“Don’t overdo it. If you’re confident, anything looks great.” – David Hart
The “#Menswear” scene is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. Between all the peacocking and posturing going on, it’s starting to look like the questionable heydays of the metrosexual era. Thankfully there are designers around like David Hart to keep things honest and in proper perspective. The Brooklyn-based, Maryland transplant first emerged with his vintage-inspired ties in 2007, and those quickly caught on. His vision steadily evolved into a full menswear collection that debuted with his much-lauded Fall/Winter 2013 collection, followed by another splendid S/S 2014 collection revealed recently at NYC’s Fashion Week. David Hart makes menswear for the sensible gent who understands restraint and minimalism but also relishes superior fit, classicist influences and non-conformity. It’s not an easy balance to straddle, but that’s why David Hart isn’t your average designer. Here is the exclusive Style.No.Chaser interview with the talented designer.
Were you always stylish, even as a kid growing up in Maryland?
I tried my best, and I’m sure I had my moments, I’m sure I also failed miserably. I could always tie a tie though.
Prior to venturing out on your own, you worked at Anna Sui, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren – what were the major lessons you learned at each of these respected brands?
I learned so much from all of them and I’m grateful that each of these designers took the time to mentor me. From Anna I learned everything about how a design firm is run; everything from design all the way through to production, shipping, and sales. Anna has an amazing way of designing and telling her story through prints, patterns, shapes, and color. I grew as a designer the most while I was working with her. Tommy taught me the importance of the details, classics are great but it’s the twists and details that make them even more special. Ralph had a great vintage clothing archive in Long Island City; I would spend hours there and it was always an inspiring trip.
What’s the core inspiration behind David Hart neckwear?
When I was younger I inherited a trunk from my great-grandfather (he was a milliner on New York City’s lower east side). The trunk was full of his old ties. These ties have always been a source of inspiration for me.
Presently you are producing entire menswear collections. What void are you trying to fill with your designs?
I think the American men’s market is missing a cool tailored brand with great fits, new shapes, and exciting fabrics. The typical suits you are seeing all look the same: middle of the road width lapel, darted front, lower waistline etc. I’m creating suits that are reminiscent of a vintage fit in exciting fabrics like bright mohairs, Harris & Donegal tweeds, and silk shantungs; and of course, we are updating and modernizing them so they can be easily implemented into our customer’s wardrobe.
You seem to employ a lot of vintage themes and influences in your collections. Do you feel you’re somewhat of an old soul?
I can’t say for sure that I’m an old soul, but I do have a strong sense of nostalgia. I’ve spent hours poring over old family photos of my grandfather and his family from the 1950s and 1960s. I’m drawn to this era because men made so much of an effort to look great and presentable.
The Fall/Winter 2013 collection featured some really spiffy turtlenecks. Is the turtleneck officially back as a men’s wardrobe staple?
The turtleneck is here to stay. It’s my favorite silhouette for Fall 2013, especially when worn under a suit.
Your Brooklyn space is beautifully curated; vintage posters, unusual artifacts, sculptures, antique furniture etc. Have you always been a collector and how did you develop such a keen curating eye?
I’ve always thought it was important to surround myself with things that I loved and felt were inspiring. It’s great to live with things, especially artwork that I never grow tired of. Great design is great design and these objects feel relevant and modern even though a lot of them are over 60 years old.
What are your top three men’s style films of all time, and why?
Strangers on a Train is hands down my most stylish movie pick; every outfit, tie, shoe, detail is perfection. I’m obsessed with Bruno’s lobster tie. Other movies would have to be All Night Long starring Patrick McGoohan (A remake of Shakespeare’s Othello; but told in a 1950s Jazz club) and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, killer style throughout the entire film.
What’s your most treasured menswear accessory that you’ll probably wear the rest of your life?
Camera cufflinks and a tie bar that belonged to my grandfather.
Can you pick the favorite three clothing pieces in your wardrobe right now?
It’s so hard to choose three, but if I must, they are my red mohair suit from my Spring collection, a black Donegal yarn fisherman’s sweater from Fall, and my green silk smoking jacket from Fall.
When it’s time to unwind, where do you like to go in NYC for a strong drink?
I love the Raines Law Room in NYC, also the bar at the Oyster Bar, and Flatiron Lounge. Attaboy also gets top marks on my list. With regards to my drink, nothing is better than an Aviation; it’s my standard go-to.
What’s the most stressful aspect of being a fashion designer? Conversely what’s the most rewarding?
It’s all stressful; the deadlines and production, there is a tight schedule that everything has to happen within. Alternately, there is no better feeling than seeing someone dressed in my clothing and feeling like they are sitting on top of the world.
Lastly, what’s the personal style mantra you adhere to every time you get dressed?
Don’t overdo it. If you’re confident, anything looks great.
David Hart suits range from $1895 for a two-piece to $2195 for a three-piece.
For more information and stockists – visit www.davidhartnyc.com