The L.A.-based designer Vincent Flumiani created Caulfield Preparatory in 2009 and a year later was nominated for GQ’s Best New Designer in America award. Based on Finnegan Sinclair, a Salinger-esque character dreamed up by Flumiani, Caulfield Prep tells a story with each of its collections (a chapter in Finnegan’s life, as it were), following Finn on his adventures around the globe. We caught up with the designer (or is it author?) to talk about Finn’s roots, and where he’s going next.
Tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from?
I grew up in San Francisco. I went to college in Los Angeles and, after my freshman year, my Dad was driving me back to school, and as we drove over the Grapevine I turned to him and said, I am never going back to San Francisco. I loved Los Angeles. I did my undergraduate work at UCLA and then I got into this business.
That’s interesting, considering that so much fashion traffics through New York. Why did you decide to set up shop in L.A.?
It’s just the practicality of it. If I could pick up Los Angeles’s manufacturing resources and put them in New York it would be ideal. A lot of that used to be in New York and it’s no longer there. If you were to come to Los Angeles and hang out with me for a couple of days you’d be shocked at just contractor after contractor after contractor—for sewing, cutting, for washes. The washes in Los Angeles are just insane. They are doing great shit. It may be more difficult to find in New York. The resources just aren’t there. That’s been my experience.
That’s good to hear. I’m from L.A., so I am glad to hear the craftsmanship is booming.
Where are you from?
I grew up at Fairfax and Wilshire. Where are you guys located?
We have our sales office in Downtown, and our factory is in beautiful Vernon. Have you ever been there?
It’s totally industrial. You have Farmer John headquarters here where they literally slaughter cows all day and cook ‘em. And then you have tons of clothing manufacturers.
So where do you live?
I live in Silverlake.
I love the conceit of Caulfield Preparatory as an homage to Salinger’s world. It’s like sampling in hip-hop. How did that come to you?
Caulfield Preparatory was something conceptually in my incubator for years before I launched my first collection. After I moved to New York to do my graduate work I started interning and aligning myself with other designers, seeing what they were doing. And one thing I learned is that a great collection, one that has legs, has a strong point of view. It signifies. It has longevity. And, for me, I’ve always loved words and a story. I’m an avid reader. I try to read a book a week. I love other people’s stories, real stories, fake stories. So for me it was really natural.
It seems as though Finn’s story is a lot different from yours. Is there overlap or is it all fictional?
I guess you write what you know. There is a lot of overlap, but I’ve taken some liberties as in, I wish I would have done that.
Who other than Holden Caulfield are Finn’s heroes?
All the rad classics you read in high school: Catcher in the Rye; Lord of the Flies; Huckleberry Finn. All that good stuff. I can read those books every single year.
It’s an ongoing narrative for Finn, isn’t it, from his Spring ’09 road trip to New York to Sailing to Bermuda for Spring ’10, the Grand Tour in Summer ’10 and the Swiss Alps for Fall ’10. It’s a good life. Where is he going next?
We’re in Africa for Spring ’12. Yeah, and I really went to Africa and I’ve always been really inspired by it and wanted to do a collection around it.
We’re supposedly getting in to spring around here—though in New York you wouldn’t know it. What are you wearing for spring?
This spring the essentials for me are super clean, super basic: white, khaki, army green, but clean. Really washed, comfortable hand. I want it to be like, yeah, I took this suitcase of clothes with me to Africa and now they are exactly where I want them. Worn soft. We’ve been spending a lot of time with different laundries getting our different knits super soft.
What is the weather like in L.A.? Are you dressed for spring?
If you would have asked me that last weekend it would have been raining, but today it is supposed to be 90 so I am wearing jeans, espadrilles, and a T-shirt. It’s hot.
Aha. Now I know why you’re really based in L.A.