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David Hart & Co.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a great tie maker Mr. David Hart and got to know a little more about the man and his great tie company David Hart and Co.  He makes wonderful ties that will look good with your upcoming fall wardrobe as well as any other season at that.  His ties are fun and different then any other tie company out there today.   After you read the interview go and check out his ties.   The Southern Prep:  To people that have not been introduced to David Hart and your ties.  What is one thing they should know?

DH: We make the best ties in the market!

SP:  What year did you start producing your ties?

DH: David Hart & Co. was founded in July 2007

SP:   What made you want to start a tie company?

DH: I wish I had a more interesting story involving time travel or secret agents, but the truth is I’ve always loved clothing and wanted to pursue a career in design from a young age.  After working in the industry alongside Anna Sui, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren I felt it was time to start something of my own.  When I was younger, I inherited an old steamer trunk from my great grandfather Isaac Hart.  He was a milliner on New York City’s lower east side.  The trunk was stuffed with his old neck ties.  They were always a big inspiration to me.

SP:  What is it like for you to be in some of the biggest and best known stores in the world?

DH: I think it’s phenomenal. It’s something that I don’t take for granted, and I’m so appreciative that these retailers believe in our product and our brand.

SP:  Did you ever think you would be in any of the stores you are in today?

DH: To be honest yes, and it is exciting for me.

SP:  What is the toughest challenge to owning your own business?

DH: For me it’s balancing a personal life and the business.  Because we’re such a small company it can be difficult at times to turn it off and find some personal time for myself and my family.

SP:  Do you feel like there are too many tie companies popping up daily or do you like the competition and challenge of being one step ahead?

DH: I think it’s great. My school of thought is that if business is good in neckwear, it’s good for all tie makers. That said, I think the days of being loyal to shoddy manufacturing and fabric because there’s a certain name on the label are over. People appreciate well made products. The challenge now is building something with longevity. Everyone thinks I’m crazy because I don’t have a publicist, but I tell them every other brand on the shelf is my publicist. People often come to a store with a certain brand in mind, but they leave with a David Hart & Co. tie.

SP:  When you started your company, was making your ties by hand in New York big deal to you?

DH: I always thought it was important to manufacture locally.  This allows us to visit and work with the factories as well as make sure our products are of the highest make and quality.  It’s important to us that our factory workers are treated well with proper benefits and salaries.  It’s also partially what I knew of manufacturing from working with Anna Sui, who continues to manufacture her collection in New York City’s garment district.

SP:  What do you think of the resurgence of United States manufacturing?

DH: I think it’s great!

SP:  From the instance I was introduced to your company, I loved the Scottish plaids as I went to college where Scottish heritage was and still is a big deal.  What made you want to produce traditional clan colors?

DH: I’ve always had a fondness for plaid.  It’s so versatile.  It can be worn with so many different options.  Also, I love looking at old photographs of my dad from the 1960’s.  My Grandparents used to dress him in the best plaid suits and ties.

SP:  You have come up with some whimsical silk ties, like the UFO abduction and the sports players.  What is your favorite silk?

DH: I love them all. My favorite was from our first collection. It had toy robots on it. I based it off one of my favorite childhood toys so when it sold out I felt encouraged. It’s always special when you share a piece of yourself and people respond.

SP:  For you fall/winter collection you introduced a few camouflage ties that created a mixed respond from the public.  How to you respond to critism of these ties?

DH: I’m flattered the tie evoked such a strong reaction. They’ve been selling like hotcakes. I actually did a custom order for a group of hip London gents who referred to it as the “Call of Duty” tie. Yesterday I sold a complete set to a WW2 Veteran who was a doctor in the Army. I find that inside most critics there is usually a person who wishes they were daring enough to wear it.

SP:  Your Navajo ties are different than most ties as they remind me of pendleton blankets.  What was your inspiration behind these ties?

