Talk to Michael Wesetly and you’ll quickly realize that this men’s designer is cut from a different cloth. Forget the obvious exterior differences from your typical designer out of [insert European Atelier here]. The Severna Park, Maryland native gets “it” when it comes to men’s fashion. He designs with all shapes, sizes and colors in mind. His workaholic attitude has brought success to his company and designs. Originally focusing much of his work on international audiences, Wesetly is set to make a major debut in the American market and we can’t wait. I sat down to interview him over the phone on a warm summers day and was surprised to find out so much about this tireless designer. Read on.
Why do you commute so far?
Because we started our company in Pennsylvania. We’re definitely in New York because if you make you can make it in NY you can make it anywhere right man? We’re still around, so I guess where doing a good job.
When did you start the company?
Well the company was started about 3 years ago. But I’ve been desiging since I was 17. It’s just one of those things. This game is not a cheap game. It takes creativity but you also have to have the dollars you know? And to get to that point, we had to make sure we were definitely financially ready to make a splash into this industry not just a little wave.
One of the things I’ve noticed in your line is that even though you are an African-American designer, it’s not “hip-hop.”
Faaarr from that. Far from that. You know I’m glad you said that today. You’re making my day already man.
Yes people know I’m an African-American designer, I’m a black guy, so they automatically put me into that genre or that classification as being, urban, hip-hop, but it’s like yeah I’m a black guy, but I am giving you luxury, high-end clothing. Like our competition is a Zegna, it’s your high-end Hugo Boss, your high-end Versace. My upbringing was in the hip-hop/urban culture but in terms of what we provide for our customer, we bring that type of flavor but we still bring that high-end luxury.
This is the obligatory, obvious question, but do people draw a lot of comparisons with Sean John, (Sean “Pdiddy” Combs’ clothing line)?
I would have to say yes, only because again I would have to say that there are zero other African American designers in men’s fashion participating at the level we are at in this industry in the US. You will definitely find across the board globally but not US based. In terms of high-end fashion we do things a little differently than Sean John. We give you high-end fabrics, now don’t get me wrong, Sean John, they have excellent clothing if you’re in that type of classification. What we try to do to make ourselves different is 1. We make our clothing here in the U.S. as opposed to China, Honduras or wherever the case may be. So that really puts us there in terms of high-fashion from the perspective of the “chicness.”
Showing at New York fashion week takes a lot of coin.
Whoo..it’s not cheap man. But that also goes to say do you really think you can hang with the competition to get into those shows? You have to go through an entire panel for them to say yes for your brand to be in that show. It’s not as if you put in your coin and you are in that show. This is true especially for men’s fashion. I would probably say at Olympus fashion week, it was dominated by women’s fashion which is no problem; but the men’s brands they do bring into the show they really look over and they only allow 4 or 5 shows into the men’s show and for the last two years we’ve been lucky to be one of those men’s brands. One of the things we do though is we also do fashion shows globally, we just don’t do them here in the US. We feel that we can broaden the brand and kind of show American luxury. Our last show was in Prague. This year we’ll be in Rio De Janiero and Tokyo. The year before that was in Moscow. We make sure that we are all over the globe so people can see what we are doing.
In terms of menswear you have a designer like Raf Simons who is known for the graphic pencil-slim silhoutte and Sean John emulating that to a point. One look at your line and it’s evident that that’s not what you do. It seems as if your designs consist of broader shoulders and eschews that slim fit aesthetic. It’s as if it is designed more for the American consumer. Is that the case?
That is truly the case. If you look at the market right now it seems as if everybody is doing the exact same thing. We have two different types of suits. We have the athletic fit, we also have as you said before the slim fit which kind of gives a nice look around the waist. We basically give the everyday man suit. If you look at my models sometimes you will see that you don’t always get that “oh my god look at that model I will never look like him.” I put guys on the runway that make you say look at him, look at the suit, I think I could wear that suit. I think we break the cliche sometimes in terms of our runway shows. Most of our runway shows are guys who look ordinary. They are not the guys who are six foot four with a thirty two waist. We have those guys also within our shows but we also have 40 to 60 guys come in who look just like me and you. I think fashion is for everybody not just for the beautiful.
Where do you get your inspiration?
In all true honesty, a lot of guys will say my inspiration comes from this designer or that designer or the east Alps of the Swiss. But that’s bullshit man that’s bullshit. I get a lot of my inspiration from the streets. From seeing what other people are wearing. We just flip it and add our techniques our style to it. What really got me going in this game is the hottest brand in the world which is Polo. Everybody doesn’t want to think that Polo is the hottest brand in the world. But by far it is. It outbeats Versace, it outbeats Gucci, it outbeats all those boys. By far Polo is the best brand and so that’s what we do, Do I try to follow his blueprint? Of course not. But think in terms of how he runs his business. I mean I think that anybody can make great clothes, but it’s how you run your business.
When you see how Ralph Lauren runs his business, it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing. I mean he has clothes for every and I mean everyone. That’s the way it should be. Whether you are big, tall, small, short, ugly, beautiful he has something to give to the masses and it sill makes him look as though he’s exclusive. When you see someone wearing Polo you know what you’re getting.
What’s an average day for Michael Wesetly?
An average day for Michael Wesetly is hustling. I have an excellent PR team, excellent marketing team, VP, my partners are excellent, put out great clothing and we just try to do it right man. If we can give you a good product then we could care less about the money because the money will come.
It’s no secret that The fashion industry is dominated by gay males. What’s it like being a straight designer in this industry?
I have no problems working with anyone. If you put it that way also, it’s dominated by white males also. So if you put it that way, I am always behind the eight ball. (laughs) It gives us a certain niche, a certain feel. Because it’s like Michael’s not gay, and Michael is not white, I think it gives us a marketing edge.
The Papierdoll issue this month is all about men’s fashions. If you were speaking to a woman exasperated about the guy in her life’s dress sense, what would yo
u tell her to do to sort of make him over?
Pyschologically if a man still wants to wear the Timberlands and the tennis shoes, they can still do that but retain a classic, stylish look if they want to go that route. I think sometimes women try to change men into something that they are not, which is no problem at all. If you’re that type of woman, you fell in love with him for the way that he is, so if you’re that type of woman make him better in terms of what he has on. Like you don’t have to wear Timberland boots, get him a stylish pair of boots.
Where can we find Michael Wesetly clothing?
I launched my clothing company overseas. Everything is made here but I went as far as I could to do it overseas. If we launched over here it would cost boatloads of money. So I first launched in Moscow. We had our first fashion show over there and they went nuts over the collection. That truly paid our bills for a long time. Moscow is one of the top fashion cities in the world. We got publicity and exposure from that show. We knew our clothes were hot, but we didn’t know how hot it was until people started buying them. From that point on, we knew we had something.
When we get off the plane overseas where rock stars. When we’re here in New York, yeah I had a serious buzz now, but when I had that fashion show back then, they were like, “Who the Heelll is this guy?”
I was like “how do you pronounce his name?”
Right, exactly, it brings more of an aura to the name. When people see Ralph Lauren I don’t know how many people say Ralph LA-ren. I just hope when people say Michael We-Set-ley someone will say, “it’s Michael Wesley (sic) you goon.” (laughs)