The guys behind Idol Radec menswear line transform the culture of carefree comfort
Story by Tiffany Yannetta / Photography by Mathew Scott
With a nod to Hollywood fashion of the ’50s and ’60s, Jaws and Hitchcock, reinventing the principles of California cool is what David Hickman, Nick Thomas and Scott Barclay — long-time friends turned business partners of SoCal menswear line Idol Radec — are aiming to do, one tailored summer suit at a time. In just a few seasons, despite a lack of any formal training, they’ve managed to transform a culture of carefree comfort, surfing and Malibu-stereotypes into something a bit more refined.
Sitting down with Nick Thomas, the brand’s spokesperson and liaison between both coasts, it’s easy to understand the Idol Radec sensibility (he’s quick to mention that while in New York, he’ll be heading up to Montauk to surf). With its roots undoubtedly in Los Angeles, the intention of the brand isn’t to shun their laid-back beachwear culture, but to fix it up a bit. “I think California especially is very casual, it’s a beach town,” says Thomas. “You’re in shorts and flip-flops and a whatever t-shirt, but we’re trying to change that and make it a bit more presentable.”
Whether you’re riding waves or riding subways — the Idol Radec collections speak to a man who is purposeful and particular when choosing his clothes, a throwback to the (male) screen sirens of yesteryear. “I feel back then that people got dressed with a little more intention. They would go to formal events and dress formal, and there were more opportunities for that,” Thomas says. (Take a look at any one of the previous collections, and it’s not too hard to imagine someone like Paul Newman in a Radec sportcoat.)
That’s not to say that the line is buried in the past. When asked who they imagine while designing, Thomas replies, “We love David Bowie and Mick Jagger” and throws in “even some contemporary guys like Common — Common’s cool. But there’s no one especially in our heads, just someone that dresses deliberately and takes pride in their style. Casual and not so uber button-down.”
Casual or buttoned-down, it’s undeniable that menswear as a whole is inherently built upon foundations of precise tailoring and structure. That the line’s three designers have no formal training isn’t just unheard of, it’s remarkable. Friends since childhood, Thomas says, “We’ve always had artistic inclinations, so it kind of just seemed natural, and we came together to do it.” That “it” was almost a golf-inspired line, but by 2008 they launched a menswear line of shirting, suiting, outerwear and denim that can now be found hanging on racks in Bloomingdale’s and LA’s American Rag and Douglas Fir.
“We definitely came into it as a business. We weren’t like, ‘oh we want to just mess around,’ because at the end of the day, we wanted to create a solid product. We wanted to create a following, we wanted to impact the market, so we definitely came out full force,” Thomas says.
But what about that lack of training? “It was tough, and it’s still a learning process. We kind of just learn as we go. We get fabrics, and create garments from fabric to garment, rather than do a design and then shop the fabric, so I guess our process is probably a little different than some other designers. I’ve never had a teacher say, ‘a shirt needs to have this and denim has to be cut like this,’ so I feel like I don’t have some of those misnomers in my head about what fashion should be.”
And though those misnomers do exist, and fashion does differ dramatically from coast to coast, the Idol Radec man is the same on the Atlantic or the Pacific: in short, someone who cares about what they look like, and takes the time to pick pieces that reflect that. “I think that New York is much more [about] you’re in the streets and you’re seeing people. You can’t get into your garage and into your car, leave and pull up into another garage and not see anybody. I feel like people really want to represent themselves nicely, and [in New York] you can’t do that with a Mercedes Benz or a Ferrari, so you put it into your clothes, and it definitely translates.”
That translation manifests itself in pieces suitable for a laid-back Sunday or an evening dinner party, no matter what the season. While Spring/Summer 2010 saw sun-bleached cottons and lightweight sportcoats, Fall 2010 naturally comes a bit heavier, with turtlenecks, tailored flannel and even a pair of pants in mohair. And that lack of formal training seems to come in handy when it comes to experimenting with unconventional combinations, such as “a leather flight jacket done in a nice boiled wool.” Thomas explains, “You don’t see things like that that often, and we don’t have training so sometimes it’s by happenstance, like, ‘oh, this fabric would work good with this.’ And someone might be like, ‘you don’t do that,’ but we would just do it.”
Now that they’ve got menswear down, could a womenswear line lie on the horizon? “We want to continue doing what we’re doing, and to start offering different categories and grow, and we eventually want to do a womenswear line,” Thomas says. When asked what it would look like, he says, “I think it would look just like this. It would be a little masculine, but preppy.” He laughs, before adding, “and California.”