of Valet.

Presented by

Style Innovators

New Voices in American Menswear

The first in a two part feature, we're checking in with the guys changing the menswear game right now—from new designers to seasoned pros putting a fresh spin on established labels. First up: Aaron Levine, who honed his skills at classic American brands, and is now bringing a masculine elegance to Club Monaco. Along with Mark McNairy, who saw the potential in Woolrich Woolen Mills even before the company launched the label.

Aaron Levine

Vice President, Men's Design
for Club Monaco

For the uninitiated, give us the 60-second resume ...

Prior to joining Club Monaco, I was designing at Jack Spade. Before Jack Spade, I was creative director at Rogues Gallery. Before Rogues, I was design director of Hickey Freeman's 'hickey' line.

And how did this opportunity come about?

A mutual friend of ours, Michael Williams of ACL fame, was nice enough to introduce us. I came in and had several great meetings here. It immediately felt like an outstanding opportunity that I could not pass up. Just to be actually considered a candidate was really exciting. To be offered the job in the end was shocking. I'm still shocked.

Cole cashmere cardigan, $349

Describe your aesthetic for the brand going forward.

Approachable. Wearable. Modern. Not minimalist modern, but warm modern. We already do such a great job with the staples, it doesn't take all that much to mildly adjust the aesthetic and fill a void in the market that currently exists while still being true to the brand.

Club Monaco, Fall 2011

You're known for being a master at fit and finishing details ... are you looking to bring to the brand?

I'd be foolish to say no. What's awesome is that the people here on the team, we're all product nerds and get excited over the small things. We come to work five days a week, but we never really turn it off. You can get inspired to try something new by anything, at any time. It's those things that you see in an unexpected places that often influence you try something new.

I think it's also about what you choose not to do that's as important as what you do. In the beginning of my career, I was so excited about what I could do and didn't think about what I should do. That's one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned. One of the first collections I ever did for Hickey, it was, lets say, not good. I'm so thankful the people there gave me another shot.

Cashmere watch caps,
from $69.50

Wool snorkel coat, $389

You mentioned staples. What are three every guy should have for fall?

A great chino. Beautiful, functional outerwear. I say beautiful, but I don't mean delicate. Great sweaters—shawl collars, crew necks and V's. A wool sportcoat. Some dark woven shirts. Flannel trousers. We make an awesome cashmere watch cap, as well. Wait. You said three ... sorry.

What are the items that you personally save on and splurge on?

I used to think it meant saving up for something expensive. Then I realized, just because its expensive doesn't make it good. Or mean that I will use it more. If I splash out on something, I need to know in my head that I'm going to get my money's worth. Maybe a watch. I also like English shoes. I like Santa Maria Novella...the patchouli. My friends say I smell like a hippie, but I love it.

When you're burnt out creatively, what do you do to "recharge the batteries"?

Travel. To other countries or to visit family. Unplug. Museums, art, music, nature or film. What I've found, and what's really awesome, is that when you find yourself trying not to think about it, something just comes along and gives you a kick—ideas for whole collections can just come along and be spawned from the simplest things. A wise man once told me, "If you think about it too much, or try and force it, it's wrong." Pretty sound advice.

Mark McNairy

Creative Director,
Woolrich Woolen Mills

We heard once that you had written to Woolrich asking for something akin to WWM years before it started. Is that true?

That's true, actually. About fifteen years ago. At the time, they just weren't ready.

And how'd you find your way back to them?

My buddy, Daiki [Suzuki, who designed the line from its inception] recommended me for the job.

How would you describe your aesthetic for Woolrich Woolen Mills?

True American sportswear—plain and simple.

Clockwise from top left: wool pea coat, $795; striped duffle coat, $795;
four hands collaboration parka, $895; Elmer waistcoat, $375 and plaid shirt, $295.

And there's always some whimsy or touches of "Go-To-Hell" in your namesake pieces. Are there threads of that with WWM?

Roark vest,

Maybe a little, but I do have a heritage that I should—and want to—adhere to.

Favorite piece in the fall collection?

That big ass duffle coat.

Biggest source of inspiration?

The United States of effin' America.

How much do the Woolrich archives play into that?

Really, the archives plays very little into my process—other than the fabric archive. I see my job as paving a new path from the Woolrich brand.

What's the easiest way to recharge the creative batteries?

Pop open a bottle of rosé.

Any brands or designers you think are killing it right now?

I really like the bags by Portland's Chester Wallace.







Advertise on Valet


The Series


Club Monaco and Woolrich Woolen Mills.


This series is brought to you by Mercedes C Class Coupe. Visit mbusa.com/mercedes to learn more.