c.2014 New York Times News Service
c.2014 New York Times News Service
Ever since Henry Sands Brooks bequeathed his Manhattan clothing store to his five sons, who renamed it Brooks Brothers in 1850, the label seemed to have a lock on menswear brands started by brothers. Until now.
A new band of fashion brothers is emerging from the halls of Parsons, Montreal showrooms and less formal training grounds, and staking a claim in the growing men’s luxury fashion market.
From Brooklyn, Ariel and Shimon Ovadia followed their father into the garment business with a line of preppy menswear called Ovadia & Sons sold at high-end retailers like Barneys and Mr Porter. Likewise, Sammy and Liam Fayed, whose father owns a famed British shirtmaker, are behind Bespoken, an upscale outfitter with a downtown outlook, which is based on the Upper East Side.
Not everyone was born into fashion. Matthew and Alex Orley grew up in Michigan, where their parents were in manufacturing and real estate, but they were entranced by men’s apparel at a young age and started their luxe knitwear brand, Orley, with the help of younger siblings. And the Canadian brothers who started Want Les Essentiels de la Vie were marketing executives before they were designers.
“It’s a relatively nascent movement in American fashion,” said Bruce Pask, formerly the men’s fashion director at T: The New York Times Style Magazine and now the men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. Unlike in Italy, where major brands like Armani, Etro, Ferragamo and Missoni are owned and operated by generations of families, North American fashion brands are comparatively younger and have not traditionally mixed business and family.
“Most of the brands are young or emerging designers, and I think that the fashion business in general requires such a broad skill set — a designer has got to function as creative director, business manager, publicist — it just makes sense for a familial or sibling partnership,” Pask added. “Beyond that, you have these other intangibles that family members hopefully innately provide: emotional support and encouragement. It’s a great foundation of a business.”
Ovadia & Sons
Ariel and Shimon Ovadia, 31-year-old twins from the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, were only four seasons into their menswear line, Ovadia & Sons, when GQ named them one of 2012’s Best New Menswear Designers in America for their modern take on tailored blazers, private-school slacks and oxford shirts.
Not bad for two brothers without a formal fashion education. Born in Israel, they grew up helping their father’s wholesale children’s clothing company, Magic Kids. After high school, they worked full time with their dad, who was by then licensing his children’s clothes to giant retailers like Wal-Mart. A chance meeting with Ralph Lauren in 2009 at his East Hampton store, however, inspired the brothers to dream bigger and start their own line.
The Ovadia brothers began by dissecting the shirts they owned and obsessing over details like collar width and sleeve length. “Even the buttons we use are not what you would normally find,” Shimon said. “We use enamel instead of horn.”
Their first collection came out in 2010 and generated strong buzz among men’s fashion blogs. By the next season, it was picked up by Bloomingdale’s and Barneys, and in 2013, the brothers were finalists in the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund.
The look: Nouveau prep for the pocket-square set.
Sample item: An Italian-made, black-and-white digitally printed cotton shirt with pointed collar, French placket, barrel cuffs, shell buttons and side gussets ($285).
Sold at: Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Mr Porter, niche boutiques like Carson Street Clothiers, as well as their website, ovadiaandsons.com.
Appeals to: Guys nostalgic for the heyday of Ralph Lauren.
Philosophy: “The way we look at fit, you could call it obsessive,” Shimon said. “It translates into everything we make.”
Matthew and Alex Orley grew up as fashion rivals. During high school, they worked at competing clothing stores in Franklin, Michigan, an affluent suburb of Detroit. While both were at New York University, they interned at different labels, including Rag & Bone.
But after Alex graduated from Parsons the New School for Design in 2011, the brothers decided to form their own knitwear label, Orley. “We always wanted to work together,” Alex said. “We both were interested in creative fields and how that manifests in something physical.”
With financial help from two younger siblings, the brothers released their first collection in 2012, including a red crew-neck sweater with a tie-dye swirl. Fashion blogs picked up the brash designs, as did boutiques like Fivestory in New York and Union in Los Angeles. The next season, Orley had an order from Bergdorf and was a finalist in the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund.
Matthew, 28, oversees the business end, calling Italian factories at 4 a.m., while Alex, 27, does the sketching. And when the brothers disagree, Matthew’s wife, Samantha Florence, who is the label’s third partner, steps in.
“Sam is the tiebreaker,” Alex said. “Thankfully, she takes my side just as much as she takes Matthew’s. Actually, she probably takes my side more.”
The look: Italian-made knitwear for urban dandies.
Sample item: Ivory crew-neck sweater hand-knit in New York from a blend of Italian cashmere and merino wool ($1,195).
Sold at: Bergdorf Goodman, Fivestory, Carson Street Clothiers and their website, Orley.us.
Appeals to: Guys who fancy themselves in the Italian Alps, sipping Aperol after a long day of window shopping.
