LOS ANGELES — Bo and Kevin Carney are exiting Cafe Stella when they run into a familiar face, exchanging pleasantries and telling her about their store across the street. The woman suggests photographing their store.
The husband and wife are wearing pieces from their Smock line looking every bit the part of an Eastsider where the vibe is a bit more laid-back and artsy than neighborhoods to the west.
It’s here in Silver Lake that the couple’s Mohawk General Store sits, celebrating 10 years in business, located on a slice of Sunset Boulevard that includes Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, Aesop and A.P.C.
Now, after a decade perfecting their specialty shop and expanding in 2017 to Santa Monica with a second door, the Carneys are preparing for an endeavor by taking their in-house line Smock and setting it up with a store of its own. The two believe the Smock business has legs and the potential for additional branded retail.
The line, a reference to the utilitarian and unisex protective layer an artist wears, launched in 2013, born out of the need to plug holes in the store assortment that couldn’t be filled by buying other lines. Smock began as a small production run of simple shirt dresses and tops and it ended up doing well. The two ramped up production in L.A. before moving it overseas to Japan. This year they began slowing moving some of the production back to Los Angeles. It’s sold only direct and it’s not likely to be wholesaled.
“It’s not in our capacity at the moment and it’s not in our plan, either,” Bo said. “We want to just control everything about it. We want to control the experience of the brand in the retail store.”
“It’s a brand built by retailers that retails extremely well,” Kevin said of Smock. “It’s our number-one-selling brand and so that’s the reason why we’re building architecture around it and giving it its own home. We don’t plan on opening more Mohawks. We plan on moving toward Smock. We’re perfectly happy being a West Coast store, being Mohawk General L.A. For us, multibrand [retail] is great. It’s been great for us, but we want to be more creative, have better margins and be able to open more Smock conceptual shops.”
The 700-square-foot store is predominantly Smock mixed in with some vintage and home goods. The line is in the midst of having its web site built out.
The goal would be to bring the Smock concept to markets such as New York and potentially Tokyo and Paris. The Carneys estimate at least four more Smock store openings over the next two years.
The couple’s story began in Italy, where they met while Kevin was making shoes and Bo was studying fashion business. Kevin had his own clothing brands in the Nineties, including Biast and later Generic Costume. Both were men’s lines.
In 2008, the Carneys stumbled upon a 400-square-foot space, which became the first Mohawk General Store.
“The whole world was crashing in 2008 and we just took a chance,” Kevin said. “We asked how come there wasn’t a store that caters to people like us on the Eastside of town. So we started buying for this side. We’re not buying for everyone. People want designer clothes, but it’s not about logos and stylist pulls and hype. It’s a little bit more, ‘Hey, I want to look good. I want quality clothes, but I don’t need to advertise that.’”
Mohawk, as the two describe it, is the boutique not for the rockstar or A-list movie producer, but rather the independent movie director or the individual who does production for said big musician.
“It’s all the people who are behind the scenes that have really good taste and are happy to go in somewhere that has an edit that’s really shoppable,” Kevin said.
That’s seen through the lens of an assortment that includes local brands such as Black Crane, Clare V. and Kathryn Bentley, in addition to Dries Van Noten, Mansur Gavriel and Acne among others. It’s not Maxfield and it’s certainly not Nordstrom.
“A lot of people we know just can’t relate to any of those stores,” Bo said. “So we wanted something comfortable and relatable — to mix unknown brands and big brands.”
The two are confident in their plans for Smock and continuing to maintain the Mohawk General business largely because they’ve stayed the course on a point of view built over a decade.
For as much as fashion has bought into the hype of limited-edition drops and shorter production cycles to stay relevant and in business, Mohawk has hardly looked in streetwear’s direction. They haven’t added sneakers to their assortment because that’s just not their customer. Their angle has always been about cultivating a certain Mohawk General point of view and style rather than the chase of the next trend and that will be continued as Smock gains steam.
“A lot of stores are surviving on the graphic Ts and the sneaker element, but that’s not our main business at all,” Bo said.
“What we do,” Kevin said, “is modern takes on classics. It’s not about logo or hype or selling out.”