DH: My wife and I took a trip to New Mexico last year and I was inspired by all of the old Navajo blankets from the late 1800’s and the turn of the century.  We took traditional Navajo weaving patterns, played with the colors and tried to replicate the weaving style.  They are my favorite ties of the fall season.

SP:  What is your biggest influence when designing your ties?

DH: I am always striving to create something that is lacking in the market.  We always try and do something different than what anyone else is doing.  I tend to look to vintage ties for inspiration, and from there we try to modernize the patterns and designs.

SP:  Can you discuss the top three clothing brands you will buy for yourself this fall?

DH: I wear a lot of vintage, but I’m excited about hats from Rod Keenan and tab collared dress shirts from Antonio Azzuolo.

SP:  What is spring 2012 going to look like for David Hart Ties?

DH:  We have a little of everything including our great plaids, but I’m looking forward to our 1960’s inspired barati silk horizontal striped ties.

Thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk to me about your company.  Good luck with your fall collection.



Fall Boots

Fall is here and it is time to lace on those boots and put on some thick socks.  There is a crisp chill in the air and nothing says fall better than a pair of great boots.  Boots are great for work or play and I have come across some great options for both.  In my opinion Alden makes some of the best boots for both work and play.  You can wear their boot in either situation interchangeable.  Alden’s chukka in snuff suede looks great with a pair of jeans for a great fall weekend.  Then you have the cap toe boots by Alden that would look great under a business suit.

For the weekend you have a number of other options from the Leffot x Quoddy  that is in a great lighter brown color.  Oak Street Bootmakers have come out with a great boot that will be nice in fall or winter and will stand up to the elements.  We can never forget the classic Wolverine 1K miler, these boots will stand that test of time and just keep looking better and better with more time and more scratches.

Weather you are looking for a great dress boot or a great weekend boot they are out there and also you can wear your weekend boots at work.

Tucker Blair

I was able to sit down with the found of a great needlepoint belt company, Tucker Blair.  I have been wearing their belts now for a year and enjoy the fun and different belts they come up with.  Down here in the South we enjoy these needlepoint belts as they add color and a story to our clothing.  Hope you enjoy some of the belts that I have chosen as my favorite and also the interview with Tucker Blair

The Southern Prep: Maryland seems to be a hotspot for needlepoint companies.  Do you think there is anything special happening in Maryland to influence this?

Tucker Blair:  Preppy kids, private schools, & Lacrosse

SP:  When did you start your company and what influenced you to start a needlepoint company?

TB:  May of ’08 we sold our first belts.  I was really influenced by wanting to see a company bring really cool needlepoint belts to customers at under $100 a belt. 

SP:  Are you surprised by the growth of your company since its inception?

TB:  Very surprised.  I don’t have any design or apparel experience.  Every day is a learning experience and I feel fortunate to have worked with people a lot smarter than me who have really helped the business flourish.

SP:  Where do you get your inspiration for your needlepoint belts?

TB:  Customer input mostly.  If enough customers propose a design idea we’ll usually run with it.  We’ll also see cool patterns on other products out there and put our own twist on them.

SP:  Do you do custom needlepoints and if so, what has been the most original design you have encountered?  Have you taken a custom belt and incorporated it into you main designs before?

TB:  We are doing custom for groups.  Our most interesting custom belts to date have been for the NYC store Opening Ceremony.  They came up with a leopard print pattern that is awesome.  We’re also about to launch a limited edition belt with the sunglass company Knockaround.  We’re both selling the belt on our respective sites and I’m excited to see what customers think of the design.

SP:   Do you have any plans to do other needlepoint items other than belts?

TB:  We keep kicking around the idea.  We have the production ability to do flasks, wallets, key fobs etc….so if we decide to go that route they will be really easy to launch.  We just need to make sure customers would like them.

SP:  At one point Tucker Blair was doing other types of belts and now you are only doing needlepoint.  Why do you focus on only needle points?

TB:  We think it’s a more special product.  There are lots of other out there selling surcingle, ribbon, and d-ring.  By focusing on needlepoint we’re able to play a big role in a small niche market.

