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Last week, Men’s Shop Daily had the distinct pleasure of catching up with Marcus Wainwright (left) and David Neville, co-founders of Rag & Bone, at their in-store appearance at Nordstrom Bellevue Square, near our Seattle headquarters.
Below, the two British designers—who met in boarding school in England, before starting Rag & Bone more than ten years ago in New York—discuss their fashion baptism in rural Kentucky, smashing guitars, and style advice that every man should swear by.
[Shop: Rag & Bone Men's Sneakers]
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Welcome to Seattle. Have you been out here before?
DAVID NEVILLE OF RAG & BONE: “We’ve been a few times, but only ever to see the people at Nordstrom. It’s worth the trip. It’s an amazing company.”
MSD: That’s great to hear—what makes you say that?
NEVILLE: “I think that when you look at the history, and the legacy of how it was started, and what it is now…I’ve actually read [Bruce Nordstrom's] book, Leave It Better than You Found It. The fact that it’s still run by the family, and the approach to customer service, and differentiating themselves as a store…The success that’s bred is kind of amazing. It’s 130 stores in America. I should be like a spokesperson.” [Laughs.]
[Shop: Rag & Bone 'St. Regis' Sportcoat]
MARCUS WAINWRIGHT OF RAG & BONE: “I’ve got a lot of his photography. I like photography—I collect [it] and like taking pictures myself. Part of it is just the subject matter—apart from the photographs themselves, the clothes are really cool, and very relevant to Rag & Bone. We do a lot of workwear, we do a lot of tailoring, and the August Sander pictures capture a lot of people working—and he captures them in a period where people were working in suits. If you look at the early pictures of rag-and-bone men, after the Second World War, they’re working day-to-day in tailored clothing. There’s no T-shirts, there’s no just shirt-and-jeans. And there’s a sort of beauty in that handmade clothing that’s been disheveled and rumpled and rained on and worked in.
“So the subject matter of the pictures is amazing. There’s a German aspect to it, which is pretty cool—it’s quite sort of different from the English stuff; it’s less sort of ‘dandy.’ There’s an amazing picture of a baker…and one in particular of a guy in a street in the most beautiful coat, which we made a sort of version of, which closed the show. It’s just great photography.”
[Shop: Rag & Bone Wallets]
MSD: Does Michael Pitt [the actor in Rag & Bone's fall campaign] have the best hair in Hollywood?
NEVILLE: “We were actually a little bit worried about his hair in a couple of the pictures—it just looks a little bit too sort of retro, kind of Johnny Cash, which wasn’t really the reference, you know. But he’s a cool dude.”
WAINWRIGHT: “He does have good hair.”
NEVILLE: “We had fun. He was awesome. He came to the shoot really sort of enthused, and there’s an amazing moment where he smashes his guitar in the middle of 6th Avenue. That was his idea, and it was fairly impromptu—it wasn’t staged or anything. It was cool content to just be able to create.”
MSD: When the two of you first decided to start a clothing company, you visited a legendary denim factory in Kentucky. What was that experience like, and what did you learn there?
WAINWRIGHT: “It was the birth of Rag & Bone in many ways. It was a very old denim factory in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. It had been a massive factory at one point, but everything had shifted—been bought or invested in by a Mexican company, and a lot of denim [production] had moved to Mexico. So it basically shut down most of it, and it was just sort of 60 people, as a sample room for the Mexican production—but it was the best sewers and pant-makers that they had.
“It was an amazing place with 50 years of knowledge about how to make proper jeans. It was an incredible place to go to, when you had no experience in fashion at all, and never really been to a factory to speak of, and you were sort of baptized into the fashion and sewing world by these women who were in their 60s, sewing jeans all day, proper salt-of-the-earth ladies from Kentucky—in a dry county, so there’s no booze. It’s rural Kentucky, and they take great pride in their work, and they’re just lovely people. They taught us the meaning of quality and authenticity and the value of that history of craftsmanship—and the value of that experience, and how easy it is for that to disappear.
“They were the last of 3,000. They shut down within two or three years of us working with them. The ladies who’d been sewing their whole lives went to work in the local outboard motor factory, or Walmart, or waiting tables. Never to sew again. The American-invented and American-owned skill of sewing jeans just disappeared from that factory forever, and it’s happened across this country. And that’s sad. So I think our company has a lot to thank that experience—to thank them—for what they taught us about the importance of maintaining that, and not just shipping everything to a factory that’s chosen based purely on price.”
[Shop: Rag & Bone Ties]
MSD: If you could give male readers one style tip for Fall 2013, what would it be?
