A Conversation With | A Continuous Lean.

A Conversation with Club Monaco’s Aaron Levine.

Sep 30th, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Made in the USA, Menswear | by ACL Editors

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“Nothing can be precious.” That’s how Aaron Levine, the Vice President of Men’s Design at Club Monaco, sums up his personal style, but during our discussion I came to realize that this was actually how Aaron views his work as a whole. Club Monaco is no longer the small brand it once was, yet Levine continues to steer the ship as if it were a schooner, and not a barge. He forges ahead, taking the brand into uncharted territory, while all the while maintaining the balance of the brand so as to not tip the whole thing over.

Sure, Levine’s time at (comparatively) smaller labels like Rogue’s Gallery, Hickey, and Jack Spade has certainly influenced this agile approach, but Levine seems to revel in the actual work that goes into creating each collection. Club Monaco (who we should say, is a client of Paul + Williams) has evolved significantly in the three-plus years that Levine has been at the company, but he still finds himself squarely in the trenches, and there’s no other place he’d rather be. We spoke with Levine about this design approach, the way in which menswear has changed, Club’s Made in America initiatives, and even Belgian Shoes.

ACL: You’ve been designing for Club Monaco for three years now, in that time how do you think men’s design has changed at the brand overall?

Aaron Levine: Overall, men’s design has changed in the last, it’s almost three and a half years now, it has changed in that time in terms of, we have upgraded fabrics, we’ve upgraded materials, we’ve upgraded trim, we’ve upgraded and recalibrated fits, and then on top of everything we have cleaned up and edited and honed the aesthetic. So, it really has grown up over the last three and a half years.

ACL: With you saying that about better materials, better quality, and considering your background was at smaller brands at a time when quality became really important, is that something that guides your design at the start?

AL: No. You accrue information and you hone your eye and hone your abilities as you get older and the longer you do it. I think sometimes maybe that’s the starting point, it’s definitely thought of, but I think in terms of when I first sit down and I start to develop a collection, I start at the top with what I want it to say overall. And then as you get into it there are places where you’re pushing more experimental pieces and then maybe there’s places where you’re pushing superb quality, like in tailored clothing.





A Conversation with Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders.

Aug 6th, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Jake Gallagher, Menswear | by Jake Gallagher

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On the afternoon that I arrive to interview Scott Sternberg at the Band of Outsiders New York offices, the racks at the back of the showroom are almost entirely empty. Last season has already been shipped off and the next collection is yet to take its place, and this transitional state speaks well to the spirit of BoO. In the ten years since he founded Band, Sternberg has never stopped moving and reshaping his L.A. based label. Along the way, he has racked up countless accolades, started a women’s business that’s equally as robust, married modern menswear with movie stars, and continuously redefined what prep means in this day and age. As Band embarks on their second decade, Sternberg has his foot squarely on the gas as evidenced by the soon-to-open New York store, which will be their first flagship here in the states. We sat down with Sternberg to discuss the plans for this store, the meaning of prep, the L.A., New York divide, Starbucks, and even economics.

ACL: This January marked ten years of Band of Outsiders, what has changed in that time? Both from your personal viewpoint as well as how the brand is now formulated?

Scott Sternberg: Essentially it’s the same through-line since the idea of Band of Outsiders, even before it was called Band of Outsiders came up. This idea of being the future of American prep, this sort of modern American preppy uniform and system of dressing. I think what’s different is that I make women’s clothes and through the process of doing that and learning how to do that, which was self taught, I became more interested in different ways of pushing things a little further, beyond just making a great suit, a great tie, and a great shirt. And that’s all within a pretty strict bubble of wearability still. Whether that’s graphics, fabric development, certain construction tricks, any of that stuff, over the years I’ve just gotten more playful and inventive with the clothes, but essentially it’s the same system of dressing. Hopefully I’m getting better at what I’m doing. *laughs*

Through the years we also started making products as objects to also styling those in the looks and then creating a narrative out of what those looks are, for a fashion show, for a look book, for a Polaroid campaign. So there’s this whole layer of imagery that sits on top of the product that again, same message, same thing: prep, American, humor, levity, all that stuff. So yea, boring old me, same old thing.





