According to Chris Torres, there is a new dandyism. Perhaps born of his own creation, perhaps a child of necessity, his renewal of the term, like its predecessor, defines a gentleman. A particular type of gentleman, to be sure "“ a dandy, by eighteenth century standards, was a well-spoken, well-dressed, well-mannered, revolutionary; a tireless rabble-rouser, threatening in his premature acceptance of the world to come. To paraphrase, he was a gentleman of the sort that — were you a lady falling prey to his guises — your father might wish to shoot.Today's dandy, so it seems, bears certain resemblances to that gentleman. He is daring; he is respectable; he is a tad fearsome; he is the closest representation of idealized manhood since Clark Gabel. And, according to Chris Torres, the man behind the online men's clothier/lifestyle brand, NewDandyism, he exists.
The question we leave you is this: New Dandyism — lifestyle or fashion statement? Like those who debated the term in the eighteenth century, you may find that the answer to that question is muddier than first imagined.
Joshspear.com: How did you become involved in the men’s apparel industry?
Chris Torres: It was actually through footwear. I have an industrial design background and have spent my whole career designing footwear, most recently at Reebok. My involvement in the apparel industry, professionally, came through the friends and connections I've made throughout my career. I've worked with people behind really great labels, like 6876, Call of the Wild, Maharishi, and even RVCA.
Although I've always been a "˜shoe head', I've always been into men's fashion, so it was just a natural progression.
JS: What is the concept behind NewDandyism?
CT: NewDandyism has been a bit of a scary labor of love for me. Luckily I've been able to pull together a collection of some the best men's designers from around the world. We carry Wood Wood, Call of the Wild, Obedient Sons, Loomstate, Rittenhouse, MHI, FHI, Surface 2 Air Paris, YMC, and Nicholas K, with more to come.
We are not interested in being a store that carries a hundred of the trendiest labels. We are making a conscious effort to keep the collection tight, and don't plan on carrying more then ten designers or so every season. So as we make some additions next season, we will be trimming the fat. You will be seeing some of the current roster drop off through this process.
Our plan has always been to create something more than just another retailer, and as NewDandyism evolves we are becoming more of an all purpose retail and creative agency.
We already do consultancy in the footwear and fashion industry, with a full roster of footwear, fashion, and graphic designers at our disposal. As of the SS'08 selling season we officially became a showroom as well, representing Call of the Wild.
JS: Your site discusses the idea of the “new male,” not in reference to metrosexuality, but as a return to a historical “dandy.” What, exactly, made a dandy a dandy, and what is different about the dandies of today as compared to yesterday?
CT: This has actually been a very touchy subject in the fashion industry since we opened up. Everyone seems to have an opinion and they seem to fall on two distinct sides. I can only give you how I view "New Dandyism."
Many people like to view it in its context from the past and apply it to modern day. So they think being a new dandy is all about mimicking the style of Beau Bremmel and Oscar Wilde. But by doing this they are not getting what dandyism was all about.
True dandies, like Bremmel and Wilde, were revolutionaries, not just in dress, but also in lifestyle. They dressed differently first and they acted differently first. They were self-created men who consciously designed their own personalities and broke radically from the traditions of the past. Those mimicking dandies from the past aren't themselves dandies at all. If so, they would find their own way.
And my definition of what a dandy was is a bit romanticized, but we are talking about fashion here. It's more about the spirit of dandyism and how we can use it to do things that contribute to or enrich culture.
JS: What’s your biggest problem with the average male’s fashion sense today?
CT: Fashion doesn't really apply to the "˜average' man. It's not a discriminatory thing; it's just that the "˜average' man doesn't shop for himself. There is usually a woman making the buying decisions for him. NewDandyism applies to the "˜not so average man;' the guy who pays attention to fashion, fit, quality, and details, and wants to speak to people about who he is through his appearance.
I think I'm more judgmental of the guy that pays too much attention to what he is being told is the hot fashion item and chases after every trend. If you keep chasing that, you end up with a closet full of clothes you can't wear in 6 months. There needs to be a healthy balance. I'm definitely a believer in the classics with some fun mixed in.
JS: You have a relatively small collection of designers represented on the site. Is it your strategy to only have a few strong brands at a time, or is that a logistical issue?
CT: It's a part of our store mission. I just don't think that there are a hundred great designers out there. The big fish in online retail will have you believe there are. I'd rather not chase that money, and put together a collection of designers I believe in.
JS: You carry a lot of brands that our readers seem to have strong feelings for – Wood Wood and Rittenhouse, for example – do you find that a lot of your shoppers are more loyal, brand-wise, than your average Bloomingdale’s shopper?
CT: Certainly. I will find that many shoppers come back repeatedly for more pieces from the same designer. Some labels, like Rittenhouse for instance, breed that kind of loyalty. Once you own one of their pieces and discover the fit and amazing detail each garment has, it hard not to fall in love.
JS: How do you find the brands that you carry on New Dandyism?
CT: It's all very organic. I'm notorious for ditching trade shows. I only go to see specific designers I may have no other opportunity to see otherwise. I don't shop based on trend so you wont find me canvassing the trade show floor to find the next Ed Hardy. I'm more of a supporter of designers and I believe in the people behind the labels I carry. I look at it as an investment in talent and good people.
JS: What are a few of your favorite men's lines, and why?
CT: My style reflects a lot of what I have in store. The selection straddles the line of luxury streetwear and contemporary sportswear. I think there are a lot of men out there like me whose style has matured as they have gotten older and straddle that line with their personal style as well.
So it's hard to pick favorites but"¦ Call of the Wild is very much like Rittenhouse, another favorite mentioned earlier, in that they have a mix of traditional pieces with a twist and more whimsical pieces utilizing patterns and graphics. They both also lace their pieces with interesting subtle details you appreciate as you wear them.
Another favorite is YMC. Every season they create so many great pieces it's hard to choose. Any man could easily find staples from their collections that they could keep in their closets for years.
JS: Do you have any future hopes of opening a "real" store?
CT: Ha ha. Online seems pretty real when you look at the dwindling bank account. No, actually there are no plans to open a b & m. We are working on some pop-up store opportunities, but no final news to report yet.
JS: A guy wakes up in the morning to an empty closet and an open mind. What do you tell him to fill the closet with with?
CT: I truly believe in the 5 easy pieces philosophy. Start with those, because they will never trend away. And then have fun with what you fill in the gaps with. It's fashion after all, not solving world hunger.