Though we certainly have our favorite, go-to labels here at TruckerDeluxe, we're always on the lookout for what's around the next curve in the constantly cycling world of men's fashion. And with workwear/heritage/outdoor being some of 2011's biggest buzzwords, along with an overall trend towards higher quality fabrication and construction, we think &Work Apparel, a new brand set to drop any day now in select stores and online at TruckerDeluxe.com, will definitely hit the ground running. We spoke with &Work's founder and industry veteran Eric Wallis about the inspiration behind &Work and what to expect from their Holiday 2011 debut.
What's was the impetus for starting &Work?
In 2006 I had the idea to create clothing based on the wants and needs of craftsman, artisans, tradesman, laborers, and as a result help elevate the trades. Bring a higher standard of value to a customer who has high demands for his clothing. We wanted also to incorporate more modern fits and unique fabrics into classic American styles. Next, we wanted to enable that community of design/builders and makers to inspire our designs, and contribute ideas and concepts of their own.
Your clothes and branding certainly seem to focus less on flash, and far more on substance. Was this a conscious reaction to things you've seen in fashion over the years or just a personal preference for functional, durable apparel?
Definitely, our prime motivation is that everything should have meaning, from the font we used for the logo, which was used in posters from early-mid 20th century posters promoting American industry. We also wanted to create an icon (the ampersand) that worked well in the logo itself and could be used as a stand-alone icon, so that you don't always have words visible on your clothing. With the &Work message too, we wanted it to be straightforward and accessible. It's about working hard but not forgetting what it is you are working for. We often prioritize our work over our, passions, relationships, and forget about the goal, which doesn’t make sense. The concept of work/life balance is kind of cliché, but it’s easier said then done, and it’s important for us to be conscious of what really matters, and yes, I think its' a good thing that people are moving away from flash toward down to earth simplicity and function. People these days want to buy things that will last, and are a good value. If we can build our product to last 2 to 3 times longer than a comparable garment, then we have done our job. Ideally we would like our garments to survive through multiple thrift stores and maybe be rediscovered in a fathers closet years down the line. A lot of people want to consume less and have their clothes last as long as possible.
As far as the inspiration for the clothes themselves, we wanted to improve upon timeless styles, and add hidden utility and subtle details. The line has an overall vintage look, with modern fits. Recent years have seen some really great work wear and classic Americana inspiration in higher end fashion, but much of it is expensive, and not something most of us would be willing to get dirty in. And at times the durability and construction is compromised. On the other side of the spectrum, you have rugged, inexpensive clothing with some great utility, but there is some room for improvement with the fits and styling. We have positioned &Work in between the two. Durable, affordable, good looking men’s clothing that you can get dirty, but also feel good about wearing. I know a lot of men that don't necessarily care about what is going on in the fashion world, so we want to pay just enough attention so that they don't have to.
Regarding the fabrics and construction of the garments, what sets you guys apart?
With the fabrics, for the first season we definitely leaned toward the side of comfort and wear ability, with attention to the construction. All of the critical seams are triple stitched, the buttons are metal and reinforced so they will not pop off, even if they get caught on something. Amanda (our designer) and I have also been looking at some tough and sustainable fabrics for next season.
What are some of the particular pieces and/or details you're most excited about?
I really like the button-up wovens. The fits are perfect, the fabrics are strong but have a good hand, and the style is very clean with hidden features. For instance both of the chest labels have hidden function, and can be used to hold a pencil or tool, or not. The long sleeve "Vocation" shirt has a hidden cord port under the pocket flap, so the cord stays on the inside of the shirt and out of the way.
The "Continental" Utility robe is also really comfortable and functional. Each season we want to design a style specific to a trade. And for our first season we figured we would honor the spirit of DIY and home improvement. It's OK to laugh, we also want to maintain a lighthearted attitude to the process, and not take ourselves too seriously.
Who is the ideal &Work consumer? Who did you guys have in mind when designing these clothes?
Active outdoorsman, men who work outside, men who work with their hands, etc. Men who don’t want to wear clothing with big logos and prints. A lot of us don’t want to be branded, and so we created &Work to be worn working, being active, or just to wear out. Really, it’s for anyone who has high standards from their clothing, and is looking for utility, simple design, and style.
What are your plans for launching the brand and getting brand recognition?
A lot of the inspiration of the brand comes from the mountains, beaches, and history of Northern California and the old west, and I feel like retailers and individuals in the Northwest, and the Rockies will be quick to identify with the brand. We are looking to establish partnerships with some key retailers and reps that really identify with the brand. I would rather start a brush fire and grow it organically. It is a little different from anything else out there, and I think will allow us to establish a unique distribution platform that transcends traditional barriers, we hope to exist in outdoor markets, menswear, street wear, and beyond. We have been showing the line for about a month now, and have had a really great response from a lot of different types of retailers. Some people may not think they have the &Work customer, at least yet, but everyone has been very positive. Our goals are pretty modest and realistic for the first year.
We have also partnered with Mike Hatchett from Standard Films and we have been making some fun and interesting videos of our friends, the product, and action labor, and we will use these videos to tell the story of our product, and our brand. We really want the brand to be more about the stories and contributions of our friends and our community, and less about what is trending or what celebrities are wearing.
We will be launching our website in April, and the most important component of the site will be our community. We have had some great design ideas and contributions so far, and we really want to expand upon that.
When can people expect to find &Work in stores, and on line?
We are previewing the line now for Holiday 2011, so expect delivery to stores soon.