The fine-tuned simplicity of this dopp kit is what makes it so standout. Matt Singer thought of everything: double handles that make it that much easier to tote and toss into a duffle bag, two zippers that allow you to open it from the middle and still yank it fully closed when it’s stuffed to the brim, no nooks and crannies in the lining, so you can easily wipe it clean when your toothpaste leaks. The bag is made (in America!) of 18-ounce cotton canvas and is lined with PVC. At 4-by-6-by-10 inches, it is big enough for even the most criminal product junkies. It comes with a red comb imprinted with “CUT THAT HAIR YOU HIPPIE” and an art book with a letterpress cover that features Matt’s favorite New York barbershops, as illustrated by Jason Polan. Note: We think this makes a tremendous father’s day/graduation/summer b-day gift.
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Meet The Designer
Matt Singer struck out on his own in 2009, not just to launch a line of shirts, bags, and eyebrow-raising accessories, but also to build a brand—a pursuit that he’s been prepping for since his very first job. After college at Ohio Wesleyan, the Baltimore-born designer made his way to NYC, wooed by the advertising world—specifically a job with TBWA\Chiat\Day. “If you have the talent and desire to be an artist, that’s amazing. I didn’t have that,” Matt explains. “I had this other thing. I was drawn to the mix of business and creative. When I saw really good commercial work or smart advertising, I was intrigued by it.” It was there that he met Andy Spade, who eventually brought him on at Jack Spade, then a men’s bag upstart. During Matt’s nine years at the company, he designed everything from their now-iconic canvas messengers to flyswatters and ping-pong paddle covers, all while, as creative director, exploring different ways to connect with customers through the brand. “When you have a really creative boss who is supportive when you want to do a project about losing wallets around the city and have a gallery show—you learn how to speak to people on a different plane,” says Matt. He’s brought this same ethos to his namesake collection, collaborating with such unlikely partners as the nonprofit organization 826NYC, which promotes writing skills in young students, and Idlewild Books, an independent travel bookstore in Manhattan. He’s also as commissioned countless artists and illustrators. “There are traditional things about my line—making shirts and bags,” he says. “And then there are some things that are less traditional.” mattsinger.net
Behind The Scenes
Matt Singer Gets Artsy
When creating his limited-edition toiletry kit for Of a Kind, Matt Singer didn’t just think about canvas weights and zipper functionality (though those things got plenty of head space). The tremendously thoughtful designer developed a whole concept that includes a comb printed with “CUT THAT HAIR YOU HIPPIE” and a flipbook of his ten favorite NYC barbers—a collaboration with the illustrator Jason Polan. Here’s how the art project came to life. To see all of the awesome drawings, you’re going to have to buy Matt’s edition. Click here to scoop up one of the 30! The Artist:“Jason has a really acute eye—he’s great at capturing the details and the posturing of people that really gets to the heart of what that thing is. For instance, there’s the guy with a belly standing in the doorway of Salvatore’s. Jason just goes and, as you would in a photograph, captures what’s going on there, and each one feels a bit different. For example, Paul Molé is a fancier, uptown place on that stretch of Lexington in the Seventies that’s really beautiful, and it has a really great storefront. He captures that—the two floors, the beautiful barbershop chair that you sit in, and the gentlemen of a certain age who work there.” The Barbershops:“I make shirts and bags and accessories. They tend to start from a traditional idea that you then reinterpret, hopefully making something that’s unique, new, and fun. When making a toiletry kit, the things that really inspired me were all the great places in New York where you can get your hair cut, as a guy. There are these really classic, old-school barbershops—I don’t care how old you are, when you go to a place that’s filled with 65-year-old men who are hanging out and playing dominos, there’s something amazing about that, right? Salvatore’s and Esquires represent that world for me. Then there are quintessential New York places, like Astor Hair, where they’ve been carving the skyline in people’s heads for 50 years. Newer spots like Freemans and the Blind Barber have opened that are certainly influenced by the traditional barbershop but are reinterpreting it—and that brings it back to what I do. Frank’s Chop Shop has a layer on top of that—it has this street vibe with New Era caps and custom pieces that they make. Then there are some, like John Allan’s, that take it to the extreme, where you join a club to get your hair cut.”Read More »
