LA Brand Roark Twists the Classic Idea of American Menswear
Bring four different friends together, one amazing vision and what do you get? Roark, a Downtown LA-based lifestyle collection dedicated to celebrating the individual. A collective, Roark is made up of Creative Director Andrew Steiger, Designer Chris Allison, Visual Communications Expert Misti Huskey and Social Media Specialist Nelson Campbell. Found in such southern California stores as Abbott Kinney’s Guild and West Hollywood’s H. Lorenzo boutique, Roark can also be procured across the globe in England, Italy and Germany. We recently sat down with Roark in their live-work space to get the lowdown on how this international brand came to fruition.
You all compose Roark as a collective. How did everything come about?
We were all friends beforehand and Andrew got approached at a grocery store by a woman who saw his FIDM bag. We all went to FIDM. She asked him if he was a designer. He said yes, and then she said she needed a menswear line to walk in a show that she was putting on. Andrew said okay…it was very impulsive. So he called Chris, then he called Misti, and we did it. And we haven’t stopped doing it since. That was a couple years ago.
So Misti is from Ohio, Chris is from San Francisco, Andrew is from Seattle and Nelson is from Long Beach. How do your different backgrounds and personalities co-exist peacefully in Roark?
We have a lot of the same ideals, so that’s why we are able to do what we do. Collectively we get to create this perfect person. We get to create something that is superhuman in a way, because it’s all the good of all of us. As a team we work on celebrating the individual.
It seems challenging to make it in one country let alone going global in today’s competitive economy. What advice do you have for designers who want to sell across the world?
With the internet and being virally available, that is probably the most important thing. If you have a good product, then the demand will be there and you can fulfill it. We try to do all the production in the US. When it comes to starting a business you have to have all your ducks in a row; but you should be prepared to be global no matter what because we live in a global society now.
On the website your mission statement is to, “Provide clothes reminiscent of armor-like exoskeletons.” I mean, that’s just awesome. Can you elaborate?
We really do try every season to manipulate that classic idea of American Menswear. We try to bridge that gap between that guy who is in the library half the day and then going out at night. And that’s what Roark is all about–suiting up for the guy who is doing everything. Our next season, Spring 2012, is called “Flight.” It’s Roark refined. It’s a little bit more line driven than drape driven. It’s our guy, but with a bit of a tie on. Anyone can find that little tinge of Roark in them.
There’s something Unisex about some of the pieces. Like if a woman is staying over at her boyfriend’s and needs something to wear, then she can go into his closet, throw on a Roark sweater and look amazing. Was that intentional?
Our first season runway show we put one of our good friends into a Roark t-shirt. She looked killer wearing it as a dress. Since then, we’ve had a ton of women wanting to wear the clothes. This last season we actually sold some things over in Europe for women. So I don’t think that [being unisex] was a focus of ours, but it is a happy mistake. And who doesn’t love to put on their boyfriend’s something? So we’re glad it’s looked at in that manner. Eventually we hope to do Womenswear. We’re really getting our feet wet and we want to give a little bit of credence to this. When the Menswear is at a place where we feel comfortable then we’ll delve into Women’s.
What is the design process for Roark from start to finish?
We have created this character, Roark, who follows a storyline. Andrew will come up with a loose idea of where it goes next. Then we will sit down and create an actual storyline and pull photo inspirations. Chris hears the basic concept, so he’ll pull some things too. But, as the designer, he focuses more on the clothes. Then we will sit down together and we’ll share all those photos. So once the story is set upon, and where we feel like the mood, time period and characteristics are right, then Chris will interpret that through the clothing. From there it’s an edit process.
Lastly, what advice do you have for aspiring fashion industry hopefuls?
It’s a lot of work– a lot of business-oriented work– but it’s fun also. Follow what you want to do. We are getting to do something really extraordinary, and we are grateful for the opportunity. It is just a matter of starting and actively pursuing it, and not waiting for someone to offer you that position.
To learn more about the brand visit Roark.