NEVILLE: “Don’t try too hard. Do what feels right; what you feel comfortable in. Menswear should never really feel like you’re trying to make a fashion statement. I think that can go desperately wrong. You should just be wearing what you feel comfortable in—and what your wife tells you you should be wearing is maybe a good tip.” [Laughs.]
WAINWRIGHT: “Guys should take pride in their appearance. I think when guys go wrong it’s when they try too hard or they don’t try hard enough. And you get a guy who just doesn’t think about it, and buys a pair of ill-fitting, cheap jeans and a cheap shirt. There’s a lot of inherent beauty in clothes, and clothes can make you feel great, and I think clothes are worth investing in. It’s worth buying the perfect leather jacket, for example, because it’s something that will be with you forever. It may seem like a lot of money, but it’s worth it, and it makes you feel good. And I think it’s important that you take pride in your appearance.”
[Shop: Rag & Bone 'Officer' Boots]
MSD: What’s changed, since you founded Rag & Bone in 2002, in your approach to designing menswear?
WAINWRIGHT: “Not a lot. Menswear doesn’t change much anyway. We’ve been through periods of being more or less adventurous with men’s design, and we learned a lesson as men’s designers, quite quickly, that if you go too far out of the box, guys don’t get it. Girls are way braver—and way more willing to take a risk. You couldn’t get a guy into a white, leopard-print jacket, for example. But that looks cool on you [nodding to our female video producer in the room]. You’ve got to reference things that a guy is familiar with, whether he’s conscious of it, or subconsciously, something he’s seen in a movie, or seen his dad wear, or seen in photographs. That’s what menswear is really about: beautiful fabric, and detail, and making clothes that guys are familiar with—but at the same time, pushing it gently forward in terms of design, and the fashion part of it.”
MSD: After growing up in England, you’ve both lived and worked in New York for more than ten years. What do you appreciate about each place you’ve called home?
NEVILLE: “New York City is an amazing place. The energy of the city is intoxicating, and it’s very different to London in that regard. We thank New York for really giving us the platform to start our company—not just from a practical standpoint, but also from an entrepreneurial sort of enthusiasm, which I don’t think you find in many places in the world. We’ve been in New York a long time, and we feel sort of like adopted New Yorkers now, so that’s great. We miss London, miss our friends, miss the pubs…but I think both of us are very happy where we are, and don’t really have any intention of moving back.”
MSD: Do you visit London often?
NEVILLE: “We have a store in London now, which is exciting—and I think made our parents quite proud.”
— — —
In Their Own Words. Here’s a short clip of Rag & Bone founders Marcus Wainwright and David Neville, filmed before their personal appearance at Bellevue Square Nordstrom last week:
SHOP ALL: RAG & BONE
[Photos by Kirby Ellis. Interview by Justin Abbott. Video by Angela Sumner & Sean Dutton.
Special thanks to Marcus, David and the Rag & Bone team.]
Our study in Fall contrast continues with clean-cut prep, worn-in leather, streamlined stripes, and woodsy plaid from some of our favorite Designer Collections. Photographed at Kubota Garden, a 20-acre sanctum of lush pines nestled amongst the stark pavement of south Seattle. [See part 1 of this series.]
Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, our own Nordstrom Men’s Fashion Director, Jorge Valls.
The shelves at your local Nordstrom? And the stylish cyberspace on Nordstrom.com? They don’t stock themselves. Dozens of dedicated buyers hand-pick every piece—and one man sets the tone and coordinates all their efforts: Jorge Valls, the Nordstrom Men’s Shop Fashion Director.
We caught up with Jorge (it’s pronounced the same as “George,” by the way) recently, to learn a bit about his worldly background, hear which fall trends he’s looking forward to, and get a sense of what it’s like hopping from show to show during Fashion Week. Read our Q&A below—accompanied by some of Jorge’s own Instagram shots from the spring/summer ’14 shows in Milan and Paris this past summer.
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: What does your job as Men’s Fashion Director entail?
JORGE VALLS, NORDSTROM MEN’S FASHION DIRECTOR: “It’s a mixture of things. I work with our product development team, as well as our merchant teams, to get everybody following the same vision. Working with the buyers involves deciding trend direction, color palettes, key items for upcoming seasons, and working with them at market, walking shows, and going to vendor appointments to see what kind of product is available that matches what we’re trying to say at Nordstrom.”
How did you get to this point in your career? What did you study in college?
“I had a double major in English and French literature, then I got a master’s in business after that. As far as favorite authors…I really like the old British classics—Thomas Hardy, but even Shakespeare. My favorite Shakespeare is probably one of the comedies, like Twelfth Night.”
How did you get started at Nordstrom?
