Kinsman Shop offers essential menswear, life philosophies | Lifespace
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Kinsman Shop offers essential menswear, life philosophies

February 13, 2017

The Anglo-Saxons coined the word “kinsman” to reference any male relative; typically, a brother. In present-day Pittsburgh, a menswear shop of the same name intentionally fosters everything its Old English roots suggest: camaraderie, community, family.

Also, really fantastic-looking menswear.

Courtney Powell, Kinsman’s founder and sole proprietor, drafted the shop’s blueprints upon noting a surprising gap in Pittsburgh’s independent retail domain: “I felt like, all these amazing things are happening in Pittsburgh, right? Menswear just seemed to be really underrepresented.”

When Kinsman opened its doors in June 2016, it became only the second outfitter in Lawrenceville to cater exclusively to men (following Vestis’ launch in September 2015). But for Powell, high-quality wardrobe essentials are a sliver of the equation.

“I wanted to develop a place that was part of this community,” she says, revealing a smartly considered, well-rounded business acumen. “I wanted to create an experience and portray a lifestyle and give people access to that lifestyle.”

After a lap around her flagship, we get it. The lifestyle, that is. Adjectives like bright and airy are imperative in describing the shop’s interior, which required little more than “a fresh coat of paint” before welcoming the public. The tin, copper-trimmed ceiling — an original feature, traditionally prevalent in Pittsburgh’s oldest buildings — appears revitalized here, its extravagance offset by furnishings minimal in design and quantity. None of this is coincidental.

Like many millennial-era consumers, Powell remains in pursuit of an escape from material indulgence. In an effort to simplify her own life, to redefine the meaning of “essential,” she created Kinsman. The takeaway?

“Eliminate the excess,” Powell says. “[Kinsman offers] really curated, simple, functional stuff. All the stuff that you need. Excess does not equal happiness; [it] does not equal fulfillment. If anything, [excess] is detracting from all of that.”

Kinsman’s long-considered collection of goods and apparel starkly contrasts the daunting overpopulation of inventory offered at most chain-retail stores. There’s an authenticity in Powell’s den — a grit, even — that national consumerism has not evolved to support. Physically and philosophically, Kinsman caters to those craving necessity.

Mostly, the shop is a delightful reminder that living simply does not necessarily require a simple life.

Powell says, “I think the Kinsman guy is someone who values a life well-lived, who lives with intention and is deliberate in everything that he’s doing.

“I think it’s easy to think about clothes in a materialistic sort of way, or [in a] superficial [way]. But I don’t view them like that … we all have to wear them. We’re kind of crafting an identity of sorts with them. So, put good, simple, functional stuff on your body.”

In other words: Buy clothing that’s built for longevity, that’s independent of contemporary trends, and that’s made ethically and transparently in the United States.

Kinsman is the breath of fresh air we didn’t know we needed.

Powell’s parting words seemed to arrive unprompted, albeit genuinely. In retrospect, they were almost certainly intended as an aside — but they stuck.

“I don’t really — this sounds ironic — I’m not really interested in fashion. I don’t consider any of this fashion. We’re all just people trying to get by and look OK while we’re doing it, right?”

Photos by Tara Bennett