August 29 2014

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Ruffian Gets Guy-Friendly


Ruffian’s Brian Wolk and Claude Morais have been busy lately—designing both their ready-to-wear collection and Mise en Scene, their secondary fashion and housewares line for Anthropologie—but the duo is adding yet another line to their mix: this one for the boys. “All our friends who are boys had been asking for it, and all our women who are clients are always asking for their husbands,” Wolk says. Well, guys, ask and you shall receive. When Macy’s came knocking with a proposal, Wolk and Morais jumped at the chance. Threads & Heirs, their first men’s line since their small collection of ties in the early aughts, will hit Macy’s locations nationwide for Spring 2010. We rang Wolk and Morais at their studio to chat about the looks, the influences, and their belief that the department store’s founder, R.H. Macy, was a tattooed hipster.

Tell us a little bit about your entry into menswear.

When we first started, we started with men’s, which not too many people know. We did ties using only women’s couture textiles and sold them to Barneys. It’s kind of funny how we came full circle and are doing men’s again. We’re really excited.

We are, too. Can you tell us a little bit about the new line?

We did great shirts and jackets and blazers in linen, cotton, and plaid. For us, it was personal—we pulled out our favorite pieces from our wardrobe. My favorite plaid shirt, Claude’s favorite blazer—and maybe that’s kind of Ruffian. But it’s so important, I think, because if you love something a lot, generally other people will, too. A lot of it was kind of inspired by where we live, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Just walking down Bedford Avenue every day, or riding on the L train, is an inspirational journey. We took lots of pictures of boys from our neighborhood and started from there. We were really lucky—Macy’s was really receptive and really gave us free rein.

The line will be carried in 200 stores nationwide, so you’ll have to appeal to everybody. Was there ever any concern about going too far, being too edgy, too New York?

We’re not really into tricky at Ruffian in general. I think we’re pretty classic American boys. We’ve always been interested in working with natural fibers, whether it’s linen or wool or silk, or whatever it might be. We were just into doing really beautiful tailored clothing. So I don’t think anything was scary for them, no.

Who do you see wearing Threads & Heirs?

It’s definitely the boyfriend of the Ruffian girl. It’s a diverse range—it’s for kids who are our age, but my dad was also super-excited! I think it’ll hit a diverse group of people. The great thing about Macy’s is that we’ll be able to speak to men all over America. Our inspiration was Williamsburg boys, but also stars, classic American male iconography. And everyone’s touched by that. Everyone has a movie star that they love.

Any stars in particular?

The American legends—James Dean, Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift. I’ve always loved Rock Hudson and his great plaid shirts, like in All That Heaven Allows. But we looked at other movies, too. Beyond the Chocolate War is one of my favorites. Dead Poets Society. We looked at the great prep schools—Andover, Exeter, Choate—and old Ivy League school magazines, and also to the Beats, like Jack Kerouac.

The fifties were a great time for Hollywood men, no question. Any stars today you think carry on that stylish tradition?

Vincent Cassel, I’m really into him. George Clooney. I kind of have a thing for Jake Gyllenhaal sometimes.

Silver foxes, huh?

Well, not Jake. Not yet!

What was it like working with Macy’s?

When we started, we did a lot of research on Macy’s specifically, which is super-interesting—it’s been around for 150 years, and it has a great American tradition. It was exciting for us to explore the DNA. R.H. Macy himself was a West Village guy. He started his store there, on 14th Street and Sixth Avenue. He also had a big red tattoo on his arm, from his time as a sailor in the navy. He was a total hipster—and the first Macy’s was right on the Sixth Avenue L train stop!

Photo: Courtesy of Ruffian