Rag & bone co-designers David Neville and Marcus Wainwright have come a long way since they started working together in 2002, holing up in a denim factory in Kentucky and learning pattern-making and construction from scratch. This month, the pair won the Menswear Designer of the Year award for their impeccable blend of American workwear and English tailoring. "Having no fashion training, we've always approached the brand from a very different standpoint than anyone else," says Wainwright. "It's really based on beautiful clothes — how they're made, and what they're made of — rather than trying to be fashionable and trend-driven."
Their scope continues to grow: Next month, the duo will launch their fourth Manhattan store in the former Café Colonial space. We talked to the guys about their CFDA win, meeting Ralph Lauren ("pretty scary"), and scoping out hipster street style.
Were you surprised to win Menswear Designer of the Year?
DN: I try to be optimistic, but I did think Tom Ford might edge us. It was pretty exciting. I just remember my wife screaming a lot, then Marcus and I were ambling down the stairs.
MW: It was very surreal to win and then have to get up in front of all those people and say something vaguely entertaining. But we kept it short — we weren't waiting for the violins to start playing.
Any perks of being a CFDA winner?
MW: Well, we were hoping for a free Jaguar [sponsor of the CFDA Awards this year]. But you do get a really nice trophy.
DN: Plus, it looks good on the C.V.
Who are your favorite designers?
MW: I love Japanese menswear designers like Undercover, N.Hoolywood, White Mountaineering, and Visvim. Unfortunately, it's really hard to buy outside of Asia, and none of it fits me.
DN: You gotta love Ralph Lauren. He's superseded everything he's ever done — he's become the brand. We've actually been lucky enough to meet him.
What was that like?
MW: It was pretty scary the first time.
DN: Well, you've seen the store; you can imagine it. It's a great mansion; you go through various antechambers, then, suddenly, there's Ralph.
Where do you like to shop in New York?
MW: I don't shop much, apart from buying sneakers online, but I do like buying cameras. I go to Adorama, where they have trillions of them.
DN: I visit the rag & bone stores on the weekends. I live in Chelsea, so I walk down Christopher Street to see what's going on. It's nice to see people trying on the clothes. If I'm feeling braver or I need my kids to fall asleep in the buggy, then I'll walk down to Soho.
What trends are you appreciating now?
MW: I live in Williamsburg, which is an intense place to watch fashion. I'm inspired by the willingness to wear just about anything and look like you don't give a fuck.
Any trends you're ready to see retired?
DN: Harem pants on men are a little much.
What's one item you're saving up to buy?
DN: A golf-club membership on Long Island. I used to golf, but now I don't have enough money or time. One day, though, I'll be sunning myself on the fairway again.
MW: I'm saving up for a Ferrari, but I've been saving for that since I was 12. Maybe a holiday to Barbados, with a nanny along this time for the kids.
What should every guy have in his closet?
MW: A leather jacket. It's one of those iconic things that you'll most likely die still owning.
DN: I left my leather jacket in a nightclub in London in 1998. It was one of those classic black Gucci biker jackets; it had been ripped a few times and the tarnish had come off the leather, so it was super-matte. I literally cried.
What do you never leave the house without?
MW: My sketchbook and my pencil case.
DN: Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch.