Europe

Gifts for Gardeners? They’ve Got Them in Spades.

Alan Calpe and Christopher Crawford set out to make a shoe for gardeners. But the bulbous clogs they designed for their brand, Gardenheir, quickly found a wider audience after being introduced in 2021.

“I think people were looking for an alternative to Birkenstocks and Crocs,” Mr. Calpe said of two brands whose clogs surged in popularity because more people started wearing them during the pandemic.

The clogs ($78) were among the first items that Mr. Calpe, 46, and Mr. Crawford, 44, released after starting Gardenheir, which specializes in gardening clothing and gear. But Mr. Crawford said including a shoe among their initial products was something of a last-minute decision.

“It was toward the end, and Alan said, ‘I think we should have a shoe,’” he said. “And I was like, Oh jeez, shoes are a whole thing.”

There were 100 pairs offered at first, in orange, olive green and tan. The orange color was out of stock within two weeks, Mr. Crawford said, and the others sold out soon after. The clogs, which are made of polyurethane and cork via injection molding at a factory in Italy, have been a top seller ever since. They are now offered in no less than a dozen colors.

Mr. Calpe, a former art educator, and Mr. Crawford, a brand consultant who has previously worked as an apparel designer, came up with the clogs’ design together. Designs for Gardenheir’s clothes, which are produced in China, Nepal and Portugal, have been overseen by Mr. Crawford.

Pieces include high-necked gardening smocks ($108), tie-dyed thermal shirts ($88), wide-brimmed hats ($88) and overshirts in Japanese cotton flannel ($148) and denim ($158).

Gardenheir’s clogs became a top-selling item after being introduced in 2021. They are now sold in no less than a dozen colors.Credit…Gardenheir
Mr. Calpe and Mr. Crawford got into gardening after buying their home in Windham, in 2016. They honed their green thumbs through various projects, including planting flowers alongside pathways like this one in their yard.Credit…Gardenheir

The clothes were inspired by the wardrobes of Martha Stewart, Ina Garten and Monty Don, a British horticulturist and the host of “Gardeners’ World,” a show on the BBC. Mr. Don is “like a sexy granddad,” Mr. Crawford said, “with suspenders on and an old Oxford shirt.”

Jordan Potter, 33, a publicist in Brooklyn, has bought a pair of Gardenheir clogs as well as some of its overshirts, which he likes for their boxy cuts and fishtail hems. Other fans of the brand on social media include Jenna Lyons; Miranda Brooks, a landscape designer who has worked with Anna Wintour; and Jonah Weiner and Erin Wylie, the creators of the fashion newsletter Blackbird Spyplane.

Mr. Potter said that the clogs reminded him of Bottega Veneta’s slip-on Puddle boots and that the clothes mix fashion and functionality like pieces from Arc’teryx or Salomon. “They’re made for performance,” he said.

“It’s interesting that gardening is an activity that’s becoming aestheticized,” he added. “We’re starting to see the more niche pastimes become trendy.”

Mr. Crawford said that he has noticed comments on Gardenheir’s Instagram posts such as, “I’m obsessed with this, and I’m not even a gardener.”

He and Mr. Calpe, who have been dating since 2011, said their interest in gardening took root after they bought a house in Windham, N.Y., a small town in the Catskill Mountains, as a weekend escape from their Lower Manhattan home in 2016. To freshen up the property, they had a dense thicket of trees cleared and Mr. Calpe, hoping to liven up the landscaping, threw down some seeds somewhat haphazardly.

That initial attempt at planting yielded mixed results, he said, but it sparked “this weird determination, like this challenge to try and figure it all out.”

They honed their green thumbs through various projects in their yard: Growing grassy lawns, planting flowers alongside rambling pathways and installing wooden gardening beds. On a recent afternoon in late September, those beds contained tomatoes drooping from vines and hearty heads of emerald kale bursting from the soil.

As they became more passionate about gardening, Mr. Crawford said, they learned about equipment makers like Haws, a British brand known for its watering cans, and Sneeboer, a Dutch brand known for its tools, both of which are more than a century old. But many products that weren’t from heritage brands like those, he said, seemed designed for a particular type of person.

Gardenheir recently released a set of limited-edition watering cans designed in collaboration with Haws, a British maker of gardening equipment. Credit…Gardenheir

“It was like gardening gloves with carrots for grandma,” Mr. Crawford said. As Mr. Calpe put it, “no one out there was speaking our language.”

They saw potential in starting a business that catered to customers whom Mr. Calpe described as, “People who have a relationship with the city, who come from the arts or creative fields, who may be queer or are younger than what you think of as a gardener.”

Part of that business, Mr. Crawford said, would be to offer a curated mix of items considered both beautiful and the best of their kind. “And if it didn’t exist, we’d try to make it,” he said.

When Gardenheir’s website debuted, in September 2021, it sold the clogs and some shirts and hats from its line, along with Haws watering cans, Sneeboer tools and workwear from Le Laboureur, a French brand. It also resold some items purchased at thrift and antique stores by Mr. Crawford and Mr. Calpe, who by then were spending most of their time in Windham. Mr. Calpe had also left his career in art education to focus on the business.

Six months later,they were contacted by Kristin Soong Rapoport, a managing partner at Wildflower Farms, a boutique hotel operated by Auberge Resorts in Gardiner, N.Y., about an hour’s drive from Windham. Ms. Soong Rapoport said she reached out after discovering Gardenheir’s Instagram account to see if Mr. Crawford and Mr. Calpe would open a shop at the hotel.

“We wanted a really different shop than your typical hotel gift shop,” Ms. Soong Rapoport said, adding that the men had an eye for “things that are not commonplace.”

“They pick pieces that have a timeless, heirloom quality,” she said.

At the hotel shop, which opened last October,gardening gloves, hand trowels, Gardenheir clogs and chore coats are sold alongside vintage birdhouses and other décor. Ms. Soong Rapoport said customers have included Laura Kim, a creative director of Oscar de la Renta, who bought a straw hat.

Mr. Crawford and Mr. Calpe said they had no intention of opening a store when they started Gardenheir. But after seeing the interest in their hotel shop, they opened a sort of Gardenheir flagshiplast November at a shopping center in Windham, in a space they had originally rented to use as a shipping warehouse for their growing business. It has the feel of a general store, with tools displayed on a massive pegboard, a few racks of clothes and shelves full of botanical-scented candles, ceramics and, yes, the clogs.

This fall, Gardenheir released a set of limited-edition Haws watering cans in a dark olive green (starting at $58). Next spring, there are plans to debut a collaboration with the men’s wear designer Todd Snyder. That line will include chore coats, fisherman’s sandals, tool bags, bucket hats and a gardening apron.

“They’re really good at curating and editing,” Mr. Snyder said of the Gardenheir founders. “They’ve got a very cool lens.” Mr. Snyder added that he recently took up gardening as a way to spend time with his 3-year-old daughter.

Mr. Calpe said that when people get into gardening, there seems to be a trend.

“It’s very common,” he added, “that, quickly, you just end up becoming obsessed.”

Related Articles

Back to top button