A Stellar Q & A with Duncan Quinn
Duncan Quinn is the name in bespoke American goods, as well as superior quality ready to wear offerings.
I am a great admirer of the brand, the products and Mr. Quinn himself.
If you aren’t familiar (and you should be) have a look at the website (one of the best landing pages on the net) before proceeding to the questions, below.
First, I’ve read the “about” section on your site, but could you give me a very brief biography?
I always like having dinner with people who have stories. They’re like the fabric of life. And you can’t really fake stories. Either you’ve experienced things or you haven’t. I have a bad habit of saying yes to things so I’ve found myself in some situations that have led to lots of great experiences.
Its led to many travels to exotic and far flung places, food, wine, cocktails, cars, bikes, sailboats, dancing and general mayhem. That and deciding that I enjoyed designing clothing more than I enjoyed being a corporate attorney.
So, I have three law degrees, am a recovering attorney and would rather negotiate the cork out of a good bottle of wine with my crazy shirting guy in Como than an extra few dollars on a deal that is already too rich.
How did you get your start in your current business?
I had a bad suit habit. As in I liked them. Rather too much. From my late teens when I ran parties through qualifying as a barrister in London I started having them made and was out and about a lot so amassed quite a collection.
When I moved to the US in the late 90’s it was almost impossible to find somewhere where you could get a suit that actually fitted. You could find well made stuff like Kiton or Oxxford but it was cut for your grandfather and had no personality. The other extreme was rubbish that was glued together and fell apart. So I kept going back to Europe to get my suits, shirts, ties, pretty much everything.
People would stop me pretty frequently in the street complimenting me on my attire and friends would ask me to get stuff for them. I fancied a little creative outlet to my daily grind and opened the first duncan quinn store in the wasteland of NoLIta back when there was nothing here.
I already knew everyone I needed to know to make the things I wanted in the store and I just designed what I wanted and put it in the store to see what would happen. We sold $2,000 of shirts the first day and the rest, as they say, is history.
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the company, where you stand now, and where you’d like to be?
For many years after the first store opened I still practiced as an attorney in Manhattan but slowly but surely I ended up deciding that I rather preferred hanging out at the store and helping characters with my input on what the best wrapper to achieve their goal would be.
Right now we have a store in NY, another in LA and a pop-up in Miami that has been great for some pretty special events over the past couple of years. duncan quinn is pretty well known for its bespoke work and often I wonder if people even know we’ve always done ready to wear as well in small runs but we’re thinking of offering items for wholesale to other stores with a different collection that is something more people can reach financially.
As to where I’d like to be, probably on a sailboat with some friends and a good rum punch in hand.
What do you think of the state of menswear in the US today? Like/ Dislike?
This is such a subjective area but I think that mainstream menswear has improved immeasurably from ten years ago. It varies greatly across the country but I think there has been a huge resurgence in suits that have some shape and form as opposed to the trash can liners that were being sold not so long ago.
Can you talk a little bit about the virtues of bespoke?
Bespoke, when done properly, is really a mixture of art, design, function and form. It makes me laugh that a word I had to explain to people back in the day has become the marketing ‘mot du jour’. Its become a trigger word for people and even when they don’t understand what it means they know its something good, like a well kept secret they just discovered. Unfortunately that has led to a state of affairs where if you aren’t in the know you can very easily end up paying $3,000 for a sportcoat that was glued together in about 45 minutes that is supposedly “bespoke”.
Bespoke is a special thing, and you tend to find the same people who appreciate it also appreciate fine art, fine wine, and other visceral experiences. Although it is about fit it is not just about physical fit. Its almost like making costume or a suit of armor as ultimately each piece has a purpose and is made for a particular role for a particular person. As we’re all different and also have different purposes in our day each bespoke suit should be a reflection of the person and context it is for.
Can you name one piece/ product which typifies the brand?
Our ties are always in demand as they’re edgy and pack a punch.
Can you talk a bit about the craftsmanship and production of your goods?
We use the best stuff we can find and make it the best way it can be made often using small artisinal production and time-honored methods that will make sure each piece will stand the test of time.
I’m intrigued by your Personal Styling offerings. Can you talk a bit about your offerings there and why a gent ought to consider the service?
We’re lucky that not everyone has found their own style, and some don’t have time to. For those who can afford to have us help them out we are happy to lend a hand. Every one of our bespoke clients essentially has items created just for them and what they need it for but we offer this service outside the context of the stores for those who can’t make it to us.