SP:  What part of the country do you see buying the most needlepoints?

TB:  Always the south.

SP:  What marketing strategies have you employed for your products?  Do you feel social media has helped with gaining popularity?

TB:  Social media has a huge ROI in terms of our customer engagement activities.  It’s a great way to get feedback from customers and easily articulate our mission.  We’re also aggressive with our e-newsletter which has been simple and effective.

SP:  What are a few fall items you are going out to purchase that are not belts?

TB:  I just bought some shorts from a company,  It’s a cool short start up from San Francisco.  Also, just picked up some polos from J.mclaughlin and as always I’m stocking up on the newest Bonobos pants.

SP:  Any new belt designs coming out this fall that you are looking forward to?

TB:  Yep! We have our fall/holiday collection launching soon.  Some of our best designs yet!

SP:  Where do you see Tucker Blair in 5 years?

TB:  The #1 destination for people looking for awesome needlepoint belts.

SP:  Any upcoming plans for any new collaboration like the one you did recently with Opening Ceremony?

TB:  Working with Knockaround.  We have a few others in the works, but we’re still trying to finalize them.  Luckily our organic TB belt sales are growing nicely too!

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your company and good luck in all your future endeavors.

 Thanks for thinking of Tucker Blair!

Best, taylor

Billy Reid Fall 2011

I was first introduced to Billy Reid’s clothing when he opened his store at the South Park Mall in Charlotte, NC (I hate that this store is no longer, sad to say it is now a Tory Burch store).  This was back in September of 2006 and I had never heard of this brand before and when I walked into the store it felt like I was walking into a great house down in the south.  Ever since that first introdcution I have been a big fan of everything he does.  I have met many great people from the stores in Charlotte and Charleston being the only two ive frequent.  I keep in contact with them on a regular basis and go hang out with them  to this day.  Even once I got to met Billy himself and had a nice chat with him about just life.

Below are two of my favorite Billy Reid fall suits that I have.  The first is my oldest Billy Reid suit it is from the 2006 season.  This by far is the best pattern that I have come across and to top it off its a great three piece.  The next is from last fall season and is a great grey and white herringbone tweed.  As you can see why I love fall, I love wearing these suits.

Fall has always been my favorite season of Billy Reid.  That is because no one does it better with tweed, flannel, and henley’s.  Going into his store no matter what time of the year will always remind me of Fall just because of the dark hardwoods and the candles burning.  I have found some of my favorite items from the season that just went online the other day.  I can not wait to make a trip down to Charleston to see what else is in the store and see what other items are not on the site yet.  Billy has got a lot of press lately and well deserved but ever since my first encounter with the stores and clothes I will be a life long supporter of Billy Reid.
To wet everyone appitate here is a sneak peek of what Billy Reid will start to carry in his stores starting tomorrow.  Way to pair up with a great American Brand Levis.

Panta Clothing

I was first introduced to Panta clothing about a year and half ago while on Stylefourm I came across amazing ties and was just drawn to them. I go a raw silk Panta tie and it is the best tie that I own and hope to get more in the future.  The pants are amazing as well but do not own any of those yet.  Enjoy the interview below about Panta Clothing from creater Ed Morel.

The ties above are a picture of my personal Panta tie in Navy raw silk.

Southen Prep:  What year did you start Panta clothing?

Panta Clothing:  First pants were available in early 2010 but it took about 6 months to get to that point so I guess you could say we started at the end of 2009.

SP:  You started out just selling ties and now have moved on to pants.  Are there more items that are planned for the Panta Clothing Line?

PC: Yes, we’ll shortly start production on shirts, sportcoats and possibly suits. We are also currently working with an American shoe manufacturer, the plan is to offer a few classic models, hopefully that should launch before the end of the year.

SP:  What influenced you to start a clothing company?

PC:  I’ve always had an affinity for clothing and as I starting dressing up regularly, I found a dearth of quality, classic, well price items on store shelves. Being in NYC and knowing the rich garment manufacturing history that existed here, I kind of put two and two together.

