The Mark McNairy Interview
Written by: Geo Hagan Photography by: Ben Ferrari

Menswear According to Mark:

Mark McNairy is a man of few words. But whenever he speaks, you better stop and listen. In the current menswear landscape, he might just be the one designer who really gets it. He understands there is not just one monolithic archetype for the way a man dresses. In each collection he puts out, he caters to the man who goes through different phases, moods and situations in life  – and then he creates clothes accordingly. Don’t you wish more designers took that approach? Without further ado, read our exclusive interview to gain some insight into the mind of Mr. McNairy. 

What would you say is the main driving inspiration behind the Mark McNairy/New Amsterdam brand?

I make things that I want to wear.  I make things that hopefully people will not look at in the future and think, “Why the fuck did I buy this?”  And last but not least, I make things that make me money.

Growing up in North Carolina, did you ever imagine ending up as a highly respected NYC fashion designer? 

 I certainly did not.

There’s an Ivy league/prep factor to your clothing – but there is definitely a harder, rebellious edge as well – how do you maintain this balance?

There are many elements; Ivy/Prep is just one.  There is also military, workwear, Savile Row, punk, post-punk, hobo, outdoor apparel, athletic apparel…

Is there a vintage sensibility you try to bring through in your collection – or are you always forward looking and progressive?

Yes.  I like to think of my creations as “analog.” 

Being that you are a self-taught designer, what do you think are the advantages/disadvantages to your approach? 

The advantage is that I can think outside of the box.  I don’t think there is a disadvantage.

How does the creative process start when you are first envisioning a new collection – does it come from a thought, an image, someone you spot on a street?

I do not generally envision what I make as a collection until all of the samples are made.  I make seemingly unrelated objects to stand on their own, but I find how it can all work together when I shoot the lookbook.

Two of the standout looks for us in your F/W 14 Collection were the pants with front cargo pockets and also the athletic cuffs on trousers – what was the inspiration for these items?

The original Higgins pant model came from a vintage Sears Roebuck hunting pant.  Then, I added the pocket and knee patch details, which came from a USAF flight pant.

Let’s talk a bit about collabs – you probably get approached left and right by brands- how do you settle on who to work with? 

I don’t get approached by as many as you might think.  I have to like the brand.  The brand has to share the same values as mine.  And I have to like the people I am dealing with at the brand.

 How do you balance the business of fashion with the creativity aspect – are you hands on with both, or do you delegate?

The creative part is my baby.  I hate the business crap.  I finally learned to hand that part off to my partners.

What would you say are the main founding blocks of your own personal style?

A pair of Levi’s jeans, a pair of vintage military khaki chinos, white undershirts and a white oxford cloth B/D shirt.

Lastly, for younger upstarts wanting to become successful menswear designers, what would be the most salient piece of advice you would give them?

Read Paul Arden’s books.

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