NEW YORK, United States — This month, the BoF Spotlight turns to InAisce, the New York-based anti-trend menswear label launched by Colorado native Jona (first name only) whose poetic and meticulously crafted work — simultaneously forward-looking and artisanal — first caught our eye at New York boutique If. “InAisce doesn’t fit into a category,” Jona told BoF, speaking at his design studio on the fourth floor of a former factory building in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighbourhood. “I’m neither Gareth Pugh, nor an Italian artisan.”
Rather, InAisce (pronounced “in-ask-ee”) manages to unite these very different approaches, creating dark, modern, architectural looks that also feel natural, organic and full of passion for history and place. “The man-made, architectural aspect comes from my actual surroundings,” said Jona, gesturing to the industrial environment around him. “The natural part comes from what I’m experiencing in my head — my imagination and my memories of times in Colorado, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan,” he continued.
For this month’s Spotlight, Jona has transformed the BoF logo with a textured tree stump. “I like the woods and I like wood,” he said. “I like the textures that you find in stones, earth and trees,” he added, underscoring the importance of natural elements in his work.
Jona’s extensive travels in Europe and Asia have also been a significant influence on his collections. “I start from [sic] feeling, which for me often means a place,” he said. But for Spring-Summer 2012, rather than focusing on one specific place, Jona unveiled a collection named “An Aeon Drifting,” inspired by the feeling of itinerant homelessness: shifting from place to place.
Over the last decade, Jona has lived and worked in a number of countries, from Italy to Indonesia, but his connection to Japan is surely the strongest. “I fell in love,” he said of the relationship he has developed with the country. In particular, he identifies deeply with the way Japanese society values quality, craftsmanship and attention to detail, something that shows in his work and explains why Jona insists on keeping his production close to home, so he can personally oversee every detail. “It’s all in New York, except for shoes,” he said.
Japan has also played a key role in InAisce’s birth and fledgling success as a business. “Basically, my ‘in’ was in Japan,” said Jona, recalling how the head designer at rising Japanese label Julius, where he once interviewed for a job, encouraged him to start his own business, offering invaluable support, introductions and mentoring. “I think for the Japanese, fashion is a serious business. There’s little glamour and show and a bit more traditional business practice,” he said. “I learned to be pragmatic from day one and through much mentorship and advice was able to develop a profitable business quickly,” he continued.
Unlike many young brands who are tempted to rush into spending their limited time and resources on staging runway shows and generating buzz, Jona has focused on building a small, but sustainable business with strong foundations. “I believe in building the company from really solid product and sales, rather than showing and PR,” said Jona.
The approach appears to be is working. InAisce is stocked at a number of avant-garde boutiques like Layers in London, as well as large department stores like Isetan in Tokyo. The brand has also found resonance with a surprising number of women, which has inspired Jona to make a small number of womens pieces each season.
With the label set to stage an installation-style presentation on 14 September at New York Fashion Week, it is with much pleasure that we shine our Spotlight on InAisce and wish Jona the very best of luck in pursuing his unconventional, expertly crafted vision.
The Spotlight is BoF’s showcase for emerging talent employing creativity and business acumen to make their mark in the fashion business.