Ariel and Shimon Ovadia: Modern classics

Portrait of Ariel and Shimon Ovadia

Interview: Haris Stavridis // Photo: Justin Chung Photography — Courtesy of Ovadia & Sons

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Make it (modern) preppy

Ariel and Shimon started Ovadia & Sons for a very simple reason — the clothing that they wanted to wear didn’t exist. “We have our vision of the way we want clothing to look, feel and fit,” Ariel said in an interview with Life+Times. “We use high quality fabrics and pay close attention to fit, detail and design.” Their personal style originates from their love of American sportswear, combined with an Italian twist. Not surprisingly, their menswear label does not stray far from this style. They aim to keep their clothing timeless, classic, and sophisticated: cutaway collars, sharply tailored suits, and an endless love for double-breasted jackets are some of the elements of their collections, while making sure that the fit is just right (not too tight, not too loose). The line has a hint of old-world influence, but with a modern view. In an interview with GQ, Ariel emphasised that the brand “is not about trends or gimmicks.” According to Shimon: “We borrow from the past and make modern updates with fit and fabric.” The brothers are also passionate about supporting manufacturing in the United States. Cotton and silk pieces from Ovadia & Sons are outsourced from local mills. Despite their rapid ascent to stardom, Ovadia & Sons seems to be steering away from the hype. So, are we witnessing a classic label in the making? You can start betting.

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We would really like to know the story that got you started in the fashion industry. What motivated you?

We grew up in the family business. Our father founded a children’s wear clothing company in Brooklyn almost thirty years ago, and we started working at a young age. To put it simply, we loved clothing - especially clothing that told a story and had a history. In high school, we were collecting vintage items: from military and hunting clothing to tailored clothing and formal accessories. Then, there came a point where we got tired of what we were seeing in stores. The selections weren’t exciting to us anymore. That’s when we launched Ovadia & Sons in Spring 2011. Our first collection included everything from sportswear to tailored clothing, shoes and accessories.

What does it feel like for two twenty-something brothers to have their own clothing line? What is the most exciting part of your job?

We don’t really think about that too much, it seems very natural for us. The most exciting part is to wake up and do what we love.

What kind of challenges have you faced so far?

There have been many challenges. Where and how to start was the most challenging. We had no formal training, we never went to school for this, we had no idea where to get anything made or where to buy fabrics. There are new challenges every day and you can just hope to solve them the best you can.

Could you please tell us a little about the dynamics of your relationship? Is there a balance in the way you share your duties?

We each have our responsibilities. When it comes to designing the collections we are usually on the same page. It’s a twin thing that we can’t explain.

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Who gets to win in most of the arguments? Or is it something that you have not had to deal with so far?

When we were younger, the winner was whoever remained standing. Today, there are brotherly arguments. It’s only natural.

Is there any room for innovation in a limited and somewhat conservative field such as menswear? Do you think that a new designer has to stir things up in order to become relevant?

There is always room for improvement. We have an opinion and a point of view on what we like and our ideas of how things should be. We don’t think that you have to ‘stir things up’ to be relevant, although it has worked for others. The most important thing for us is to stick to what we like and design things that are true to us.

What is your design process behind each collection?

The idea of each collection is to build the perfect wardrobe for the season. We ask ourselves questions like ‘What do we want to wear?’ or ‘What plans do we have?’ and that leads us in the design direction.

How do you see your company evolving? Do you find the idea of creating a lifestyle brand (like Ralph Lauren) appealing?

With each new season, we try to improve what we’ve already done and bring a fresh, exciting approach for each collection. We’ve established ourselves as a lifestyle brand and we’ll continue in the same direction.

Will we ever see you step into womenswear?

This is a popular question with all of our lady friends. We would like to, and we see it happening in the future.

How much of New York do you put into your designs?

We are inspired daily by the people, places and buildings. There is always a touch of New York attitude in each collection.

You seem to be quite traditional in your selection of materials. Could you tell us about this, and how do you source them out?

When we select fabrics they need to have quality, style and function. We have a clear vision of what we want to make and if it ends up being traditional, we’re okay with it. We also like to experiment with non traditional fabrics. This spring, we designed a motorcycle jacket using a nylon water resistant tent fabric and fisherman netting for pockets. Sourcing the fabric is a story on its own.

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Along with a handful of other people, you are representing a new and promising generation of American designers. Do you believe that you have a responsibility over this and why?

We think that it’s been some time since good menswear came out of America so we’re just happy to be a part of it.

How has the menswear scene in the US evolved the past ten years?

There has been a lot of change. It’s been a slow process but guys really care about the way their clothing fits and they want to know about the product. The internet has been the biggest game changer. The customer is educated and knows what they want more than ever. It’s incredible, men in America are again starting to care about the way they look and they want to buy quality.

Are there any current trends that you identify with?

We don’t really follow trends much, but we’re happy that the double breasted jacket and suit is getting some attention from the ‘fashion’ world. We’ve always been fans.

What ideas are you bringing to the table with your creative approach and what is your brand's position?

We’re bringing a fresh take to timeless clothing and we focus on fit, quality and style. When we make clothing, we make sure it’s timeless and you can pull it out of your closet twenty years from now and still want to wear it.

Brioni was acquired by PPR, Berluti is being expanded to a full fashion house by LVMH. It seems that menswear is becoming an important cash cow for fashion conglomerates. How do you view this? Is there enough room for new and aspiring menswear designers?

We don’t get caught in the politics, we can only speak for ourselves and what we’re doing. We think that there are still some voids that need to be filled in menswear. So, yes, there is room.

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