For the first time since welcoming Acne
to the fold, OC is stocking denim. And no other brand seemed more reliable and well-balanced than the men's and women's label Williamsburg Garment Company
. Ironically, WGC is a young label enjoying its freshman year, but its owner and designer, Maurice Malone, has been in the denim and design game for the longest time—since the 80s to be exact. Check out my interview with Maurice where we discuss the styles exclusively sold at OC, his design process, and the 'burb he calls home, the 'Burg.
Gillian Tozer: What were you doing before WGC?
Maurice Malone: I have a long history in denim. I produced my first pair of jeans as a teenager in the late 80s. I was one of the founders of the hip-hop and urban fashion markets in the early 90s before moving into the designer collection market at the end of the 90s. I produced runway shows, and was nominated by CFDA for New Menswear Designer of the Year. Just before starting WGC, I was mainly freelancing and producing clothing for other brands through my design company DenimWork.com
, where I worked helping to design or make production for young and upstart brands.
GT: How long have you lived in Williamsburg?
MM: I moved from Detroit to Williamsburg in 1995. I’ve moved three more times but never left the neighborhood. I often joke that I’m to blame for the neighborhood's explosion; from 1999 to 2001 I owned a Ferrari Spider that I’d often wash in front of my loft and I think this made people checking out the area feel safe with a car like that parked on the street. Sometimes I’d even leave it on the street overnight, not fearful because a lot of the kids knew me in the neighborhood.
GT: Name your favorite spot in Williamsburg for
I love Verb because of their delicious mocha and outdoor tables on the Ave for people-watching.
It all depends on what I’m in the mood for. When I want good food on a budget I go to Miller’s Tavern. They have all my favorite American dishes.
For the view, I like the roof top bar at Wythe Hotel. If I want the best tasting chicken and biscuits in New York with a beer I'll go to The Commodore. For a great premium white beer with the best cheese fries you’ll ever taste, it's Custom American Wine Bar. Lastly, if I want to enjoy a game while snacking on some of the best wings in the area it's Mulholland’s.
I’m a fan of the street art in Williamsburg. I’m always looking out for art new snipes.
GT: When designing, what comes first: color, cut, or concept?
MM: When I started the label, I worked on establishing my fits while the designs were being developed. Now that they are established, the concept comes first and I include color into the concept. Then I place the designs into the fit that best works with this look.
GT: A lot of people believe that once you find the perfect pair of jeans you never want to give them up. With this in mind, how do you redesign the jeans every season?
MM: Every season you either rerun your best fits or tweak them a little where you find improvements can be made. Then naturally, styles and trends change so you have to consistently try to stay ahead of the curve. The worst thing a brand can do is think their fits are perfect and run the same ones over and over, year after year, without tweaking. At the same time, another bad thing to do is change your best or core fits too soon or too much. You can tweak yourself out of your customer base. You have to keep a healthy balance of both rules.
GT: What are your "perfect pair of jeans?"
MM: I don’t have a perfect pair because I’m always trying to make the perfect pair. My number one favorite from my collection is the Grand Street Selvedge and it’s a long way from being perfect. Nevertheless, it’s my favorite because of the unusual Niagara Blue sulphur dye and bright orange thread.
GT: Can you explain the concept and process behind selvedge denim?
MM: Selvedge (self-edge) denim is an old-style way of weaving denim fabric into a clean edge that will not fray. Jean makers take advantage of this edge by cutting straight pattern out-seams to the very edge of the fabric. You can notice when a jean is made with selvedge when the leg opening is cuffed and a clean white edge, usually including a red stripe, is exposed. Selvedge fabric is usually more expensive because the fabric is produced in narrow rolls. All true denim enthusiasts have at least one pair of selvedge jeans.
GT: How do the three OC-exclusive women's styles vary?
MM: The BEDFORD AVE SKINNY
is our classic skinny and the one that girls really, really love. They have a skinny ankle, made in washed colorways with no whiskers or wash lines. The Super sKINNY
is made with a very lightweight denim with lots of stretch. The bottom opening is very small and fitted but because the fabric has a lot of stretch they don’t require a zipper (unless you have big feet). The carrot-shaped SKINNY BOYFRIEND
has a lot of stretch but a little heavier in weight in a simple, classic stone wash. It's a little loose at the hips and upper thigh but fitted from the lower thigh down. You can machine wash all of these without a problem. However, if you want to keep dark washed denim dark, I suggest cold water hand wash in your sink and hand dry.
GT: And the two men's jean styles?
MM: The grand street
is our original and best selling fit. It’s a rigid slim fit that’s true to size and skinny at the ankle.The SOUTH 1ST
fit in raw is what I call the basic: it’s like a modern-fitting straight jean for the guys that wants a slim fit that’s not too skinny. It’s straight from the knee down and usually guys would wear a size down from the Grand Street.
Raw denim, unlike pre-washed has a special fan base. To them, it’s not how you wash them, it’s how to you treat them (keep’em from smelling). There’s a lot of techniques out there; some suggest putting them in a plastic bag and freezing to kill the bacteria.
GT: Will we see more of a departure from jeans in the future?
MM: Right now the brand is crawling but every season we will slowly add more categories, following the same brand philosophy. This fall I have a very limited collection of tailored men's shirts that were made in Italy with expensive Italian and Japanese fabrics. These would usually cost $300-$400 if they were made by a designer brand, with a standard pricing structure, but I’m going to sell them at about half that price.
Shop all Williamsburg Garment Company here
Williamsburg Garment Company