You and your wife, Gwendolyn, launched Seize sur Vingt during a pretty dire time in men’s style—the height of the casual-Friday movement. It seems the American man these days is educating himself on some finer points and dressing better. Are you giving yourself a bit of credit?
For the most part, the developments have been in our favor. I don’t think we influenced anything, but we definitely benefited from the timing. It was just the buzz going around. The upgrade of the casual wardrobe gradually trickled into the formal wardrobe. Men started wearing suits more, and we just got lucky, because we were just then developing our suits.
After a second Wall Street film and a post-economic collapse, what overall sartorial grade would you give the finance world?
In general, it’s still not very good. Low B’s, on average. Lucky for us, there’s so many professionals out there who really are dressing better; some of them are clients of ours. But on average? Less than half of those Wall Street guys have changed.
Style-wise, what’s the one thing you wish men would do better?
The fit memo. It seems like a lot of guys haven’t gotten it. In terms of sea change, the fits are better, but a lot of guys still seem a bit body-conscious. Suits are still too boxy and guys wear shirts that blouse out. You’d think that they would have gotten the memo by now. The thing is, you don’t have to spend a ton money: Just concentrate on fit.
When you started, were you choosing fabrics and patterns based on personal taste, or did you have a specific customer in mind?
In the beginning we just tried to design with what we wanted or liked; hopefully, if we liked it, then someone else would, too. It seemed too difficult to imagine designing for a fictional person at the time. My wife and I still design to our tastes but some things don’t work. For example, my complexion doesn’t work with a lot of colors, but we still do colors. I can’t wear yellow but some guys look great in yellow, so we use it. We do imagine a lifestyle concept. It’s kind of how you imagine yourself, or how you’d ideally like to imagine yourself.
How does your Plaza Hotel store differ from your Soho location? How do you target that different customer?
The aesthetics are fairly similar, as is the clientele. When we first started the Plaza store, we thought it would be more upscale, more blingy; but after Lehman Brothers collapsed it’s settled down to pretty much the same demographic. We don’t get a lot of tourists.
But that coincides with your appeal, no? You want to be sought out, limited in some way?
It’s a catch-22: You can’t be too proud of being tiny. It’s a difficult transition to gracefully appeal to your core customers while continuing to grow. We definitely would like to get bigger, but it has to be organic.