Designer Adam Kimmel has been wowing us with his creative approach to rugged menswear since he launched his eponymous line in 2004. This season, he takes manliness to the next level, collaborating with tried-and-true brand Carhartt to create pieces for men who want to look stylish while working a band saw, or look rugged while sipping their cocktails—take your pick!
Mr. Kimmel chatted with the Daily Beast about the collaboration, and here, writer Christopher Bollen gets the scoop.
Christopher Bollen: You’ve obviously been a longtime fan of Carhartt. I’ve seen you wearing pieces from that brand—mixed in with your own clothes, of course—for as long as I’ve known you. Do you remember any early Carhartt clothing that you owned?
Adam Kimmel: Yes. Actually it was a barn jacket that I used to wear when I was about ten years old. In fact, it’s one of the pieces that I included in the collection. For this collaboration, I went through the Carhartt original archives and selected one or two pieces that interested me—one of which was the piece I wore when I was ten.
CB: You actually found that particular piece? Those archives must be enormous.
AK: Yes, I did manage to find it. The whole experience was really wonderful. Basically the collection is a meeting of the two brands, where some of my fabrics are mixed with their silhouettes, and some of my silhouettes are mixed with their fabrics. That way, there’s a real fusion of the two.
CB: Adam, you’re a New York kid, through and through. You were born and raised in this city. I myself am from the Midwest—much more Carhartt territory. When I think of Carhartt, I think of a working man, an industrial, almost Midwestern persona. But so many New Yorkers have gotten excited about this collaboration. Why is Carhatt so popular and influential among men who choose to live in New York City?
AK: Every guy—whether you’re in the country or the city—really wants to be a guy. And every guy knows that the real guys are wearing Carhartt, and a lot of those guys do happen to live in the city.
CB: Well, both Adam Kimmel and Carhartt are reaching a different audience than their usual customers with this collaboration. When you went about designing the collection, did you think of urban guys wearing these clothes? Or tough, manual laborers outside of the city?
AK: I was thinking of my friends, myself, any guy really—even a farmer who wants to wear Carhartt out on a date at night. Some people may be cynical and wonder, “Oh no, is Carhartt selling out?” The answer is no: farmers who want to go out on a date and stay in their Carhartts can wear the collection. It was about refining the classics in a way that stayed true to the brand, while bringing a bit more of a silhouette. The fabrics are soft and comfortable enough that you can wear them to drinks. So yeah—maybe farmers can wear this for their date nights, and city folk can put it on to go wherever they’ve got to go. The goal was to make pieces that were true to the Carhartt look, and these pieces stand up over time no matter where you are.
CB: I know the genesis of this collaboration started with Barneys, and Jay Bell talking with you about the idea. Did you actually travel to Carhartt headquarters and negotiate with their in-house design team?
AK: Going to Carhartt was incredible. It’s located in Dearborn, Michigan. You go there and you instantly feel this genuine quality that is all about staying true to an all-American, built-to-last product. You walk and you think, “Whoa, am I really going to collaborate with these guys? Is it really going to happen? Are they going to let me in?” Carhartt USA has never done this kind of project before, and it was humbling. I’m hugely honored.
CB: So you fly out to Dearborn and they just let you walk right into their archives? “Go ahead, Adam. It’s your playground.”
AK: Well, you walk in and see the archives, and you realize their heritage and history right away. I mean, they’ve done it all. They’re like Ralph Lauren for the working man.
CB: Did you design mostly outerwear? What did you have to take into account when using some of those more industrial fabrics?
AK: It’s a bit of everything—there’s outerwear, there’s a blazer and a pair of slacks. I ended up bringing in some different patterns and a silhouette that was a little bit slimmer than typical Carhartt pieces. Their traditional clothes are super comfortable for real hard work. These clothes are for the man when he’s not working, but they are still meant to be comfortable. Everything is lined in beautiful brushed cotton. The focus wasn’t about making up some crazy exotic story; it was just about making a beautiful product.
CB: Designers—fashion designers in particular—definitely know how to use their hands, but they have a bad reputation for lacking manly skills around the house. How are you around a toolbox? Be honest: can you change a light bulb?
AK: I fantasize about growing vegetables and moving to the country, and, yeah, I do like to change the light bulbs and be the man of the house. I approached this project with those kinds of passions and dreams in mind, but certainly with the respect that I have for the guys I tend to notice, who are workers, working on cranes, doing the real stuff. I’m aspiring to be like that in a way.
CB: In the last decade especially, menswear has almost been feminized. And not just in fashion, but in pop culture, too. From the start, the Adam Kimmel brand has resisted this trend and has remained a label for dudes. So it makes sense that you would collaborate with Carhartt, the behemoth of rugged, manly America. Do you think the macho element of fashion has been important to you? Is it a natural part of your aesthetic?
AK: I think I’ve always wanted to create a product and an image that guys can look at and aspire to—something where guys can say, “That’s cool, I can see myself in that.” Carhartt has all the nuts and bolts of the ultimate masculine, American image. To link up and expand on that foundation is a really special thing.
CB: So what’s you’re favorite piece from this collection? What’s the one item that you’re happiest about?
AK: It’s got to be the duck canvas work coats, lined in brushed cotton twill. Beautiful. Go get one.
- Tory Hoen