Making it in Menswear: Brandon Capps
I love to see young guys grow in the menswear industry, study the ins-and-outs of the tailoring business, develop their own style, then start out on their own project. It’s inspiring, especially as I get ready to launch my own tailored collection as part of the new Articles of Style Shop (more on that later). This article is part of a new series I’m calling “Making it in Menswear” where we highlight the career paths of different guys who’ve succeeded in the business.
When Alex first introduced me to Brandon Capps, a friend from his days in Nashville, I immediately noticed that he ways wearing this incredible pair of high-waisted trousers. The next three or four times I bumped into him in NYC, there we has again, in a perfectly cut pair of 1930s-inspired trousers. In roughly one month I had already seen him wear them with a suit, with a blazer, and with a pair of sneakers. So the next time I saw him, I had to ask: “what’s the deal, you live in bespoke trousers, or what?”. He laughed and responded, “once you find a trouser that fits properly, in a soft fabric, you won’t want to wear anything else”. And then he adds, “plus I love the Hollywood waistband…nobody makes them like this anymore.”
After looking closer, it’s true. I’ve seen very few trousers made this way, with no separate waistband, just the back (and sometimes the front) panels folded over at the natural waist – which is higher than most guys are comfortable with these days. The cut suited his frame, and gave him a certain “Old Hollywood” elegance, even in a dark bar in the Lower East Side.
Brandon always knew that he wanted to move to New York City and work in menswear, but it took a leap of faith to make it happen. In 2008 he was working two full-time jobs in Nashville, TN, saving up to chase his dream and make the big move. And he wasn’t going to let a little economic recession stop him.
“As many people remember, 2008 and 2009 were very tough years with the economy. Finding a job was extremely difficult. Thankfully after a few short stints at retail jobs when I first arrived to the city (cough cough, Century 21), I found myself at the Bond Street Billy Reid store, thanks to some great contacts.
This was when I really started to pay attention to tailored clothing. I grew to love the construction, the cloth, and all the detail that came along with fitting clients as part of our newly established made-to-measure business. It was during this time that Billy started working with Rocco Ciccarelli and his factory in Long Island City; Primo Coat Corp. The brand was growing and eventually Billy’s time did not allow him to take personal appointments with clients, so I was put in charge and given the opportunity to learn directly from Rocco and the pattern-makers/cutters on what goes into making a handmade suit from start to finish.
Over many early Saturday mornings, Rocco dropped as much knowledge as he could in our 2-3 hour weekly meetings. Thanks to his generous teachings, I was able to expand the custom business for Billy Reid. From 2010 to 2013, I took hundreds of appointments from 8 different stores across the US, creating custom wardrobes from classic business wear to the finest evening wear.
During those years I had a quite a bit of laughs with many of the tailors… A common word I heard when asking for the finish date of a garment was “Domani” (Italian for ‘Tomorrow’). Speaking of jokes about Italian tailors working in NYC, many that I met were named Tony. While trying to learn the roles of all the tailors that operated on a single suit in different capacities, one of the many Tony’s of Primo let me in on a funny anecdote – “When all the Italian boys and men got off the boat, we had “TO – NY” written on our forms and jackets so I guess we all became Tony”.
Sadly, the factory closed recently so Primo Coat Corp. is no more. Thankfully, many of the tailors have moved on to positions at other factories and are still making beautiful garments, like this bespoke chalkstripe that always makes me feel a little stronger, especially with the roped shoulders. I like to add quirky casual details, like a truck stop beanie and casual boots – I don’t want anyone to think that I’m taking myself too seriously.”
“Near the end of 2013, I gradually shifted toward the Wholesale side at Billy Reid. I worked with some of the best boutique stores in the world and it taught me a whole other side of the fashion industry. When working in custom tailoring, you pay little attention to the current fashion world, as tailoring is more about history and personal decisions that best suit a specific client. The wholesale world is where I really began to understand the business side and make relationships in the fashion industry, many of which have flourished into close friendships.
As far as my personal style, over the last few years my influence has left the strict codes of proper tailoring and I pay more attention to comfort, with restraint of course. It took a long time but I realized that I feel more comfortable in a tailored trouser and a simple knit than anything else. Looking professional is important, but so is looking approachable. I think a good professional in the client services business strikes a balance between the two.”
Here’s a good shot of that Hollywood waistband:
“As of Fall 2014, using what I learned under Rocco and Billy, and from all the wholesale connections I’ve made in the industry, I started my own consultancy and multi-brand showroom in SoHo with my business partner Shane Fonner (pictured here) called Outlier Showroom.
My business now is about helping up-and-coming brands and designers with production, logistics, and creative branding. As anyone who is just starting their own brand will admit, there are far more moving parts to a successful garment business than making clothes. I’m here to help, because I still remember when I didn’t know anything about the menswear game.”