May 26, 2016
"I’m not used to this,” Josh Peskowitz said as I snapped his portrait against a wall of ferns and philodendrons on a bright May morning. “I’m usually running away from the camera while my picture is being taken.”
Peskowitz wasn’t bluffing. A Tumblr search of his name reveals numerous street style photographers spying on a man in motion: he’s on the phone, he’s yukking it up with friends, he’s being whisked into a black car. Almost always looking down and away from the camera; always dressed in the Italian tradition of sprezzatura, or studied carelessness, which he embodies in both style and demeanor.
In person, Peskowitz is effortlessly cool and casual; inviting, but never gratuitously warm. His parlance is peppered with pop culture references that can reach back three decades, or pseudo-internet speak that seems fully of the moment. “I need Curtis in the morning,” he said as the din of The Impressions rang out through his Culver City, Los Angeles shop. “Did you buy one of those jackets from homegirl?” he asked his store manager later when she walked in. “That shit is fire.”
He humored me as we revisited his already well-reported past, where he worked his way from being a window display guy at Urban Outfitters on Waverly Place to the men’s fashion director at Bloomingdales, with critical stints in between at Esquire, The Fader and fashion’s once-mag of the moment, Cargo, where he worked under menswear vet Bruce Pask.
Now, his next act is opening a menswear shop called Magasin in L.A.’s burgeoning Culver City neighborhood. On a morning in late spring, as the horn flourishes of Curtis Mayfield played backup to our conversation, Peskowitz was eager to unpack just why L.A. needs another clothing store, and why he’s the man to do it. “There’s no dress code anymore, but there is a generally accepted standard of presenting oneself in a professional environment,” he explained. “If you need to have that minimum amount of respectability, but you also still want to express yourself with what you wear, this is the store for you.”
Peskowitz’s store can be more or less viewed as his manifesto: he got into this game because he had great taste. Then, a lot of people agreed he had great taste. Now, he gets to put it on display. His formative years took place on the sidewalks of Brooklyn and Washington D.C. as a self-described “street kid.” “I knew sneakers, I knew hip-hop, I knew graffiti,” he said. And while he’s not slinging Triple F.A.T. Gooses or Polo rugby shirts at Magasin, his new shop could be viewed as a mature riff on the same style.
“I want to appeal to the guy who did grow up caring about having a toothbrush for his sneakers and saving up for a Starter Jacket or an 8 Ball Leather,” he said with a smile. “And then looking back on that and regretting it for sure.” The appreciation for appearance, he said, is a common thread between men who shared his youth and who would appreciate his present-day stylings. “I believe in taking pieces from different eras, different vibes and putting it together to create your own look,” he said. “We really believe in building a wardrobe here. I’ll buy something brand new today and I’ll be like, ‘This is gonna go so good with this [item] that I still have from when I was in college or high school.'”
Peskowitz operates with a razor-sharp vision. “Every place that I have worked that had a very strong point of view has only helped me to define myself more.” As such, he treats the brands in his store like family. There’s Camoshita and Massimo Alba, with their emphasis on relaxed, tailored clothing that Peskowitz calls “crunchy, worn-in, and luxurious.” There’s Eral 55, with their near-mythical level of rarity and free-spirited approach (quote from their website: “Did we ever tell you about the time in the store when instead of hanging up the shirts all well ironed, we left them wrinkled and stacked them in the shelves?”). There’s Feit, which makes leather shoes that aren’t available anywhere else on the West Coast, and there’s Neapolitan-bred Salvatore Piccolo, which is the only brand of suit or dress shirt in the store. “Customers have been coming to us because they like things that they can’t get anywhere else,” Peskowitz noted.
Clothing is not grouped together by brand or garment, but rather by outfit. People used to come to Peskowitz claiming they couldn’t pull off an outfit, or they wanted to see how he would put it together. So now he lets them see. Magasin’s pricing may seem steep to some, with pants that run $300 to $425, shoes that range from $500 to $600, and shirts that start at $250, but Peskowitz assures that it’s for good reason. “It’s not some inflated markup. We sell garments of exceptional quality,” he explained. “Nothing in this store costs more than it needs too. That’s real.”
While Peskowitz’s shop settles in, he is there every day, taking notes, searching for buyers who are like minded, who get the vision. “What is it that [customers] appreciate about what we’re doing?” he asked. “I didn’t open this store as a vanity project. I felt that there was an appetite for the point of view we’re trying to get across.”