a healthy obsession
The two behind Canoe: It's called "heritage" for a reason
For a city as hip as Austin, there are few options when it comes to vintage clothing. There are a handful of boutiques up and down South Congress, as well as a few little gems up north, but many are either filled with hand-me-downs or priced far out of reach.
Enter Canoe: The brainchild of a graphic designer and an artisanal butcher, Canoe is a recent addition to the retail scene in Austin. They sell high quality, classic American heritage clothing and accessories at a reasonable price, both online and at other local Austin retail locations.
Ben Runkle and Natalie Davis, a pair of Texas newcomers, started the company out of their Austin home in 2010. Runkle had a habit of heading to obscure places to search for interesting pieces of clothing for his own wardrobe and soon outpaced practicality. Perhaps the shoes didn’t fit quite right or the jacket was two sizes too large, but the items were just too good to pass up. It was your classic vintage-loving binge.
“We just kind of amassed this collection,” says Davis. “Then [the vintage items] got to the point of taking up the whole guest room, and we were like, ‘Okay, we need to make a decision. What are we going to do with all this?’”
At the time, Davis was experimenting with leather tooling, creating beautiful handmade key-chains. She wanted to sell them as part of her design company, Miss Natalie, but the look and feel was so different that the leather-goods didn’t seamlessly fit in with her existing pieces. They did, however, fit nicely alongside the clothing pieces that were taking up residence in the guest room. So, the couple decided to combine their love for vintage American clothing and leatherwork into a new project that quickly became Canoe.
Sold via their website, Canoe’s clothing line includes various vintage work-wear, such as flannels and down vests, from classic American brands such as L.L. Bean, Pendleton and Wrangler. They also have your feet covered, with work-boots made of rich, soft leather.
“We look back to the kinds of classic looks that stand the test of time,” says Davis. “[L.L. Bean, Pendleton, Wrangler] are 'heritage brands' for a reason.”
Davis and Runkle select the clothing as part of a collaborative effort, but accessories are Davis’ domain. She designs the aforementioned key-chains and recently added a series of hand-carved Opinel knives with beech wood handles that are wood burned and designed with simple, natural patterns. Currently, she’s working on a new line of leather accessories for the home and office.
While most of the vintage pieces were traditionally designed for men, they can be reworked and worn quite beautifully by women. In fact, starting August 14th, Canoe will host a rack at Dog & Pony, a women’s clothing boutique on Guadalupe and 27th. The pieces will still maintain the same aesthetic, but with patterns and silhouettes that are more flattering for the female form.
You can check out their current inventory on their website, but for the more hands-on shoppers, Canoe has several events on the calendar where you can actually meet the duo and try on their wares. A pop-up shop is planned at Bows + Arrows for September 3rd, and they are already preparing for a larger October 15th event at the grayDUCK Gallery in South Austin.
“We like doing craft shows and pop-up events and those things because we get to see how people react to our stuff,” says Davis.
One reaction in particular stood out among the others. A man came to a pop-up event and found a pair of boots that were exactly like a pair his father had given him as a teenager. He explained to Runkle and Davis how he moved to New York as an adult, somehow lost them and was heartbroken. When he saw those same boots at the pop-up shop, he bought them on the spot and wore them nearly every day for the next few weeks.
“There’s a story to these clothes already,” says Runkle. “But people bring their own stories to them, too.”
Head over to Canoe’s website to see what they’ve got in stock currently and to find out about upcoming events.