With each Jenny Schwarz collection, what you’ll definitely notice is an enticing juxtaposition of rustic refinery. The talented UK designer is exceptionally skilled at merging hand-tailored construction & superior fabrics with unexpected trims and unique finishes. The final results are sharply cut clothes with a luxury leaning that still come across as both relatable and completely wearable. The inspiration for starting her men’s line came from her Bavarian great-grandfather. He was a bespoke tailor in the 1930’s who also happened to be a fearless adventurer in his free time. About five years into its sartorial journey, we think there is a lot more to come from this directional menswear brand. See our interview below:
When was your brand founded and what menswear need were you trying to fill?
The brand was founded in 2011. I had completed a couple of collections after graduating in 2007, but only by 2011 was I ready to launch the label. I was glad that I took the time to investigate what was needed in menswear. My skills lay in hand tailoring and I have a background in women’s couture. I wanted to bring these skills to create menswear that bridged the gap between the formal business suit and the casual weekend wear. I felt the grey area between these two extremes was underserved or only served by unstructured tailoring. Along with the eternal inspiration of my great-grandfather I began to create what we now call ‘rugged elegance’ in the studio.
The heritage of your brand goes all the way back to your Bavarian great-grandfather – can you tell us more about that?
It was my great-grandfather who started the obsession with garment construction in my family. By day, he was a bespoke tailor in an atelier in Bavaria during the 1930s. However, every other spare moment he was either up in the surrounding mountains, skiing down them or on horseback. I was always intrigued by these two personality traits and how they worked together in the same man. How could the precise tailor risk everything on the cliff face? These questions drive the creative spirit behind my brand today.
What would you say are the core pieces and silhouettes you highlight in each collection?
We have a very popular jacket that we have brought through most of our collections. We hand-quilt the fabric in our studio leaving a shawl lapel and the pocket welts unquilted. The effect is one of subtle texture while not being too showy. Often we’ll use a gabardine cotton which adds to the structure and the utilitarian nature we’re after. Other elements like mother of pearl buttons pull in another, more luxurious, direction. We like the effect these opposing forces have on a garment. The silhouette is something we play less with. In that sense, we’re quite classical. However, with the formal pieces we’re insistent on a sharp cut without restricting the wearer.
How do you go about picking the theme and design direction for each collection?
The worst thing is to try and pick a theme. We do have the overarching theme of my great grandfather’s history but we’ll often tap into something we’re naturally interested in at the time. It feels most natural to act this way and I think it shows in the end collection. I think you can tell that we enjoyed designing the pieces.
Since you started your line, what has been the bestselling and most requested item?
The hand-quilted jacket and its unquilted counterpart are very popular. The hand-quilting takes time and therefore pushes the price up a fair bit but our customers are investing in something that they know can’t possibly go out of fashion. Our most recent success has been with bomber jackets and weekend bags. We teamed up with the long-standing British mill, Hainsworth to create some pieces using their unrivaled cloth. Using their navy barathea, we designed a classic bomber with chevron panel pieces which, again, has a subtle but effective result. Hainsworth, by the way, made the cloth that went to create the uniform for the soldiers in The Battle of Waterloo. More recently they provided Prince William with the fabric for his wedding suit.
How would you describe the ideal male you are targeting for your brand?
Our ideal customer is probably a creative. Perhaps an architect or graphic designer. Certainly someone who appreciates the finer details and thoughtful iterations of a classic.
What do you do to unwind when you’re not designing or overseeing the myriad operations of your business?
On the limited down time I really like to leave the business and technology behind and get back to one of my first loves which is horse riding. I find it allows me to switch off completely.
Who are some designers and brands that you truly respect and admire in the menswear pantheon?
I tend not to think about other designers or brands and I never have done. It’s not something I consciously avoid, just that I am so involved with inspiration from other sources that I don’t really preoccupy myself with what other people are doing. I think that works in my favor as I then don’t have to second-guess myself when I design, chose fabric or define a look.
Five years down the line, what do you envision as the evolution of your brand?
To build a successful, long-lasting brand is a slow process. So, 5 years is not that far away. If I can steadily grow the business and continue to stay true to the values and principles the business was founded on then I will be happy. It would make sense to expand certain product lines. For example we’d really like to open by the accessories for Jenny Schwarz. We would most likely keep the collections small concise while maintaining certain core styles.
Where can you clothes be found in the US and UK — and also online?
You can find us in various places. In the UK we’re at Clerkenwell-London, In Los Angeles you can find pieces in Church Boutique and online you can obviously find us at JennySchwarz.com
If there was one quote/film/iconic personality that completely embodies the essence of your brand, who/what would that be?
It can all be boiled down to my great grandfather and the difference between the two aspects of his personality. He was an adventurer whilst also a detailed and precise tailor. We’ve built the brand around core principles from his age that have been somewhat discarded for the latest or the newest. We highly covet the quality his garments embodied and if there is one quote that springs to mind when we make our pieces, it’s something my grandmother said; “I’m too poor to buy cheap things.”
For more information, visit JennySchwarz.com
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