Fashion has become an increasingly difficult business. When I look back, I realize how much simpler the business was when I got started 37 years ago, and how difficult it is now.
At the beginning of my career, I wove my fabrics in Rhode Island. I was “Made in America” before anyone even knew this was a concern. It was handy having the mill only a car trip away and in the same time zone! But then the manufacturing climate changed, and after lots of trial and error, I found a wonderful new partnership with mills in Japan.
For a long stretch in my career, I was able to dye and weave innovative fabrics in Japan, and cut and sew them into garments in Hong Kong. The “Japan” fabrics that so many of you love were comfy, durable, and complex.
Unfortunately, eventual changes in the Japanese economy, especially the drastic ups and downs of the yen, forced me to find new partners. Like so many others, I wound up doing all of my manufacturing in China, with stops along the way in Vietnam and other countries. My mills in China were wonderfully inventive, flexible and willing to experiment, and I was able to offer high quality silk wovens and exquisitely hand screen printed shirts at prices far below the value of the craftsmanship involved.
But as much as I love to design for men, making a quality product at a price that retailers and consumers want has become nearly impossible. Competition continues to drive down retail prices, and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t maintain the quality I’ve always offered unless I price myself out of the market. In addition, I put long hours into fashion, but too many of those hours go into non-design work, so the intrinsic rewards I’ve always gotten from designing are also diminished.
Meanwhile, I design many other kinds of products where I enjoy myself, and enjoy business success. I have a strong interiors business, and design carpet, interior textiles, and furniture. For a number of years I’ve done eyewear (I know some of you wear my glasses).
To be honest, for the past ten years, my product design businesses have been more professionally and financially rewarding than fashion. So I’ve decided it’s time to turn a page. I have given my product design work only a fraction of my attention. Now I need to rebalance my priorities, and devote all of my time to things other than menswear. That’s why Fall 2013 will be my final menswear collection.
To check out my current (non-fashion-related) projects, follow these links: