Camp High Is The 'Cozy Cult' We Need Right Now
The brand's founders are Supreme and Burton alums who now make streetwear with an eye toward transcendence.
Photo via Camp High website.
When GQ invited John Mayer to dress himself for their January issue, I, a fashion writer who looks at clothes all day, was gobsmacked by an outfit. Amid Mayer’s self-styled looks featuring Urahara streetwear, crispy Fear of God numbers, and sneakers standard issue for any hypebeast worth his salt, was an an outfit that looked like nothing else on the menswear landscape. It was from Camp High, a unisex label based founded in Santa Monica in 2018 that I’d never heard of.
Encircled by three pairs of Visvim Christo sandals, Mayer sits blissfully in lotus pose, looking like Neem Karoli Baba getting a fit off, swaddled in Camp High’s colorful Himalayan gi robe and matching short pants. The gi robe is a six-color jacquard weave of visibly soft 100% yak cashmere in a graphic pattern that’s hard to place. Does it look Japanese? African? Somehow Scottish? Whatever the provenance, Mayer, arguably a guru of streetwear, certainly looks comfy— he even captioned the photo, “The year 2019 is the year of coziness.”
According to Greg Dacyshyn, one of Camp High’s founders, this is exactly what the brand is all about. “I don’t want to say we came up with cozy,” he jokes over the phone, “I guess I had maybe heard of it before.” Claiming to invent “cozy” is pretty bold, but few have resumes that enable them to make such a statement as the founders of Camp High. They’ve been behind the scenes of streetwear since, they say, “forever.”
From the mid 90s until 2017, Dacyshyn, a man whose long white beard and friendliness is rivaled only by Santa Claus, worked at Burton, where he remains a consultant. As the longtime chief creative officer, Dacyshyn oversaw collaborations with artists and designers like Neighborhood Japan, Playboy, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Gwen Stefani and Led Zeppelin, that reads like a timeline of what’s been cool for the past 20 years.
Dacyshyn’s partner, Greg Johnsen (known affectionately as BHG, or Bald Head Greg) designed for Supreme in its early days, and has had a hand in shaping streetwear institutions for decades, buying for the boutique Union, and anchor of the mens fashion community, and designing for Stussy. After decades of friendship and work for other brands, the two wanted to start something of their own outside the traditional fashion world. “We don’t want to be a fashion brand at all,” Dacyshyn says, “[we] just want to work with our extended family and friends to do things.”
Just as Johnsen’s shiny head compliments Dacyshyn’s Poseidon hair, the duo have somewhat of a mind-meld. When they talk, the two don’t finish each other’s sentences as much as seamlessly guide one another to different thoughts, giddily bouncing ideas and riffing off one another. Rarely, on our long phone call or during our outing in Santa Monica did I ask a question or stop laughing,
For their first collection as Camp High, they sourced yak and alpaca wools from a mill in Italy and made colorful quiltlike patterned kimonos and pants, think part Johnny Depp’s Fear and Loathing jacket part Japanese traditional Boro mending patchwork. Each drop sold out quickly at Union and Maxfield, where they were carried, but the designers didn’t feel pressed to replenish their stock. “We kind of just made designs until the yarn ran out,” Johnsen tells me. “Like how a bakery makes enough until the bread runs out, when the bread’s gone it’s a wrap.”
Fans had been waiting for new Camp High gear until a few weeks ago, when they released their latest collection of marble dyed supersoft French terry sweatshirts and sweatpants dyed by, according to the designers, “the best tie dye guy in the world, a guy by the name of Dan Demma.” The sweatshirts are printed with graphics and logos like a conked out Sleepytime tea bear or “YEARNING FOR TRANSCENDENCE? ASK ME HOW.”
“Not that we’re lazy,” Dacyshyn says, “but we just want to make products as we get inspired to make things.” “It went really well with that first run,” Johnsen adds, “we just shifted our efforts into offering and applying the same mindset into making sweatshirts. Never Not Soft. That’s our motto.”
Like many clothing brands, Camp High caters to a self-selecting community. What Supreme is for skaters and Burton is for snowboarders, Camp High is for people that want to get High. “Camp High is a double entendre,” Dacyshyn says, “it’s not just about getting blazed it’s about higher consciousness. Clothing that makes you feel good about yourself, and if you’re comfortable, you’re ready for the world. You can take your mind and put it to higher things that you want to accomplish.”
“We’re the cozy cult,” Dacyshyn says, and their website, which looks a bit like a web 1.0 site intended to sell tools to back to the landers, feels more like a community more than a webshop. It’s full of jokes, mantras, links to funny pics, and appeals to come hang out. The designers have no question as to why they’re so popular. “We’re living our best life right now and making clothing exactly for that. Who doesn’t like to be comfortable and look good at the same time?” Dacyshyn asks me over the phone. “You don’t want to look like you gave up on life, but our whole philosophy is make cool shit that you can wear out and then pass out in. That’s how I dress for night.”
Camp High exists in the ever-expanding wave of hypebeasty Grateful Dead fandom that coalesced around John Mayer’s Dead and Company tour last summer. “I’m a pretty old Deadhead from way back,” Dacyshyn tells me. He met his wife Anne-Marie, the woman behind Dosist, the wellness focused weed pen that matches its users all-white Kundalini yoga outfits, at a Grateful Dead show. “I know the look or the vibe is kind of hitting right now, but we’re doing exactly what we want to do. I haven’t worn closed toed footwear in probably five years. I’ve been in sandals and socks for a long time.”
In order to really see what Camp High’s about, the designers tell me, I need to “come on out to the Canyon and have a Snoopy grilled cheese and the strongest mushroom chocolates,” I’ll ever taste. Don’t tell my mom, it looks like I’m about to join my first cult!