The brothers Ovadia have the garment trade in their blood. Or, if not the blood, at least the recent history. Their father, an Israeli immigrant to the U.S., gradually ascended the ladder of social mobility from shop clerk to licensee. His twin sons started working with him at 14, and by voting age they were designing children's wear for his company and traveling the nation to pitch the likes of Walmart on the line. When the charms of children's wear faded, the Ovadia brothers launched their own collection with a few tailored pieces—appropriate but not stuffy. They'd had stuffy as yeshiva students in Brooklyn. "We were so tired of the white shirt, the gray pants," said Ariel Ovadia, who designs the collections with his brother, Shimon. "On a special day, navy pants."
American menswear is in the thrall of heritage fever—though the heritage tends to be more goyische than the Ovadias'—but the brothers' collection transcends its backstory. (Even a backstory that includes pulling the twin switcheroo on an early employer and splitting a single after-school job, or sweet-talking a Nike distributor overseas into sending the burgeoning sneaker-heads rare samples. Machers!) The designers have done an admirable job of building up their client base and their industry contacts before trumpeting their accomplishments: Bloomingdale's was an early, influential supporter, and the collection is sold at Barneys and at boutiques like Carson Street Clothiers and C'H'C'M'. Famed New York suit maker Martin Greenfield makes Ovadia & Sons' highest-end tailored goods; Brooks Brothers produces the more affordable options. The label now does full collections, from tailoring to sportswear, shoes, ties, and accessories.
GQ took notice, naming the Ovadias to their Best New Menswear Designers in America short list in 2012. Then the CFDA followed suit, ranking them among the finalists for this year's CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. And Ovadia & Sons' debut on the fashion week calendar should establish its place. The collection for Spring showcased what has worked well to build the buzz: trim, not skinny, double-breasted suits ("the perfect medium," Ariel said), patchworked jackets combining denim and plaid to satisfy the fashion-forward. The designers loosened up into a more sportswear cast of mind, with floral-print shirts, a verdant green suede motorcycle jacket, and espadrilles to match. The goad of the Fashion Fund challenge—to design something Uniqlo-ready—pushed the Ovadias into more performance-driven fabrics, like a "permanent crystal" windbreaker in a custom-developed Swiss fabric whose reflectivity will fade. The challenge going forward will be to stand out among the ever-growing legion of natty tailoring wonks that currently crowds menswear. But the Ovadias are a good bet. Even aside from the groundswell of support, the solid construction, and the industry's good graces, they've got something that many of their contemporaries don't: a head start.
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