Ben Harper and David Arquette do things the Propr way
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You’ve seen it before. Celeb pals launch a clothing line, make press appearances and pose for pictures in front of a step, and repeat. Lately, it seems as if these things pop up once a week, and I’ve certainly become a bit cynical about a clothing line with a celebrity’s name behind it. But after spending some time with Ben Harper and David Arquette at their Propr store in Venice, I see that these two are not your average celebrities turned “designers” licensing out their fame but actual designers who understand that a clothing line comes together with passion, persistence and a real understanding of fabric, cut and merchandising. Arquette has even been studying up on his manufacturing terminology, dropping words like, “pique cotton,’ ‘chambray’ and ‘pinwale cord” seamlessly into conversation.
On the particular morning I met Harper and Arquette, the Propr store on Abbot Kinney Boulevard was buzzing with people, camera crews and models, all there to shoot their look book. Harper was styling-grabbing clothes off racks, holding them up to models and stepping back to assess his work. Arquette moved around the space fiddling with equipment at the DJ booth, where he spins music when in the store (they both spend a lot of time there, Harper sometimes ringing up sales behind the register). Everything from the photographs on the walls and the tchotchkes lining the shelves are personal objects or art belonging to Harper and Arquette.
They’ve been friends for 10 years, but long before the pair met, they knew of each other’s love for vintage clothing. “I would get to a vintage shop and ask if they had a certain item,” said Harper. “And they would be like, ‘Oh, we did, but David Arquette was just here and bought it.’ ” Eventually they met, developed a friendship and a mutual admiration for each other’s style. Last spring they launched PROPR, a line of men’s and women’s denim, T-shirts and vintage-inspired clothing.
“For fall, we looked to ‘60s Liverpool, beatniks and the poets of the period,” said Arquette, while flipping through racks of fuss-free, plaid men’s button-downs, women’s shirtdresses and straight- leg, dark-wash denim. “We listen to our wives and friends who wear our clothes, and we’ve changed some pockets placements and seams based on their feedback.” In general, the designers steadily stream influences from the Southern California skate and surf culture, Pendleton and vintage OP into their collection.
A lot of celebrity-designers I meet tell me that they’re “hands on” in the whole process, but Harper proved it. Between styling models, rearranging clothing racks and giving me the rundown on the collection, he took on the role of PA, grabbing and handing out water and soda to anyone in the crew who was thirsty. Now that’s hands on.
Propr, 1306 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, Calif.
-- Melissa Magsaysay
Photo (top): Ben Harper and David Arquette at Propr in Venice. Credit: Propr
Photo (middle): Models wearing looks from the fall collection. Credit: Propr
Photo (bottom): Harper and Arquette at their store. Credit: Propr