“I started with Nordstrom as a temp, working odd jobs. I worked in the mailroom. I worked as a receptionist. Eventually, I worked in the PR department as the assistant; that was my first full-time role, and that opened the door for me to get into advertising and marketing…eventually, I became the men’s designer buyer, and now I have this job.”
What do you think Nordstrom Men’s Shop does better than anyone else?
“We have something for every customer out there, from traditional to more fashion-forward. We have in-house tailors, personal stylists, a lot of our stores have shoe-shines. We try to offer everything a man needs.”
What would you say to a guy who thinks our Personal Stylist service is not for him?
“A Nordstrom Personal Stylist is an expert on everything we have to offer. They’ll set up a room for you with everything you need. They make your life easy. And it’s free.”
We’re doing this Q&A, in part, to help kick off our Fall 2013 Men’s Catalog [hitting mailboxes and online soon]. What else is special about this year’s catalog?
“We [compiled] Ten Essentials—classics that every man needs to have in his wardrobe, that’ll last forever. We also wanted to acknowledge some real men out there who are doing it right, and share their insights with our customers. And, we’ve touched on some trends that are of-the-moment, but at the same time, totally timeless.”
One of those timeless trends is “University.” Any insights?
“I associate the ‘University’ look with preppy styling, heritage, plaid shirts, navy blazers. Classic items every guy should have in his wardrobe, but updated and new.”
Another fall trend is “Moto.” Can guys who drive four wheels to work pull this off?
“The ‘moto’ trend is a classic, too. It’s a leather biker jacket, it’s denim, it’s T-shirts…It’s very James Dean, very Steve McQueen. It’s cool, it’s accessible, it’s very masculine.”
[L: Marais Arrondissement, Paris | R: Diesel Black Gold spring/summer '14, Milan]
Your title being Fashion Director, what does the word “fashion” mean to you—especially in the context of menswear?
“Fashion, or style, is how you present yourself to the outside world. I think men understand that now. They’re not afraid of it, and they want to express themselves. They want to look appropriate, but they also want to look like individuals.”
[Canali spring/summer '14, Milan | R: Tables turned on the fashion-week photographers]
What are you seeing as a key color for this fall ’13?
“Grey. It’s a very masculine color, and also a neutral one, so you can wear it with black, with brown, with navy, with camel—any broad range of colors. So it’s a good basic. And with grey as a main color, it’s good to maybe have a pop of something a little bit bolder.”
[L: An ivy-covered building in Milan | R: Gucci spring/summer '14, Milan]
You often attend fashion shows in Paris and Milan. What do you enjoy about Fashion Week?
“The shows, the production, the vision of what the designers want to show you is all very exciting to experience in person. And now, the street scene is also a big thing. People really dress up. There’s a lot of people trying to express themselves and get photographed…It’s almost as big of a circus outside when you leave the show, as it is inside the show.”
[L: Cerruti spring/summer '14, Milan | R: Walking into the Thom Browne show, Paris]
How often do you travel for work?
“Quite a bit. I’m home, I’d say, 50 percent of the time—maybe 60 percent, depending on the season. I spend a lot of time on the road.”
[L: Outside the Lanvin show, Paris | R: Givenchy spring/summer '14, Paris]
You work at Nordstrom HQ in Seattle. Have you always lived around here?
“I’ve lived all over the world. I was born in New Jersey. I moved to Portugal when I was two. Then I moved to Mexico, then Belgium, then Pennsylvania, then Spain, then back to Pennsylvania. Then, my family moved to Italy, and I went to graduate school in France. I moved to Seattle in 1991.”
[L: Dries Van Noten spring/summer '14, Paris | R: Jean Paul Gaultier showroom]
Fashion shows, at times, can verge on the bizarre. How do you suggest the average guy interpret some of the things designers send down the runway?
“Fashion Week is a show. I don’t want to say it’s theatre, but—it’s the purest expression of the designer’s vision, so sometimes there will be things that are, you know, hard to wear for the average guy. But those are the ideas that develop into a new proportion, or something being a bit shorter, or tighter, or looser. When you go to a showroom after a show, they have the runway collection, which is the ‘pure’ statement, but the rest of the showroom supports that—usually with more digestible ideas that the average guy can buy into, and maybe dip his toe into some of those [emerging] concepts.”
— — —
Read Jorge’s insights from the spring ’14 trade shows in Las Vegas here.
Yin and yang. Light and shade. Concrete and jungle. Life is a study in contrasts—and your Fall wardrobe should be, too.
To fully meditate on Fall’s dense tweeds, intricate knits, revved-up leather, and sturdy workwear, we took our favorite Designer Collections to Seattle’s historical, 20-acre wooded oasis, Kubota Garden—as well as the surrounding urban sprawl. The conclusion is clear: Fall’s best clothes feel calm, cool and collected, whether you’re in nature’s domain or the wilds of the city.
