Shades of Grey: Q&A with Micah Cohen

For the last six years, Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen has been a brand that men of a certain ilk can always rely on for wearable clothes with just the right amount of style and flair. The founder and visionary behind the brand, Micah Cohen, has developed a sixth sense for staying ahead of the fashion curve and yet still balancing his collections with staples that align seamlessly with every man’s wardrobe. The other impressive facet of Micah Cohen’s creations is how easily they transition and adapt for different situations and settings – from downtown NYC to Beverly Hills, from Tokyo to London, from work to leisure, Shades of Grey offers the blueprint for how a stylish, modern man should look and dress. 

Read the Style.No.Chaser interview with Micah Cohen below:

“You have to design amazing product, serve your customer and be innovative,” – Micah Cohen

What would you say is the overall style philosophy behind Shades of Grey? 
The overall style philosophy of Shades of Grey is to be wearable and clean while still being fashionable and progressive. 

You’ve described your brand as wearable men’s clothes with a fashion edge – “nothing too out there” – in your mind, who do you picture is the Shades of Grey customer? 
The Shades of Grey customer practices moderation in his (and now her) life. They try to find a balance in life. When they get dressed it’s not all about fashion, not too far out there. 

From observing your brand all these years, it looks like you maintain full creative/design control with each collection – do you make all the decisions yourself or do you have a design team? 
I still design every piece. My company is still very small and my very few employees only have administrative responsibilities. I keep the creative stuff for myself! 

When it’s time to design each new collection, where do you usually look first for design inspirations? 
There isn’t a single place I start looking for design inspiration each season. Every season represents a new opportunity and new direction for the collection. Even though the collection often features similar pieces, the design inspiration can greatly vary. For example, baseball jackets have been big sellers for me for a while now. Initially, the literal Varsity/Ivy League trend was the inspiration but as I’ve moved on toward themes like performance athletics, my baseball jackets has evolved accordingly. 

You’re based in Los Angeles, what’s the major difference between NYC and LA style? 
Not only am I based in LA; I was born and raised in LA. The major difference between NYC and LA style is that LA has none. Which is quite honestly fine. Style is such a superficial thing anyway, it really shouldn’t matter much one way or the other. I’ll be the first one to extol the many virtues of Southern California and Southern Californians, but unfortunately, style isn’t one of them. 

What are your favorite pieces in your current Shades of Grey F/W 2013 – What about in your upcoming Spring 2014 collection? 
Right now I’m wearing a lot of my joggers, track pants and sweatpants from both seasons. My fiancé is having a hard time getting me to put on anything without an elastic hem. 

The entire menswear industry is experiencing a huge surge right now. What are the biggest missteps a customer can fall into with the wide range of luxury and mid-tier offerings currently available?
The biggest misstep would be listening to other people, myself included. One of my biggest gripes about the industry is the over abundance of “experts” in the field. These “experts” are almost exclusively self-serving and scream, “Listen to me, buy this, wear that!!” I don’t even know what an authority is anymore; someone with 25K Instagram followers? Someone with a blog? Someone with a lot of celebrity friends? Someone with a clothing line? It just seems like the people with the loudest microphones have the worst taste. It would be hypocritical of me to offer advice when I think there are too many experts offering advice. So I don’t know – don’t listen to other people and wear whatever you want.

The fashion industry can be dicey and treacherous to navigate – what do you believe is your secret to success all these years? 
The secret is there is no secret. It would be completely disingenuous and arrogant for me to say something like, “You have to design amazing product and serve your customer and be innovative.” But those things just aren’t true. It’s really a crapshoot. Luck and timing are key factors. And often timing is lucky. There are so many brands that produce the same thing but it’s beyond me why one succeeds and the others don’t. Examining the marketplace, it appears that it helps to be a reality TV star, have very deep pockets or have celebrities like your stuff. Other than that, who knows? 

Lastly, whenever you encounter major obstacles in life or with your business, what are the things, people or practices you turn to that make you calm, serene and focused again? 
I’ve been a basketball fan for as long as I can remember and the philosophies of Coach John Wooden have always resonated with me. Coach Wooden once said, “Some of my greatest pleasures have come from finding ways to overcome obstacles.” Which I absolutely agree with. These are some of his quotes that I think about when faced with adversity. 

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” 
“Players with fight never lose a game, they just run out of time.” 
“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.” 

This last one is perhaps the most important as I take it to mean, among other things, that I should be compassionate and have perspective. And often times what may have seemed like an issue at first really isn’t at all.

To shop the new collection of Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen, click here. 

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