Keiser Clark is your favorite athletes favorite menswear brand. The Los Angeles-based label quickly built a strong following from its take on ready-to-wear tailored pieces and streetwear staples. The brands aesthetic blending rock and roll themes with gritty noir styles and glamour finishes have attracted many stylists, celebrities, and influencers to take part in this beautiful, dark, twisted world that founders Marc Keiser and Andrew Clark have built.
In 2016, the two formed the brand by designing one-off leather jackets. They would lend them to friends, who in turn would post the garments on social media. At the time, Keiser was still in law school and prepping for the bar exam. He studied fashion/entertainment law, intellectual property law, right of publicity law, amongst others within the Fashion and Entertainment Law Concentration. He was the president of the Fashion Law Project and did a lot of pro bono legal work for various fashion industry clients and upstarts through Loyola’s Fashion Law Clinic. All the while trying to start his own fashion brand.
"I feel the best when my schedule is fully packed, and there’s a thousand things to be done," he tell us. "Starting your own brand you don’t have the luxury of a well-oiled machine and team around you so you have to be willing to do it all to get your foot in the door of this industry, you have to be a problem-solver and more than anything be willing to put in the work. Probably the crazy-Virgo in me."
Through the power of Instagram, the pieces began to receive recognition and caught the eye of many stylists. It also attracted plenty of celebrities including the biggest names in sports like Odell Beckham Jr., James Harden, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Victor Cruz, and more. In 2018, Clark and Keiser dropped their first full collection, AW19: "Canis Lupis. The Dog" at Paris Fashion Week. Now, the brand is gearing up to drop their SS20 collection, "Canis Familiaris, which is inspired by friendship, guardianship, and unwavering bonds. Brotherhood and sisterhood; family loyalty. The drop will feature American utility-wear, with many staples like a Western detective sport coats, black lambskin leather button-downs, a cargo anorak in black satin with white piping, and a red leather chest harness.
As Keiser Clark continues to rise up the ranks of LA's most notable fashion brands like Fear of God, Amiri, Rhude, John Elliott, Stampd and 424, we got a chance to sit down with Keiser to dive deeper into his transition from lawyer to designer, talk about his favorite pieces from the collection, what it's like working with athletes, and more.
At what point did you realize you had an interest in fashion?
Deep down I always had an underlying interest in fashion, and to be honest always admired designers and creatives like Tom Ford, Sarah Burton, Hedi Slimane, etc.. I admired their ability to cultivate an aesthetic and a world all its own through their designs and imagery, but never thought I’d be working in fashion in that capacity, let alone have my own brand. I felt, as we all do in one way or another at some point in our lives, that the world didn't feel too far removed from my own.
What was the turning point when you decided to switch from lawyer to fashion designer?
Anyone who has been to law school understands and knows it's a lot of work, it's a lot of reading, writing, analyzing, but it’s not all that “creative." So between six hours of classes, six hours of homework, and working part time at an entertainment law firm each day, my creative side was screaming to be fed. When I first moved to L.A. like every young L.A.-transplant I did a little modeling, and then a little styling, working with other friends who were pursuing their creative pursuits, and eventually started designing one-off leather jackets.
A big turning point, and I gotta give credit here to celebrity stylist Jason Rembert, was back in the fall of 2016 when Rembert DMed me over Instagram looking to pull some of those original one-off leather jackets we had designed for his clients. That moment really was an inciting force in all of this, I think that moment ignited a fire in me to pursue this, to make Keiser Clark my full time, not just my after hours.
One of the staple pieces of the brand are the vintage "Creatures of the Night" wolf tees. Where do you find all these specific vintage tees?
Then, in 2015, we were working on our first leather jackets. I started to collect some of the wolf tees. Almost like a personal collection from markets in Fairfax, the Rose Bowl, here in L.A. I was looking on Etsy, Ebay, Eposh, Poshmark. You name it, I've probably looked for tees there.
I think there are lots of brands that have done vintage tees. Vintage rock tees, or even Harley Davidson tees, and I think those are very limited to who they connect with. They connect to a particular customer. A fan of that particular brand, their artist, or with a Harley Davidson tee, they just ride motorcycles. With the glitter, it brought a new light to the new tees.
And why wolves?
Yeah, so the wolf tees started in my childhood. I grew up in the Northeast. I grew up in nature. My parents always had it and continue to have a similar motif where there is wolves, and dolphins, and elephants. That was kind of what I grew up with. So the wolf tee is really symbol of my childhood, my upbringing.
