Interview: Daniel Lewis of Brooklyn Tailors
On the current landscape of men's fashion with the founder and designer of Brooklyn Tailors, presented by Cole Haan
In the past decade or so, men's fashion has grown into its own. In generations past, one dressed according to their occupation, location or social economic sect, but nowadays a man's wardrobe reflects his lifestyle or, at the very least, the lifestyle he aspires to. The heritage movement taught fashion enthusiasts to invest in quality over quantity and value where each purchase comes from.
With aspects from yesteryear mixed with modern innovations, men's fashion seems to be focused on freedom, experimentation and blending—high/low or perhaps more accurately: technical/basic. The combination of tech-led brogues (like the ZeroGrand), sweats and a tailored blazer might have been laughed at in the past, but now it just might get you street styled.
To get some insight from a card-carrying menswear insider, we recently caught up with Daniel Lewis, founder and designer of Brooklyn Tailors, fresh from being named one of GQ's 2014 Best New Menswear Designers in America.
Where do you see men's fashion going?
I see things moving towards a bit more of a clean, minimal aesthetic—less rugged or rustic and more sharp and refined. I see guys wanting to clean up their act a little bit, look a bit less disheveled and slouchy and a bit more "put together." That can mean lots of different things, but I think it's the general broad trend. I think we'll see guys mixing clothes from different worlds in interesting ways—it might be some running sneakers with a formal suit, and a workwear shirt. It's all about making interesting juxtapositions.
There's been a complete breakdown of those rigid rules and expectations. It's a wide-open playing field now, compared to how it used to be.
As a celebrated designer of formal men's attire, how have you seen the culture of men's fashion change in recent years?
For most of history, there have been pretty established and strict rules or codes to how people have dressed in a given society. Depending on your walk in life, your job, your social status—you were expected to dress a certain way. And, there were clear lines between what you wore for certain occasions: you wore a certain thing to go out for the evening, a certain thing to the office and a certain thing on the weekends. The amazing thing about the past handful of decades is that there's been a complete breakdown of those sorts of rigid rules and expectations. It's a wide-open playing field now, compared to how it used to be.
But, now that the rules have broken down a bit, and you don't have to wear a suit necessarily, I'm finding that younger guys are now warming up to the idea of dressing up a bit more than they did in the past. What used to feel stiff and overly formal is now feeling exciting to a new generation of guys. But, it's being interpreted in new ways. A classic gray suit is being paired with a casual denim shirt and sneakers. Guys now have the freedom to break the rules and subvert expectations.
What about men's fashion and its accompanying culture has you most excited these days?
I'm excited that guys have become much more engaged with the process of dressing themselves in recent years and, with that, men's fashion has become a lot more fun and interesting. I feel that men's fashion has come into its own because it has found its own distinct identity—which is quite different from that of the women's fashion world.
I find that guys are more concerned with the details of quality, construction and the story behind the product. They like to do their research and find a company that works for them to be loyal to. The internet has been a huge help in that respect because it has allowed men to have information about every clothing brand on the planet at their fingertips, which has been a really good thing for small niche brands such as Brooklyn Tailors. We've been able to reach out to our very specific customer base and connect with them, whether they're here in Brooklyn or on the other side of the planet.
There's a bit of a "return to function" as a concern in men's clothing. If you go way back, nearly every item in a man's wardrobe was designed with a very specific function in mind.
Do you think function is being considered more by designers than in previous years or decades?
I'd say there's a bit of a "return to function" as a concern in men's clothing. If you go way back, nearly every item in a man's wardrobe was designed with a very specific function in mind. The details on a garment were designed to serve a certain purpose. And, the garment itself was expected to perform—to be built to last. People didn't have as much stuff in their closets, because to get new clothes, you had to get them made by your tailor. But, with the rise of ready-to-wear fashion and mass production, clothing suddenly became much more readily accessible and much cheaper. But, I'm seeing a lot of people that are deciding to spend a bit more money, time and effort on finding something of great quality, that is just right for them and they're choosing to have fewer (but better) items in their wardrobe.
Images by Nicholena Moon and courtesy of Brooklyn Tailors