Bardsley, Meyvn was launched in March of 2014 and has solidified itself in the neighborhood. Located at 2627 N. Kedzie, the store isn’t hard to miss with its clean appearance and subtle branding.

 

CUSP Magazine sat down with Zagar and talked about where the menswear boutique is headed and the ever-changing ways of the fashion world.

Q&A – CUSP Magazine & Meyvn

CUSP Magazine: Can you explain Meyvn to me?

Noah Zagar: Meyvn came about after working years in the industry, figuring out what I liked and didn’t like and seeing the space to do it here. I think the brand values great design and things that feel timeless. In essence, it’s a men’s lifestyle brand. There are more and more men’s stores that have popped up in the last four or six years. I think our point of view is something of organic modernism — something that feels fresh and new but still feels organic and wholesome. It doesn’t exist on it’s own. It’s rooted in something a little bit bigger. We’re all into music, and a lot of us are musicians, writers and designers. When you think about what Meyvn is, it’s really the fashion or lifestyle extension of that.

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CM: How did the store come together?

NZ: I moved here from New York about six years ago. I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. I have always worked in retail and fashion, and I was always a sneakerhead when I was younger. I was a skater kid and in a hip-hop group. Music, fashion and art had always been in my life. When I was in school, I started working for some decent companies in New York. I worked some boutiques in Soho … people like Steven Allen, Odin, some designers as well. Over the years, I realized that I like being in the store and the environment. Right before I left New York, I knew I was going to go into these things on this side of my career and the other pursuits were going to be more hobby. When I got to Chicago, I didn’t know what to do. The market is different here, and it’s less opportunity in this industry. I worked for Barney’s New York, and I ended up taking over at Haberdash as their creative director. I never felt comfortable, and not to knock other brands, but it just wasn’t me. After freelancing and doing some trend casting for a while, the opportunity presented itself to open a shop. I started talking to some friends about how to make it happen.

CM: After you left New York, what made Chicago special for you to get this started?

NZ: I didn’t know what Chicago was going to offer when I got here. I think a couple of things happened when I got here. I realized I had some experience that not a lot of people had here, and I could bring that to the table. Chicago, I thought, was an interesting place, because most people I know who decide to do their own thing here do it because they love to doing what they do. The artists who stay here, who are successful, aren’t like, “I need to show them I’m the best painter in the world.” I think Chicago gives you a little bit more room to breathe and lets you do your own thing a little bit more. I really appreciate that. I don’t think I could’ve opened this shop in New York. It just felt right to do it here. Now I can open a shop in Chicago that people from all over the world can look at and see that this is a store that can compete with any store in a major city around the globe.

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CM: What makes this boutique more unique than anything in this neighborhood?

NZ: In this neighborhood, we’re the only clothing store like this around. As far as we differentiate between other clothing stores, it’s a combination of experience. I believe in a slow build. I believe in doing the things you love, and you bring in the things you love. Even if people aren’t familiar with it immediately, it’ll build into something if you stick with it and you do it well. I’m not looking for who’s the hottest designer this season, I’m looking for what really reflects who we are and try to be honest and what we sell. It’s about a honest expression, and people respond to that.

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CM: What brands do you guys offer?

ZM: The most well known brands that we have is Common Projects. I would say they are the benchmark for minimalistic, simple, semi-athletic shoes. Engineered Garments is another relatively well-known brand. Our Legacy is pretty well known. As far as the designer end, Robert Geller would be more on the runway side of stuff that we do. We have some pretty obscure stuff too. TS(S) and Needles are both Japanese brands that have a quirky point of view. Niuhans is a brand from Japan that does really, really simple things really, really well, and that’s what’s so special about them. There’s nothing about it when you look at it from a distance that’s amazing, but when you get closer, you realize how special each piece is. I like stuff like that.

Noah – “I think it’s really exciting for Chicago. There is a strong youth hip-hop movement that’s distinct and has it’s own look and sound. The people that are behind that are doing really cool stuff.”

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CM: What’s your hottest selling brand or item?

