Brooks Marks Is the Sweatsuit King of Salt Lake City

Brooks Marks Is the Sweatsuit King of Salt Lake City

by Evan Ross Katz

"It's The Real Housewive of Salt Lake City, not The Real 20-Year-Old College Student, so I was completely shocked by the response." If New York City is the fifth Sex and the City lady, Brooks Marks is the seventh snowflake holder on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. A former child model and actor (at seven years old he appeared in the out-of-town tryout of The Pirate Queen before it landed on Broadway in 2006), Marks is now trying his hand at fashion design and using the spotlight of the series to filtrate attention on his eponymous label. And so far? It's working.

"What a lovely day in Park City," the 21-year-old Marks proclaims in the show's premiere episode, which introduces us to Brooks alongside his mother (and one of the show's stars) Meredith Marks and his father, Seth Marks. The young Marks is taking a semester off college and living at home with his mother — "Which is amazing," his mother says, "because he can do my make-up every day." Marks is droll, sarcastic and unaffected, speaking with a similar vocal affectation as his mother's, which is to say: monotone. Brooks Marks absolutely would have bullied me growing up, and I'm not mad about it.

A Moncler puffer, a just-visible Bvlgari watch and Prada sunnies outfit Marks, who is seen peering out the back of a car à la Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy. Later in the episode, his back is in pain after lighting candles for his father's engagement gift to his mother, underlining the paradox of Brooks as both a 20-something and geriatric. We get glimpses deeper into his life two episodes later: "I took the semester off from school to support my mom... and to work on my clothing line." This gives way to Marks' debut runway show at Park City Fashion Week in the show's latest episode. "My fashion line is called Brooks Marks, it's self-titled," he explains in his signature unenthusiastic droll. "Honestly, off the top of my head I can't think of a better name for a fashion label than Brooks Marks. Brooks Marks, the double 'KS,' it's just killer."

Citing his mother, who launched her own jewelry line in 2009, as one his biggest inspirations, Marks says fashion played a critical role in his life for as long as he can remember. "I remember taking my old clothes, cutting them up and gluing them or sewing them together and forcing my sister to put them on," he says. As the years went on, he started to get more serious, keeping a watchful eye on his mother and her ethos of livable luxury. "I created my brand because I wanted to make something universal that was attractive to everybody. I wanted people to feel comfortable in my clothing and for no one to feel excluded wearing my brand."

His debut collection, which is comprised of a hoodie and sweatpants, sold out its second drop this past weekend. "They're all the same?" cast member Jen Shah asked during the show. "I mean, does one tracksuit make a collection?" she later followed up in a confessional.

But despite the shady-shade from her and others online, Marks is using his new platform to drive awareness and convert fans to consumers. Call it chutzpah. Call it privilege. Call it talent. No matter the label, Marks is doing the thing many stars of the show only dream of (see: Sonja Morgan New York or She By Shereé): selling units. "Brand interest has increased a lot... to say the least," he says.

"After seeing Brooks in the premiere episode, my friends and I were obsessed so we looked him up, saw that he had a clothing line, and vowed to all get matching hoodies," says author and Housewives superfan Ryan Bloomquist. "For better or for worse, we're people of our word." It's not that Bloomquist doesn't like the purchase so much as he is recognizing the innate comedy of having an unknown designer's name splayed across his body. I asked Bloomquist to count the number of times Marks' name appears on the hoodie he purchased: 10 — "five on each arm."

But it's this brazen confidence, the unquestioning belief in oneself and their own ability, that makes Marks a welcome figure on a show that celebrates grandeur and opulence. Taking after some of the show's more successful entrepreneurial efforts (see: Bethenny Frankel), Marks is adamant about putting in the work. "It's far more difficult than I ever thought it would be. Just down to all of the intricacies of measuring every seam and figuring out your size charts and getting your clothing manufactured and making sure that the quality is to the high standard that you want. I would never want to put a product out there that I'm not proud of. I spent years perfecting my design. That was the most difficult part. That, and running the business."

Marks is now back at school, wrapping up his fall semester at New York University ("It's really difficult to balance, but I'm getting through it") and prepping for a third drop of his sweatsuits. He's also watching Salt Lake City along with viewers, a show he taped in a pre-Covid world. "I'm sure a lot of viewers are experiencing the same feeling, like when I see someone touch the door handle with their bare hands I'm like 'oh my God, use your sleeve or something.'" But for the most part, he says, it's been fun to watch, though he does admit there are times he feels like he's been misunderstood.

"These are snippets from just several hours that are condensed down into a few minutes," he says. "And there are parts that are difficult to watch like with my parent's separation. I don't think I realized the degree to which their relationship was struggling and I don't see those interactions between my parents. More than anything it made me incredibly proud of my mom to see how strong she is and how she was able to be so put together at one of the most difficult points in her life."

I try and get Marks to cast some of the shade thrown at him by the ladies on the show, notably Shah. He lets out the slightest hint of a laugh, as if to indicate he will not dignify but he will acknowledge. "I think all of the ladies look amazing and they all have their unique style that works for them." Diplomatic! Next I try and pry more about Marks' life outside of design, with little luck. When he's not designing he tells me he's hanging out with friends or helping his mother with her business. Moving forward, he says, he's excited to expand his brand beyond the sweatsuit to more designs. "Hopefully a full collection," he teases.

I close out by asking about his New Year's resolution. "To learn who Prince is," he says. "Not who he is," he corrects himself. "Learn more about him because I noticed a lot of people were disappointed in me for not understanding more about him. Just to clarify: I do know who he is, I just hadn't seen a music video from him and was confused by the reference. Aside from that, good health for the world for sure. I think we all need it. And maybe be a little less critical of myself? Maybe."

Welcome to "Wear Me Out,"a column by pop culture fiend Evan Ross Katz that takes a look at the week in celebrity dressing. From award shows and movie premieres to grocery store runs, he'll keep you up to date on what your favorite celebs have recently worn to the biggest and most inconsequential events.

Photo via Instagram