We sat down with the Creative Director of JackThreads to find out more about the emerging brand.

This article appears in Highsnobiety magazine Issue 11. Order yours here.

You may not know Tony Kretten by name, but there’s a strong chance you have seen, and perhaps even own, his work. In his 13 years at Gap, Kretten headed up the iconic (RED) campaign and revitalized Gap’s 1969 denim line. Now hired as Creative Director of Commerce for new fashion line JackThreads, Kretten is setting out to build a new namesake vertical brand within the walls of a Silicon Alley startup.

Launching in Fall 2015, the JackThreads label will take a former flash sale site and evolve it into a fashion resource for guys who appreciate fit and feel as much as good value. On a mission to bring good style to every man that’s interested, the new JT aims to update the timeless American look using the kind of unique customer insights only a tech company can truly master. As Tony himself tells it, they want to be nothing less than your go-to style destination.

You’ve spent the past 13 years designing menswear at Gap. JackThreads is obviously a very different company and an entirely new brand. What has been the biggest change for you?

When I was on the outside looking in, I always felt that tech companies were the future of e-commerce, because they’re part of that connectivity-based consumer culture. I looked at the marketplace and asked myself, “Okay, who’s really appealing to guys in a way that a) has great potential, but b) speaks a language that I understand?” There are other players out there who didn’t get it right because they speak to a very specific type of consumer, whereas I think JackThreads speaks to everybody, which I love.

There’s also the tech side of [JackThreads] and how quickly we can respond to shifting demands in the market. We have the ability to engage in a dialogue with the customer every single day, and the customer is telling us, either via his click-throughs or what he’s buying, what he wants. That means we can give him more of those things. This level of real-time reaction makes the company grow in a far smarter capacity than traditional retail, because tech is in our DNA. Where brick and mortar takes six-to-nine months to react to customers, we can do so overnight.

Speaking very broadly, what’s been the biggest change between when you first started designing and now?

Beyond being a naive kid from Cincinnati who wanted to be Geoffrey Beene? I think the big difference between me then and me now is the fantasy portion of design. Along my career path I could have gone into the high-end sector, but the intellectual challenge of making ubiquitous clothing that’s both modern and relevant is, for me, more challenging than the high-fashion side of things. There’s still an art to what we make, but I’m more interested in the craft and commerce portion of fashion, as opposed to the outright craziness of runway shows.

Menswear and men’s style has really picked up in the last two to three years. Do you think that an awareness of style has become an accepted thing?

I think it’s certainly heading that way. I think there are mainstream guys who look at iconic sports stars and celebrities for style cues, they look at GQ, and now they’re going to look at the curation and editorial portion of JackThreads for advice on how to look good. But yes, I think it’s a part of men’s culture now to talk about style and not be embarrassed about it.

With this new awareness, how is the classic American look changing?

There are still some iconic heritage pieces in the regular guy’s wardrobe; it’s just that the details, the fit, the fabric – the things that actually make style modern and relevant – are more important than ever.

About 80% of a guy’s wardrobe is made up of products that you can list off the top of your head, and the remaining 20% is trend-based style. I think that 80% needs to be modernized, retouched and thought about. Instead of just doing a T-shirt, we want to ask “what’s the cut of the T-shirt, what’s the fabric, what are the internal details?” Basics don’t have to be simple.

So what can we expect from the new line?

Confident style. The products that we’re creating in the new line are going to be those favorite pieces a guy will feel happy turning to time and time again. We want people to think “JackThreads makes the most awesome T-shirt for $18, so why would I shop anywhere else?”

Since there’s so much competition with online retail, especially in the realm of basic menswear, how will JackThreads differentiate itself?

It’s through our voice and our ability to curate confidently that we’ll stand apart. There are three sides to our business. There’s the value portion, in which you’re getting a really great product at a really great price, but it’s not outright cheap – there’s a big difference between being cheap and offering great style for a great price.

Then there’s the fact we’re building an editorial component into the JackThreads experience, so we can actually educate our shoppers and have a daily conversation on style. Finally, there’s the speed and IQ of the tech involved. It’s taking the science of smart shopping and blending it with the skill of great products and the art of great style.

Finally, is there anything you think is missing, or simply not being done right, in men’s fashion that you want to change?

That’s a big question. My main problem is that shopping is either based on cost, or it’s based on some sort of elitist position. A lot of men want more than bargain basics, but don’t feel comfortable engaging with the fashion scene at large, so they feel excluded and un-catered for as a result. We want to create somewhere for these guys; we want to create a community where they feel at home, and feel confident expressing their taste and sense of style without having to know a secret handshake.

Words: Emily Singer

  • Photography: Max Schwartz for Highsnobiety
Words by Staff
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