What draws you to a designer?
I like to do a lot of research before I buy from a designer. Generally I am not attracted to a designer based on celebrity endorsement, flashy adverts, or name recognition. If I could have everything made by some local craftsman, get a quality product, and afford it, I would. But most often I look for quality and try to remain without a reasonable budget for both what the item is and what I can afford to spend. I’ll talk shoes because those I know the designers whose products I like and buy.
Justin Fitzpatrick aka the Shoe Snob, has a blog which I read. His opinions on footwear and style were very influential to me, and I agree with what a lot of he had to say. In particular I fell in love with balmoral boots, something I found out about first through his writing. Now at the time balmoral boots were not as common in RTW as they are today. I can’t afford bespoke, nor most MTO balmoral boots, so seeing what was one of the first RTW balmoral boots available to me, designed by someone who I had been reading the thoughts and ideas of for years was amazing to me. Because Justin Fitzpatrick document his journey into the shoe industry, I felt a connection to him and his thoughts. Other designers, even if they have just as large an impact on their product as Justin did, I don’t know their story. I don’t know their philosophy. By taking the time to connect through his writing he developed a fan base even before he had a product.
Anyway, I also read Hugo Jacomet. The Parisian Gentleman (his online publication) produces a guide of shoe brands by price, with reviews of quality and what not. This led me to Septieme Largeur, which is extremely stylish, more fashion forward than a lot of others at its price range. And the Shoe Snob Blog also had nice things to say. Not to mention one of the cofounders is has a media presence I was able to find (mostly some interviews and videos). I also happened to be in Paris about that time, went to the shop, and he was there helping people out (Fitzpatrick also is at his shop, now that he has one).
This small, very personal brand is a good thing. I love working with a business where the people I am talking to are invested in it (figuratively). They have passion for what they are doing and it shows. A large corporation you don’t know who you are dealing with. When I deal with a small company it is nice to deal with the same person or group of people every time. I know I am a customer, not a personal friend, but it feels kind of like I am their friend, because there is more of a relationship.
What would you like to see different?
Justin Fitzpatirck and Mathieu Preiss are doing great. I would buy their products without hesitation, well maybe a little as I can’t try the shoes on for a new style or last, I live in Boston not London or Paris. But I trust them to do what they think is best as far as products go, and I like their style. I think that they, and people like them, are doing what needs to be done to keep the men’s shoe industry alive and vibrant.
How important is luxury casual clothing to you?
I prefer what is normally not seen as casual. When I am wearing casual clothing it is because I don’t want to mess up something nice, or simply for convenience (i.e. I’m not going to wear button boots through airport security; they are a pain to take off and put back on quickly). I like nice things, but unless you mean a fine linen shirt when you say casual, I’d rather save my money for something else.
How can the men's luxury fashion industry serve you better?
I don’t see that fashion industry as some monolithic entity that really has any intention of serving me. There are tons of small operations that I enjoy. These small operations are doing great jobs. The big luxury companies have too much name recognition and too much value put on that recognition for me to afford anything as nice as what I can get from a small company which is run by a handful of people.
If I were to buy a suit, I’d likely get one from Kent Wang. Around here most know his name, but it is not a major brand. Brooks Brother suits are comparable in price, available locally, are decent products, but I met Kent Wang. He personally help me try on suits. If I had a problem with it, I would be dealing with him. If I loved it he could get me more like it, or even improve upon it much easier than a BB rep could one of their suits.
So, I’m happy with the small, personable nimble operations I have dealt with. And not just in the fashion industry but with my tea suppliers as well. I wish the people I named all the success they can handle, and would likely remain a loyal customer as long as they continued to offer the same quality and comparable price, even if I could no longer expect to have them reply to my email or be at the showroom or store to tell me how their suit or boot should fit.
Hope this is helpful.