Arts & EntertainmentSpotlight

Feather & Oar

Quality outfitters. Menswear mercantile. Classic clothier. These are just a few of the terms being used to describe new downtown Tacoma men’s clothing store Feather & Oar. JD Elquist, Travis Pranger, and Drew Collier are seasoned style aficionados in the local fashion scene here in Tacoma. They were the creators of last September’s Gentleman’s Tacoma event which chronicled the history of men’s fashion in Tacoma with a fashion show. All three have years of experience under their genuine leather belts which has led to the creation of their own menswear clothing store.

Elquist, Pranger and Collier applied to Spaceworks Tacoma to rent unused space in a building at 311 South Seventh street next to Puget Sound Pizza. In just a few months they were approved for the space and opened up shop on November 7. That specific date was chosen as a way of tying Feather & Oar into history as it was the same day the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a.k.a. Galloping Gertie, collapsed in 1940. As for the name Feather & Oar, “feather” pays respect to the long history of Native American culture in the area and “oar” is a symbol of the coming of European settlers, as explained on their Facebook page.

When I visited the shop, Interpol’s “Obstacle 1” played in the background as Pranger worked on his laptop and Elquist ironed a garment to be put on display. A couple came in to thank Elquist and Pranger for saving the day when they were in a pinch to find someone to dress an actor for an event that night in Seattle. The couple trusted Elquist and Pranger with dressing a man portraying fictional billionaire Christian Grey from the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Pranger and Elquist were up to the challenge and did not disappoint. Pranger pulled a deep navy suit from his own closet making the actor looked every bit a young billionaire business tycoon.

Feather & Oar specializes in dress shirts, ties, slacks, shoes, and accessories. The unique pieces that can be purchased at Feather & Oar are originally found at estate sales, second hand and vintage stores, and even from Elquist and Pranger’s own wardrobes. These handpicked items are vintage “better used” goods from all around area. “Better ‘cause I wore it!” jokes Pranger, “Most of our pieces can operate in various capacities. It’s not vintage for the sake of vintage. It’s vintage for the sake of versatility and the ability of pieces to be intermixed.”

What sets Feather & Oar apart from other vintage clothing stores is their innovative vision. In the past, men learned from their fathers how to tie a tie, but recently they refer to YouTube videos to learn such things. Elquist and Pranger educate customers on styling and color palette so that they come away from the experience knowing how to wear items on their own. Instead of keeping the customer reliant on ideas from the sales associate, Elquist and Pranger aim to build their customer’s confidence in buying clothes, invest smarter and get to a place where they want to buy the last of things. Pranger said, “It’s not a shop, it’s a lifestyle headquarters.”

Feather & Oar is one of the only vintage shops that provides personal shopping for their clients. They pull practical and versatile pieces for specific people in mind. Elquist and Pranger also want to inform male shoppers that it doesn’t have to cost a lot to dress well. The price point at Feather & Oar is so low because they only want to generate enough profit to continue. In fact, according to Pranger, “The fit is what’s most important. I won’t let a customer buy an item if it doesn’t fit them properly.”

The future of Feather & Oar is bright. Since their lease on the space is up in January, the trio is currently chasing down prospective new retail spaces in downtown. As they evolve into a brand, they will push a lifestyle behind the clothes and start to sell home décor. There are plans to expand into women’s wear that will be primarily headed by Drew Collier. The trio plan to offer personal closet audits in which they go into a customer’s closet and help them consolidate what they need or can discard. The work ethic at Feather & Oar is admirable: “No complacency, we will keep pushing. We will always have something new to keep clients’ interest and coming back.”

After visiting Feather & Oar, I consider these three to be dedicated public servants of fashion who are enduringly passionate about what they do. They love Tacoma and want to see the city flourish and bring people together. As Elquist puts it, “We are building business for the sake of community.”