Northern Grade, a Minneapolis menswear event

by Harry Sheff

Northern Grade, an annual pop-up menswear flea market in Minneapolis, had a successful second event in September. We spoke to Katherine McMillan, one of the organizers of Northern Grade and co-founder of the neckwear brand Pierrepont Hicks.

NorthernGRADE from Wm Rees on Vimeo.

The above video of the event is produced by William Rees, a Minneapolis men’s style blogger (A Treasury Of)

McMillan, who founded the Minneapolis-based Pierrepont Hicks with her husband Mac McMillan in 2009, got the idea for a local menswear event after the success of the Pop Up Flea, a multi-brand menswear-focused pop-up market that style blogger Michael Williams organizes in Manhattan.

“I emailed [leather bag company] J.W. Hulme’s CEO Jennifer Guarino and a few other Minnesota companies after I saw the Pop Up Flea and menswear having such a moment,” explained McMillan. “I thought, hey, we have Duluth Pack and Red Wing Shoes, and in nearby Wisconsin there’s Chippewa Boots and Land’s End Canvas. There’s a lot of fashion going on here, which is funny. I started looking at more brands and thought, there should be a way to promote and celebrate these brands.”

The McMillans worked with J.W. Hulme’s Gaurino and Larry Felitto on launching Northern Grade for one day in September last year and all were pleased with the results. Companies included Red Wing Shoes, Taylor Stitch, Ball & Buck, Tellason Denim, Duluth Pack and retailer Martinpatrick3.

Both this year and last year, Northern Grade was held at Architectural Antiques, a seller of architectural salvage that has a large warehouse space in Northeast Minneapolis.

“The space really adds to the event,” said McMillan. “There are huge columns and a church altar that’s fifteen feet high. It’s so fun to wander around. There were people there this year that stayed for hours.”

McMillan remembers, “Last year we had a thousand people come throughout the day. I remember seeing all of these cars pulling up with stylish men coming out of the woodwork! And older men, too, like 60-plus. Our first sale at our Pierrepont Hicks booth was a $120 wool tie, and I thought, wow, people are actually coming to spend money.”

This year’s Northern Grade, held on September 10, had 26 vendors—nine more than last year—and continued to get vendor inquiries until the day of the event. Attendance was great too, up about double from last year. And every vendor managed to sell at least enough merchandise to pay for their trip, with many doing even better, McMillan said.

She continued, “Tellason Denim, from Marin County, Calif., were busy talking to people the whole time. I think the vendors really like talking to their customer base and telling people about their brand. These are guys who wouldn’t necessarily come to Minneapolis otherwise, so they reached a whole new audience that will be looking out for their brands.”

McMillan isn’t willing to wait all year to host another event; she said that Pierrepont Hicks is partnering with three of their Northern Grade colleagues — Martinpatrick3, J.W. Hulme and Faribault Woolen Mills — on a holiday pop-up sale on December 1.