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Introducing Racked National's newest feature, The Breakfast Club, wherein we convince all sorts of people in the fashion industry to eat breakfast with us and, totally beknownst to them, we plonk a tape recorder in the middle of the table while they eat.
Today's Breakfast Club victim is Scott MacKinlay Hahn, a founder of Loomstate—a casualwear brand Hahn created with Rogan Gregory that's "dedicated to creating demand for certified organic cotton using socially and environmentally responsible methods of production."
Hahn: In New York it's sort of hand-to-mouth, everything's at your fingertips. It's 24/7, you can get anything you need. You don't need anything in your refrigerator because there's a bodega less than a block away. Whole Foods is, in a lot of cases, under people's buildings. It's a feeding stall—you don't have to do anything but stop in there before the end of the day.
Your life being facilitated like that is, on one side, convenient, on the other side, scary.
I lived in NYC for a while and then moved out to Bushwick about four years ago. I felt like living in New York is taking some shortcuts to things that would kind of—like that contradiction I mentioned, I'm like most New Yorkers, I'm contradicted, I have inconsistent patterns—we're talking a lot about being really thoughtful about your choices and how you live and being examined and measured, not in a way that's obsessive but in a way that's empowering and sort of provide that quality of life. Slowing it down a little bit and figuring out what it is you really want—not being told what you want.
To do that, I think you need to create space, you need to have some distance form your routine. There's an element of commuting or being around a socioeconomic sort of community that's a little more less fortunate, less privileged, kind of less affluent—taking a lot of the amenities of what our lives have out of the equation and feeling the absence of that changes your perspective. And that's valuable, so it's like an exercise, it's like a fast.
So the reality of moving to Bushwick gave me light and space I didn't have in New York City—in a community that's kind of an industrial utopia. It was definitely more inspiring artistically in a way. Even the street vibration out there, it's a little bit harsh. It's sort of place you would never decide or aspire to live. It's changing, but the way I grew up—it's literally the farthest place from where I'd say, 'I'm going to live there one day.'
I had proximity shock, without a doubt. In New York if you live anywhere between 14th Street and 42nd, you can pretty get anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes in a cab, depending on time of day. But to sit on a train for 15 to 30 minutes, wait for something that you don't have control over, it starts forcing you to accept things in a way and be considerate of things you're not, when you think you can get anything you want.
So there's something to that.
I was there for about three years. Now I still live in Brooklyn, basically in Williamsburg proper, I'm on the other side of the river. The personal experiment part—it was and it wasn't.
On some level it's about choices and tradeoffs. So anywhere you go, you're going to end up with pros and cons to what choice you made—even if you're very affluent and you have the ability to live in any neighborhood you want, you're still going to have tradeoffs in New York. Because everything has a special, incredible sort of dynamic to offer.
The things I miss about Bushwick, you can only get in Bushwick. I miss the young art students that are out there, the raw aspect of that culture, the progressive identities that go on, the passion—a combination of kids out of college, sharing lofts and going to art school, people that are new to NYC that are coming here and sort of living there because, economically, it's one of the only places they can afford, which brings something raw and very authentic. And the ethnicities, you know, it's a mash-up of communities like Spanish and Dominican and Asian. It's all mixed up out there, and it's real. It's families, too, public schools, projects.
Where I live now is gentrifying at a faster pace, there's a lot of real estate development. It's just a little bit of—it's not as intense. When you get to Brooklyn, it's just a little more laid back.
And if you're in New York, for nine or ten years like I was, you think you're never going to go there unless you get married, have a family, have kids, need more space. But to do it as somebody who's in my shoes, making a choice, I'm enjoying it.
The building I live in is very efficient. It's a six-story building. The building was built recently, it was finished about a year ago, a year and half ago, it's a new construction, it was done by a guy named Rob Herschenfeld, who developed a lot of the lofts out in Bushwick. He sort of helped build that community. This is his first attempt at a genuine greeen construction project where's he using reclaimed materials, salvaged brick, a bit of a scrappy approach to putting it together, but it's done really well.
I think the bureaucratic aspects of getting LEED certification for him didn't make sense—he's a bit of an antideveloper. For him, he and his partners know it's done a certain way, and he communicates that through the physical realities of that building, not through certification.
There are a lot of small family farms around the world that are farming organically, but don't have the ability to certify themselves—which costs a few tousand dollars. So the return on that for a family whose crop might be worth just that for a whole year is a big investment, so they can't trade as a certified organic fiber or food.
So it's funny that Rob made a choice not to.
I've got some of the roof carved out to grow things—we're starting to grow tomatoes, carrots, lettuces, peppers, some roses.
Loomstate and Loomstate for Surf Lodge Spring Summer 2010
Loomstate's a really simple story. It wasn't over-thought. It's kind of a few different things that occured that led us to start that brand.
The first brand we had is called Rogan. That brand got popular quick.
We noticed a lot of other bigger companies appropriating our ideas creatively—it's the industry.
Loomstate was birthed out of the idea of creating a truly sustainable company giving our factory a product that they could make money with. Even though it's this idea of being environmentally conscious, inspired by nature, and socially responsible, it was really born out of wanting to make our factory profitable. It has to go hand-in-hand. And we wanted to create a criteria that raised the bar in supply chain operations. So, using certified organic cotton was the only way we were going to make jeans.
So now we have this company that was done by guys who had run another credible company, so everyone was watching us. All of a sudden we had this new idea that we were saying was the way forward.