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April 20 2014

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Highland Is Forever Young

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Highland

The beginnings of menswear brand Highland were swamped in naïveté. “We wanted to be free,” exclaimed designer Lizzie Owens. “However, that freedom is completely the opposite of what you actually get,” admitted her business partner and cousin, Cramer Tolboe.

Their journey began after Owens left her job at TSE Cashmere in New York in 2008, and began designing costumes for some of her boyfriend’s pals, like the duo behind MGMT, The Killers, and the Cool Kids. Tolboe, meanwhile, was running sales for denim brand G-Star Raw out in L.A. “I got to be really creative when I was designing for bands,” recalled Owens. “And that’s what took me to L.A.—I wanted to be a costume designer.”

Three thousand miles and several car breakdowns later, Owens arrived in California, ready to join the film industry. But after talking to Tolboe about her long-standing dreams of having a family business, she let go of her big-screen activations. The pair’s Venice Beach-born, but now New York-based, activewear-influenced menswear brand launched not long after with a Fall ’10 collection.

For Fall ’14, which Highland will show in New York on February 9 with the help of Made Fashion Week, the designers’ guy grows up. “Lizzie’s 31, I’m 33, and that’s the age at which we’re dressing,” explained Tolboe. “The clothes can’t be too serious, but they have to be serious enough.”

The duo hopes to achieve this balance via a lineup of retro, climate-change-inspired outdoorwear for the urban space, a sketch of which debuts here. “Things are becoming more and more extreme and more and more unpredictable, and I was thinking about the inconsistencies and how to be prepared for them,” explained Owens, gesturing toward easily layered, mesh-lined jackets and an oversize, Greenpeace-campaign-referencing T-shirt cut in the brand’s signature uneven hem.

“[In the beginning] the guy was really rambunctious and rebellious. He was the embodiment of my friends, who are all artists and shop at thrift stores,” said Owens. “But slowly, those guys have grown up, and they want to buy modern things. I think [the Highland man] is the same guy, he’s just had a few more life lessons.” But Owens doesn’t want her gent to forsake his rambunctious inner child entirely. “I want to maintain that sense of youth, because Highland is the essence of freedom. And to me, freedom resides somewhere in youth—even if youth is just a state of mind.”

Photo: Courtesy of Highland

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