Tastemaker: Taavo Somer

The founder of Freemans launches a collaboration with Dewar’s and talks about functional fashion in the city.
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Somewhere along the way Taavo Somer turned his rugged American style empire, which began at his back-alley restaurant Freemans and later took shape as the lifestyle emporium Freemans Sporting Club, into a widespread trend in menswear and interior design. For his latest project, Somer collaborated with Dewar’s Scotch to create 250 limited-edition bags ($150), inspired by Tommy Dewar, who in the late 1800s traveled the world carrying bottles of Scotch to share with others.

The handmade cotton and leather totes roll up and have interchangeable straps that can be fastened to a bicycle; they can also be converted into travel kits. Or take your own inspiration from Dewar and use the bag to carry around some whisky; the interior is lined with the Dewar family’s official Scottish tartan and designed to comfortably hold a 750-ml bottle—or a Dewar’s flask, which comes standard with the bag.

Somer sat down with us to talk about his often-imitated style.

I love the novelty of this bag. Why did you choose to make it so that it can be attached to a bike?
I wanted to make a useful bag that could live beyond just being a novelty. I ride a bike every day and have an old military utility roll that I use for tools. The Dewar’s team liked the idea, so we made a bag that could be used on a bike—but also for travel, around the house, as a camera bag, even on an archeological dig. It can be used for anything.

What items do you carry at all times?
I actually don’t like to carry anything—I don’t carry a wallet, keys, a bike lock, a computer, a special pen, or even a watch. I’ve been meaning to get my keys and a knife on my belt, though. 

Where do you find design inspiration?
I find that inspiration comes from within things. I find it in whatever I’m designing, whether it’s the fabrics we’re using in a suit or the existing details in a space when we’re designing a restaurant.

What’s your secret to keeping a polished look throughout the active day of a typical New Yorker?
First of all, that’s the first time anyone has ever even implied that I am polished. But I do use carnauba for my hair. 

Now that the style you’ve branded at Freemans has become so widely imitated, what’s the next step? How do you stay ahead of the trend?
I think of myself as a design vagabond. When things get to a saturation point, I know it’s time to pack up and hit the road.


Freemans Sporting Club: 8 Rivington Street, 212.673.3209; and 343 Bleecker Street, 212.255.5509.

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—Christina Garofalo
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