The Blue Hour: Coffee with Creative Director Michael Armenta
Our friend Michael Armenta, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Taylor Stitch, has made a home for himself in Bolinas, California — a small beach town tucked away an hour north of San Francisco. It makes for a long commute but the inspiration he finds in his slowed down life, he tells us, is worth it. We headed north to see for ourselves.
Walk us through your morning ritual.
I get up in the morning and it's generally a slow roll — there are usually a couple hits of the snooze button. My girlfriend wakes up before me, so I can't take credit for making the coffee but it definitely helps get me out of bed. My girlfriend works at the farm up the road, so she can take it easy and we can enjoy our mornings together, which is nice because I'm in the city most of the day. Once I’m downtown it’s pretty hectic, so I really try to make the most of my mornings.
After a cup of coffee we'll go out, look at the water, and see if there are any waves. If there are, it's likely going to delay my start to heading to work. Post-surf I’ll jump in my outdoor shower, which is one of my favorite parts about living up here. And at that point I’m finally awake. I find it’s a little bit easier to wake up outside than indoors.
After that, I'll make some toast — usually peanut butter toast. I'm pretty heavy into making my own peanut butter right now. I’ll jot down a few ideas in my journal — it’s a good time for me to get some thoughts out onto paper before the clutter of the day kicks in. It's usually pretty cool up here in the morning, and my old car needs to warm up before I can take off, so I'll start the car up, come in for a toast, and then start my trip into San Francisco.
How do you like living outside of the city?
Living up north of San Francisco, the biggest difference is the amount of space. In the city, it always feels like you're on top of someone, whether it’s your neighbor you’re living ten feet from or all the people crowded on the sidewalk on the way to work. Up here, you have more time to think for yourself, which is the big thing. When I first moved out here, it was almost overwhelming because you start to realize that you kind of have to entertain yourself a little bit more. It’s up to you to fill your own time.
I think the time and space really allows me to make time for projects that I wouldn't normally do when I was in the city. Working on my car is one of those things — it’s an old beater, so it takes some work to maintain. I also spend a lot of time working on my surfboard and developing photos.
There’s also a really cool community of young, inspiring people up here and, unlike in the city, people take the time to stop and talk to each other. I have all these little interactions here that are really intriguing, often over something as small as getting a chai at our grocery spot, the People's Store. When I was in the city, there were are so many people around all the time that I found it hard to really connect. Up here, you’re taking more time to converse with people and make those connections.
There's a lot more peace and serenity here — more than I've ever had before. Being here in this peaceful atmosphere kind of sets a pace that really pushes throughout the day and that's kind of just, “take it slow.” I have an hour drive between home and work, so there's a lot of time for thinking and reflecting on what I’ve done that week and what I have to look forward to.
How did you become the creative director of Taylor Stitch?
Taylor Stitch is a men's outfitter in San Francisco. We focus on responsibly made goods for the long haul and tend to make clothing that's clean, classic, and that transitions easily through your day. A lot of what’s out there is either workwear or goes too far in the other direction and is too formal. Taylor Stitch fits somewhere in the middle.
We started the company 10 years ago when I moved out from Maine. I had just finished school in Boston, studying industrial and graphic design, and I was living with two buddies. I was actually sleeping on their couch. They had an idea for a business — they wanted to make custom shirts for guys and sell them online. And those were the humble beginnings of Taylor Stitch.
What have been some of your biggest challenges in the business?
Managing people is probably the hardest thing — we went from being three guys just out of college to having twenty employees. We really try to hire people that truly embody the brand and want it to succeed as much as we do, but you slowly realize that no one is going to take a bullet for it like you would. So it’s about coming up with creative ways to keep people inspired and excited about the work.
How do you break through creative blocks?
As an artist, there's a desire to constantly be creating something. But I've realized over the years that you have to chill out once in a while and not always be producing. Sometimes you need to just take a minute and look at what you've done. So often, once we’ve finished something it’s just immediately on to the next, and what’s been important for me is taking the time to reflect on whatever I just created. Taking time to pause and think. That’s really when I’m learning the most.
Where do you draw inspiration?
A huge source of inspiration are the people we photograph for the brand. They're not models, per se — we shoot friends and people that we know or want to know. They're generally ambitious, interesting people, and working with them keeps me inspired to keep learning.
Overall, I choose to live life with “fun” in every single day. When I look back, I don't want be like, "Oh, I was practical. I played it safe." Take the old car I drive — sure, it breaks down now and then, but when those kinds of things happen I learn something and have a new story to remember. I can be bummed that I spent a couple hours broken down on the side of the road, or can I relish the great conversation I had with the old dude who pulled over to help me out. There’s something about celebrating those little moments in life — in the midst of it being wild and messy and chaotic — for me that’s really what it’s all about.
What's next for you?
I think there's always a desire for me to travel and see other places. I do love this tiny little speck on the planet — living here almost feels like a vacation — and it's hard to leave sometimes. But the planet is huge — you’ve got to keep meeting people and keep discovering. If I can just keep doing that, I’ll be happy.
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