David Reiss, the man behind the clothing label Reiss, speaks about his life in fashion.
'You have to nod at trends but not be led by them'
Even as a teenager, I was always very involved in fashion. I've always been aware of my appearance and the way I look. It became a big part of my life when I was in my early teens. All of a sudden, you're aware of what you wear, and I was very clear in my taste level. I've always loved sharp, modern clothes. I suppose it's never really deviated. Taste is something that is embedded within you, and I've always been quite specific in the sort of things I like and don't like.
My style has always been classic in a certain way, but with an edge about it, so even going back to when I was in my early teens I was wearing my tonic suits with my sharp shirts. Looking at some of the photos back then, with my top-pocket handkerchief, my style would look modern today. The first extravagant thing I bought was my mohair suit. I've always liked a particular cut of suit - nipped in at the waist. There's just something about it that makes you feel that much better in yourself. When I buy my shirts I like a slight depth to the colour, and it's the same with a cuff on a suit. This theme runs all the way through my wardrobe and defines my whole perception of Reiss as a brand. It's just a very sharp, modern way of dressing.
When my father passed away, I took over the business in 1971 and within six months I'd bought out the shops next door, turning Reiss into a modern store. It became, if you like, a destination for trendsetters. At the time, we were just doing menswear but we became a bit of an innovator in the way men's fashion was evolving at that time. I just think I have a particular vision of the way I like people to dress. I like them to dress in a contemporary, modern way without being silly with clothes.
For instance, trends come and trends go, but there are a lot of trends that just don't suit certain people. You have to nod at trends as opposed to being led by them. If you try to cater for everybody, you end up catering for nobody. The great thing about being - and there's not that many of us left - in private ownership is that you can make decisions without anybody overriding them. I think it's very important to be in control. When I wanted to launch womenswear in 2000, everybody said: "You're crazy. You don't go into womenswear. It's the toughest market place in the world. It's so competitive." But I had a clear vision of what I was looking to achieve. And the same happened when I ventured to New York and opened up the flagship store about five years ago.
With the new collection, which is called 1971, what we wanted to do was cater for a wider audience without devaluing the main brand. Our womenswear was dictated by separates such as beautiful jackets and knits, but not necessarily the beautiful jeans or the tops that went with them. You went to Reiss for your occasion dresses, you went to Reiss for your tailored suits, but you didn't necessarily come to Reiss for your casualwear. And that's the reason behind 1971. The first season was just a capsule collection, but what really excited us was the reaction we had from the press. It had its own identity. Everyone got very excited about it and its potential. More importantly, it's made the main line much sharper.
I've always admired and respected Armani and Ralph Lauren for their values and the way they've never deviated from their own taste level. Wherever you go in the world, whether it's this year or 20 years ago, they have a particular style and have never moved in relation to how the trends are going. They just stuck to their beliefs and there's longevity there. That's what I'm trying to instil in Reiss.
We see enormous opportunity on a global scale for the brand. And in this kind of climate, where people are more discerning about how they spend their money, not knowing what the future holds excites us.