Discover more from Blackbird Spyplane
Earth's coolest clothing shop, and big-brained insights from the wise king behind it
Popping trends, the new brown (?), fit-pic ouroboroses, how fellas love fabric, and the overall state of sick jawns with Saager Dilawri of Neighbour
Blackbird Spyplane is YOUR no. 1 electronic-mail masterpiece.
Our interviews with André 3000, Nathan Fielder, Jerry Seinfeld, Lorde, Tyler, The Creator, Emily Bode, Phoebe Bridgers, Matty Matheson, John Mayer, Sandy Liang, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, The Kid Mero, Daniel Arnold, 100 gecs, Michael Stipe, Héctor Bellerín, John Wilson, Mike Mills, Ezra Koenig, Action Bronson, Mac DeMarco, Seth Rogen, Danielle Haim, Evan Kinori, Steven Yeun and more are here.
Every issue of Concorde is here.
— Jonah & Erin
Saager Dilawri is the dude behind Neighbour, one of the Top 5 clothing stores in the Western Hemisphere.
F** it — one of the Top 5 clothing stores on earth!
And f**k it — for our money? Right now?? It’s #1, baby.
Over the years at Neighbour, both online and IRL, we’ve admired beautiful clothes … discovered new designers… and copped cherished gems. Many shops might carry some cool stuff but then style it in ways that range from MID to FLUMMOXING to HORRID. Not so at Neighbour, which opened in Vancouver in 2011, and where the buys (which Saager handles) are fantastic and the styling (which Saager handles) rips, too. This can be slightly dangerous from the perspective of “you’re tempted to think you’ll look as fantastic in these clothes as models Kim and James, the latter of whom is 6’1” and somehow wears sz. S in almost everything” — but it’s great from the perspective of “Mach 3+ inspo” on how to combine cool pieces into a fit that’s even swaggier than the sum of its parts.
If I (Jonah) was in a circa-2023 “fantasy fits league” (?) and could “draft” my dream clothing rotation, the s**t would be ~90% identical to Neighbour’s designer roster — which includes Casey Casey, Comoli, Tender, Oliver Church, Evan Kinori, Bode, Lemaire, Man-tle, Mfpen, Margaret Howell, Our Legacy, Auralee, Dana Lee Brown, James Coward, and a bunch more, because the list of slappers on Saager’s racks is ridiculously long. Meanwhile his wife, Karyna Schultz, handles the buying and styling for their women’s store, which opened in 2015, and where the Erin-approved lines include Julia Heuer, Cawley, Cristaseya, Eleph, Sara Lanzi and Studio Nicholson.
On top of all that, Saager’s a thoughtful & swaggy king who’s gifted not only at finding and styling great clothes but at wearing and talking about them, too. So the other day I hit him up and asked him to share some multifaceted Mach 3+ insights into The State of Cool Clothes with Spy Nation.
Blackbird Spyplane: Great jacket, man, is that Tender?
Saager Dilawri: “Yeah, this is a wool-hemp-cotton blend jacket of theirs that we just sold out of. It’s dyed with something called Mars black, and it has such a nice depth to it …”
Blackbird Spyplane: What are some trends that have caught your eye lately, as far as people doing cool s**t with volume, materials, or something else entirely?
Saager: “I mean, obviously, everything is looser right now. It would be interesting if we go back to slim pants and slim shirts — I think we’d all have to work out a bit more! So yeah, definitely volume, but I feel like lately a lot of it has had to do with fabric, specifically the treatment of fabric. Our menswear customers in particular want fabrics that are interesting, and that feel like they have an intrinsic value, as opposed to something that’s overly ‘designed.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: What’s an example?
Saager: “Tender’s a good one — I know you guys just did that post about them. We’ve carried them for a long time, but as of late it’s gained some momentum. There’s all these interesting dyes William’s experimenting with, from minerals or plants, and all these treatments that change the shape of the fabric. And if he uses hemp it’ll take the same dye in a totally different way than if he uses, say, a rinsed cotton. So that kind of science experiment, playing around with color and giving fabric a sense of depth, rather than a flatness.”
Blackbird Spyplane: What colors are catching your eye? My stock answer for the past couple years has been ‘browns,’ which remain hard to beat, but I wonder where your mind goes…
Saager: “I’m kind of loving deep shades of purple. I think purple’s a nice replacement for black. I just got these Our Legacy jeans (pictured top left below) that are kind of a printed windowpane, and they have this purple-and-black hue that, from a distance, just looks like purple.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I’ve found myself vibing off dark purples in just the past few weeks, too! Yet another shout out to Tender, who have some great hadal-dye, muddy-purple pieces out.
Saager: “But, yeah, brown has been my favorite for a while, too. Brown pants especially. I have a pair of Taiga Takahashi triple-mud-dyed engineer’s pants I love.”
Blackbird Spyplane: We’re circling something I think about a lot as we encounter clothes online more and more: The depth, color, texture, and just overall character of a garment might pop in a photo, but it also might only fully register I.R.L. I’m a big admirer of Evan Kinori clothes, and I’m glad I can pop into his studio here in the Bay, because to me what’s special about his stuff really reveals itself in person, in motion, on the body. How much does the I.R.L. ~ online divide figure into your thinking when you’re buying for the store?
