Lab Series (ELC)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Q & A with John Bartlett

John Bartlett has been designing sharp and masculine men's wear since 1992. He is a two-time CFDA award winner and has a Perry Ellis Men's Wear award under his belt. Bartlett opened his first store in New York's West Village in 2007. In January, Liz Claiborne announced John Bartlett would assume the role as Creative Director for their men's sportswear line debuting in the spring. Well, springtime has arrived and so has Claiborne by John Bartlett. The line will be sold at John Bartlett's West Village boutique along side his men's runway collection. What He Wears has an exclusive interview with John Bartlett where he talks about the Claiborne man, his reaction to Tim Gunn's phone call and when he's most comfortable. 

WHW: What was your reaction when you received the call from Tim Gunn inquiring about your interest in designing a men's wear collection for Liz Claiborne?

JB: I was super thrilled when Tim Gunn called and asked me if I would be interested in working on the men's line. I have been looking for an American brand that didn't compete with John Bartlett designer prices and was very excited to have the opportunity to work on a collection that is more accessible price-wise and could reach a larger target audience.

WHW: You are known to find inspiration in all things masculine. What role did masculinity play in your collection for Liz Claiborne?

JB: For my collection, "Claiborne by John Bartlett" I am designing for the every guy and therefore all things masculine come into play but in a much more subtle way. These clothes that every guy across the country can feel at home in. I still look at the iconic masculine images that inform my design aesthetic but in a less "sexy" direct way. 

WHW: How did you approach designing for the Claiborne man?

JB: When I am designing for "Claiborne by John Bartlett," I think about my brother-in-law, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and is not a fashion plate. He enjoys clothes but has real needs. Therefore, function is an important aspect to everything I design for the collection. I am pushing the brand forward with more exciting color options and engaging patterns and introducing more "designer" details into a very price-friendly garment.

WHW: I've read you design for your brother-in-law who lives in Cincinnati. How does he define who the Claiborne man is?

JB: My brother-in-law is an every guy customer. He definitely shops on his lunch break and is always looking for good deals. When he is visiting NYC, I always bring him into the showroom to get his perspective on what I am working on.

WHW: How does the John Bartlett man differ from the Claiborne man?

JB: The John Bartlett man is more fashion savvy and looks for very special items regardless of price. He is perhaps more comfortable in fitted silhouettes and is more confident in his style. The Claiborne by John Bartlett man loves clothes but is not a fashionista. He wants to look good and "stand out for all the right reasons" but is also price aware and is somewhat more conservative.

WHW: You rarely see designers in their store boutiques. How has working in your West Village boutique help you design for the John Bartlett man and figure out what he wants?

JB: When I am in town, I work in the store on Sundays. This allows me immediate input into what the customer is responding to and what fits him well. I am also able to meet him directly and get to know him personally so that when I am designing I can actually think if certain customers who will eventually buy the garments I design. Having a store is an incredible way to understand the customer and to develop a more personal shopping experience.

WHW: What should every man own in his closet?

JB: Every man should have a great pair of dark denim jeans and a pair of medium grey jeans. He should also have numerous button down shirts in interesting colors. I also make sure every collection offers the perfect polo shirt and a great navy cotton suit. 

WHW: The recession has motivated me to stay creative and think positive. I feel that is the only way to get through these economic times. Has the recession influenced you any way?

JB: The recession has inspired me to design from the heart and also make sure that I am designing items that have a very high price/value relationship.

WHW: What is next for John Bartlett?

JB: I am very busy working on John Bartlett and "Claiborne by John Bartlett." I continue to do work with The North Shore Animal League and host adoption every few months at my store. I am reaching out to do more in my community, whether it is with the Gay and Lesbian Task Force or with Parson's students. I am drawn to so many activities outside of design and want to give back as much as I can in the years to come.

WHW: Finish this sentence. I feel most comfortable when... 

JB: ...I am surrounded by my three dogs, my partner and The Sunday Times on a lazy rainy Sunday morning in Manhattan.


Anonymous said...

He was a great interview! Very easygoing .... maybe you are good at this??? Love...Wendy

Elle said...

Wow nice job! The blog looks great luv, keep it up!

Men's Sportswear Finder said...

This is really making sense..I am sure that the interviewer is really a men's sportswear lover..keep it up..

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