Even though I like my preppy fashions with a spike of punk rock -- I can't resist pairing L.L. Bean bluchers or Brooks Brothers button downs with some spiked-out Trash and Vaudeville threads -- I was born "true prep." My latest prep obsession is the label Read's Clothing Project (or R.C.P. for that monogrammed feel). The label, started by, duh, a preppy guy named Read Wall, fuses East Coast boarding school classics with sleek cuts (who wants a baggy anything in 2012?) and hip fabrics, most of which come from Japan. And for every item bought, R.C.P. donates something to a child in need. I met Read for coffee to talk shop and shopping.
Tell me about your background and why and how you decided to launch a clothing line?
I don't really have a background in fashion, but I have always loved preppy, American clothing. Through high school, as I started to buy more clothes from classic American brands like Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren, I realized that there was something about the fit that was not quite right, so I started taking different items to the tailor to see what they could do. After a while, I realized that I had a pretty solid vision for a brand and, considering myself an entrepreneur above all else, decided to take the plunge and start my own line.
There's also another side to the narrative: throughout my life I've been lucky enough to travel around the world quite a bit. I've been to Africa about four times and every time I'm there I try to do something to help education initiatives in whatever area I'm in, whether it's teach a class, give a talk, or help set up a classroom. When I graduated college in 2009, I thought about teaching or working for an NGO in Africa, but couldn't find the right opportunity. So, when
starting Read's Clothing Project, I decided to tie in a social benefit: for every product we sell, R.C.P. gives a book to a child in need. Through our Titles program, customers can actually choose the book they'd like to donate.
I worship Tokyo and a lot of your fabrics are from Japan. What makes Japanese materials so special?
The Japanese still weave a lot of their fabrics on 100+ year-old looms which gives the fabrics an incredible authenticity and texture. It's really important, especially for shirting, for a fabric to feel personal. Combine that with exceptional fit, and you've got something worth wearing over and over again.
You are mostly doing shirts and ties. Did you grow up having to wear coat and tie to school like I did?
I went to prep school in Washington, DC and my years wearing a coat-and-tie dress code were probably the most influential in my overall aesthetic. It was very preppy but the essence of real preppy style is breaking the rules of the code in subtle or not so subtle ways. It's a breeding ground for American sprezzatura.
I started the collection based on the perfect slim fit button down shirt since it is kind of my uniform -- both then and now. It's an item that can be worn in just about every situation, outside of the gym. Or in the gym, depending on what gym you're at, I suppose.
Where would you like to see the line in 5 years?
In five years I'd like to see R.C.P. established as a global bastion of the American prep aestheticWe are working on a full collection for the fall and getting ready to shoot our
lookbook which is an exciting and big step for the brand. I think it will really prove
our position as an all-American lifestyle brand.
What is one thing every guy should have in his wardrobe and one thing he should never have in his wardrobe?
I think a guy should have a solid shirting collection. No need to go all Jay Gatsby, but a few ginghams, chambrays, and go-to-hell madrases would serve every guy well. And you can never have too many oxfords. And an item no one should have? I guess I'll go with drop-crotch pants. Those are terrible!