Vestis - Lawrenceville

At men’s retailer Vestis, expect “less fashion, more style”

April 11, 2016

Upper Lawrenceville’s retail ethos is rising at an impressive rate. At least, that’s how Phil Romagni saw it when he opened Vestis in September 2015. An inviting addition to Butler Street, the men’s apparel and grooming shop offers, according to its owner, “a little less fashion, a little more style.”

What he means is that the articles carried in Vestis are well-constructed; built to stand the test of time. If you’re after the latest trend, you won’t find it here. These pieces don’t come with unspoken expiration dates. “I’m really trying to focus on stuff that’s going to last for a long time and be kind of classic,” says Romagni. He describes his inventory as a collection of “nicer basics,” adding, “I don’t think there’s anything in here that’s too flashy.”

He’s correct: The shop’s aesthetic epitomizes maturity and resilience. Original wood floors, exposed brick, and a subtle earthiness allow the space to feel as timeless and comfortable as the clothing that fills it.

Vestis - Lawrenceville

Romagni, who is brand new to business ownership, works directly with national, independent retailers to curate his selection of ethically made threads. As the store’s sole proprietor and manager, he’s no stranger to hard work — a quality he shares, naturally, with the like-minded founders of Vestis’ featured brands.

A few of his favorites: Jungmaven, a Seattle-based company that campaigns heavily in favor of hemp-farming and water conservation; The Sock Hop, a family-owned and -operated custom shirt shop in New York; and Corridor, another N.Y. brand that Romagni says is backed by “one guy, who started up a couple years ago and makes everything himself.”

But one garment stands out among the rest. Designed exclusively for Vestis by Camp Hero — a vintage-inspired accessories company based (of course) in New York — the infamous “Pittsburgh belt” is a must-have for the ‘Burgh-proud guy. Hand-sewn and -beaded on American leather, the pieces features Pittsburgh’s iconic civic crest and hypocycloid. “We collaborated on it for a couple months to get the design down,” Romagni notes.

Vestis - Lawrenceville

So, what can we expect next from Vestis? For now, its owner is taking time to hone his craft and savor well-deserved success. Despite doing “very little advertising,” he says he’s thrilled with how receptive the neighborhood has been — and credits its supportive retail community for his word-of-mouth customers.

“There are a bunch of [independent entrepreneurs] that opened up at the same time, specifically in Upper Lawrenceville,” he says. “There’s a little ad-hoc business district, or something like that. Between me, and Liz [Quesnelle] from the Gilded Girl, the people at the Butterwood, Marissa [Vogel] from Calligramme, the people from Von Walter and Funk…we’re trying to be real supportive to one another.”

In a community that advocates camaraderie over competition, Romagni’s timeless venture is slated to thrive.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TARA BENNETT