Interview with Christophe Hascoat, Owner and Founder of Menswear Label Taylor Supply
2nd of February, 2012
Built with a passion for rugged individualism and handmade quality, Taylor Supply is a brand that we’ve been sharing with you all since late July, 2010. An inspired throwback to style prevalent in the 1930′s on to the 50′s, the owner Christophe Hascoat strives to create items of clothing which will stand the test of time whilst becoming big wardrobe favourites amongst modern men.
Christophe graciously took some time out of his schedule to answer our questions on the brand and the story behind it, which leads in for a fantastic read. This is perhaps the most text dense interview we’ve compiled to date, but it’s well worth taking the time to read as it goes into great depth about all the sub sections which help to pull the drawstrings of the brand together.
1) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I am the owner and designer of Taylor Supply company, a menswear line that manufactures garments in Manhattan, New York. I’ve been designing menswear for about 11 years now and in the past have had great experiences designing for several brands including Triple 5 Soul, Burton Snowboards and Zoo York among a couple of others.
I decided to branch off on my own to focus on producing a collection I could really stand behind and pieces I hope guys will keep as staples in their closet. After buying clothes myself I’m most satisfied when I’ve had them for a while and they are still the first pieces I reach for straight out of the laundry. I’ve got particular items in my wardrobe that are literally falling apart, but I won’t throw them out because I love them that much. I hope to achieve this outcome with Taylor.
2) I know you draw inspiration from iconic clothing created from the 1930′s to the 1950′s. Why is this and how does it filter into the brand at this current time?
I’ve always been drawn to vintage clothing, the craftsmanship and amount of work that was applied to clothes from that period and prior fascinates me. Also, stylistically a lot of clothes produced during that time had a real simple, functional appeal. It was before things were designed for design’s sake and instead were made with purpose. Clothes were made to be worn for a long period of time and there wasn’t an extremely vast range of options to choose from.
I am also a collector of general objects from that period as well. Although it was slightly earlier in the 10’s and 20’s, the machinist era style is my favorite. I love how things were made with super heavy, dense materials and seemed indestructible. The mentality applied to making things then was that you’d buy them and keep them potentially forever, it’s amazing to me that I own electronics made around 1910 and they work as if they were made yesterday. It is virtually impossible to buy anything these days that is made with that thought process.
I try to apply that mentality to the Taylor product by keeping the styling simple and functional and by using the best quality materials that are available to me.
3) What are the limitations of producing all of your products in New York and what makes you strive to do so?
Some limitations producing in New York include factories that are not as geared up machine-wise as I had been used to in the past working overseas, fewer contractors capable of producing certain product categories, and high production costs.
I’ve found it difficult to locate things like denim bottom contractors, knit top contractors and accessory contractors. It requires you to work within very limited parameters in terms of creating a full collection.
By far the biggest challenge of NY production is cost. It’s very expensive to produce here, however, one upside is that for a small brand like Taylor the factories are willing to produce really crafted pieces in small quantities.
There are a few reasons why it is appealing for me to work locally, firstly because I am fully supportive of domestically produced goods, I hope this trend grows and people learn to appreciate things made in the United States more than they may already. It will strengthen our economy and help people survive (and hopefully thrive) instead of removing job opportunities that are desperately needed.
I also love having the ability to meet and speak with the sewers face to face to communicate the exact details I’m looking for. There is a human element in clothing production, and in most production I would assume that is overlooked when outsourcing work. In my experience the more closely connected you can be to the people making your products, the higher the quality outcome you will achieve.
4) The men’s clothing market is probably one of the hardest industries to get involved with, particularly as a clothing brand, what inspired you to want to start Taylor Supply?
It’s been my ultimate goal to have a brand since I first considered getting started in the industry. My father immigrated to New York from France and worked his way up from having basically nothing as a dishwasher to ultimately becoming a chef and owning his own restaurant with my mom so I guess it’s in my blood to have a certain entrepreneurial drive.
I think what’s most appealing about operating Taylor to me is having the ability to see my vision through in it’s purest form. It’s also really inspiring for me to know people appreciate what we’re making. I own items of clothing that give me a sense of empowerment because I put them on and just instantly feel good. Having the possibility to pass that feeling on drives me to keep doing what I do.
I also enjoy the complexity of it all. Needing to consider aspects like how trends shift, how the business could be run more efficiently, how the brand’s aesthetic can be refined, how it should be styled, what types of ways I can communicate my concept more clearly. The list of priorities seems endless and for me the challenge of having to adapt to so many variables while excelling at them is what I thrive on.
5) I like the combination of minimalism mixed with functionality, your products are really there to serve a purpose but at the same time are aesthetically pleasing. Why did you want to create clothing like this?
My personal style is very minimal so I think it’s inherent in my design aesthetic. I also like simple objects because I always seem to keep them around the longest. It’s easy to get sick of overly designed things. They often feel outdated the fastest, especially clothes, the more simple some pieces are the less you want to get rid of them. The functionality aspect is most likely there because I’ve always loved utilitarian stuff. When I was a kid I was obsessed with anything military, I think it’s mainly because most things military are made to be functional and look rugged. I still love militaria and am always inspired by it.
6) While growing up did you always want to become a designer? How did you fall into producing clothes?