SP:  Do you have any plans to sell your items major retail stores?

PC:  No, not at this time.  I want to control how my items are presented, how they are described, how they are sold.  Retail stores provide an opportunity to get your items in people’s hands, which is a terrific thing so I am missing out on that but at the same time, the internet reaches a worldwide audience so my exposure is a lot greater and I can interact with my customers in a way that I can’t in the retail channel.

SP:  From inception, what impact has styleforum had on your business?

PC:  At inception, styleforum was my business.  Slowly, I am getting more and more customers that are not from styleforum but it’s members still represent the majority of my business for all intents and purposes.

SP:  What is your current social media status?  Any future plans?

PC:  No social media exposure. No plans to have a presence on any of the major sites.  I do like and read a lot of the blogs.

SP:  When you introduced your tie line a few years ago not many people where doing shantung (raw) silk ties or grenadine ties.  What influenced to introduce this style of ties to consumers?

PC:  Well, I remember raw silks being done by Ralph Lauren many, many years ago and grenadines have been around since as long as I can remember, I still have a couple of Turnbull and Asser’s that I purchased back in the early 90’s.  I don’t know why these aren’t mainstays of the major brands, they are magnificent ties and add a great dimension to any outfit. Raw silk ties have terrific texture and look equally great in a summer outfit as they do with a tweed sportcoat. On grenadines, I prefer the smaller weave (Garza fina) and again, a great tie to add texture to a summer or winter outfit.

Everything I produce is something you’ll find in my closet and I don’t wear them because I sell them, I sell them because I wear them.

SP:  Which two ties are your favorite from the current collection and which are your all time favorite?

PC:  I love the raw silk ties and the grenadines. I wear cashmere year round so a blue Donegal cashmere tie is also one of my favorites. I tend to wear solid navy ties more than the others so I could theoretically live on just a solid navy raw silk, navy grenadine and navy cashmere tie.  For fall , we have a lot of beautiful cashmere and wool ties being made. There is a navy cashmere Spitafield that I can’t wait to wear, a rich brown wool flannel that is going to look so great with grey winter suits and a bunch of other stuff. Hard to pick just one.

SP:  What generation of consumer do you feel purchases your ties?

PC: I get all age groups. Older gentleman that have been buying clothes longer than I have been alive and kids that are still in school getting ready for their first job interviews.  When possible, I  try and guide the customer if I think he is making a mistake. If I get a student looking to buy his first tie for job interviews and he wants an orange Donegal cashmere, I’m going to talk him out of it.

SP: It seems younger generation men are starting to wear more suits and ties more now and getting away from the casual environment.  What do you think this stems from?

PC:  I’ve heard multiple theories on this. One is that as times get harder and jobs are harder to find, those that are working/looking for jobs make a special effort to stand out above the polo’s and khaki fray. I think the internet and places like styleforum play a role as much as anything else. Twenty years ago, if you lived in a city with very limited clothing options, what are the chances that you would be looking for raw silk ties, made to order English shoes,  Japanese raw denim jeans  etc.  Now, you can find and purchase the most obscure brand in the world with a mouse click and talk about it hours on end with other like-minded individuals from around the world.

SP:  Do you think menswear blogs are hurting or helping companies, such as yours?

PC:  Blogs are terrific in that they get the word out about brands such as mine.  If I wanted to have people hear about me, I would have had to advertise in one of the major magazines or knock on the door of the buyers of the retail stores.  Everytime I get mentioned in a blog, I get more people added to my mailing list. It’s a slower growth, but it’s a much more targeted and educated audience.

SP:  What are you looking to be purchasing for fall 2011?

PC:  Lots of cashmere items.  I’m looking forward to the aforementioned cashmere items that we are making.  Also, few things feel as good as a cashmere scarf on a cold winter day. We also make these cashmere pants that I dress up or down in the winter time. Lastly, a nice brown cashmere sportcoat.  After navy, brown is your most versatile sportcoat color.

