These three talented designers — Marlon Gobel, Ian Velardi and Todd Snyder — all worked for menswear greats: Ralph Lauren, Mickey Drexler, Thom Browne, Michael Bastian. They’re now showing their own visions, hoping to become household names.
Marlon Gobel: Storyteller
Marlon Gobel worked for two influential modern menswear designers: Thom Browne and Michael Bastian. His first collection was picked up by Bergdorf Goodman for fall 2010, a key account ever since. (He even had two pieces featured in their 5th Avenue windows for holiday!) He describes the collection as directional, salable pieces that come together to tell a story. “It’s all in the way you draw men into fashion and connect with them. One way I’m doing that is through this action movie vibe, so fall 2012’s story will be about a bank heist. You’ll see a lot of two-piece suits, glen plaids and black sweaters. When men are in a great fitting suit, they feel good. I want to rid them of that feeling of insecurity. What confirmed this for me was the movie Crazy Stupid Love when Ryan Gosling’s character shows Steve Carell’s character that if he dresses in a certain way, he won’t have to worry about how he looks and can pay attention to the person across from him. I try to remind guys that they’re not just dressing to be comfortable, but to be confident.” He attributes his early success to taking his time and working for other companies first. “I’m not going to say it hasn’t been really hard, but I’m glad I took the time to learn it because things like this don’t happen by mistake.”
Ian Velardi: No Shortcuts
Ian Velardi credits Hickey Freeman for his menswear education. “I had no formal design schooling and got my start in Hickey’s training program. Then I bounced around departments from design, merchandising, sales and marketing.” Velardi launched his first collection for fall 2011 and is selling it to Barneys and Park & Bond (Gilt Groupe’s full-price men’s website). He describes the collection as a reinterpretation of classic pieces in a luxe, modern way. Best-selling styles include trim-fit trousers ($275 retail) and cashmere sweaters ($595 retail).
Everything is made in Italy with the exception of some American-made tailored pieces. Retail pricepoints range from $795 to $1,295 for sportcoats, $995 to $1,595 for suits, $195 to $275 for shirts, $295 to $595 for sweaters, $494 to $1,795 for outerwear and $165 to $225 for knits. For 2012, Velardi is excited about showing a new suit silhouette, as well as quilted woven shirt jackets and leather/shearling bomber jackets. “I have big ideas and like to dream. I’m fortunate to have met a lot of talented people in the industry who I reach out to for advice. They’ve become more like friends than mentors; we share ideas and help each other. Someone once said to me, ‘There ain’t no shortcut in anywhere worth going,’ which is some of the best advice I’ve been given.”
Todd Snyder: Living the Dream
Iowa-born Todd Snyder always dreamt of becoming a designer. “I used to watch CNN Style growing up. I majored in business but then switched to design my senior year. I taught myself how to sew and worked as a tailor’s assistant at Badowers, a men’s store in Iowa.” In 1993 he and his wife moved to New York and he took a job working for free at Ralph Lauren. He’d make shirts for himself because he couldn’t afford designer ones, and his boss took notice; soon enough, he started getting paid. He then worked with Mickey Drexler at the Gap and J. Crew, where he introduced formalwear and better fabrics to the J. Crew customer. He also launched retail collaborations with Alden, Timex and Red Wing, which led to conceptualizing and executing Manhattan’s J. Crew Liquor Store.
His own collection launched for fall 2011 and has been picked up by Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Odin and Ron Herman. Retail pricepoints range from $200 for shirts, $250 to $400 for sweaters, $225 for denim and $800 to $1,000 for suits and outerwear. Snyder says he’d love to open a store in New York, but notes that he’s growing the business slowly. “Pacing is important. My late father always said, ‘Work hard and good things will come.”’ Snyder now says his greatest accomplishment is his family, and being able to support them by doing what he loves.