I was always creative as a kid. I loved to draw and dreamt of being an illustrator for Marvel Comics, but knew I would never be good enough to do it professionally. My mom has always been very stylish and she planted the seed that fashion could be a good medium for me to work within. Once I started I never really wanted to stop. Clothing allows you to work with many materials and it’s exciting to put them all together and ultimately have a functional product as a result. I started by making and altering jeans for friends and myself in high school. From there I went to The Fashion Institute in New York, then on to working in the industry as a designer.
I think what’s most exciting about the industry and owning a business is that there is no definitive end point, you can achieve as much as you’re willing to work for and it can be as vast as you make it. You can always get better or learn more and the industry shifts and moves constantly so you really need to be on your toes and be ahead of the curve at all times.
7) You had a big brand change over the summer and it seems to have worked out very well. Why was this necessary for you?
I felt as if I needed to design the rebrand to give Taylor Supply a broader appeal. I wanted to create a logo that was less time specific and would give the brand a more universal platform to build off of. Although I’m very inspired by vintage clothing I don’t want Taylor to be a brand that takes those ideas and tries to recreate them one for one. There’s a lot of that in the market, many brands do it well and I appreciate it myself, but I’d like for Taylor to have its own voice, one that takes the vintage inspiration and molds it and adapts it to be fused with new ideas that are unique to us.
8) I think what’s most impressive about your collection is that it doesn’t feel too stretched. A lot of brands tend to produce more items but lose that sense of purpose that is prominent in every Taylor Supply piece. Is this something you’ve always been conscious of, putting substance before expansion?
Definitely. I hope we don’t ever just make pieces for the sole purpose of expansion. We strive to produce pieces we really want to put our name on and items we look forward to seeing out there. I would say though, part of why our collection is very focused is because we’re small and have to be mindful of what’s going to benefit the brand most. We also hope to produce pieces that can stand-alone and can be appreciated singularly as well as a part of a collection of ideas.
9) Could you guide us through the design process and how you get to the finished product?
The process initially begins with considering what general style is going to be relevant by the time it hits retail in relation to what style is representative of Taylor. From there I’ll usually have a particular piece in mind, most likely a jacket because they tend to tell a strong story. That piece will be definitive of the collection and what will follow.
Then I consider how that piece could or should be styled with other pieces that would be worn in an outfit and build those items next until it expands into a full line. From that point I sort out what fabrics I’m feeling and that lend themselves best to each piece. Then what trims are most conducive to each of those pieces. Once I have a strong idea of the look of the collection I’ll begin working on graphics that will reinforce the concept. From there it’s a matter of reworking it all until I get to a point where I’m satisfied, which is never really so I just have to bight the bullet and begin working on patterns. After that is sampling and reworking the samples and patterns until the pieces are production ready.
10) You must work with some smaller manufacturers? Do you think this gives you an edge over other labels who can’t keep control of the quality?
Yes I think so, but production is difficult and requires a lot of nurturing whether you’re big or small. A benefit to working with a small factory located so close to home is that it allows me to go directly to the source and communicate any changes I’d like to see in person with the sewers so nothing is lost in translation. I can also then get a chance to see each piece as they are being sewn and call out improvements that should be made on the spot.
11) You talk about the Eames Lounge chair as an example of the type of design that you want to see influencing today’s market. How do you think you can do this through your clothing?
With Taylor Supply I hope to create quality products with styling that will last the test of time. What’s special to me about the Eames Lounge chair is that it has never lost its appeal. Over fifty years after being created it is still desirable, marketable and great looking. I hope to produce pieces people won’t want to dispose of because they look outdated.
12) What advice would you give to other individuals who want to start up a small independent clothing label?
Plan and develop a focused concept for as long as you can, fashion is a fickle industry with no remorse. Everything you do and make after your starting point should reinforce your original idea. If it doesn’t it’s most likely going to dilute your concept as opposed to strengthening it.
Try to remove yourself from the equation and envision the exact person you plan to sell to. Understand their tastes as well as you can so you can pinpoint your target audience. It’s fine to cultivate good ideas and create nice looking garments, but ultimately they’ve got to sell for you to stay in business.
Work and rework your patterns until they are perfect, they are the blueprint and foundation you will build on, failure to perfect them will have devastating results.
Try to set small, achievable goals that can be met incrementally, more than likely trying to do everything all at once will be overwhelming and stifling.
Also, be prepared to make some mistakes. Learn from them and consider them an opportunity to improve yourself and your brand.
13) Whats the most rewarding moment to date been for you with the brand?
One of the prouder moments was having Beams as our first customer.
In general though, the most rewarding thing is hearing that our pieces are people’s favorites they own. I was told by a store I sell to that a guy (who was not a super fashion guy) bought a Taylor jacket, went home and had been stopped on the street several times and complimented for it. He called the store and said it had never happened to him before. Thinking about the feeling he got from that is what makes me want to continue.
14) How ambitious are you for Taylor Supply? Describe a little about where you’d like the brand to be in an ideal world?
I’m quite ambitious about Taylor Supply Co.; I believe it is a solid concept. The brand is coming to a slow boil and I think it will have strong lasting power, but I will continue to grow it slowly and organically. I’m planning my next big move to be opening a store in NY where I can display the concept exactly as I envision it.
I’m a huge fan of Ralph Lauren, nobody does menswear as well as he does. I appreciate how he’s been able to maintain strict control over his vision and market it in a way that’s prevented it from veering off course. I have a lot of admiration for what he’s achieved, he’s a major inspiration to me, so I guess in an ideal world I’d follow a similar path and have even a portion of the success he’s had.