An Interview with a Dignified Man
I design casual clothing for mid-twenties to mid-thirties professionals; city preps. I didn’t have independent options like other markets; our options have been mass market brands (Ralph Lauren, J-Crew, Banana Republic). I’ve kept the brand grassroots, based in Philadelphia, so that I can grow slowly and build credibility and recognition. The thing that sets D&W apart is the branding and ability to connect and engage. We’ve gained a very loyal following being approachable and deliberate. This approach will serve us well as we take the line on a national scale.
How did you find yourself in the Duke & Winston Business?
I was working at a web design company, totally miserable. I was in charge of bringing on clients. I couldn’t sign any new business, the whole company was looking to me. I went to a seminar with a few of our graphic designers in late 2008, given by Johnny Earle of the clothing line Johnny Cupcakes, and was blown away by the way he started a brand from nothing and grew it into a multimillion dollar company. I felt like I was meant to do something similar. I decided to quit my job and start my own brand that would serve Philadelphia in the same way Johnny Cupcakes started to serve his demographic in Boston. I sold my beloved Audi to get the cash to start the line, came up with the name Duke & Winston after about 2 days of brainstorming, launched a blog on day one documenting the progression of the business…the rest is history.
Who’s Duke? Who’s Winston? And who’s in charge?
When deciding on a name I wanted something proper even though the line would be very casual. I grew up in England and many old school British companies (especially on Saville Row) had regal names like Shepard & Anderson, Norton & Son, Dege & Skinner…I wanted something similar so that people would think of my line in the same vein.
I have an English bulldog named Duke and I wanted to center the branding around him. I also remembered Winston Churchill (dapper British prime minister) was called The British Bulldog during WWII because of his tenacity. After throwing concepts around, the name Duke & Winston stuck. The logo became a bulldog with a top hat and bowtie. Most people assume I’m Winston; I’ve been conscious to not make the line about me and the focus is usually on Duke, which he loves.
What do you find troubling about the current state of men, how they put themselves together?
Men’s fashion is more put together than it was in the past. Guys are dressing better, thinking about their appearance. There is a tendency to take dressing up too far; many people end up looking like they are wearing a costume. Historically, men’s fashion reflected what you did for work or your demographic. Guys can look like posers by overdressing in styles that don’t fit who they are. Too many guys wear three piece suits when they don’t have a job; young Wall Street guys start wearing hipster glasses and cut-off jeans on the weekend. As it becomes more and more fashionable for guys to be into personal style: keep it as genuine as possible and never ever pose.
What is one thing every man should own?
A Duke & Winston t-shirt (just kidding). Even though I own a clothing line, I don’t like all the fashion rules that seem to be in place. Fashion should be the least important thing in a man’s life, simply a reflection of how they live. Guys should have at least one clean pair of shoes. Never hurts to have a pair of clean shoes.