I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brian Guttman, owner and designer of menswear line Jeremy Argyle. In this industry, people often wear many different faces. From our introduction, designer Guttman had the aura of a close buddy and always semed very sincere and real. He’s such a humble guy, and seems to realize that’s what gets you somewhere in life. He has so much going on, that by the time I had my questions ready for him he was in Hong Kong and answering them from there.
Q: The name for your line, Jeremy Argyle, is very interesting. How did you come up with it?
A: I didn’t want to have the clothing line to bear my name, as I find it slightly uncomfortable to be that front and center. I think that the name Jeremy Argyle, which is my middle name and the street I grew up on in Montreal, is a good representation of me.
Q: At what age did you start designing and how old are you now?
A: I am 29 years old now and the first memory I have of designing clothes is making a Batman sweathshirt in my father’s factory in Montreal when I was about 8 years old.
Q: Who were your inspirations?
A: My biggest inspiration was my grandfather who started a clothing company in 1951, which my father eventually took over from him. This company at its height was one of the largest clothing companies in Canada. My grandfather had that great story of coming to North America with only a few dollars in his pocket and he created this empire with his hard work ethic and his business savvy.
Q: Your predecessors, such as Diesel and Parasuco have become huge names in the industry. Is there something about Canadian-born designers that differentiates your work?
A: I think Canadians have been quite prominent in entertainment and in the clothing business on a per capita basis. Growing up in Montreal you certainly have a European influence so perhaps that percentage of European twist as part of the formula makes the end product very attractive in the US market and around the world.
Q: What made you want to become a face in men’s fashion?
A: I’m not sure that is what I initially set out to do, but when I start something I will do everything I can to be as successful as I can. I felt that the market needed a menswear concept that addressed the needs of most men, a concept that took into consideration that most men hated to shop and a concept that had products that were unique without being loud.
Q: What are your price points?
A: We have two price points. All of our shirts are $128 or $142 dollars.
Q: Do you have a “signature piece” in your collection?
A: We have signature details, not necessarily a signature piece. All of our shirts have cool features that you see when you roll up your sleeves, a common thing that most men do. We have other signature details such as binding, playing with the cuff, and using the sleeve placket to add some pop to the shirts.
Q: Your line includes a wide range of button down shirts, both dressy and casual. What made you decide to do both in your first season?
A: I wanted to offer a diverse array of designs to complement the narrow focus of the type of product we offer. We are very focused in that we only offer one commodity in that of the men’s shirt but I wanted to give many different options to not limit their choices while they are in search of the perfect shirt.
Q: You offer an organic cotton style. Do you see this as something that will become more of a staple in fashion houses as our world becomes more green?
A: I think green living is continuously becoming more of a staple in our lives. I wanted to incorporate this into our line. I think that green products are in many instances very cost prohibitive to the mass market and we are moving towards a period of value conscious consuming so unless the rewards (i.e. energy efficient light bulbs) can be justified and quantified the green movement will thrive in some areas but will stall in others.
Q: Who would you say is your target market, and what celebrity would you like to see in Jeremy Argyle?
A: We have a great range as to who is buying the product. The initial target was from early twenties to early forty-somethings, but we are finding that we are getting an even wider demographic. We are doing well with the twenty-somethings all the way up to the late baby boomers. This range makes me very happy as I feel we are able to offer a few styles to almost anyone. I always have a tough time pinpointing just one celebrity to put our shirts on, but I think they would look great on Adrian Grenier, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney.
Q: What makes you stand out from other men’s fashion lines?
A: What makes us stand out is our focus on creating a differentiated product with amazing details and a shopping experience that is luxury without the pretentious environment or the price tag. The painless Jeremy Argyle shopping experience is what most men want; we don’t want to be in stores for more than a few minutes so we make that happen for them.
Q: You started your line in May and already have a store in Soho. How did you reach success so quickly?
A: Well, the store and the line were launched simultaneously. I researched for months to find the best location possible. Instead of going the traditional route of creating a line and selling department stores and boutiques, I felt that in today’s economic climate, it is more prudent to sell directly to individual customers as you know you’re getting paid. Selling to department stores and especially boutiques are risky as the default rate on payment for orders is higher. In the near term we are focusing on building a solid customer base and getting our name out. We have already received some interest about selling to department stores, other boutiques, and are looking at the potential of opening up additional stores.
Q: How do you see yourself staying on top of the game in the upcoming seasons?
A: We have to continue to be innovative and creative in all aspects of the shopping experience. Our product has to continue to be fresh and we are always looking for ways to try to show new looks and put new details on our shirts.
Q: Do you see yourself opening up other locations in the states, or maybe even back in Canada? Do you prefer the exclusivity of NY?
A: New stores are on the horizon, the U.S. market is more attractive from a buying power standpoint but I can certainly see this concept back home in Canada as well. We are in the investigation phase and trying to determine where our next location will be.
Q: As this years new, hip, NY designer, I’m sure both men and women would love to know…are you still on the market?
A: I was recently married in Toronto at the end of this past February, so not as many wild bachelor nights!
Q: If you could choose any photographer to shoot your future Jeremy Argyle campaign, who would it be? What model would you use?
A: I’d obviously have to go with Brandon Trentham and revert to him on what photographer we should use for the campaign.
Q: What advice do you have for new designers?
A: Don’t get discouraged when everything isn’t going exactly as planned. You have to be flexible and react to each situation. Problem solving is a critical component of running a clothing company so make sure you have the stomach for that kind of responsibility. I love what I am doing and I am enjoying the ride but I think it is very important for people that aspire to start their own brand to realize that the time and money constraints are real and that this sacrifice is essential in order to give yourself a real opportunity to succeed.