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A New Platform Catering to 'Made in the USA' Menswear

Despite the fact that the market is chock-full of fashion brands, no shortage of which are forced to ultimately shutter given the demands placed on new fashion businesses and the current strain of the retail market, in general, new labels continue to pop up each season. So, when Luis Morales and Jason Wagg thought about launching a new menswear label, they thought again.

Instead, the two fashion industry vets, who cut their teeth at Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus and Tom Ford, took a different route. Putting aside their plan to add yet another new brand to the noise of the already-crowded menswear industry, they saw a lack of platforms to support existing design brands, and it is here that THE ENSIGN was born in January 2017.

Morales and Wagg talk about the current retail landscape, what men want, and how they put their egos aside and changed direction …

TFL – Tell me a bit about your backgrounds?

Jason - I worked in luxury retail at Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie for 7 years before moving into operations at Tom Ford and business development at Ahalife, a digital marketplace. Customer service was always a part of my career and moving behind the scenes gave me an appreciation for how to build something that gets people excited.

I left fashion when I realized how ossified the hierarchy was. It was hard to find opportunities within fashion where I could continue to develop and excel, in many ways my first indicator that fashion and retail was in trouble and there were major changes coming.

Luis – I’ve been on the product side for huge menswear brands, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, specifically, for the past seven years. Product has, and will, continue to be my major motivation within this industry. I’ve always been inspired by inventive product, design with a unique point of view, and clothing that tells a narrative.

Working within huge corporate brands, the focus is constantly steered toward reducing cost and protecting margins within the traditional wholesale/retail structure. Ultimately, I wanted to try and get as far away from that philosophy as possible.

TFL – I love that started out wanting to create a menswear line and ultimately realized that the market doesn’t necessarily need another brand and instead, maybe needs more spaces for great existing brands.

Luis – As we began to design and put the pieces into play for development, we examined both the challenges and the opportunities ahead of us in this new venture. We didn’t just want to be another clothing brand on the market, so we started thinking about how to differentiate from the current crop of amazing men’s designers. We began discussing this idea for a network for new brands, like ourselves, as an opportunity to create exposure and an outlet for building our own distribution capabilities. We then realized that this network, a central hub for American menswear designers, is critical to the continuation of the American fashion industry.

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