“If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience. “ ~ Mao Zedong
My relationship with Jake Wall of Artful Gentleman over the past 3 years has been all about experience. Yes, he makes suits and I make gowns, but when we come together it is not only about the experience of collaboration, but the experience of the photo shoot, the runway, the salon dinner, the interview. This is what I love about him ~ he gets the importance of the dialogue, the exchange, the moment ~ but also how to capture it.
Jake and I have a history together that started at SNOW 2013, and led to a couple photoshoots with photographer Kelly Puleio, and then Suit Up runway shows at McCroskey Mattress Factory, salon dinners at my studio, inspiration cocktails at bars, bottles of rose champagne at the movies, and interviews at Chez Maman in Hayes Valley.
Above ~ photography : Kelly Puleio
Above ~ at the Kabuki watching The Way, Way Back. Steak tartare at Chez Maman, SF. Salon Dinner #45, June 7th 2014.
More recently Jake, his partner Nate Johnson, and collaborator Bethany Meuleners launched their newest collection ROYGBIV ~ red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet ~ if you happen to be wondering. It’s both a story of intersection and collaboration ~ a literal intersection at the corner of Gough and Market where Artful Gentleman is housed in the historic McCroskey building, and a collaboration of points of view and perspective on a single collection. Jake and I sat down at Chez Maman (again. to see my first interview with him in may 2014, click here) to talk about his newest collection, his love affair with the idea that the experience is the product, and ways that Artful Gentleman is moving forward with that vision.
Above, left ~ Bethany’s black and white full length skirts and laser cut leather tops, with Artful Gentleman suits. Right, coverage by Tony Bravo.
On the collection ~ “The name is really designed around the idea of the simplicity of humanity and how we process color. It’s the distillation of the color spectrum. When we really boil it down what are the base things but the designs themselves ~ which have an artful simplicity to them. We had a broader idea of doing a ready to wear collection in 2014 but we wanted to do it in our way ~ so it’s experiential. But what’s the experience that we offer? What we offer is a limited ready to wear collection but it needs to have cache and value, be something that you cherish. So we thought what if we did it like artists do lithographs? There’s an original but the limited edition is what art appreciators can afford. Our FIIRST piece was the jogger. We wanted to make a better jogger. I didn’t like the gathering and rouching and I thought this could all be solved by putting in an invisible zipper. We wanted the taper but still have the play. Each piece is as best as it can possibly be. 5 women’s pieces, 5 men’s pieces, with a couple color ways.
On collaboration with Bethany Meuleners ~ “We knew she was closing Mansoor Scott starting in October… and knew we wanted to do men’s sweaters for AG and wanted to work on something that highlights collaboration. So we would talk and do drawings and the rest we figured out as we went along by combining my expertise in custom and fit and her ready-to-wear experience to make something new. But the marketing and story is mine. ~ 5 easy pieces that are at once timely and timeless ~ the fundamental building blocks of your closet. It’s your investment pieces and you treat them as such.”
On moving forward each season ~ “It’s about a great conversation in fabric… those creations and the creator change from season to season; and the future ~ we can’t discuss right now because they haven’t been thought of. That’s the beauty of collaboration ~ that it’s not predestined. My creative voice is the constant, so you can compare and contrast from one season to the next, and that’s so incredibly challenging to me. What gets carried over and what gets changed out. That’s what will keep it fresh.”
On who’s your customer ~ “That’s difficult. I hate the idea of a muse. I do think we have a customer in mind but it’s so general and so non-specific. One thing i’ve learned is my customer surprises me. They are not defined by one very simple thing. They want to have a relationship with their clothes. For ROYGBIV Robert (Mull) is the face, but those joggers are something I would wear, and Nathan and so many women. Bottom line ~ they want to have a relationship with their clothes.”
Above ~ photos by Kelly Puleio.
On partnering with with Salesforce to launch Fashionforce ~ “FashionForce reduces the friction between the live experience and the digital connected experience and leverages the technologies you already have at your fingertips in seamless ways. To quote the late, great Diana Vreeland we “give you what you never knew you wanted.” Using a combination of mobile application technology, community cloud and data science innovation, and our new signature FashionSphere image capturing, we personalize the brand and the product for each member of the community. And by truly delivering on that “market of one” promise we offer an experience that is enriched, relevant, and arguably invaluable.”
On What’s NEXT ~ “The experience is the product and clothing is a product but not THE product that you’re always consuming. I love thinking about fashion and food and the idea of a space to house this idea of a multi-faceted experience. It’s not about talking about a retail space or salon dinner or a film screening… the experience is the product and what is that experience we think people are hungry for? When Tony (Bravo) asked us what’s next for AG. And I thought what do you mean ~ product-wise, lifestyle? It’s not a bad thing but we’ll do it OUR way. He planted a little bit of a question with a seed. The experience is lifestyle like a salon dinner, book reading or an event we haven’t even thought of. That’s lifestyle but not a throw pillow.
In our collaboration and our history together, the experience is the visual itself. So let’s take an image and provide people with an experience in a physical space. It’s an extension of what we’ve all been doing. and we’ve all been dating for a long time. So what can this look like? I don’t think any of us are settling on each other. There’s shared excitement, trust and shared anticipate. We’re going on a feeling and we need that to go after it. We really are just letting the energy take itself. the snowball keeps on rolling. The tendency is to keep moving forward. No one is having the discussion that kills the dream. I’m going to focus on what i bring to the table.”
On Whiplash ~ “It’s a great movie for anyone who has questioned why a creative person does what they might do in spite of…. It’s not just wanting to be good or great at something but the desire to be truly exceptional. Bottom line, that is the story. What if our mission was not just to be good or great but truly exceptional; but what makes the difference between good and great and exceptional? Whiplash is about what it means to be extraordinary and I think that there’s a space for that…
Above ~ Salon dinner #58, featured in the SF Chronicle, written by Tony Bravo. Photo by Michael Short.
…whether it’s me, me and Nate, me and Nate and Cari. It’s a collective term ~ the I is very much a We. As much as it’s gender specific it’s genderless. You’re only limited by your point of view and I love this and that’s what gets me up in the morning.”
“You need a challenging partner. In a good collaboration,
differences between partners mean that one plus one will always equal more than two. ”
~ Twyla Tharp “The Collaborative Method”
To see more Artful Gentleman, click HERE.
Click HERE to check out ROYBGIV’s Indiegogo campaign.
And to read my latest article for EatDrinkFilms “Cocktails and Love” with photos by Kelly Puleio, click HERE.