You started out as a tailor's apprentice as a kid back in Iowa. Would you say that the launching of your own line was a long time coming?
Yes. It was always my dream. I wanted to learn everything I could before launching my line. My father told me to work for the best to be the best.
Describe the aesthetic for your line.
British tailoring meets downtown New York. It's all about the mix. I try to mix opposite styles to create tension. I'm liking the military influence and cargos with tailored jackets.
How do you achieve that balance of old world quality through a modern lens?
It's a fine line. Balance is key. Not too much, not too little. I like to mix one thing out of the ordinary. For example, a tailored vest and tie with a rumpled dress shirt, mixed with a pair of military cargos and dress boots. Accessories play a key roll—nothing is better than a great vintage belt that fits a little too large.
It's not just what you wear, but how you wear it ...
Exactly. It's how you mix things that makes things new, similar to a chef or a great architect. All the ingredients are known, there are no new meats or veggies. It's how you mix them together that makes them great.
What was the most valuable lesson you took from working at a place like J.Crew?
The Liquor Store, for sure. It was Mickey Drexler's baby and I was in charge of launching it. We spared nothing. He wanted cool but salable. It's what I am best at. I worked with Timex, Alden, Red Wing, Jack Purcell, Globe Trotter and Macintosh to recreate great classics. It was like being in a candy store and picking your favorite brands to work with. We also changed our J.Crew classics to be more modern. It was key to changing the direction of J.Crew.
Where do you look for inspiration?
It's always different. I'm really liking Paul Strand photography right now. He shot amazing photos in the early 1900s of the working class.
A good deal of your line is produced here in the States. How important is that for you, and is it difficult to do as a new designer?
I make 50% of my line here. I wish it was more. The last few manufactures have held on for the last 15 years since NAFTA was passed. We still have the best suits, shirts and denim made here. It's very few since the old days when I started.
Double-faced cardigan, $175; Japanese selvedge chinos, $275
What was your goal when you were thinking about starting the line?
It started by thinking about travel. When you travel you always pack your favorite pieces. You can't take everything so you have to curate. Then you realize that the items you packed are all you really need ... period. I wanted to take those special pieces you rely on and try to make them better. Then it evolved from there.
How would you describe your aesthetic for the brand?
Modern classic. Yet as the line evolves you'll see hints of other moods. I don't believe you have to limit yourself to one genre, as long as you have strong roots.
And does that differ from your own personal style—or do the two intertwine?
They definitely intertwine. I think when there's something you're passionate about personally, it has to influence your work. The result is authentic.
You've quickly developed a rep for luxurious essentials. Is that something you're hoping to teach men—to buy better staples?
I believe in buying the right items. When you buy the right pieces you don't have to own a lot. You'll look better and they last longer. The term "essentials" can get a bad rap. It doesn't have to mean boring. Your "essentials" can be the most dynamic pieces you own, as long as they're versatile and purposeful.
What are the items that you personally save on and splurge on?
At this point in my life there is no splurging. Come on man, I'm trying to start a business! As far as saving, there's nothing better than a cheap three-pack of white T's. I think I've tried every brand under the sun.
Where do you look for inspiration? Is it different with each collection?
Ideas come at the most random times, but rarely when I'm looking for them. I spend a lot of time scouring the streets of New York, just watching people. I'm just naturally curious. There's so much out there—life itself is inspiring. There's a handful of things that I always lean on for inspiration, they're in my blood and not going anywhere. I'd tell you what, but then I'd have to kill you ... seriously.
When you're burnt out creatively, what do you do to "recharge the batteries"?
I need to be active everyday. I usually start my day with a run or workout. I need to get my heart rate pounding, it's the only thing that clears my head. Sports have always been a big part of my life. I don't like to sit still.
What's the toughest part of launching your own line?
Carrying stuff up and down the stairs of my 4th floor walk up. For real though, there are new challenges everyday and trying to find time to do everything is very difficult. Interns, please submit apps to: [email protected]
Double-breasted sport coat, $995;
Sport shirt, $215