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Totem Brand’s Phillip Yi has his say on quality merch, South Street’s retail renaissance and more

The other weekend, I strolled around South Street and was friggen’ pumped to find a few developments that caught me off guard: ADIDAS is no longer an “originals” store but an outlet? There’s a pimp new Villa? What is this TOTEM!? We’ve been frequenting Ps & Qs for a minute now (their jackets are currently half-off), but Totem popped up this past July. We peppered the store’s brains, Phillip Yi, and he gave us some answers to a few of the hundreds of questions that come to mind when perusing his gorgeous storefront’s wares.

When and how’d you get this store up and running? Had you been scoping sites for a while?
Totem Brand opened in July 2013, and I’ve been working on South Street for my entire retail career. I noticed Philadelphia did not have a heritage menswear store with a focus on U.S.-made goods and outdoor lifestyle. The community has really embraced our concept and mission.

Tell us why you’re into this stuff. The general theme is American-made products, is that correct? Or, even if it’s an international brand, there’s a domestic manufacturing angle?
I think now, more than ever, quality is extremely important to customers. The U.S.-made brands we choose to feature at Totem Brand are all revered when it comes to quality and craftsmanship. I feel great offering items to my customers that are not going to fall apart after a couple wears. The more research I did into the brands that I wanted to carry, the more I identified with their mission: “Buy it once, buy it right.”

Secondly, I feel proud to support our American manufacturers. I think that it is important to keep jobs in America and help stimulate the U.S. economy.

What are some of your personal favorite brands, and why do you love them so?
Some of my favorite brands are Filson and Norman Porter. Filson was founded in Seattle, WA in 1897, and their goods are made in USA. From their 100-percent virgin wool coats and oil finished jackets to their rugged luggage, the entire collection is extremely durable and practical. Every piece only gets better with age. Everything they make has lifetime warranty. They truly stand behind their product. I love their motto too: “Might as well have the best.”

Norman Porter is an awesome denim brand. Each pair of jeans is made by hand. He has expanded his offerings to leather goods, and I am proud to carry his brand. It is truly a one-man operation located in Philadelphia. From the hickory stripe pocket bags to the hand-hammered copper rivets, the attention to detail is undeniable. We are located in Philadelphia, and it was only natural to carry a locally-made product.

There’s not a ton of menswear options in Philly, and, as I told you, I’m a super-fan of Ps & Qs down the street. You two are really nailing that niche. What do you do that’s unique to Totem?
I really try to focus on heritage and outdoor lifestyle brands. But I’m particularly trying to feature items that will remain classics over time, with an attitude towards high quality, durable, and practical fashion.

Sure seems like there’s a little South Street retail renaissance going on. I like that ADIDAS turned themselves into an outlet and that Villa (608 South St.) is great at what it does. Are you excited to be a part of it?
For a while, South Street was the go-to destination for unique shopping boutiques. Then there was a sort of deterioration when manufacturers went overseas for production. This left a lot of U.S. manufacturers out of business. This culture of “cheaper goods are better” really hurt America. I’m really excited to be a part of the retail renaissance on South Street and turning it back into a shopping destination with quality and character.

Have you been South Streeting for your whole life? What are some of your favorite South St. gems?
Yes, but so many of my favorite stores have left over the years. Still, I’m always up to grab a Bloody Mary at Beau Monde and a gyro at South Street Souvlaki.

Alright, break down the deals you’ve got going on now—and when they’ll expire. And tell us what to expect for spring.
Currently, our fall/winter goods are up to 40-percent off until supplies last. We are really excited for spring. A few brands we are proud to introduce are Barbour, Woolrich and Steven Alan.

A Not So Sporty Gym Bag

I’m gearing up today for some serious sports action. For the first time since college I’m playing on a competitive volleyball league through the Philadelphia Sports Network. I’m pretty hyped about it so I’m kind of in the sporting frame of mind which got me to thinking…about gym bags. It’s true! Remember all those awful bags you had to carry throughout high school. I always had duffel bags with our school mascot and my jersey number embroidered on them or a multi-colored Jansport. These options are not exactly something I’d bring to the office for a post-work trip to the gym, or in my case, volleyball game.

So I set out to find a few picks that I believe could be equally awesome both on and off the court.