A Conversation with Michael Hill of Drake’s London.

Apr 8th, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Accessories, Jake Gallagher, London, Menswear | by Jake Gallagher

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At thirty-five years old Drake’s London Creative Director Michael Hill is roughly the same age as the brand itself. This fact is interesting because when Hill took over as lead designer for Drake’s in 2010, he did so with the vigor and sensibilities of a man well immersed in the diversified mentality of the fervent post-millennial menswear set. Prior to assuming this principal role, Hill had apprenticed under Michael Drake himself, earning an invaluable education which primed him to assume creative control once Drake sold the company was purchased by Mark Cho of The Armoury. It has been Hill’s ability to align Drake’s tradition of incomparable accessories with his own taste for more progressive pieces that has kept Drake’s as one of the preeminent brands in the world. I had a chance to speak with Hill about the brand’s growth, both in scope and in style, as well as his personal style, the role of the internet in menswear, and the future of Drake’s.

ACL: When you took over as lead designer for Drake’s in 2010, you really took the brand to new heights, what was your mission when you assumed that position?

Michael Hill: I wanted to ensure the continuity from the previous ownership, both in terms of the quality and style of the product and our longstanding, loyal customers.Continuity was as important as anything new I wanted to do with the business and our mission was to give us some longer term stability by putting down roots in terms of our first brick and mortar store, our website and a factory fit for purpose and the coming decades. I also wanted to reassure our own staff as well, as I was relatively young when I took over the company.





Filson Ages Gracefully.

Mar 31st, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Jake Gallagher | by Jake Gallagher

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The oldest person in the world is 115 years old. Filson is 116.

For a brand to outlive anyone that has ever, or will ever wear their clothes is an impressive feat in and of itself, but what’s more remarkable with Filson is that they seem to be aging in reverse. Sometime in the mid-aughts, as the heritage movement re-discovered Filson’s unflappable wares, the Seattle-based company was (almost unwittingly) thrust into the spotlight once again. And yet, Filson has never strayed from their original ideals, remaining steadfast in their dedication to quality goods that will last for years to come.

With these values in mind, Filson (who is a Paul + Williams client) has evolved their collections and fits ever so slightly as a way to reach a younger market, without ever sacrificing their spirit. Today Filson’s goods are carried in venerable outdoor stores and fashion-forward boutiques alike, as a testament to the brand’s far-reaching audience. We had a chance to speak with Filson’s CEO Alan Kirk about the brand’s storied reputation, its recent resurgence, and why Filson isn’t a “fashion” brand.





Killing Me Softly | A Conversation with Barena.

Mar 4th, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Jake Gallagher | by Jake Gallagher

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When Sandro Zara founded Barena in 1961, he did so as a reflection of his surroundings. The attire of the local Venetian people had inspired Zara to create clothes that captured this rich, worn in look that was characteristic throughout his homeland. When Massimo Pigozzo joined the project twenty years, Barena entered into their current, more thorough period, with more innovative designs and a wider array of textiles running throughout their collections. Sandro’s daughter Francesa began working with Massimo a decade ago, at a time when Barena was beginning to garner more attention on the international stage.

Since then, Barena has become increasingly more popular and fun to watch, as they continue to riff off their signature “soft” sportswear style, continuously challenging our assumptions on what Italian tailoring truly is. We had a chance to speak with Francesca and Massimo about the Barena spirit, their designs, and why it’s a good thing that they’ll never change.

ACL: Barena is a brand steeped in tradition, what was it that drew your family to the garment industry back in the early sixties, and could you talk a little bit about how Barena was founded?

