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One of the most influential men's wear designers in the United States today doesn't work in some hoity toity studio hand-distressing rare Nepalese goatskin—Frank Muytjens is the vice president of men's design at J. Crew, one of the biggest retail turnaround successes in recent memory.
WWD has a great, broadstroke interview with Muytjens today, asking him about his icons, inspirations, and the Dutch-born designer's relationship with America. For anyone who remembers the J. Crew of the late-90s—all the colorful men's rollneck sweaters and rainbow plaid shirts—how the aesthetic turnover happened might be especially interesting:
How do you come up with novelty, given the inherent limits of men's wear?Muytjens says he'd always been interested in American culture—from cowboys and Indians to Dorothea Lange. He'd dreamed, one day, o driving around in a camper for six weeks "crossing the country," and organized fashion shows at Danceteria when he first came to New York.
Men's wear is almost like a framework. All the shapes are there and you can tweak them, but you have to keep it understandable. You want a guy to recognize it. There are only so many elements you can play with. That’s a challenge, but it’s also what I find interesting.
How did you establish that signature?
First we looked at the fits and the colors. Before, maybe we were a little too colorful, so we changed the color palettes into one that was more masculine, but still sophisticated. Then we looked at American history—from more formal, classical men’s wear to workwear, with elements of army-navy thrown in—to give everything a heart and a soul.
He's inspired by Brancusi, Fairfield Porter, Vincent Can Duysen, and Montgomery Clift, and he also admires the style of Jacques Cousteau and The Clash.
· Let's Be Frank: J. Crew's Frank Muytjens [WWD]