Read Wall founded Read’s Clothing Project after graduating from Colgate in ’09. Read takes gorgeous madras and gingham from India and Holland and molds the fabric into highly personal, durable Oxfords.
Did we mention that he also makes pocket tees for the modern relaxed prep?
And for every shirt you buy, Read donates a book through Books for Africa–you can even choose the book if you want.
Read talked to us about his success in the business of shirts:
The ‘Cac: Washington D.C. has a bigger fashion scene than ever before– but it’s still no NYC, what are the pros and cons of being based there?
RW: DC has definitely come up in the world of fashion as of late. There are a few really cool DC-based brands started in the last few years that have really livened the scene. But you’re right, it’s no NYC. I think the cons are mostly resource-related: it’s much easier to find good tailors, pattern makers, fabric warehouses, and cut-and-sew shops in New York than it is in DC–the fashion infrastructure just isn’t the same. But, since the fashion scene is much less saturated with local designers, being based in DC certainly has its advantages. There are so many great young designers in New York that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. I’m not sure how Read’s Clothing Project would be doing if it weren’t for all the local support I’ve had.
The ‘Cac: Do you travel to the fashion weeks in other cities?
RW: I’m not quite on that schedule just yet, but we’re planning to show in New York next summer. I follow the coverage of shows on a lot of various blogs–I’m much more interested to see what people are actually wearing than what goes on at the shows. I wouldn’t mind an expensed trip to Pitti, though!
The ‘Cac: Which designers or aesthetics inspire you?
RW: I love preppy and vintage inspired clothes, so I always revert to those aesthetics when designing. Old, grainy pictures from the 60’s and 70’s prep scene, particularly sporting events, are some of the best sources of design inspiration I’ve found. As for other designers, I’m a big fan of Band of Outsiders, Michael Bastian, Christopher Bastin (from Gant Rugger), Eunice Lee (Unis), Thom Browne, … there are a bunch.
The ‘Cac: What experiences or discoveries in your time at Colgate affected your decision to start Read’s Clothing Project?
RW: I had a great time at Colgate, despite the weather. Aesthetically, I think I was able to infuse a bit more personality to my looks–you know, wearing clothes your own way. But it was the business side that was most affected. I had the opportunity to intern for two summers at a clothing company that was really exploding at the time, and I learned a ton about different aspects of running a clothing company–production, sales, design, etc. It was a very cool time to be there and I had a unique perspective on their growth from my first there summer to the next. I also had the opportunity to travel to Africa a few times (my aunt and uncle are both in the state department and were ambassadors to different African countries). On each trip, I made a point of helping with some sort of education initiative, whether it was teaching, giving a talk, or helping set up a classroom. When I graduated, I looked into going back and taking on a full-time position teaching or working for an NGO but couldn’t find an opportunity I was really excited about. Read’s Clothing Project was a way for me to combine my ambition to start my own line while also giving back to education initiatives that I’ve been personally involved with.
The ‘Cac: What advice do you have for readers that want to start their own company out of college?
RW: Don’t fool yourself into thinking you know everything–you don’t know what you don’t know–but at the same time, there is no better learning experience than running your own company. If you have an idea that you are really excited about–the kind that keeps you up at night–then keep pushing it, come up with a plan (doesn’t need to be too intense, just enough to keep you focused), and execute. Whatever company you decide to start, chances are the experience will be better than sitting in a cubicle updating Excel spreadsheets all day!
The ‘Cac: You recently switched over to a one-for-one giving model (a la Toms,) would you say that this model is more accessible to the customer’s imagination? Do people get a kick out of actually choosing the title of the book that a child will receive?
RW: I’m really excited about our new charity model. I think it’s a great way for customers to connect with what they are wearing and what they are giving. Clothing is incredibly personal–it’s the way you present yourself to the world–and so are books. Everyone who reads has had a book affect their lives and imagination. I think the opportunity to share that with someone is pretty cool. The program is still new, but I’ve definitely had fun picking out titles. We have a couple copies of ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ going out in our first shipment–definitely a classic.
The ‘Cac: If your shirts had a soundtrack what would it include?
The ‘Cac: Any other products coming down the line?
RW: We have a few accessory items coming out with our next collection (tie, bowties, etc) all highlighting our great shirting fabrics. We are always looking to expand the line, and we have plans for a polo and a few other classic prep items. Our goal is to highlight the personal aspect of our clothing, and we’re always pushing that a bit further with cool fabrics, awesome fit, and other personal touches.