Welcome to New Zealand. It's a country best known for rugby, Lord of the Rings, being the first nation to give women the vote, Flight of the Conchords, birthing both Edmund Hillary, the first guy to climb Mount Everest, and Lord Rutherford, the first guy to split the atom, and having a sheep population that outnumbers our humans 10:1. In case you don't know, we're located East of Australia, our countrymen are not descended from convicts and we're colloquially referred to as Kiwis. Unlike most small countries (which can typically boast at least one sartorial innovation), we don't have a history of good fashion. Scotland has tartan and tweed. Belgium has duffel coats. We have farmers roaming around in bush shirts paired with short shorts and gumboots.
I live in New York City, but when I was back home three weeks ago, I had a conversation with my best friend which went something like this:
Him: "There's this guy on my soccer team who everybody laughs at."
Him: "Because he's weird."
Me: "What does he do?"
Him: "He wears chinos every day."
Me: "Are they fluoro pink?"
Him: "No, they're khaki."
Me: "What's so weird about that?"
Him: "Are you kidding me? Guys don't wear chinos, guys wear jeans."
In 2002 when I turned 18, I moved to Auckland, our largest city (population: 1.2 million) to go to university. I discovered that there were other people out there who shared my passion for menswear, and that there was an exciting mini-industry just waiting for me to jump into. Leading the charge was Murray Crane, whose stores Crane Brothers (made to measure suiting) and Little Brother (tailored streetwear), were beacons of hope among a sea of flip flops, board shorts and beer T-shirts. Little Brother was my favorite. The pants were slim with button flies. The dress shirts didn't drop off your shoulder like an oversized tee. And there were cotton sportcoats in a variety of reserved, yet aesthetically pleasing colors, the likes of which I'd never seen.
After pestering him for six months, he hired me two days a week in one of his stores, at a kingly wage of $12.50 per hour. Six months later he swapped out one of my retail days for a day in the workroom, and before long I was spending hours upon hours each week ironing shirts, delivering stock to the shops, liaising with manufacturers (albeit at a strictly junior level) and counting out buttons for the latest shipment of shorts we'd just had sewn. At the ripe age of 21, after being at the company two years, I asked my manager if there was room for me to grow my current role. "I want to be Creative Director," I said. He shook his head in disbelief at my arrogant precociousness (outward displays of ambition are considered vulgar in Kiwi culture), and told me I had no experience, little knowledge of garment manufacturing or design and a bad attitude. I took it personally and quit.
Fast forward half a decade and plenty has changed. Post Little Brother I took a six month trip around the world, attempted to launch my own label, discovered my manager had been telling the truth, waited tables, labored for a fabric merchant, worked in fashion PR, tried my hand as a model agent, assisted the organizers of New Zealand Fashion Week and started writing, discovering that I had a knack for snappy pieces about all manners of topics, primarily those related to myself. So I did what any men.style.com obsessed, shameless self-promoter of the late 2000s would do and started a blog. The blog picked up a bit of momentum, I started doing the menswear show circuit in Milan, Paris and NYC, and eventually I'd migrated to New York to try my luck among the Josh Peskowitzes and Bruce Pasks of the world.
In December of 2011, in a lovely little piece of ring composition, I received a phone call from Murray Crane asking if I'd like to come on board as Creative Director of Little Brother. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. Spring/Summer 2012/13, which dropped into stores this month, is my first collection and it's available for purchase online and in New Zealand's Barkers stores. The campaign was shot by Katherine Lowe of Katherine is Awesome fame, and you can check out the full lookbook here. It's a collection of straight up, clean menswear that you can wear every day of the week, but that's only if you're a chinos-friendly kind of chap.