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.
“I wanted to develop a place that was part of this community,” says Kinsman founder and sole proprietor Courtney Powell. “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 shop in Lawrenceville to cater exclusively to men (following the launch of Vestis in September 2015). But for Powell, stocking high-quality wares and wardrobe essentials is a sliver of the equation.
“Hopefully [menswear] keeps growing as a part of the community,” she says. “That’s kind of my hope overall with Kinsman — that it would start at community. I wanted to create an experience and portray a lifestyle and give people access to that lifestyle.”
With a glimpse at her storefront, 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. An original tin ceiling with copper trim — though prevalent in Pittsburgh’s oldest buildings — is revitalized here, its extravagance offset by furnishings minimal in both design and quantity.
Like many millennial-era consumers, Powell remains in constant pursuit of an escape from material indulgences. In simplifying her own life, in resorting only to what is essential, Kinsman was born.
“The idea behind Kinsman is that is should eliminate the excess,” she explains. “It’s really curated, simple, functional stuff. All the stuff that you need. I don’t want anyone to come in and feel overwhelmed, like there’s a ton of shit, you know? Excess does not equal happiness; [it] does not equal fulfillment. If anything, it’s detracting from all of that.”
Kinsman’s collection of goods and apparel is a far cry from that of retail chains, which tend to feel daunting. There’s an authenticity here — a grit, even — that national consumerism hasn’t evolved to support. Physically and philosophically, Powell’s shop caters to those craving necessity.
“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,” she says. “He’s really trying to craft a life and a lifestyle that suits him, and is for himself, and not for anyone else.
“The stuff in this shop, the way that I see it, should be the tools that you’re using to build that lifestyle that you want. I think it’s easy to think about clothes in a materialistic sort of way, or superficial. But I don’t view them like that. I think 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. You know what I mean?”
She means ethically and American-made goods; transparent supply chains; and classic, well-made fits and fabrics independent of contemporary trends.
It’s 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. Still, 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?”