There's a power and aggressiveness with wolves, but also a pack mentality, and the sense of belonging and family that I think we all connect to with the wolf.
The Racer Jean is also a big hit. What inspired that design?
At the time, when we were designing it, the tuxedo stripe was really trendy. I remember looking at different collections that were coming off the runway that season. I think everybody had some sort of tuxedo stripe in a collection. Whether it was a single stripe or a dual stripe. And, it would tend to be in different colors and fabrics. So, I wanted to do something along that line, but I didn't want it to be a full length tuxedo stripe.
We decided to cut the stripe doing that three quarter length, ankle length down, to really carry your eye down. It had athletic undertones. It was wearable as an everyday pair of jeans that could be dressed up and paired with a suit jacket, but that still looked athletic. It's a "I want to stand out, pair of pants" versus just another black jean.
For the first collection, we just focused on the black wash, and not any different fabrics. I think in elevating the black jeans, we used the glitter inserts. We had a gold, silver, black insert. We had a snow leopard print snakeskin, silver snakeskin, and gold silver snakeskin. We did a leopard print leather. We're using more rough materials to kind of elevate the jeans a little bit.
What's your favorite Keiser Clark piece so far?
It would really be between the studded motorcycle jacket and the leather pajama trucker. I think both those pieces, especially if you understand the development and the attention to detail that goes in both those pieces; it really makes them an incredible value. I think with the studded moto, I hadn't seen anybody do studding like that.
We were really just shy of welding those studs into that jacket and having them placed over that entire patch. To how it sits and they the way it fits on you, I think it's just such an incredible piece. I think for the leather pajama trucker, nobody was doing, or at least it's hard to find anyone that is doing piping with like that.
Many professional athletes are big supporters of the brand. Did you expect to have such a strong athlete following?
I don't think I expected it as much as I hoped and prayed for it. Because, I think for me, I grew up playing soccer, running track. I rowed all through college. Sports has always been a huge part of my life. I think a lot of guys that are wearing Kaiser Clarke currently, I think they are all people that I really did admire growing up. So, I think its insane to see it come full circle.
Who's the most interesting athlete you've worked with thus far?
I really do take the time personally, to work with these athletes. Whether it be with their stylists, or them one on one through direct message or Instagram. I think my favorite story of that, is with Saquon Barkley. I was like, "Hey, I want to make sure these jeans fit you before we send them to you. Can you measure your size for me?" And, he was like, "Yeah, 28." I was like, "for both legs or just one? He replied, "One." I was shocked! That's an incredibly impressive leg!
I took the time to sit there and measure out the jeans, stretch them, make sure these are going to fit. Just taking that time to work with him rather than just trying to make a certain size. You're giving the time of day. With a lot of athletes, that is what we really tried to do. I think they appreciate that just as equally as we appreciate them.
How different is it making sizes for athletes than a regular-sized person?
I think the difference is just having an understanding an a respect for that body type. So, I think you know, with our leathers, I made sure that there was a broader shoulder and more room in the shoulder for an athletic body type. But, it still tapers down.
So, if you have that body type or not, it's still going to look good on you. I think with the denim, it's the same thing. I also think with our size run, Our jeans go up to 38. Most designer brands stop at 34 or even 36. And very few are offering a XXL. I think having that understanding that, "Hey, most of these guys into fashion right now, are a bigger size." So, I think for me personally when we were doing all our fittings, I was trying them on. I was having my friends who are models try them on, I was having my brothers try them on. Anybody that would come through my apartment I was like, "Hey, can you try this on for me. Can you try this on for me?"
I think when you are doing that, and you are having all these different body types try on your clothes, you are able to see, "Okay, this is where it should be and it is still going to look similar, or have that same aesthetic for a multitude of body types."
Who do you think is the most stylish athlete currently?
My top two would be OJB and Kelly Ubrick Jr. I just think they both have an incredible sense of style, and also transitional style. A lot of guys can nail suiting, they can nail casual wear. They can nail streetwear, but I think what these two guys offer is, they can show up in a suit and tie and nail it. They can show up in a casual outfit and nail it. Go to Paris fashion week, show up in Alyx harness top and kill it. I love that.
What's next for Keiser Clark?
Generally, the goal is to keep making everyday better from the last. As a young brand, as somebody that hasn't worked in the industry before, everyday is really a learning experience. So, as we continue to grow, I hope to learn more, and I hope to keep growing.