I have admit to Highland’s Mike and Cramer that I didn’t make their Fall 2013 presentation at Milk. When I saw the images of what I had missed—fantasy boyfriend models in tie-dye, ikat and marbly knits drinking branded brewskis in a bong riddled room lined with lava lamps—my heart broke. Amidst the banal commercialism of New York Fashion Week, Highland’s show stood out like a… stylish, skater, stoner dreamboat of a boyfriend; how elusive.
Mike and Cramer take my admission well. “You’ll make the next one,” they chillfully reply. I’m visiting the Highland team—that’s designer Lizzie Owens with her cousin, Cramer Tolboe, and their old friend, Mike Franks—in their Bushwick studio loft for a preview of their Spring 2014 collection. The look this season, like those past, is nineties nostalgic: laidback skate-infused streetwear for tasteful dudes with a sense of humor.
“This collection was inspired by a trip to Venice Beach this past spring,” the trio explain. “Highland actually started in Venice in 2009. We moved the studio to New York shortly after so this feels like a return to the beginning of things.”
Lizzie, Mike and Cramer originally hail from Utah, and Cramer describes their aesthetic to me as springing equally from their religulous home state, from their last home in Venice, CA, and from their current one in Bushwick. The brand’s name, Highland, is a direct reference to their Utah roots:
“Highland Drive is a workday road in the Salt Lake Valley that ran parallel to the Rocky Mountains,” they tell me, “It is essential and functional to people every day but you don’t grow up thinking much about its significance. Nowadays we think about it a bit differently. It sits at the base of these huge granite peaks where there is no separation between ‘the outdoors’ and what you do every day. The word has evolved for us though. It has an inherent roughness to it and has come to represent our free state of mind.”
It also calls to mind stoner culture and getting high, a trope that the designers like to riff on. “Weed culture has exploded everywhere,” says team Highland. “Right now it’s a fun play on words with our name and seems appropriate for the moment. Weed culture is certainly a part of the headspace for Spring ‘14.”
My memory may be cloudy from my own taste for Mary Jane, but my visit to Highland’s sunny studio is forever soundtracked in my mind to this remix (was it playing?) of Miguel’s “Do You”:
Do you like drugs, do you like drugs, yeah?
Well, me too, me too, me too, me too
Do you like hugs? Do you like love?
Feel like we got so much in common now
The Spring ’14 baggy chino pants Lizzie previewed on Highland muse and model Ray sat perfectly on his narrow hips. The t-shirt designs (not pictured) are a polyphonic rainbow remix of beach boardwalk insignia. From what I saw, and heard, there’s absolutely no way I’m missing any future Highland presentation. Nor should you.