The best part about the Novel Duffel from Herschel Supply Co. is the separate shoe compartment because who doesn’t want to keep their stinky sneaks away from their post-game beer drinking apparel?

Manhattan PortageThe Ballistic Duffel Bag from Manhattan Portage is a brilliant balance between rugged durability and simple elegance. Not even the rain can stop you from getting to the game on time with this bag.

Stella McCartney for Adidas

The Women’s Adidas by Stella McCartney Small Sport Bag is definitely sleek enough that it could double as a carry-on, I just wouldn’t suggest it for any equipment-intensive activities seeing as it is a bit short on space.

Puma The Puma Fitness Lux Workout Handbag is another gym bag that can pull double-duty. Its size and shape make it the perfect replacement for your purse AND your gym bag. That’s a definite plus for any lady who hates dragging two or more bags into the office just because she’s trying to keep up a gym regiment.


What I love about the Jack Spade Nylon Canvas Gym Bag is its simplicity. It has a great shape for fitting everything necessary for a jaunt to the gym or a hustle up and down the court with a little flare (red lining!).

Cyber Monday

This rainy Monday is perfect for Cyber Monday. We spy deals around every corner: Ann Taylor, Tory Burch, Ulta, Express, Victoria’s Secret, and The Limited, Amazon, Radio Shack, Bloomingdales, Adidas and even the Apple Store have deals as well. Careful, you could do a lot of damage right from your chair!

We stumbled upon Max and Chloe, which has some great baubles, bangles and beads just in time for the holidays as well as some Cyber Monday Deals. Rachel Zoe has even found some great deals with her list of 20 glam gifts under $100.

This past weekend, I went into holiday baking mode and cranked out these little guys:

15566_732753538953_8200237_41930033_6551252_nThey’re based on this Pillsbury recipe, and I think they are so cute! However, judging from the cover of December’s W Magazine, it doesn’t look like Demi Moore has been noshing on any goodies.

Rumors are surrounding December’s cover, which landed on our doorstep this past weekend.  One is that W staffers got rid of Demi’s left hip while others argue that staffers replaced Demi’s entire body. Demi took to Twitter and stated that the picture is indeed her, while countless articles, including this one from the Toronto Star argue that the picture is more illustration than photograph. Has Photoshop really gone to far? Should the photo credit read ‘illustration by,’ especially since the photographer doesn’t believe the photo is really Demi?

Update: Cyber Monday coupon codes from iVillage.

These Shoes Were Made for Walking

The NY Times pointed out in this past weekend’s edition that flat soled Espadrilles weren’t always so widely available.  A  slide show from from the NY Times website states “It used to be you needed a couple of euros and a plane ticket to Catalonia to get a pair of flat-soled espadrilles. This summer, the classic canvas-and-jute shoes, which have been made in Spain since the 14th century, seem to have finally caught on here.” Honestly, I don’t think I realized how unique Espadrilles are to Catalonia during my first trip to Barcelona.

(pssst…Barcelona is the Capital of the Catalonian region of Spain and one of my favorite cities. Spanish is spoken there in edition to Catalan, a language that sounds something like the midway point between French and Spanish. It’s a cultural center, alive with art, & music and is located on a beach. Amazing.)

Sometimes I rock the Espadrilles with a bit of a lift, but just as regular heels aren’t always practical, espadrilles aren’t either. Even though I would love an excuse to visit Barcelona, or as the locals say…Barthelona, it’s nice to know that a piece of this incredible city is available state side.

Also, Stella McCartney has designed these shoes for ADIDAS for going to and from the gym.  Sure, that sounds ridiculous. But I get it. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is put on those smelly gym shoes after my shower.  And It’s best to only use your running shoes for running.  Not the walk to the gym as well.

And for my last shoe item.  Sanüks are great.  Mine are made out of yoga mats and are sooo comfortable. “Sanük” is the Thai word for happiness and balance. Visit the website.  Be sure to roll over the SAAAAA-WHAT tab. They’ll teach you how to say the company’s name properly, and they have a sense of humor about it.

Lastly, Kim Kardashain is blonde! I’m sort of upset about this…I love how my girl crush looked with her beautiful dark hair.  What do you think?