Culture Interviews Men’s Fashion Style Travel

Matt Baldwin of Baldwin on Kansas City and the Gritty Grace of the Midwest | Behind the Brand

Embracing his entrepreneurial spirit and Midwestern attitude, designer Matt Baldwin of Baldwin has disrupted the fashion game by creating American denim smack dab in the middle of the heartland.

Downtown Kansas City

Photographs by Ryan Strong

Baldwin is Kansas City: it’s durable, it’s industrious, it’s modern. With exceptional classics and seasonless staples, this KC-based brand is poised to put its community on the map as a fashion force. Step aside, Brooklyn cool.

KC—the City of Fountains—is revered for sports, the arts and its absurdly good barbecue—wait-in-an-hourlong-line-outside-a-gas-station good. That good. The popular Power & Light District is a nightlife hot spot, Westport is a low-key favorite and the Plaza always makes for a great day of shopping (with a stop at Baldwin, of course).

Matt Baldwin

Matt Baldwin

We chatted with Matt about creating a clothing company, the perfect pair of jeans and living in the barbecue capital of the world.

A model in Baldwin in front of Haw Contemporary

Haw Contemporary

Tell us how you came to found a clothing brand.

Timing is everything. After opening two multi-brand men’s and women’s fashion stores in KC in fall 2009, I took my point of view and designed three cuts of jeans—70 pairs each—and launched Baldwin Denim. We sold 22 pairs in a few short hours on the first day, and I knew we had something special. Every season, the collection grows in refinement and distinction as my skills grow as an artist, designer and entrepreneur. I believe in what we are doing at Baldwin.

Baldwin denim pictured at Haw Contemporary
Art: Debra Smith (Courtesy of Haw Contemporary), chair: Norman Cherner for Plycraft

What does “lifestyle brand” mean to you?

Simply put, a trusted company for quality and aesthetic. The brand gives your life relevant form and a value-based function we call style.

A woman models Baldwin denim at Haw Contemporary
Art: Justin Gainan (Courtesy of Haw Contemporary), bench: Wicked Grain

You describe the Baldwin story as one of timeless modernism. Can you elaborate?

Timeless modernism takes into account the history that has influenced the current narrative and projects into the future to build a foundation. Our foundation is the grit-and-grace culture of the American Midwest, as embodied in Kansas City. Modernism speaks to the relevance and progress we seek seasonally with new clothing and imagery.

Who or what currently inspires you?

I’m currently looking at a wide range of periods in American history. Both in the context of the art, objects, furniture, textiles and artists of the last 60 years in Kansas City, and of the current creative movement that is happening.

A woman modeling Baldwin denim

Chair: Thonet

Describe the perfect pair of jeans.

Raw denim worn in for two years—at least—aged like a beautiful textile. It’s art for the denim world.

OK, let’s get this out of the way—what’s your go-to order at Joe’s?

Z-Man. (Perhaps the most popular sandwich in all of KC, the Z-Man is slow-smoked beef brisket, smoked provolone cheese and two crispy onion rings on a toasted Kaiser roll. Yeah, you want that.)

What are you wearing to a Royals game?

A KC hat, jeans, hoodie, trench coat or leather jacket, and Vans.

A man modeling Baldwin designs inside Haw Contemporary
Art: Anthony Baab (Courtesy of Haw Contemporary), chair: Stendig

Describe the perfect Friday night in Kansas City.

A gallery opening at Haw mixed with food and friends at Port Fonda, finishing with a visit to The Ship to listen to Fat Sal play.

Art: Debra Smith (Courtesy of Haw Contemporary)

SHOP: Baldwin

—Zach Schladetzky