Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
A few months ago, we ran into the designer Todd Snyder at Eleven Madison Park. He was there to celebrate the recently re-opened space, and the new suits he designed for the staff. Shortly after, we met once again for the opening of a hair studio in his store, The Kin Room, enjoyed coffee at its café inside, El Rey Annex, and then went to his Fall/Winter 2018 show. At that time, as well, we caught wind of his recent collaborations with Timex and Champion.
In the past, Snyder headed outwear design at Ralph Lauren, and worked at J. Crew, too. Now a pro at dressing the men of today, who more than accent their wardrobes with outerwear, Snyder also has strong focus on lifestyle. By providing a place to shop in, and stay in, he intends to bring back the “gentleman’s way” of addressing customers, shopping, and creating a lifestyle.
WHITEWALL: Your Fall/Winter 2018 collection was cohesive, and very successful. Do you think the opening of your store impacted any of its success?
TODD SNYDER: Opening the store, and having a catalogue, has allowed us to define who we are a bit more. Everything used to be very based on theory and hope. Now, it seems much more together, and we know who we are now. Before, we’d design for stores, design for a retailer—that’s what they want you to do, and that’s what sells. Now, it’s becoming much more about what our customers are wanting, and we’re getting a lot more direct feedback. In the last two years, I’ve really gotten focused and business has been fantastic. I think the store has just really brought everything together.
WW: In your store, you cater to a whole lifestyle—providing clothing, shoes, accessories, art and design pieces, but you also have a hair studio and a café. Tell us a bit about what you want the customer to take away from the space.
TS: I really wanted to create an experience. A year ago, when we opened, we didn’t really have customers at the store, so I wanted to create an environment that was inviting to people, and I wanted to give the customer a reason to go to an actual store.
It was also kind of my love for London that I pulled from. I always enjoyed going to these small boutiques and shops on Childers Street—there’s a whiskey shop and there’s a book shop. It’s very commercialized now, but it has the beginnings of what I wanted here. I wanted to make sure that the store has this neighborhood kind of feel.
I said, “Let’s makes this a destination,” and let’s give a guy a reason to come here—not just to buy clothes, but maybe get a haircut, get a cup of coffee. I thought this was a great environment. It’s on the park, there’s a boxing gym downstairs, there are amazing eateries around here, there’s amazing shopping…
What I also try to do is partner with people who are experts in the field—whether it’s Moscot with the eyewear, Hodinki with the watches, 1stdibs with the furniture, or The Kin Room. I used to get my haircut with Robin [Capili], and he always wanted to start his own company. So that really worked out.
There’s also this kind of gentlemen’s way that, to me, the last couple of decades has been lost. This kind of, “Hi, how are you? Would you like some water?” That’s been lost on a lot of shopping, so I really wanted to recreate that kind of old time experience for people coming in—being addressed in a certain way, and also just being nice. It’s a simple thing.
I’m trying to recreate that old school mentality of being a gentleman but also combining it with modern clothing on things that guys want to wear today. I don’t want the store to be stuffy. I want something that has that politeness, but has modern, relevant things, and that’s really the store I kind of look at it as—the ultimate emporium for men. It’s really a store for guys with good taste, whether its art or books. It’s the whole lifestyle.
It is what inspires and me and it’s an important piece of the puzzle, as far as getting people to feel at ease with shopping here. I tell my story through different types of inspiration, whether its music, books, art, or architecture, and that’s kind of how I see fashion—through all those lenses. Its not just about a coat. Sometimes when I’m inspired, it might be a photographer from the past and their style. That’s always how I look at things.
WW: For your collaboration with Timex, you dug into the brand’s archives. Tell us a bit about your interest in working with vintage.
TS: I shop a lot in vintage markets—Rose Bowl in L.A., Portobello in London. I geek out about that. That’s where I get a lot of my inspiration. You go to a market and it’s unbelievable—they have thousands of clothes. You don’t want to leave a rock unturned. You are going through their history and pulling a few things out. The watches at Timex blew me away. My watch collection has grown enormously—I probably have a dozen vintage Timexs. It’s fun. It’s really awesome when I say it out loud. Like, “Wow. They actually let me do that.”
WW: If you could paint a perfect picture of a Todd Snyder man, what would he be?
TS: He probably has the best taste. Our guy is really into art, food, architecture, and into what the store is about. They may not be an artist or a food expert, but they like better things and this is just one piece of that. We can help dress them. The whole reason I started doing what I’m doing now is I wanted to help guys dress better. It’s a simple thing, but its hard. You can’t go somewhere for help. Our simple goal is how to help guys dress better.
It’s guys who want better things without spending heaps of money. I was frustrated with designer spending $450 on a shirt. Ive always believed great design doesn’t have to be expensive, so I’ve presented that. I wanted something a little bit better than J. Crew but not as expensive as Ralph [Lauren]. There was this white space of opportunity.
We make all of our stuff in Portugal, Canada, and L.A. It really is great quality. Our suits are made in the U.S., which are some of the best fitting suits I’ve ever worn and they’re under $1,000.
I look at it a lot like food. We are close to Shake Shack (and they sell burgers). They figured out a better way to make it—better quality, better taste. It’s similar to how I design. I always think I don’t want to be EMP (which is amazing, but its expensive) but I don’t want to be McDonalds. So how do we create something in between? I’d say we are kind of like the Shake Shack of fashion.
WW: Where did your interest in art stem from?
TS: That stems from my mother. My mom is an artist, and she was an art teacher growing up. I was always encouraged to pursue art. In hindsight, I never realized how lucky I was, and that kind of gave me an appreciation for it. Ever since I could remember she was always making things. When my dad started his company, an engineering firm, in his thirties, my mom had a store. Her name’s Rosa, so they called it “Roses Art Barn.” We had a barn in the back that my dad turned it into an art barn, and she’d sell art and antiques, which she loved. From that, I always had it in me.
When I went to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I tried a lot of things—everything from engineering to architecture, then business, and finally design. It was daunting, but because I had that art experience, it wasn’t as daunting to think that I could become a designer. But I also didn’t know you could actually do this for a living.
WW: Where do you go to eat and drink in the city?
TS: That’s really hard to answer. I’m really fortunate because I’ve been able to get to know a lot of chefs. I’m very obsessed with what they do. Designing clothes, I always say, is very much like being a chef. The ingredients are known, it’s just how you put them together to make something new.
I’ve become friends with Chef Daniel, so I love Eleven Madison Park, but also Clock Tower. I know Chef Jason Atherton there. I love NoMad, and I always love going to a great EIsenbergs’ Sandwich Shop. I do like Ennju brasserie, too—a Japanese restaurant that serves anything from sushi and noodles to warm dishes.