Philosophy: “Our father is in manufacturing; our mom is incredibly stylish,” Alex said. “I guess Matthew and I combined their two passions.”
Want Les Essentiels de la Vie
For Dexter and Byron Peart, a man’s bag can be both manly and beautiful. Since starting Want Les Essentiels de la Vie in 2007, the Montreal-bred twins have created a distinctive line of elegant yet functional men’s accessories that is now sold at 100-plus stores worldwide, including Barneys, Colette and Liberty in London.
The Pearts, 42, began their fashion career as marketing executives at Miss Sixty and Diesel before setting out on their own in 1999. Their company, Want Agency, introduced Scandinavian brands like Acne and Nudie Jeans to the North American market.
In 2005, they noticed an untapped void in men’s accessories: Portable devices like smartphones and laptops were becoming commonplace, but there were few luxurious cases to match. “Our way in was about tech and high function,” Byron said.
Taking inspiration from midcentury jet-setter design, the brothers, whose grandfather made tweed suits in Jamaica, created a high-end line of laptop holders, briefcases and travel bags that would not look out of place in a first-class cabin to Paris.
The look: Jet-set luxe for the iPad generation.
Sample item: Trudeau, a 17-inch leather briefcase with rolled leather handles, silvertone hardware, padded interiors and kissing zipper ($1,295).
Sold at: More than 100 luxury stores worldwide including Barneys, Selfridges, Opening Ceremony and Colette.
Appeals to: Fashion-forward globe-trotters who care deeply about their carry-on.
Philosophy: “The bag has to function well, like a timekeeper would say about his watch,” Dexter said.
Along with their famous last name, the Fayed brothers — Sammy, 28, and Liam, 27 — inherited fashion history from their father, Ali al-Fayed, who purchased the legendary British clothier Turnbull & Asser in 1986.
As young men, both worked in the family business, making their way from the stockroom to the sales floor. “We spent quite a bit of time at the factory in Gloucester, England, where we learned about pattern-making and shirt construction,” Sammy said. “This was the building block for our own collection.”
Flash-forward to 2008, when (with another set of brothers, Paulo and Carlos Goncalveses, who have since departed the label) the brothers introduced their own brand, Bespoken, from Liam’s dorm room at Syracuse University, where he was studying retail management and entrepreneurship. (Sam has a degree in film studies from UCLA.) They created some distance from their father by basing their operations in New York, though they helped themselves to Turnbull’s archive and borrowed patterns for their first collection in 2009.
The upscale retailer Louis Boston picked up their collection and was soon followed by Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. In 2013, GQ named Bespoken one of the Best New Menswear Designers in America.
The look: A downtown take on traditional British tailoring.
Sample item: Navy Dot SB2 Blazer, a single-breasted, two-button wool jacket with narrow lapel, black-horn buttons, under-collar melton and full lining ($985).
Sold at: Louis Boston, Saks, Scoop, Bloomingdale’s, Mr Porter and other select stores.
Appeals to: Upmarket Brooklynites who fancy themselves as Eaton alumni.
Philosophy: “Sam, who is a musician, always says our approach is like writing a new song: If you try and make everyone happy, it will never work,” Liam said.
As young boys growing up in Santa Barbara, California, Raan and Shea Parton traveled the world, including trips to Nepal and Mongolia, where they came to appreciate fair-trade manufacturing. So when they started Apolis in 2004, the brothers envisioned it as a socially motivated lifestyle brand, complete with a B Corp certification for “do-gooder” corporations.
What started out as a line of cotton T-shirts handmade in Los Angeles now encompasses a full menswear collection of button-down shirts, denim and chino pants, jackets and accessories.
The brothers travel the globe, teaming up with women in Bangladesh to weave vegan tote bags, a 50-person cooperative in Peru to sew alpaca beanies, and shoemakers in the West Bank to make leather sandals. Much of the manufacturing, however, is made within 10 miles of Apolis’ offices in downtown Los Angeles. They call their business model “advocacy through industry.”
Despite its global reach, Apolis is a family operation. Raan, 32, who holds the title of creative director, is in charge of design and fabric sourcing, while Shea, 30, is the brand director and chief executive, running the day-to-day operations.
“We believe that there are artisanal manufacturers all around the world who possess unimaginable talent,” Raan said. “Our goal is to shine light on this talent and bring excellent products to a global market.”
The look: Heritage-chic basics for the Toms Shoes set.
Sample item: Standard Issue Civilian Blazer, a single-breasted unstructured blazer with three pockets, made with lightweight cotton twill in California ($248).
Sold at: More than 50 stores in California, including its own boutique in downtown Los Angeles, as well as shops in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Appeals to: Sustainable-minded surfer types who want to wear what they preach.
Philosophy: “If the chef is going to take responsibility for anything that comes out of the kitchen, then the chef should be responsible for every step along the way,” Raan said.