ZM: It changes. We do really well with brands like La Paz. Nobody really knows La Pa­z­­, but they’re priced a little bit more reasonably than the other brands. It’s made really well and focuses on beautiful, soft textures and relatively simple things. You may come in here looking for a shirt, but you may not be a fashion person. It’s easy to do well with La Paz. Engineered Garments does well, especially with the online community. It has a cult following, and it’s a big enough collection that if you buy pieces that nobody else has, people are going to come look for it. We do really well with a brand called A Kind of Guise. It comes from Munich, and we’re one of the few handful of stores in the U.S. carrying it. It’s another brand that focuses on texture. You can walk in here and know nothing about fashion, and people touch it and feel it and go, “I want to try this on.” We spread ourselves pretty well, so nothing can just be bread and butter brand.

CM: What are your thoughts on social media integrating with fashion?

NZ: There’s no history. There’s no reference. There’s no deeper appreciation for things. Even with Kanye, he studied a whole bunch of stuff. These kids come up on that, and they’re like, “That’s just what I have to have.” Not everyone is going to be an innovator, so you can’t blame them. I read an interview. It was just a blog. It was nothing serious, but it was this Chicago kid who had this sick sneaker collection. He had all the latest Off-White, Raf (Simons) and Fear of God stuff. People were like, “What’s your prized possession?” He said “Yeezy’s.” They asked him what’s his most prized piece that he has, and he’s like, “A Raf Simons park from two years ago.” I don’t know this guy, you know. Maybe he does really like these things, but that’s not that original.

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CM: What direction is streetwear going?

NZ: It’s the most dynamic it’s been in a long time. It’s a tough question to answer, because the world shifts so much. For a minute, I believe that streetwear and fashion were going hand and hand. I think they’re starting to diverge a little bit. I see experimentation with silhouette and drape. I think Kanye has had a huge influence. You can’t have this conversation without bringing him up at this point. I think Kanye is the end-all, be-all. I really dislike when people copy his style and take what he says as gospel, because quite frankly, he’s still a student. I respect him a lot, and I feel like he’s taken a real interest in [fashion]. You go to Instagram and see a hundred kids dressed just like him.

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CM: Do you feel that streetwear and luxury wear are mixing?

NZ: It’s changed a lot. It’s always been brands that have toted that line. Supreme has been savvy about it forever. You can’t even have this conversation without mentioning them at this point. Brands like Rogan, from back in the day, kind of evolved from t-shirt and hoody with screenprints catering to a New York art crowd. They kind of became a fashion line over time. Streetwear became more adventurous and less worried about what perceived. The tastemakers became less worried about what people perceived. I think kids are going to be kids and be very conscious about that kind of stuff.

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CM: What other brands in Chicago do you think are influencing menswear?

NZ: Influencing menswear? RSVP. You can make the argument that Off-White is a Chicago brand. Sir and Madame. I think Brian and Autumn [Merritt] have really focused on creating their own sense of style and their own brand. You have guys like Fat Tiger Workshop, who have been tapping into the current youth culture in Chicago and working with the likes of Vic Mensa, Chance the Rapper and Savemoney. I think it’s really exciting for Chicago. There is a strong youth hip-hop movement that’s distinct and has it’s own look and sound. The people that are behind that are doing really cool stuff. Me personally, I’m more influenced by people at restaurants and in the food and drink industry. I want to take my cues from them. I think it’s a trap to say, “I want to be like this type of Chicago fashion”. Some of the chefs and artists that I know inspire me to just push myself.

Even with some of the price tags being from the triple digits and upward, I didn’t feel intimidated in Meyvn. The shop carries a certain serene vibe to it. There is a $600 Felt sneaker in the display window, but you can walk in there and feel as if that wouldn’t put a huge dent in your pocket. Being surrounded by so many eateries, it allows the small boutique to stand out a bit more. If you’re into exclusive pieces that are unique in a variety of ways, check out the shop in person or online. You can also follow Mevyn on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Paige Bray
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