Tom Kalenderian, men’s merchandise manager and EVP of Barneys New York, has seen his fair share of menswear designers throughout his 30-plus year tenure in the industry. As such, when a recent conversation turned to Ovadia & Sons, it struck a chord to hear him say, “I sincerely believe that these two designers’ combination of talent presents them as both rare and representative of the best of the new breed of menswear designers out there today.”
With their unique take on American menswear (combining artisan workmanship with modern silhouettes), Brooklyn-based twin brothers Shimon and Ariel Ovadia, who have no formal design training, have managed to cultivate a niche following of devotees among men who care about getting dressed. It’s the combination of having their personalities embedded in the garments’ threads as well as their “Made in the USA” sensibility that has everyone talking.
We knew we had to find out more when Kalenderian went on to call Ovadia & Sons “both iconic and instrumental in the new movement of menswear in America today.” So below, we put the Ovadia brothers in the hot seat…
A look by Ovadia & Sons in the Barneys Spring 2012 men’s classic lookbook
Some might say you’re breaking the rule of never mixing family with business, but you two seem to make it work.
Ariel Ovadia: We were brought up a little differently. Our father taught us that, for many reasons, it’s best to be in business with your family. Sometimes it’s a challenge, and it has its pros and cons just like everything else. We design each piece and detail together but when it comes to business and management, we split everything up.
You’ve said your clothes cater to a wide range of guys who care about style. What do you think makes your designs universally appealing?
Shimon Ovadia: Our collections are always inspired by a story and a person, whether he lives in New York in a townhouse uptown by the park or in a beach house in Montauk. We envision a world around the person’s life and then design the clothing we see him wearing. There are pieces throughout each collection for every occasion, from summer BBQs to formal weddings. I think a lot of people can relate to it as the feel is natural and unforced. But most importantly everything is authentic.
You’re sports lovers and it shows in your work. Did you draw upon any past experience playing sports growing up?
Shimon: When we were in high school, there was a rival school that the wealthy kids went to and they had these really cool varsity jackets in gold and burgundy. That’s where we drew the inspiration for some of the varsity-inspired pieces. You’ll see this in the Fall 2012 collection that we designed exclusively for Barneys.
How important is it to you to have your creations locally made?
Ariel: It’s important to us for many reasons. Growing up, our father produced all of the clothing at local factories and on the West Coast. By making the garments locally, we have more control over production but we’re also able to give back to our neighbors. We try to do our part in keeping these placing running. The quality in the U.S. is very underrated.
I never know how to define the word “cool,” but clearly you guys have it going on. What does “cool” mean to you?
Ariel: I think a cool guy is someone who carries himself with simplicity and is humbly confident. It’s recognizing who you are and being yourself.
Shimon: To me, it’s about confidence. It’s about knowing who you are and what you’re comfortable with—and is imbedded in every single aspect of your life.
1. Gingham check dress shirt (exclusively ours!); 2. Multi stripe dress shirt; 3. Embroidered military shirt; 4. Military shirt; 5. Gingham check dress shirt (exclusively ours!); 6. Flat front trouser; 7. Stripe crewneck sweater; 8. Belted four-pocket jacket
Header image created exclusively for us by the very talented Ovadia brothers!