Made to Last Volume 1
In Spanish, casa means “home” in the literal sense—four walls and a roof. But there’s another word, one lacking a suitable English equivalent. You might have felt it the last time you came home after a long vacation (or, lately, after emerging from a day of meetings at your makeshift “home office”). It’s not about drywall, brick, or plaster. It’s the kick-off-your-shoes feeling of comfort when the weight of the day peels away. An embrace. A sensation. A feeling. That word for home is hogar.
For Bria Bergman and Jessica Casper, co-founders of heritage design brand Paris West, evoking hogar is a cornerstone of their craft. It’s in every heavenly knitted good they make, and the Shinola Alpaca Throw and Shinola Hotel Blankets they create for us are no exception. Bria says, “Customers tell us our blankets are like a bubble bath: Slipping into something totally luxurious. It’s about touch, a tactile experience. You get home, curl up, and breathe out.” She adds with a laugh, “At the end of the day—especially these days—you need that.”
Home is even built into the name. For Bria, it’s a reminder of her Detroit roots; Paris West is derived from Detroit’s historic nickname, the “Paris of the West.” For both Bria and New York native Jess, the city is an inspiration and represents one of the core values of the company. “It speaks to the history and art of Detroit and evokes that era of quality goods being made in the United States,” Jess explains. Paris West is proud to represent American-made quality, with two knitting floors in New York and Los Angeles. With their focus on manufacturing, reviving classic designs, and creating in the U.S., they were a natural fit for a partnership with Shinola.
Bria and Jess launched Paris West in 2015 after working together in the fashion industry for years. They had travelled the globe for work, studying and perfecting the nuances of sustainable sourcing. The natural baby alpaca fiber they use for their designs comes from their experience in Latin America, collaborating with artisans and learning the culture and history behind the source material. The result is a product that is, as Jess puts it, exceptional. “Bria and I realize it starts from the beginning. It starts with sourcing. We want to make sure our products last and are durable—that our customers will cherish them and hold on to them, gift them, pass them down.”
That heirloom type quality is no small feat to achieve. Paris West’s innovative method—combining modern knitting technology with traditional, hand-finished techniques and natural materials—was difficult to achieve. It’s innovation by way of doing something the old way. “It took a lot of hands-on time. We kind of lived at the factory,” Jess laughs. So why go through all the trouble to make something that lasts?
“If it’s not made to last, you’re not going to hold onto it, and history is what makes things special. A product that’s built to last is more interesting,” says Jess. Bria adds, “Something that has history is a snapshot of time: When you look at that blanket, there’s memories and feelings—a piece of something. It keeps you connected.” If that sounds a little bit like hogar to you, you’re right.
Bria explains, “If casa is the structure or frame of a home, then hogar is the feeling of home, the emotion and connection of home. And that’s what we thought about when we started Paris West. The ethos is all about home and comfort and family. You wrap yourself in that feeling and embrace.”
A blanket that feels like a hug is especially needed after the past year. Both Bria and Jess have faced unique challenges as business owners and moms of newborn babies during the pandemic (they delivered within a day of each other). “It really does take a village, so when you can’t have the support of your community like you normally would, it’s hard.” Factories and borders closed for business; childcare and nannies did, too. But in the end, they view their challenges as a net positive: “It’s an asset to go through these difficult things together. We tag team it. We’re on the same page, going through the same thing, and can support each other.” As we close out the year, Paris West is up and running, safely designing gifts that will last for generations to come.
Winter is sneaking up. Many will be staying home for the holidays this season; many might be missing out on family holiday traditions (as much as we’d like to, to Grandmother’s hogar we cannot go). But spending the holidays wrapped in a warm, luxurious alpaca fiber blanket? That could make things a little more homey. Thanks to Paris West, that’s a warm wish you can grant.
This piece is part of a Holiday 2020 series highlighting some of our favorite products and the American makers who craft them. It’s our tribute to enduring, heirloom-worthy goods—and a look inside at what it takes to build things the long way. This year especially, we are grateful for every pair of hands that go to work crafting the goods we offer, with skill, thoughtfulness, and intention.