In the world of affordable menswear, it seems like J. Crew has cast a shadow over the competition for some time now. Well, thankfully, it looks like Club Monaco is ready to step up and offer guys everywhere a new option for their shopping. With modern aesthetics and 20% for all college students with an ID, they have done a lot to align themselves with young guys who want to up the sartorial ante. However, their best move was hiring Brooks Brothers Black Fleece alumnus Timothy Farah to be the Director of Menswear. He has put a greater focus on proportions and led Club Monaco into the forefront of well-priced menswear. We were thrilled to talk to the man himself about $500 suits, the art of proportions, and what Club Monaco has in store for us this fall.
Prepidemic Magazine: Can you give us a sense of what Club Monaco is all about?
Timothy Farah: Well I think the perception of Club Monaco prior to me coming here is definitely different than where it’s headed now. I’ve tried to elevate the brand to a guy who is 25 or older. We’ve got this whole new suiting collection, which I know you’re aware of. It’s for a guy who appreciates classic details in clothing and isn’t so concerned with trend driven items in their wardrobe. He wants to be comfortable coming into the store and being able to find things that he can slide into his own wardrobe.
I grew up in the 70s and was in high school in the 80s in this really preppy area. I’m talking about double polo shirts with both of the collars up and an oxford shirt on top of that. Pants were cut off short—essentially if you get The Preppy Handbook it defines the kind of place I grew up. I think coming from this kind of place had an influence on me. Now, this collection isn’t overtly preppy because I’ve refined that over the years. I try to take these specific items I really like and reform them for Club Monaco.
PM: How did you find your way into the fashion industry and how did you find your way to Club Monaco?
TF: Let’s see. We’ll go back to The Preppy Handbook era and my brother had issues of GQ lying around that I started looking at. He also had a book called How to Dress and I remember looking at these guys and thinking, “Huh, guys are thinking about how to put themselves together.” Now, the stuff in there is totally over the top styling with ascots and whatnot.
I went to Michigan State University for three years and I met this girl who went to Parsons who she showed me a newspaper I had never heard of called Women’s Wear Daily. There was an article about Marc Jacobs who had just graduated from Parsons and I thought, “Hmm, this is great, I think this is what I want to do.” She really encouraged me to pursue that, so I guess it was a pretty late development. I ended up going to Parsons and graduated three years later in 1989.
I found my way to Perry Ellis when Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs were both there. Next I went to Italy to design couture clothing. I kind of hopped, skipped, and jumped around from there to Club Monaco 11 years ago, then to Nike to design Women’s snowboarding clothing. I came back to New York and was the director of Jack Spade for a couple years where I was introduced to Thom Browne and he got me to come work on the Black Fleece collection at Brooks Brothers. And after that, I arrived at Club Monaco.
PM: What are your thoughts on this “shrunken suit” that Thom Browne has helped to popularize? Alan Flusser called it “irresponsible to sell such a short suit” and we just wanted to hear your thoughts on it.
TF: That’s pretty funny. This look has kind of changed the way guys have thought about their proportions, hasn’t it? I walked into the tailor with a friend of mine the other day. I showed the tailor where the suit’s pants should be cuffed and he didn’t blink an eye. I try on my old suits and they just don’t really feel good anymore. Irresponsible is kind of a tough word to use.
PM: Could you tell us what you see yourself doing as a designer? Take us through the design process at Club Monaco…
TF: My philosophy for menswear is that I’m never going to change a trend. I don’t really consider the short suit a trend really, but more of a direction that menswear is going to where guys care more about slim proportions. Frankly, this isn’t the first time you’ve seen short pants especially if you look back at The Golden Age of Cinema where Cary Grant is always in short pants. Keeping that in mind, I always like to take an urban/classic perspective–taking cues from what I know, which is that whole background I spoke about before.
What we’ll do is pick out color and concept for a theme. We’ll think about that theme and then start developing fabrics around that concept and color. We’ll start going with prints and patterns based on that. Usually, we don’t start sketching silhouettes until after this, but sometimes we have particular silhouettes in mind. I work with a team of designers underneath me. I have three designers and they have three assistants — they’re very talented people. They’ll each take a category—one will take blazers, the other outerwear, and another shirting.
My role is to guide them so that everything comes off as a cohesive collection, which allows us to bring all of this whole theme together. We have this stuff made in our factories and we won’t get our samples back and start fitting them until months later. We’ll develop each collection this way. The real key is that it’s a collection and not separate pieces.
PM: The designs for this fall have gotten a lot of press because you have gotten this sort of Thom Browne aesthetic down for a much more affordable price. It seems as if Club Monaco hasn’t always had this look. What do you think you’ve changed about the label’s look since you arrived?
TF: I think because of where I come from, the suits have been getting the most attention. The entire collection has changed. Sure, the suiting is at the apex, but everything else trickles down from that. Where I came from before, I wore a suit every day. It was cringed at to think that these jackets could be worn with jeans on the weekends. It was a very proper way of thinking about dressing. I don’t really think that way and I don’t think anybody should think that way. I’m not going to dictate to people what they should wear, especially that they should wear a suit seven days a week. What if it’s a Saturday morning and you just feel like relaxing? In terms of the collection, I take that aesthetic of the short suit but also take the pieces that people would want to wear with them and design into that. I think at in the past, a lot of pieces were designed individually so that not everything fit together. It was really important to me that everything fit together.