Jack Toledo, design director at KR3W clothing talks brand mentality, new beginnings and reinventing the label with Wonderland
Tell us about your background in design…
My background design started when I attended trade school in downtown Los Angeles, California at The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in 2003. I was initially going to major in fashion design but was steered into majoring in Apparel Manufacturing, which not only focused on product design but also the broader picture of how to bring that product to market. From there, I went on to work in fabric development for a major surf company located in Costa Mesa called Hurley International in 2005. I did that for about 8 months or so and was lucky enough to land a gig on the design team as an Assistant Designer for tops. Hurley was an amazing company to work for and they were instrumental in helping me build an understanding of what being a true designer entailed. School is one thing but most of the design team there was self taught which was absolutely inspirational to me. I left Hurley in 2007 and from there I worked my way up from the Assistant level to Associate to Senior level all through various brands within the Orange County area throughout the years. That kind of led me to a crossroads of sorts where I wasn’t really working on product I myself would wear and wanted change. That’s when I decided to start my own menswear apparel line called ‘Past Present Future’ on the side. It was all domestically sourced and manufactured and was an amazing project that was entirely self funded – for better or for worse, haha!. I received a great response to the four collections I brought to market and unfortunately had to end it once I received the opportunity to work for KR3W. I’ve always been a big fan of the brand and have been lucky enough to work here for just over three years now. I initially was hired as a Senior Designer and have since then worked my way up the role of Apparel Design Director.
What does a typical day as Design Director for KR3W involve?
Well it’s a relatively new role for me and the way we go about our business here at KR3W is rather unique compared to most of our competitors. First off, we embrace a smaller brand mentality and approach. Less is more across the board and we try and to to handle our business from a diplomatic standpoint. So as far as my role on a day to day basis, I am in charge of setting the tone from season to season for the rest of the team. I handle everything from trim concepts to seasonal theme direction to finalizing the color palette. Along with that, I am still designing all categories for the cut/sew range. I also work closely with the headwear and graphics guys to ensure there is a cohesive message being told throughout the collection. A while back we hired a brand manager by the name of Brad Alband who is my boss and our team leader. We’ll sit down and chat about sales trends, marketing direction and possible collaborations. With that said, my days are pretty busy because with overseeing everything and still designing I have to rely on my calendar being dialled so I’m not missing deadlines. I usually cruise in and check the emails, rap out with my product developer and see if any new samples or submits are coming in from our overseas factories, attend a sample fitting with new and current styles and then hopefully after that get to check the web out and start conceptually doing it over again, only better!
What about Fall14, where did the inspiration for the collection come from?
Fall 14 marked a new beginning for us as a brand. I wanted to create a vibe and direction that was both minimal and timeless. The theme is ‘Modern Heritage, which to me is a return to making product that speaks to a more mature consumer but also something a core skate shop would be down with. I wanted it to appeal to a range of dudes from someone who could be the core skate kid who knows what’s up, all the way to that taste maker who used to skate but now it’s more about the lifestyle. Modern Heritage borrows from all that is good from the past such as military, vintage apparel, workwear and Americana, but I applied modern twist through detailing and fit to the garments so they aren’t regurgitated rip offs of those garments. A lot of brands out there are directly knocking off heritage brands like Carhartt, Pendlelton, and Barbour to name a few and that’s not what I envisioned us doing. Our garments are unique and have a point of difference, if you want a one for one M65 go to a flea market or surplus store because you won’t find it here. At the end of the day we are very proud of the Fall 14 collection and can promise the line will only get stronger. I am getting Fall 15 samples in and I promise fans of the brand won’t be dissapointed.
We’re looking forward to seeing it! We’ve read you take a lot of inspiration from travel, what are your three favourite destinations in the world and why?
Yes, traveling the world and getting outside of your comfort zone is imperative to not only evoking creativity but also to growing as a person. I love being exposed to different cultures and people of that area. You can gain a lot from a beer with a local. In no particular order…
Tokyo – Japan is an amazing place to be for many reasons but what I love most about Tokyo is their retail approach. Everything is so well thought out and refined. They are so meticulous with their detailing of their stores that you almost don’t want to touch anything. They hit the nail on the head from the ground up. The menswear is amazing, their vintage is curated and prime for the picking and along with that they also have amazing food and are the cleanest culture I’ve ever been around. Litter just doesn’t exist!
London – I’ve been lucky enough to experience this city more than any other through my travels. London is a mecca for many cool things and most importantly is ever-changing. Much like Los Angeles, I feel like the people in that area know what’s up and are constantly searching for the next best thing. Whether it’s music, areas to live in, food or fashion. They are organically hip and I’ve never left London without a new band I’m into, a horrible Americanized take on a British accent, a head full of awesome places we ate at, some form of a new article of clothing and most importantly, I’ve never left London uninspired. There is such a rich history and heritage in the city as so many amazing people and events are born and bred from there, it’s impossible not to love it. It’s one of the great cities.
Amsterdam – I’ve only been there once but if I can say one thing: this place will kill you with it’s charm. From the canals, cobblestone streets and beautiful people walking around, whats not to like? The cafes and districts are also very intriguing and unique.
What was it that drew you to collaborate with Niagara and Eric Dressen?
We have an awesome Graphic Art Director in house by the name of Mike Z. He actually stepped to Niagara for the Fall 2014 season, he felt it was a perfect fit in terms of an artist with a cohesive aesthetic to what we were doing with the rest of the collection. The end product is something we were all stoked on and stand behind. The Dressen collab for Holiday 2014 kind of came natural. It was a no brainer because of Eric’s ties to the skate game and tattoo culture.
Aside from the KR3W team, who else do you want to see wearing this collection?
We aren’t chasing trends or putting bright ass all over prints in the line in order to appeal to everyone. We make garments for the counter culture enthusiasts out there, like us, who want something wearable, a little different and a little darker. Whether that’s a skateboarder, artist, musician, hipster or grown-ass man or anything in between… It’s all good.
I’m pretty easy, I’d say either a plain white or black T-shit in the summer or long sleeved white or black collared woven in winter up top, black KR3W KSTANDARD chinos or denim that have been tailored/cropped for a shorter inseam with either some chucks or oxfords depending on the mood. I’m not getting any younger and I would personally rather focus my closet on a minimal color palette of greys, blacks and dark blues for tops and comfortable tapered bottoms in darker tones.
What you can expect from us is consistency. The goal for the brand from FALL 2014 onward was to set a sustainable tone/direction for the brand. When you pair stuff from Spring15 with Fall18 collection, it should all look like it came from the same place. But still, we’ll continue to push ourselves and find subtle ways to reinvent ourselves from year to year. The last thing we want is to become complacent or too comfortable, we have a lot of work ahead of us but we are focused and motivated. 2015 will be a huge year for us as a team and we plan on being the brand people look to for innovative product that is unique and fresh. The angst is building YOU’VE BEEN WARNED! Thanks for the chat.
No, thank you!
Images: Amanda Fordyce @ amandafordyce.com