Francesca Zara: My father started selling fabrics and since then fabrics have always played an important role in our lives. After starting his company, my father worked together with my mother to start their first company on their own. Together they started to produce handcrafted pieces driven by a strong passion and wish to make it happen. Barena was born twenty years ago as a project whose inspiration came from the hunting and fishing world and more precisely from the Laguna of Venice.





Now What? | Talking Shop with Carson Street Clothiers.

Jan 30th, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Jake Gallagher, Retail | by Jake Gallagher

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Don’t let the small store-front fool you, Carson Street Clothiers is a veritable mecca of modern menswear. Located on Crosby Street (Carson Street is a nod to the street where the shop’s owners Brian Trunzo and Matt Breen lived together in Philadelphia), CSC instantly became a true “destination store” from day it opened its doors this past year, catering to a savvy clientele of style obsessives young and old.

The store’s stock nimbly melds forward thinking sportswear, with traditional tailoring in a style that has been endearingly labeled as “neo-geezer.” For all stores though the first year is a learning process, and for a store of Carson Street’s size both physically and in the number of brands, there’s a lot to be learned. We spoke with Trunzo about what he’s learned, where the store’s heading, and what it’s like find new brands.

ACL: Since Carson Street opened this past year you all have added several new brands to your roster, some of which are entirely new and some of which are just new to your shop, so what do you look for when buying a new brand?

Brian Trunzo: “Breaking” new brands is something in which we take great pride, but it is a tricky and even dangerous activity. Since we approach buying from a “fan-first” basis, the threshold issue is whether we love the product and find it intriguing enough to make it into our own wardrobes. This is a pretty easy threshold to cross, though, seeing how much amazing stuff is being produced every season, so then we ask ourselves whether we truly believe that the brand in question would add something new to our shop. Once we’ve answered this question, more questions need to be answered: would our customer be interested in this product? would this product potentially cannibalize the sales of another brand we already carry? does this new brand seem financially viable enough to deliver to us on time and not fold and disappear in six months? Once we’ve answered all these questions, then we can decide the brand or product’s place in our shop. Yeah, it’s an exhausting activity.





The Ralph Lauren Olympic Collection | A Conversation with Jeanne Carver

Jan 23rd, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Americana | by Jake Gallagher

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Over the years on ACL, we’ve interviewed designers, shopkeepers, authors, and even a filmmaker, yet we’ve never spoken to anyone quite like Jeanne Carver. Carver is not some fresh-faced designer, nor is she an eccentric New York creative, in fact in our interview she never uttered the word “fashion,” and only mentioned “clothing” twice, under the most practical of terms. This is because Carver’s life exists roughly 2,850 miles removed from the frenzy that is New York City’s fashion industry, on The Imperial Stock Ranch, which has been raising sheep and cattle for over one hundred forty years.

Carver’s story is not a common one, after all, it was centurion ranches such as hers that helped to establish the western frontier back in the late 1800’s. What makes Carver (along with her husband Dan who also runs the ranch) so extraordinary, is that she was given a chance to have her story told. The wool trade is the largely ignored backbone of our entire clothing industry. We often highlight designers, factories, and shops, but these institutions represent the final steps of clothing production. Rarely, does anyone go to the source, and rarely is this source ever even considered.

Which is reason to applaud Ralph Lauren, who after recognizing their error in having past Olympic uniforms produced overseas, decided to take a concerted effort to produce this years U.S. Winter Olympic uniforms entirely in America. In doing so Ralph not only gave a fair amount of work to stateside textile factories and farms, which often go overlooked by large apparel corporations that are more interested in margin, but it also found people like Jeanne, people who embody the spirit of handwork and determination that our nation’s clothing industry was founded upon way back when. Ralph Lauren contacted Jeanne because the wool that she and her husband produce on their Shaniko, Oregon ranch is of an incredibly high quality, and was perfect for Ralph Lauren’s opening ceremony sweater, which is being unveiled today. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to speak with Jeanne to get her story, as well as her perspective on this U.S. made collection, and the state of America’s garment industry today.