Catching up with… Druthers NYC

Can you remind us how it all started for Druthers?

I started Druthers with a group of friends. At the time I was doing a lot of design and creative work for friends and clients. One of the brands was Aime Leon Dore. I really wanted to work for myself and create my own thing. Druthers allowed me to focus on the manufacturing side of things. 

I really wanted my attention to go towards quality and craftsmanship rather than a classic collection design approach. At the time I was traveling the world for work and in doing so, visiting a large number of factories and mills in Western Europe, Japan and South Asia. 

For whatever reason, I was bringing back fabrics with me on each trip. We decided it would be fun to turn them into a limited collection of boxer shorts made in the garment district of NYC. I felt that it was a category that was under-penetrated and hadn’t received much focus for other brands. This made it easy for us to pitch the idea to our friend who owned shops in the city. And so it began. From there, I have been treating the brand in a similar fashion. Finding categories that I feel aren’t getting much attention or could use a redesign and moving it forward.

Where are you from and where are you based?

I’m from NYC and NJ. I’m a New York native. Born in The Bronx, NY.

I went to HS down the Jersey Shore and lived there for 12 years. I’ve worked and lived most of my life in Manhattan though. 23 years straight now, since I returned. Other than that I’ve spent a lot of time between Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris. I had offices in Hong Kong and Tokyo which is why I spent so much time there.

You focus on underwear, why’s that and what’s the plan?

I would say we don’t focus on underwear so much anymore. Although it was the focus 8-9 years ago, we’ve really made an effort to expand into other categories in the last 6 years. Socks were a big one, but during this season hats are our best seller. We make an amazing quality beanie in Osaka. This year we have also launched collections for Robes and Bath, Swim Trunks, Hoodies, Crewnecks and Sweatpants. We will slowly add more styles to the mix as we feel it’s needed or if I get the feeling to design something specific. My plan is to continue to carry out specific drops as opposed to the classic collection launch. Next year we will launch some new artist collections, then a candle with my favorite French candle maker / brand, knit sweaters, some women’s pieces.

Where is the product made and why?

All of our products are made in the USA, Western Europe, namely Portugal and Italy and Japan. I wanted to find craftsmen who made exceptional quality products and could also adhere to the sustainability practices that we follow.

It’s also my experience. For me Japan, Italy and Portugal are the best for this. Not to say it’s the only way, but it’s where my past led me to.

What do you have coming up in the next year that should excite us?

So we will be working on two pop-up shops next year. One in Tokyo with an artist friend of ours and another in either NYC or Paris. Still TBD. We are going to update everyone on our sites later in the year on that. For releases, we have some great artist collections dropping. We are currently working with Remy VTS, Grotesk and JK5. For products, look for us to expand on the home living category on our site. To accompany robes and kimono robe sets, we will be working with a producer in Paris to make candles and incense, and another coffee shop in Paris to create a small and limited capsule collection. We are also slowly going to roll out some women’s specific products and continue to expand our offering with mens’ categories.

Tell us what your favourite pieces are at the moment and what other brands excite or motivate you?

For me I’m hyped on the new robes and kimono robe sets. That’s probably because they are not even out yet so it’s still super fresh. But I really wanted a robe that was stylish and high quality, but was also made of terry so it will actually dry you off. I’ve tried a few robes that we made of french terry or sweatshirt material, another was cashmere… They don’t really dry you off. It’s like wearing a wet blanket, haha. I wanted to create something super luxurious and practical, and we did. Our new robes are 500 gsm GOTS® certified organic cotton. Long staple, non-twist terry pile yarn. I often accidentally fall asleep in it.

As for other brands, there’s been a lot of women’s stuff that’s great at the moment!  Simone Rocha is still great, Fforme, The Row, Casey Casey, Album di Famiglia, etc. (basically my wife Melissa’s uniform). My good friend and partner Liana has been head to toe in Dries lately. That looks great!

For me I’m inspired a lot by the merchant more than the brands too. The look of a great multi-brand store that’s just well dressed is both hard to come by and awesome to shop. Mix that with some of the classic furniture designers from decades ago and I’m good. That in aggregate is what motivates me. It’s more of the experience than the brand.

Tell us about the brand evolution? Where do you want to take it?

I’ll just keep letting it go! I’d love to get back into creating physical spaces and working with more artists in doing so. Also find new and exciting ways to reinvent products. We have some woodworking and furniture plans for next year, Fragrance. New clothing styles.

See more from Druthers here

Mark Smith

I had pizza for tea.

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