Monday, March 19, 2012

Shooting Sixes: Brett Wagner

Brett was on green way before the fellas at Pitti.

His go-to summer kit.

With the author at at BG event making a jacket
and shorts look acceptable outside Bermuda.

Holiday mustache.

Beard, bowtie, bandanna.

I sat at the head of the empty table in a 30-year-old blue blazer and hand-me-down tab collar shirt. The tie around my neck, which displayed an illustrated crawfish boil ingredient list in miniature, was slightly newer. I had driven from Vermont to Connecticut with a design portfolio but no design degree to interview for a job answering phones at the clothing company I wanted to be a part of. After a 20-minute conversation with the company’s head of customer service, I was left alone in a conference room waiting to meet a group of strangers that would hopefully change my life. Brett was the first person to come in. “Hey, I did the artwork for that tie,” he remarked as he sat down and introduced himself. He was a New York city resident and the men’s clothing designer. The casualness of his perfectly aged Nantucket red polo shirt and salt washed blue cord OPs stood in stark contrast with the quiet desperation and propriety of my interview attire. He already had what I wanted.

As we talked and went through my book, it turned out we were coming from a similar place. Brett had no formal training or schooling in fashion but loved art, clothing and style. He had started out doing graphics, like the ones on my tie, but had moved quickly when they realized his potential. I came to find out that Brett was behind much of what drew me to the brand. By pushing the boundaries of color and silhouette ever so slightly he created clothing that felt familiar and fresh at the same time. It was more about refining than over-designing.

A half hour later, I walked out the front door, loosening my tie with a smile. It looked like I'd evaded fashion school and made a great friend in the process. Both turned out to be true.


Q: What's your trade?

A: Woven Shirt Designer at Levi Strauss & Co.

Q: How would you describe your personal style and how has it evolved over the years?

A: A mix of all era's of prep - now with a bit of current Americana.

Q: The song/album that changed everything?

A: When I was younger, I always loved driving around with my dad blasting The Rolling Stones’ More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies). That said, The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ By the Way is simply the best album I've ever listened to from start to finish.

Q: Deathbed meal?

A: I’ll take a filet and fries flown in from Belgium.

Q: What brought you to New York?

A: Fashion. I decided that I could make it in this industry despite a complete lack of experience, degree or any industry connection. Looking back now, it seems kind of arrogant but I’m glad I took the chance.

Q: What inspires you to stay/what pulls you away?

A: It's made me more confident, but also feel completely overwhelmed at times. I’m inspired by the simple experience of walking the streets and witnessing the staggering mix of different people and things happening. It fascinates me on a level larger than clothing. Its something I miss and hope to return to. I'm currently living and working in San Francisco and, while it's no New York, I like to think that everything happens for a reason.

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