Meet Matt’s Models-Slash-Friends
For Matt Singer, who makes canvas weekenders, short-sleeve oxfords, and cotton-and-suede belts that are special enough to buy in bulk, any photography that bares his brand has to be infused with as much personality as the products it’s showcasing. Here, he shares pictures of his work and the people who add that essential “this is my world” touch. “These are friends of mine, Phil Toledano and his wife Carla Serrano. They’re attractive—so that helps—and they have a good sense of humor. Not to be all hippie-dippy, but they kind of have an energy that comes through.” “Phil is a photographer. A couple years ago, I read that when Eastern Europeans first came to New York City, they set up all these social clubs that just happened to revolve around table tennis. There is one left—in Spanish Harlem. Phil and I went, and he photographed it. It was the most amazing collection of people. There was an African national champion who had been to the Olympics four times, and two gentlemen who had to be in their late eighties. So that was my first project with Phil.” “Their daughter Lou Lou Marmalade is fourteen months. She didn’t really model. We tried to put stuff on her head—I put some bunny ears on her. She wasn’t super into it. She was a little crabby.” Ed: We forgive her because: Best. Name. Ever. “I didn’t want the shoot to feel staged—to feel fussy. I think one of the things about photographers is that you have to gain some sort of trust. If I’m sticking a camera in your face and taking a picture, it’s hard, and Matt Low, who took these pictures, has a really great way of having a conversation with people. His work elicits a kind of feeling that I don’t see in some other work. It’s a product shoot, but these are friends of mine. I want you to feel in the pictures how I feel when I hang out with them.” Score the edition Matt made just for Of a Kind: a toiletry kit as quirky and charming as these photos.Read More »
Matt Singer’s Neighborhood Walking Tour
Matt Singer lives and works on Manhattan’s Renwick Street, which runs between Spring and Canal in what could be called Far West Soho. The stretch is half-scrappy, half-polished—which suits the taste of the men’s design whiz just fine—and the nearby businesses offer enough history and bizarreness to keep him intrigued. “It doesn’t feel like Soho, and it doesn’t feel like Tribeca,” he explains. “There are still a couple of really raw, goofy spaces. And there’s graffiti on my street, which I like.” These are the six spots he suggests you check out. Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks“It’s located on the ground floor of Joanne’s 1850s townhouse—the floorboards are all crooked, and the doorways are warped. I like cookbooks—I like giving them as gifts. I brought a friend here from Japan. He said, ‘I’m really into sandwiches,” and then Joanne brought out these three really interesting books about sandwiches.”(488 Greenwich St., 212-226-5731; joannehendrickscookbooks.com)Renwick Gallery“The little gallery on my street is really beautiful, and not just for whatever art it may be showing. It was a garage, and when they renovated it, they found this beautiful glass skylight that someone had boarded up. I would love to have a store in that space.”(45 Renwick St., 212-609-3535; renwickgallery.com)Ear Inn“It’s the oldest working bar in NYC, in a federal townhouse that was built in 1827. I was there on Friday having dinner, and there was some guy with long dreads next to a family next to an older couple drinking sherry next to some crazy hoodlums. And I thought, ‘What a great place this is!’ They also have a sport-bike night where all these fancy motorcycles line up.”(326 Spring St., 212-431-9750; earinn.com)Canal Park Playhouse“This playhouse opened recently that features “The Chapel Series,” an art variety show that they hold every 4th Monday of the month.”(508 Canal St., 212-226-3040; canalparkplayhouse.com)Whenever StoreEd: Well, that’s what Matt calls it, as it doesn’t have a real name.“For some reason, on some days this random, crazy junk store is open, and other days it’s not. The guy who runs the place is always chain-smoking, and the spot has everything—there’s a huge poster of the pope in the back and tons of bikes. And fishing gear! Who’s going fishing?”(504 Canal St.)Don Hill’s“I love the typography of that logo, and I just like a low squat building that feels the way low squat buildings feel. I came to New York well after the Mud Club or any of the cool, really important New York City venues, so whenever I go to Don Hill’s—you kind of have to take your hat off. Most of the bands park their vans on my street, so you can always see people unloading equipment. And Don Hill as a person was really amazing.”(511 Greenwich St., 212-219-2850; donhills.com) Don’t miss out on the rad edition Matt made just for Of a Kind. There are only 30 of these toiletry kits in the world. That’s right.Read More »