A certain type of kid is attracted to the glamor of old Hollywood, but designer Brooke Zaugg didn't just love the actors – she was immediately obsessed with their clothes. Zaugg, a former advertising exec, is now half of the creative team behind the popular heritage-inspired menswear shop Bench & Loom and in a position to do something about her longstanding silver-screen obsessions. That's why she's releasing exact replicas of jackets worn by James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash during their most iconic film shoots and concerts.
"Turner Classic was a staple in my house," Zaugg explains. "I grew up watching those films and wanting to own the clothes."
The Phoenix Project's first reproduction, a jacket re-created from the James Dean film 'Giant' in collaboration with L.A.-based cult denim label Stevenson Overall Company, sold out in a week and a half. Zaugg followed up that success by releasing hand-numbered jackets ($375–$1,475) re-created to match those worn by The King and the Man in Black at Sun Studios in Memphis during an impromptu 1956 jam session. Produced in collaboration with 180-year-old French leatherworks Chapal, the pale-blue nubuck leather jacket inspired by Elvis comes with a satin lining. The American-made baseball jacket inspired by Cash comes in sand-washed cotton twill. "We're working really hard to make it as authentic and true to the original piece and to make it as good as the items they wore," says Zaugg. It's not intended to be a cheap knockoff."
In order to make sure the vintage designs will find a modern audience, Zaugg has instituted a voting system on the project's website that allows potential customers to determine what garments will be produced by her team of experienced patternmakers and sewers. She is also working closely with film studios – sometimes even diving into their archive to examine fabric swatches – and stars' estates. One future possibility: a three-stripe racing tee worn by James Dean in the 1955 Santa Barbara Road Race.
"We want to choose things that people would actually wear today," says Zaugg. "It's this idea of classic. It was good in the 1940s, and it is today." [Jackets from $375; pheonixproject.com]