Every Fashion Week there are a few surprises, a few eye-rolls, and the old guard’s standard departures from and returns to form. What really gets us excited, though, is the arrival of a new talent on the scene. Take the spot-on debut collection from former Hart Schaffner Marx designer and Hickey vet Ian Velardi. The New Jersey-born Velardi, who also worked at Rogues Gallery and launched his own hat line, Hattan, has probably forgotten more about American menswear than you and I know. Now 29, he’s letting loose his own creative hounds with an exceptionally polished collection of contemporary essentials (including a peak lapel navy blazer I am placing my order for right now). We talked to him about the new collection.
Congratulations on all the buzz (which we are helping to stoke, admittedly). The collection is very exciting. Where did you start with your inspiration?
It all started with one question: What do you want to pack when you go away for three days… what are the items that can get you through any situation, looking and feeling great? And then that idea expanded into a full line. I love the idea of luxe essentials, and having core pieces that always work. Core pieces that are well thought out… Less is more.
How have your stints at Hickey, Hart, and Hattan helped you in preparing to launch your own line?
Working at Hickey Freeman and Hickey was a real education for me. That’s where I got schooled on the fundamentals of men’s clothing. I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for a brand with such rich American heritage, and learn from such talented people. Hattan was really just a side project that kept me busy while working for other companies, but it was an idea I had to see through. It’s a very limited distribution.
We’ve just wrapped up another New York Fashion Week is now upon us. Do you ever go to other people’s shows? Is there anyone you are curious about, inspired by?
There are so many talented designers today, yet in the initial stages of launching my line it’s so important to stay focused and not be influenced by what others are doing. I have no plans to attend any shows. Have you seen what Nike is doing with their Mercurial soccer cleats? That’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night… incredible.
I know you really feed off the street style of New York. Are you getting out there (or looking online) and seeing what people are doing? Is there anything guys are doing right now that you particularly dig? Or don’t dig?
I’m always wandering the streets and taking mental notes. Observation and awareness are always step one. Even if I wasn’t making clothing I’d be doing this, it’s just about being curious. I’ve always loved backpacks so I’m happy to see a lot of dudes carrying them instead of some shoulder bag. I’m not feeling the super chunky knit scarves that look like they’re wearing you. You know, the Jake the Snake, python-bearing look…
Do you see a difference out there in the streets when Fashion Week is upon us?
You can tell that a lot of people are wearing their favorite pieces. And you see herds of well dressed people traveling together, obviously en route to an event.
What are you excited by for Fall ’11?
There are a lot of great things happening with outerwear: Truly technical fabrics are being reinterpreted for everyday use; outerwear that can weather any storm, keep you comfortable, and still look great doing so. And have you seen the quasi mittens that food delivery guys are making out of duct tape to keep their hands warm on the bikes… ? Amazing.
Flip through the slideshow below to see a few exclusive looks from Velardi’s debut collection.