What’s the perfect base for a designer who’s lived in the Middle East, Australia, India, England, and Greece? For Jeffrey Monteiro –who moved to New York in 2000 having lived in that virtual U.N. list of locales — it’s a sunny studio in downtown New York, at the crossroads of Chinatown, Nolita, Soho, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side. “I love this neighborhood,” Monteiro said. “It isn’t really anything in itself, but has all these things happening around it.”
In a sense, that sums up Monteiro’s designs as well: wardrobe staples in neutral tones and just-tweaked-enough draping that spotlights the wearer’s personality more than making a bold statement themselves. The clothing’s got an architectural feel, its essence is all about wearability, versatility, and an understatement that makes it appropriate for everything. Think everything from a day of multi-tasking to a dinner at a trendy restaurant to a subway ride to a gallery opening in Dumbo.
“It’s all about real life,” Monteiro said of his work. “The clothes are meant to be about reality but also about the emotional attachment to detail and uniqueness. They’re for someone who understands design. She could be 24 and an art student, or she could be 45 and a mother, as long as [the clothes] work into how she lives her life.”
Monteiro’s professional life has included stints at Mayle and Derek Lam, where he worked on both Lam’s collection and Tod’s clothing, bags, and shoes. In late 2007, he decided to create his own line, which debuted the following March. Although it was a capsule collection (at around 20 pieces), his designs were an immediate success at the handful of stores he initially approached.
“That almost became the business plan in a way, to be a small, well-edited collection,” Monteiro said. “What we want to do is grow slowly. We don’t want to be hot then cold; we just want to build and maintain a following.” Less than 18 months later, his pieces are now selling steadily at stores like Barneys New York, Louis Boston, and Satine.
When he’s not designing his own collection, Monteiro works on Mirror/Dash, a collaboration with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon that is sold exclusively at Urban Outfitters. Although the price point is substantially lower than his eponymous line, the sensibility is the same. “It’s simple, easy, functional and cool,” he said. “They’re pieces you don’t have to think about too much – you just pick them up and it all works together.”
Like his main line, the Mirror/Dash pieces work seamlessly with whatever clothes you already live in. “The collections aren’t about someone buying the whole collection and wearing it together,” Monteiro said. “They’re for people to build on the things that are already in their closet. They should take what they want from it.”
Nonetheless, chances are you’ll want everything.
For more information and stocklists, see jeffreymontiero.com.