Sitting Front Row w/ Fashion Director Jorge Valls

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.


[Nordstrom Men’s Fashion Director Jorge Valls,
photographed at Milk Studios in NYC.
Paul Smith London tuxedo | Levi’s Made & Crafted shirt]

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.”

Do you you have a “uniform” of sorts—office essentials you frequently turn to?
“I’m a big fan of a crewneck sweater, a navy blazer, denim, and a dress shoe. That’s kind of my go-to.”

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.

Shop: Jorge Valls’ favorite items
Read more: Style Profiles

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