When Peter Georgiou, a 10-year Ralph Lauren veteran and veritable history buff decided he wanted to launch a menswear label for guys looking for quality, timeless clothes at an attainable price, he tapped his buddy Kenny Thomas (who also had more than a decade of experience at the RL design studio) to help bring it to life. The result? Grayers Clothiers. And as the spring collection makes its way to stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's, we talked to Thomas about building a brand and keeping costs low.
Peter and I both grew up working at Ralph Lauren, so wonderfully designed and well crafted classics are in our DNA. I like rewriting classics in modern ways with updated fabrics and fits. For instance, a navy blue blazer done in a relaxed boiled wool. Or a classic baseball cardigan, but reinterpreted with color blocking. Timeless, but easy to wear, casual but smart. We aren't into details that don't serve a purpose—there aren't any zippers to nowhere.
Garment dyed twill blazer, $125
and madras shirt, $75
Peter was inspired by the young men on the campuses of Cambridge and Oxford who quite daringly broke from conformity in the post-war years and substituted gray flannel trousers, commonly known as Grayers, for their three-piece suits. This was really the historic start of casual men's dressing.
Bonded cotton anorak, $185
Vintage boarding school and collegiate garments are a core source of inspiration, as is military and workwear pieces. The key for us is modernizing the fabrications, fits and colors. We want you to recognize our starting point, but be excited about where we've taken it. Paul Smith is a personal hero and a perfect example of someone who in the luxury market has mastered this technique. His garments are witty without departing into an unrecognizable, overly designed fashion item. We strive to hit this mark with accessible men's sportswear.
Our ability to deliver a quality collection with design integrity at an amazing value is specifically due to Peter's vision and business acumen. He saw a gap in the marketplace and was determined to fill it ... and it's largely achieved by keeping our costs down. We design, produce and sell the line ourselves. I live on a farm in North Carolina, Peter and his wife Joanna (who handles our sales) live in Hong Kong. We don't have showrooms in New York or LA. We accomplish quite a bit via Skype. It's a lot of work but—to get nerdy on you—really rewarding to see 80's 2-ply yarn-dye shirtings and dense, compact 2-ply bottom weight twills retailing for $88.