On a chilly recent evening, an over-the-top crowd turned up the heat as throngs of guests jammed the Best Dressed Monk, Montecito's newest men's retail store at 1275 Coast Village Road.
A standout among all the new women’s stores that have seized the spotlight in the 93108 since last summer, this store is one for the guys. The fashion-forward crowd was mostly too busy talking to be shopping, but most of these events are just for that, to bring people together to generate buzz and check out the goods, and that it did.
Guests walked up the red carpet with a big Harley-Davidson parked out front, and munched on great finger food and desserts by Dining with Di. While the Coast Village Road restaurants had their usual Thursday night customers kicking off the weekend, the Best Dressed Monk was definitely the place to be and be seen.
Even before owners Kira and Allen Gold took the brown paper off the window for opening day on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, there was much guessing as to what they would sell based on the name. Speculation ran high, from garments like Nehru jackets of the 1960s, Bali resort, Tommy Bahama best suited for yoga teachers, kale juicers and green tea devotees.
By the time I arrived after stopping by the Upper Village Holiday Gala, the party was in full swing. Lights, action and cameras were going off simultaneously. I had to walk sideways to make my way over to the Golds, who were about as happy as entrepreneurs could be with the turnout.
"After so much hard work it was very gratifying to see such tremendous turnout of so many good, wonderful-looking and stylish people," Gold said. "The vibes in the store were terrific.”
Gold conceived of the collection following a seven-month Buddhist retreat he took several years ago off the coast of Scotland. Shopping for casual attire different than the traditional suit-and-tie wardrobe he donned in his professional life, he loaded up on what he thought he would need from REI and Patagonia. His brother stopped by and took one look at what he was taking and dead-panned, "You are the best-dressed monk.” Something about that phrase stuck with Gold and he trademarked it.
After spending seven months with 15 monks and a group of nuns, he said he noticed when he returned home that “men like me who do not want to wear suits but still want to appear elegantly casual in their dress were majorly lacking options.” After moving to Maui from Northern California, Gold met his life partner, Kira, a former costume designer. They returned to California and lived in Ojai and now Santa Barbara.
As Gold sees it, "the focus on menswear for years has been personal power, authority and wealth." Channeling Don Draper’s Mad Men genre, Gold feels a large segment of today’s man no longer needs that illusion of power. His worth is not all about appearances, it's more a statement of what lies within.
No doubt the introspection that marked Gold's spiritual journey in Scotland, opened up and removed some time-worn traditions that he might have previously ascribed to and stretched the boundaries of what is happening in men’s lifestyle apparel.
Together, the Golds developed a line of simple and elegant jackets, trousers, shirts, scarves made of rich-colored silk, cottons and wools. Tailored tunic shirts not meant to be tucked in, worn with luxurious textured scarves and polished safari jackets and jeans are part of the BDM look. Think Armani after a month in Tibet.
The price point is moderate to high, but the quality of the garments reflects the hard work. The Best Dressed Monk uses earth-friendly textiles and manufacturing processes wherever possible, and all manufacturing takes place in Los Angeles. There is great interest among stores like Barneys and Neiman Marcus to carry the BDM, and additional store locations may be on the horizon.
The age demographic will certainly be determined as the rollout begins, but Montecito photographer Michael Haber, who has a creative and financial interest in the business and was responsible for much of the staging and vignettes to create the ambience, feels “the 30 to 60-ish man will relate and buy."
"They just need to stop by and try on the clothes and let their professional staff introduce them to the fabrications and fit," he said. "The BDM has an exquisite genuineness to it."
The Golds have launched their store as a lifestyle brand with the mindful existence at its heart. The environment, social sustainability and importance of community are part of their core values.
The compact, 850-square-foot space was designed by architect John Mike Cohen and reflects the clean and contemporary aesthetic of the Best Dressed Monk lifestyle, replete with concrete faces, eucalyptus veneers, frosted glass and mahogany floors. The beautiful fixtures and displays for clothes, jewelry, leather accessories and scarves make the place a wonderful environment in which to shop.
The Golds generously donated 20 percent of the opening-night sales proceeds to the Dream Foundation.
The Best Dressed Monk at 1275 Coast Village Road. Click here for more information.