So what makes the French clothing brand a cut above? Supple, high-quality fabrics, usually exclusive to A.P.C., for one. The unreal balance between modern lines and timeless taste helps. And perhaps most importantly, the fit. Like a song you swear you’ve heard before, A.P.C.’s sweaters, jackets—even their famously stiff, perfectly cut raw-denim jeans—feel like they were made for you. (Trust us, we nabbed an A.P.C. original of our own over the weekend, and were eyeing several others…all on sale to boot.)
Enjoy these shots of our latest A.P.C. delivery, captured right here in our hometown of Seattle. However, as great as the clothes look, you might have to try them on for yourself to fully understand. Staring at a photo of a perfectly charred filet only takes you so far.
A.P.C. – ‘Knot’ Graphic T-shirt
A.P.C. – Mac Trench Coat
How do you follow a previous-season “fashion show” that saw a model locked in the window display of a Paris gallery for three days straight, armed with little more than some arts and crafts, a good book or two, a rack full of cool clothes, and (by the end of it all) a precious few remaining shreds of sanity? (More on that one here.)
Stage a sprawling, and stylish, scavenger hunt through the concrete jungle of New York City, of course. At least that was the solution Scott Sternberg, the Ohio-bred, LA-based designer of Band of Outsiders dreamt up. Models/contestants Miles Garber and Matt Hitt were pitted against each other, fed riddle-like clues (hence the confidential-looking manila envelopes above), and released upon the Big Apple to locate iconic landmarks and complete comical tasks.
They did it all while outfitted in next season’s Band of Outsiders collection, which Sternberg has described as uniforms for a utopian civilization of his own imagining—one in which businessmen, athletes and construction workers seem to cross paths regularly, within the same outfit or even the same garment. If the day these guys had is any indication, B of O’s Fall ’13 clothes are ready for pretty much anything. Read on for highlights from Sternberg’s alternate-reality version of a runway show.
Ground control. The scavenger hunt was masterminded via this moving HQ on the back of a truck.
Don’t hate the players. Miles (L) and Matt, clearly psyched to let the games begin.
Tools of the trade. Per the game’s official rules, after a 7:30am wake-up call, the contestants’ mobile devices were confiscated in exchange for one (1) pair of clean undies.
Luckily, they were given more than tighty-whities. Here, with the score even at zero apiece, the contestants are decked out in the first of many Band of Outsiders Fall ’13 kits.
Scavenger-hunt challenges throughout the day included building Lego self-portraits…
…Powering up with custom, co-branded cookies at Momofuku Milk Bar…
…Tying a bow tie with none other than GQ Creative Director Jim Moore checking the technique…
…And re-enacting a classic scene from Woody Allen’s Manhattan. (Whew.)
A few glimpses of the Fall ’13 wares, including a 2D globe-print T-shirt (a collaboration with artist Sam Durant), a subway-inspired tie, and a traditional Black Watch tartan shirt—with a signature Band of Outsiders twist. View the full looks here.
Sternberg (in custom-designed coveralls) with Ansari (looks like his bow-tying technique passes muster as well) at the after-party.
[Photos courtesy of @ThisIsBandOfOutsiders on Instagram, except final Sternberg/Ansari pic by Instagram user @dmc_dmc. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom.]
Having paid his dues at menswear juggernauts around the industry (Ralph Lauren, among others), Iowa-born designer Todd Snyder was able to launch his eponymous brand, a mere two years ago, already at the top of his game. While past collections have added expanded on Snyder’s roots in traditional haberdashery and hands-on sewing with references ranging from military to classic Hollywood, the lineup for next Fall germinated from a 1950s vintage leather jacket the designer unearthed at a thrift store in Leeds, England. The result, in Snyder’s own words, is a “badass” take on gentlemanly dressing.
[Above, left: Any time Bruce Pask is backstage, you know it's going to be good.]
Precision Instruments. While the cornerstone of Snyder’s new collection—the moto-inspired leather jackets—show a devil-may-care patina, their fit is immaculate down to the millimeter. (Click images to enlarge.)
Serious Sweaters. From a windowpane-plaid cardigan (matched with leather pants, of course) to a shawl-collar in marled mustard, to shoulder-broadening stripes paired with sweats and boots–Snyder’s sweaters had just as much snarl as his biker jackets.
[Instagram images, clockwise from top, from users DetailsMag, Unstill_Life, and ToddSnyderNY. Individual looks by Fillipo Fior, via of Style.com.]
[Instagram images, clockwise from top, from users DetailsMag, Unstill_Life, and ToddSnyderNY. Individual looks by Fillipo Fior, via of Style.com.]