Saager: “I do find we try not to buy too much black, if we have an intention of selling it online or, like, solely online — that’s really hard. Like, you mentioned Evan. This season he has a black tropical-wool-linen shirt that’s so beautiful in person, and you’re never going to get the full sense of what it’s like through a photo online. It just can’t translate. So that does sometimes shape what we end up buying. But by now, with a line like Evan’s, and a few others that we’ve carried for a while, there are fans who know what they’re getting themselves into. And hopefully it’s a pleasant surprise for them when it arrives in real life.
“Whereas I do feel like a lot of brands coming out now, things can look so good in photos, but in real life, it’s like, ‘Man, this is shoddy.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: And what’s weird to realize is that, at this point, a lot of people don’t just encounter clothes as photos when they buy them — they experience clothes as photos even as they wear them, because posting fit pics to IG and message boards has become such an inextricable part of how many of us relate to what we wear. You’re getting dressed to produce images for a virtual audience, whether it’s the homies in the chat or strangers on the feed: So you think it looks sick in one picture, and you cop because you think it’ll look good in another picture when you wear it. It’s a fit-pic ouroboros that can totally bypass the “physical realm.” Which, I don’t know, can feel kind of grim…
Saager: “Yeah, but I guess clothing’s about what you want out of it. Like, that’s the beauty of it: How something makes you feel when you’re wearing it, whether that’s through your photo showing up online or you actually wearing it, walking around in it, learning about it as you wear it and growing with it. To each their own.”
Blackbird Spyplane: So magnanimous! Ignore my oldhead prejudices! On the subject of clothes that show up looking shoddy, though, a huge part of what I like about small shops like yours is the level of trust that just isn’t there with bigger, more-impersonal spots. My assumption is that if yr selling it, you’ve actually vetted it.
Saager: “Yeah, and it’s not like everything we sell is something I’d put in my wardrobe personally, but it’s got to be stuff I’m happy with. Like, I’d hate to buy something for the store just because a brand is hype. Because then you’re always chasing — you need to develop your own taste, and then hopefully people start coming to the store to find what’s next.”
Blackbird Spyplane: How much of your business at this point comes from people walking into store, and how much comes from the site?
Saager: “For a while, coming out of the pandemic, it was 50-50 — now it seems like it’s back to about 60 in-store, 40 online.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I was reading something by Spyfriend Lauren Sherman the other day about the vogue for ‘quiet luxury,’ and she alluded to an ambivalence retailers felt during the ‘90s heyday of minimalism, when people went nuts for Helmut Lang and Jil Sander. The argument goes that, with more bold, graphic or “architecturally adventurous” clothes — and clothes with screaming logos — it’s easy for customers to get sick of them more quickly, and to feel like a garment’s dated. Which impels them to buy more clothes, which makes retailers happy. Whereas when minimalism is in, people buy less. As someone who sells lots of understated clothes, do you see that dynamic bear out firsthand?
Saager: “Um, no… I’m sure that’s the case with the kind of guy who’s just looking to get a sweater because they need a sweater, but we’ve found that once someone gets into clothes, they really get into clothes! Meaning that, as much as our customer appreciates longevity, it’s still a fashion customer, and they’re always looking for ‘the next thing,’ looking forward to the next season, regardless of how well something ages. The other caveat being that, at our size, we don’t do a crazy ton of volume, so maybe it’s not as relevant to us.”
Blackbird Spyplane: On the women’s side you guys just started carrying Julia Heuer, who’s been one of Erin’s favorite young designers for a few years now. How do you and Karyna make sure both sides of the shop mesh?
Saager: “Both of us have a shared interest in fabrics and colors and stories, so it just sort of works out — we don’t talk too much about it. Her stepdad is a furniture designer, Niels Bendsten, who started a store here like 40 years ago called Inform Interiors, so she’s grown up with design. It’s been a part of her life forever.
“And if we’re unsure about something, we still might pick up 2 or 3, because we like to take chances on things. There might be some mishaps. I’m looking at a curtain here in the office, and there’s some mishaps behind it as we speak. But it’s never been a break-the-bank-level mishap.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Shout out to mishaps. That’s how you grow & keep yourself sharp!
Saager: “Yeah, I think that’s how stores of our size should buy — take a chance.”
Blackbird Spyplane is 100% reader-supported, so we keep some of our best s**t behind the paywall. Join the Cla$$ified Recon tier if you haven’t — Jonah & Erin
The Global Intel Travel Chat Room is here, featuring earth-spanning GOAT-locale information.
The Cla$$ified SpyTalk chat room is here, full of very cool people with very cool recommendations.
The Blackbird Spymall, full of rare gems, is here.
Our Profound Essays, Mindsets and “Unbeatably Spicy Takes” are all here.
The Master Jawn Index, featuring earth’s best Spyplane-approved things, is here.