The term “male fashion designer” may conjure caricature-inspired images of sound-bite skilled Germans in black skinny jeans, or super tan, opulent Italians, or unique little men in round glasses and bow ties, or even buff dudes with flowing black locks dressed more or less as a pirate. Two West Coast-bred, football-watching, Budweiser-drinking, University of Colorado-educated, New York transplants rarely come to mind.
Upon speaking to Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos, the boys next door cum CFDA Award winning designers behind the label Shipley & Halmos, it all begins to make sense. We grew up doing board sports, Shipley says. Jeff surfed, I snowboarded, and in those industries its a common thing to want to have a company in a creative-based industry. We shared that lingering feeling, and in college we thought, maybe we actually can do this. Trovata was originally supposed to be a high-end skate company, and obviously we decided to do something different.
For now at least, Shipley & Halmos has a theoretical asterisk after it that reads: by the designers formerly of Trovata, that surfer prep brand highly lauded in the fashion community. The two have since severed ties to the California-based Trovata label, and have instead brought their eponymous clothing line, which officially launched in fall of 2008, to the East Coast. We were living in Southern California, hanging out, and we decided we wanted to continue creating things together. We started a new brand, saw eye to eye on our aesthetic in clothing, and felt the same longing to move to New York, Shipley explains.
When asked about the oft-debated merits and detriments of mixing business and friendship, Shipley responds with a wry laugh, Weve had some past experiences with this, and continues, I would recommend going into business with friends As far as Jeff and I are concerned, its about trust, and we joke about how were practically married. It makes it fun — you get to share your victories with someone and commiserate on your losses. Honestly, I would be scared shitless to run a business by myself.
Not all break-ups produce such positive outcomes, but Shipley and Halmos’ sophomore effort hit the ground running, quickly selling in chic boutiques like Odin, and the gateway to fashion stardom — Barneys.
Jeff and I share a great appreciation for the reinvention of iconic ideas — of reimagining classic pieces as something new and fresh. On the other side, we see our clothing being worn by men and women while they are achieving something they want to achieve. Its not meant to create a persona — but to have the clothes enhance a personality.
The duality within their designs is a mainstay of the label — classics made modern, East Coast versus West Coast, and youth with professionalism, are all balanced in easy-to-wear pieces that give a quiet nod to the small stuff. Details with us are subtle, explains Halmos, We think of our clothes as understated; notice custom lining, a small metal tag, little details in the buttons and how theyre sewn on. Those nuances, when added up, make something special. Its not about crazy liners or buttons — just detail, and being smarter in how its created.
This is arguably where the Shipley & Halmos label sees the most convergence with the designers’ original brand. The life of the garment still exists in the details, although now those details are just a bit more grown up.
Back to that predilection for Budweiser — and add in some PBR for good measure, which was served at a party to unveil their Spring ’10 video installation. It feels comfortable when you come to a Shipley & Halmos event. Its meant to [represent] who we are, and I think in this industry theres pressure to be part of a scene and be part of this community — were part of that too, but theres also a part thats laidback. We want that cold beer; its not a marketing ploy. Our first show was on Super Bowl Sunday and we served Bud, Shipley says. Our brand is called Shipley & Halmos, so our personalities come through in what we create.”
What they create are wearable pieces that fit seamlessly into a well-curated New York closet, or a Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Chicago closet for that matter. Its a little black dress, a well-tailored pair of pants, more than a little grey and black, but with an eye for pattern. Its brunch at Schillers Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side or meetings at the Google campus. As we grow, we are developing a real world mentality. This stuff is tangible, its real you dont have to try hard, Halmos says.
Basing a business off of classic pieces, it’s more of a marathon — more steady growth over time. Its not about establishing a trend by piece, but achieving a distinct aesthetic. In other words, for us, its not about leather leggings with studs, Halmos explains. And their growing fan base could not be happier about it.
When asked the inevitable question, whats next?
Im thinking of buying LVMH, Shipley quips in regards to the obvious notion that Shipley & Halmos is a startup — a thriving and well-received startup, but a startup nonetheless. He then continues in earnest, I hope that all I do all day long is think of new ideas and create them.
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