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Music is in Oskar Mann’s DNA. The Australian-born, New York-raised force behind Book Works hails from a musical family - his grandparents opened Melbourne’s first record store and ran a small label, and his father made his career as a writer and composer. He started studying saxophone in primary school before moving to New York at the age 10, where he went on to graduate with a BFA in saxophone performance from The New School - concentrating on small group playing. 

Speaking about the figures that inspired him, Oskar immediately brings up Charlie “Bird” Parker. “Bird is the beginning and the end,” he says, “He was able to create something divine and magical, while keeping it legible, making sense”. Oskar became fixated on a way to follow in these footsteps, to channel the spirit of jazz while making it decipherable.


Book Works was started almost as a joke - casually printing jazz references onto graphic tees. Upon seeing the emotional reaction these products evoked from customers, he realized he’d struck on something powerful - graphics that could be used to both express himself and expose a new audience to the jazz he loved. 

Beyond sonics, jazz leaves artifacts of its existence - album artwork, record sleeves, the intangible yet indisputable influence on the listener. These are the tools that Book Works uses to transmit its vision. Graphics can range from a historical CBS Memorandum announcing the title of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” to a fanciful logo for “Julliard Boxing Gym”, or an abstract depiction of Rodin’s “The Thinker” - each telling its own piece of an intertwined story.

The City of New York perhaps equals jazz in its importance to the brand. Many of New York’s greatest jazz figures studied on the city’s streets, clubs, or in troupes like Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers. New York required its artists to be harder, faster and smarter than the rest. Oskar himself studied music here, and still associates record shops, repair shops, and subway stations with key moments in his development. This mindset survives within the Book Works ethos, as the soul of the graphics are inextricably linked to New York. 

As Oskar is known to frequently mention, the only thing separating a band and brand is an “r”, and he chooses to treat his role as band leader rather than creative director. This musical approach gives the Book Works label the freedom to explore, take a back seat when necessary, and produce work that is unbound by expectation or precept, making Book Works a natural partner for Engineered Garments. 

In addition to its usual stock of graphic T-Shirts, hats, and totes, Book Works has taken a number of Engineered Garments products and embellished them with hand-printed designs. Items in this collection include Over Parka, Cagoule Shirts, Over Pants, Short Collar Combo Shirts, and more. 

Regarding this collaboration with Engineered Garments, Oskar states, “It’s like going from a jam session to Carnegie Hall. The items are already so complete, so I needed to find a way to add without subtracting.” Borrowing a jazz term, he focused on the concept of “reharmonizing”, when adding his mark - changing the melody and chord progression to express ideas from both brands, while leaving the underlying concepts intact. 

With this pop-up shop, Book Works and Engineered Garments - two uniquely New York organizations - come together to share something new, working to express emotion through products.



Studio Photos - Kyle Knodell
On-body Photos - Thitipol Samuttha

Word: James Donovan