After years of designing for American menswear stalwarts Ralph Lauren, Gap, and J.Crew, Todd Snyder’s breakout F/W ’11 collection somehow managed to feel both fresh and satisfyingly classic. While the elements to Snyder’s aesthetic may be familiar – and have since become pervasive, due in no small part to his efforts – the foundations of rugged, vintage-inspired work and military wear were blended effortlessly with sharp, modern tailoring. The fluid way the two disparate inspirations came together displayed all of the best elements in his previous brands with a subtle new sophistication, and this idea has matured with each new collection.
For every rough-and-tumble military look, there is a refined, tailored one to balance, with most outfits falling somewhere in between. In his Fall ’11 collection, a pair of olive green rumpled cargo pants rolled ankle-high over rich leather wingtip boots contrast with a navy tailored pinstriped vest, grey work shirt, and dark wool tie, all cut slim enough so as to flatter but not so much that it surrenders its utilitarian inspiration. His Spring ‘13 collection, which he describes as “Saharan Prep,” continues his military influence but in a much more subtle way with more emphasis on the prep school aesthetic. Linen sweaters and cropped shorts mix with leather jackets and military shirts, as was the style with previous collections, but new to the mix are brighter shades and a more overt desert-inspired utility, like the lightweight parkas in orange and beige, or the trim suede bomber jacket worn with white selvage chinos, a pale blue bandana, and tough leather boots.
With these unique elements, Todd Snyder’s clothes work on two levels: for the style-obsessed who fetishize a pair of heirloom 501s or a perfectly distressed vintage leather jacket, or simply for the modern man who wants a stylish, modern wardrobe with a hint of vintage influence. Given this potential for widespread appeal, it’s no surprise that Mr. Snyder’s design’s have been so positively recognized, evidenced by his nomination for the 2012 CFDA Swarovski award for Menswear. With all of this fantastic work and recent recognition, we were lucky to speak with Todd about his origins, inspirations, and ideas for the future.
How do you express yourself differently with your own label as oppose to working with other brands? What do Todd Snyder designs represent that your past work didn’t?
It’s a little more extreme versions of things I did in the past. More luxury for sure. I use all Italian and Japanese yarns and fabrics. The designs are still rooted in classics but I try to modernize and update styles through fit and fabrics.
Your F/W ’12 designs are military-inspired, even more so than your previous collections. Even the more formal looks have a rugged and masculine appearance to them, enhanced by the dark, neutral shades you used. With S/S ‘13, the military vibe was still present, but the looks seemed much more preppy with all of the bright colors and lightweight fabrics. What drew you towards these directions, and how do you think your aesthetic will continue to evolve?
Military was strong for Fall ’12 but I wanted to soften things for Spring ’13. I was re-watching the English Patient and really liked the dusty more sun faded palette. I think color is very important for Spring and going forward.
What are your retail ambitions? Your displays at stores like Odin are great, but do you have any plans of opening up your own shop?
I would love to open a store but we are concentrating on growing our wholesale.
Why do you think vintage American styles like workwear, military, and prep have had such a strong resonance with men recently? Do you think this is something that will continue to be pursued or are there other influences you’d like to see explored in menswear?
I think we will always see some sort of Americana in menswear. I think 20 year old guys are just discovering and appreciating great American brands like Alden shoes, Red Wing boots, Southwick Suits, New Balance sneakers and Gitman Bros shirting… everything my grandfather wore. It’s going to be hard to get guys off of that stuff… it’s hard to go back once you have had the best.
When designing for a collection, are there pieces that are withdrawn out of necessity? Was there a piece in the Spring ’13 collection that you wanted to include but just didn’t make the cut?
I have been fortunate in the past four seasons that I have not had any causalities. Having a small limited budget we try to be very efficient with sampling.
After several seasons of your own line under your belt, how do you feel overall? Do you have anything you want to focus on improving, refining, or adding in future collections?
I was scared as hell when I left J.Crew. After a few seasons on my own I am now very happy and excited about the future. I will be taking more risks and pushing forward. I think it’s important to evolve as a designer and not get complacent.