August 05 2009 12:00 AM ET
"There are certainly designers who continue to provoke -- that's especially the role of young designers who are more concerned with expression and haven't had to think about building a business," Bartlett says. "What I find inspiring now is the process of developing product that I'm inspired by, versus 'I've got to do hot pants this season because it's going to thrill somebody on the runway.'È‚f;"
Bartlett is no complacent nester, however -- and not just because he's still clearly hitting the gym. Last year Project Runway headmaster and Liz Claiborne chief creative officer Tim Gunn tapped him to inject some testosterone into the apparel company with Claiborne by John Bartlett, an everyman-meets-Sartorialist line that debuted this spring and retails for a fraction of his designer duds' cost. A growing number of designers, including Matthew Williamson and Jil Sander, have discovered that relevance -- and ultimate survival -- may depend on alliances with apparel juggernauts and fast fashion players like H&M and Uniqlo. "When I first joined Liz Claiborne, I was struck by the stodginess of the Claiborne menswear line and declared that John could be our savior," Gunn says.
Bartlett's designer label retains its exclusivity: The fabrics are Italian, stateside production in Brooklyn doesn't come cheap, and you can buy his tweed jackets and waistcoats in only a handful of shops. The Claiborne line, however, speaks to guys who may live west of the Hudson River and hundreds of miles from the nearest Neiman Marcus.
"This is something I've always wanted to do," Bartlett says of the collection, which will show its third season at New York Fashion Week this month. "There's a rarefied air to designer menswear. It's such a small market, and after a while, producing only three or four [items] of a piece becomes dissatisfying. You can design amazing product these days that doesn't have to cost $500 to feel relevant."
Sign Up For Email Updates
- Sports National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame’s First Class Announced 3 min 19 sec ago
- Arts & Entertainment Did Chris Colfer Get Arrested? 9 min 25 sec ago
- Entertainment News EXCLUSIVE: Madonna's MDNA Concert Clip 52 min 18 sec ago
- Politics Dallas Councilwoman Objects to Gay HIV Billboard 1 hour 47 min ago
- Marriage Equality Arizona: Org. Files for Marriage Equality Ballot Initiative 1 hour 57 min ago
- Business Study: Same-Sex Couples Suffer Discrimination in Rental Market 1 hour 59 min ago
- Women WATCH: The Voice's Out Artist Michelle Chamuel Tackles Annie Lennox's 'Why' 2 hours 10 min ago