East Meets West: Menswear Fusion
*This article was originally written for Decompoz Magazine*
The idea of East meets West is one that has always intrigued artists and creators. From a design perspective, the merging of these distinctly different aesthetics is something that can create striking results. NYC-based menswear label, Feldton, is one such brand that merges these two divergent traditions by blending innovative Japanese fabric techniques with rustic American work wear.
David Song, the label’s design brain and its VP of creative services, founded Feldton a little over a year ago, and in this short time the company has experienced immense success. Previously, he held design positions at Andrew Marc and London Fog/Herman Kay, working specifically in men’s outerwear. Within Feldton’s first year of operations, it has received funding from investor, Leeward International. Feldton has even managed to fill an order for American behemoth and NYC institution, Barneys New York. Song and his sales and PR director, Andrew Nguyen, say the moment they filled their car with the first Barneys delivery was one of their proudest. Nguyen also comes from a fashion background having worked as a buyer for many years, as well as teaching at the Parsons School of Design.
Together the duo constructed Feldton from the ground up, building on the idea of designing clothes for the modern worker. They aim to create pieces that stand the test of time. Since starting the company, Andrew has remained involved in the physical creation of his products – he hand-dyes the garments himself. As he speaks, he motions with indigo-stained hands. He says, “Our game plan is built on integrity and durability. Without these two elements, it’s no longer our brand. So we have to keep the principles of what we believe in, combined with the long-lasting quality of our product.”
These two core elements – durability and integrity – are reflected in Feldton’s choice of materials and in its manufacturing techniques. Even its choice of logo portrays a double diamond, which symbolizes the ultimate meeting of two strong substances reinforcing one another. The company uses enduring fabrics, and the highest-grade, handcrafted leather, to ensure the longevity of its pieces. The clothing has a recognizable all-American style, with a touch of the Southwest. This is seen in the choice of Wabash stripes, denim, and Native American inspired prints, which together evoke a mix of raw masculinity in the more sharp edges, while also maintaining an elegant softness. The current Feldton collection features: jeans, flannel shirts, vests, cargo pants, capes, sweater coats and Henley shirts. The designers use expertly manufactured Japanese wool, along with more traditional American materials, when carefully crafting their lasting pieces. Each item possesses an originality that can be hard to find in today’s retail environment, which is saturated by fast fashion.
Both directors embody the characteristics of the workers for whom they design,so much so that they feature as models in their own lookbooks and act as the“faces” of the brand. However, it was a worker, a nurse, who inspired the company’s name. A nurse named “Feldton” saved Song’s life when he was a child and it was in her honor that he named the company – he says he felt a spiritual responsibility to do so. Now, as workers themselves, the designers have their hands on all parts of the creation process. Everything is designed, and manufactured in NYC, with both the creative studio and the factory based in the city’s garment district. In fact, the two buildings are only separated by one block, so if there’s an issue at the factory, they can just walk over to discuss any changes. This attention to detail, and focus on quality, is something that permeates all levels of Feldton’s creation process.
Ultimately, though, the designers want their attention to detail to lead to more than just beautiful clothes for today; they want their work to translate into lasting value. Nguyen says, “We want those who buy our products to still have them 100 years from now, like an old pair of Levi’s. We want them to feel like it’s a treasure, a timeless piece.”
As a brand so embedded in New York, both directors say they draw a lot of inspiration from the city itself. Andrew in particular says he’s very drawn to the history of New York, and how the Empire State was constructed. Adding, “To be in New York and feed off that energy – it’s the energy that people come here for. You come to New York and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is Manhattan.’ This is where everything happens.”
However, the flip side of this coin is the expense of manufacturing in NYC. One of the toughest challenges Feldton faces is ensuring that they can keep production in NYC while still keeping costs under control. One way they do this is by involving themselves in all aspects of production, so they can manage the whole process and respond to any issues as they may arise. Staying hands on is both a core value and a safeguard for Feldton’s directors.
Discussing what the future holds for the brand, the duo says they would like to penetrate the notoriously tough Japanese market, and show that their New York City fusion is fashionable the world over. Given that part of the Feldton aesthetic is derived from Japanese ideals, it’s easy to see how they could be successful inthe region. Already, they’ve had interest and support from industry tastemakers like Atsushi Matshushima of Clutch Japan Magazine, Takashi Okabe of Clutch/Men’s File Magazine , and Nick Clements of Men’s File Magazine .
However, at the moment, the pair is focusing on creation, and the promotion and sale of their Spring 2016 collection. And it’s this creation of quality, durable products that gives Feldton’s designers the most satisfaction. Song says, “I compare designing these clothes to cooking things. I’m a chef in the kitchen. I just cook and then give it to the customers. If they like it and they enjoy it, then I’m happy.”