With their acclaimed men’s line, Ovadia & Sons, Ariel and Shimon Ovadia reimagined the staples of a gentleman’s wardrobe for the new breed of guy — the kind who dresses well for reasons of self-expression rather than obligation. In 2012, GQ named the duo to its Best New Designers in America list, and J.Press tapped the twins to work their sartorial magic on the classic Ivy League brand, which, while considered a pioneer of prep, hadn’t done much to evolve over its 110-year history. The result, J.Press York Street, is a lively and modern reinvention of classic J.Press style, and we’re thrilled to feature it on Gilt. Here, Shimon Ovadia talks about the inspiration behind the line.
How did the collaboration come about?
J.Press was looking to breathe new life into their 110-year -old brand and they reached out to us for help on the project. We have always been big fans, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The fun part of a collaboration like this is the chance to go through a legendary brand’s archives. What was that like?
I got all excited, thinking it was going to be a mini-museum somewhere with all the old clothing, but the only thing they had to work with were the brochures, which they’d mail out to their customers every season. We saw some of the same things you could find in the store today—not much changed. We updated the fit, we updated the fabrics, we added some details, and just made it feel more relevant. And then we incorporated new products into York Street that you normally wouldn’t associate with J.Press: T-shirts, and tank tops, and nautical striped sweaters. It was the balance of, How can we keep the heritage of the brand, but make it more relevant for today?
In a way, you’re basing the collection not off an actual archive, but an idea of J.Press.
Exactly. It was the idea of J.Press. The reason they approached us is because it’s been left alone, and nothing changed. We had to figure out how to make it feel familiar, but fresh at the same time.
Which is precisely what you’ve done. Did you and Ariel ever marvel at just how cool, how uniquely American, it was that two brothers from Flatbush, Brooklyn — the sons of a self-made Israeli immigrant — got to reinvent this bastion of WASP style?
We were taken aback by it. We’re just two guys from Brooklyn who love clothing. J.Press is an institution! These guys invented prep. They’re the original Ralph Lauren and those types of guys, and you see how they influenced fashion till today. But good things just grow organically, and people appreciate them no matter where you come from. You don’t have go an Ivy League school to wear certain things, and you don’t have to be in the military to wear an old combat jacket. It’s just appreciating things.
Who did you have in mind when you were designing the collection? Who’s the York Street guy?
We had in mind both the old J.Press customer and the guy who’s going to be the new J.Press customer. We wanted to introduce York Street’s first collection as if JPRESS has been evolving and changing with the times. The York Street guy is cool, casual, and comfortable. And going forward, we are going to push the envelope a bit.