I wish men would wear more cashmere. I think a lot of guys see it as a very pricey, dainty fabric that should only be reserved for “special” items but I wear cashmere as often as I can and durability is not really an issue, assuming you are not playing football in it. I’d love to make cashmere boxers but I doubt that anyone will want to go through the hassle of getting their underwear dry cleaned.

SP:  What is the fall outlook for Panta Clothing?

PC:  As I mentioned, we have a lot of things cooking. In the immediate future, we’ll have a great selection of ties and scarves. Over the next 3-4 months, we should have sportcoats and shoes added to the mix. While we don’t manufacture the items, we design the patterns and source all the raw materials, we take a very hands on approach which makes sure we get exactly what we want but it also means things take time to go from design to production. Everything we sell is made in theUSA, with the majority of the items being made in NYC.

SP:  Do you have any special projects you are currently working on?

PC:  We are always juggling a few ideas at a time, right now the shoes are the sportcoats are the two things that I am really looking forward to launching.

SP:  Where does your inspiration stem from when working on your ties?

PC:  I find ties to be the hardest thing to shop for, either in person or online.  There tend to be a lot more duds than hits.  I try and make ties that don’t require you wearing them with five different outfits to see with which one it works.  I guess you would call them boring ties, but I prefer the quality of the materials and the classic nature of the pattern to be what people notice rather than any ostentatious design.  I do the occasional “fun” tie but if you went to your local menswear store looking for a solid navy tie or small patterned dark colored tie, you might find one or two in a sea of rainbow colored, large patterned, in your face ties. If you have a tie that requires more than a minute or two of thought about what to wear it with, toss it in the garbage.

SP:  What one or two people in the fashion world has had an inspiration on you and where you are now?

PC:  Well, I think anyone that is in anyway associated with the clothing business really needs to look at Ralph Lauren as their patron saint.  No one, in men’s or women’s clothing, has done what he has. From the highest income earner to the deep discount outlet shopper, you’ll find at least one Ralph Lauren item in their homes.  There is a quality and price point ladder, but no dilution to the brand name and the name means something to everyone on that ladder.  I find the brand to be absolutely amazing, I love what he does at the high-end menswear Purple Label line and I think a class on the man and the company should be taught at every business school in the country.

Thank you for taking the time to set down to talk to me about your clothing line and letting our readers know a little more about you.

Thank you for having me and I very much appreciate this opportunity to reach out to your readers.

Happy Labor day

Happy Labor day from the southern prep.  Hope you are enjoying the unofficial end to summer.  The interview series will be back tomorrow and every Monday from here on out.  Even though summer is over Fall is here and that means Football, tweed and boots.  Thanks to all the readers that made the last two months great.

Park & Bond VS. Mr. Porter



Finding good menswear sites were hard to come by but over the they have got better and better and now there is two competing sites for men to go by clothes that are hard to find.  The two sites are Park and Bond that was started last month as part of Gilt and Mr. Porter which was started last year as a brother site to the popular women’s wear Net-A-Porter.  These two sites are both similar and different at the same times.  They both offer advice on what to buy and what is popular for the current season.  Mr. Porter is kind of like a magazine style where as I feel that Park & Bond is more of a blog type.

Then we look at the different offering that both have.  Mr. Porter has more of the European feel(yes it is a Europe company) where as Park & Bond is all American.  As you look through the designers Park & Bond gives you that feel of flipping through a GQ magazine and wishing you could buy right whats on the page.(you can do that now with GQ partnership).  Looking at Mr. Porter I feel that you are looking more trend driven cloths that are popular right now but maybe not be wearing them a year from now.

When Mr. Porter first came out it changed the game for the better and now with Park & Bond’s offering the game is only going to get better and better.  I feel that Park & Bond may win on what they offer but Mr. Porter wins on their Journal.  I feel that both of these sites are only a good thing for menswear.