Meet Sam Larson of Lone Flag
When did you get the idea for Lone Flag and how did it all come together?
I have a background working in the apparel / accessories industry and was introduced to the menswear / denim world in a new way about 5-6 years back at the original pop-up flea show in NYC. I became obsessed with things made well both aesthetically and functionally, but most specifically denim from that point on. It was such an amazing experience for me that really was the catalyst for everything that is Lone Flag today. Once I had experienced some of these iconic brands in that setting, it was really hard to go back to the offering available to me in Southern, CA where I lived. We had nothing like that out here unless you lived in SF. I know it's not that long ago, but at that point there weren't a ton of menswear spaces across the country in the vein of what I was into at that moment which was a crossover between some of the traditional style brands with a hybrid of contemporary designers. There were some great stores for sure, but it was pretty limited and inaccessible from where I was. I had always wanted to start my own company at some point, and it seemed like something I could pull off (not knowing how brutally hard retail really is). In 2013 I quit my job working for a distribution company for brands and started Lone Flag, it was a risky and dumb idea at best since I had a wife, family, and mortgage (so glad my wife is so cool and gave me so much grace). I wish I could say it was a smooth and easy breakthrough process, but it wasn't. Tons of hard work, more hard work, and lots of help from family and friends along the way to make it all possible. It's been an evolving company ever since that point in time in mid-2013.
Who is behind Lone Flag?
Well, to begin, the idea for the name came from wanting a moniker on the goods that just stood for an understated aesthetic approach that was made well. I didn't want a brand because at that point in time I was so tired of over-branded product. There was this lingering idea for me that an icon could exist that just stood for quality, so at some point I just had this vision of a black flag on our garments in the trim or the tag. From that point on, we needed a name. It couldn't just be a symbol so Lone Flag became our name because we represented a single black flag as a moniker for our brand (literally..a stand-alone flag), the brands we work with, and the overall curation of the space in store as well as digitally. The other important element of the moniker was that it wasn't a person, it was bigger than that because I wanted the business to be about a team, a family, and a focus on our ethos more than about a founder.
All that said, right now Lone Flag is really signified in the ethos of who we are and the team that works here. It's no individual person, it's our collective approach to how we do business and how we treat people that is behind Lone Flag. From the beginning, we made a mission statement that LF was about community, quality, and service. Offers could come our way, ideas could be explored, new avenues for us could pop-up, but if they weren't ideas or opportunities that made us better at being communal, offering quality, or advancing our service, the answer would be no. That's our compass as a business and will always be. Everything about Lone Flag is about other people, it's not about us. How can we treat people better, serve them more, and offer them value? Those are the driving questions for all endeavors for us. If we do that, we're building family that's way more important than the goods we carry.
What are some of your favorite brands that you carry?
The first brand we ever stocked was 3sixteen and they remain close friends of ours to this day and a staple in our shop along with Rogue Territory. At the moment though, I'm personally really into more contemporary hybrid brands like Reigning Champ, Port, Carhartt WIP, and Outclass. But all the guys here have their own feel and preferences here so that keeps us really balanced. Keng and Dre who manage the shop are doing most of the buying now so a lot of our offering exudes their feel at the moment and they are into some more traditional stuff as well. Keng wears a lot of Nudie and Norman Russell while Dre tends to be into Left Field, Railcar, and Freenote. Justin, who does all our photo and web is into sneakers. The balance in the middle of all of that is really good, it gives us our edge. For all of us, I think we are universally pretty hyped on Gitman Vintage for shirting and our in-sore offering for the brand, we definitely all agree on that.
What's your favorite product in the shop right now?
I'm biased, but we have the best basics in the business. Our team works with a great LA factory to source, cut, and dye basics in our signature curved hem fit and they wash and age super well. I probably have 10 of those tees and wear them more than anything else in my closed, literally every single day alone or under wovens. When I travel my wife always laughs that my bag is just stacks of black and grey LF basics and dark denim. Outside of that, I have tons of denim, but probably wear Nudie Brut Knut black denim or my Reigning Champ fleece shorts more than any other things in my closet. We have so many amazing seasonal drops from brands, but I really default to basic monochromes and things that I can wear every day.
What do you do when you're not in the shop?
I'm a dad so spending time with my wife and kids is super important. If I'm not in the shop I'm trying to get some time in doing dad stuff. Most of the week I work in our studio across from the shop as we have a design / marketing agency there called Other Sons so I spend a ton of time during the week catching up with the team in there and working on other projects. We have a brand called Palm High as well as one called HOLD so I spend time with Dre working on those too and planning out future projects. Outside of that, I surf, run, and listen to podcasts. Recently I've been reading a ton so I guess I'm a nerd too.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
It's fun to draw inspiration from others, I think that's pretty vital to keeping the drive alive and a ton of different things have been influential to me along the way. Right now I read a lot so I find that I glean so much from people doing things well in all industries and I find a lot of wisdom from great books / podcasts / periodicals. In terms of Lone Flag specifically, I've been inspired by a lot of other brands and stores along the way that have definitely paved the way to help us find our own space. Back when we started I was a fan of brands like Norse Projects for their aesthetic and stores like Unionmade for how they approached retail curation and Context for how they approached business with a regional / geographic feel. A lot of what we built has been on seeing others do things well in different areas and niches and then being pushed to do what we do well too in our own way. We spend time in NY at all the shows throughout the year and meet with brands in person as well as all our friends from other retail projects so that feeds the drive as well, we always get back with more gas in the tank after we've been out on the East Coast for the week. Lastly, I'm a man of faith so I find that prayer and meditation give me hope, peace, and drive when things seem less inspired. I want to live for a reason and with purpose so that's a constant drive I have to keep at the forefront of everything I do.