The Menswear Style Podcast

Geoff Stocker, Menswear Designer

December 31, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 106
The Menswear Style Podcast
Geoff Stocker, Menswear Designer
Chapters
3:00
Background Story
6:51
Pricing Strategy
9:38
Design Inspiration
13:50
Digital Printing
16:30
Product History
17:18
Collaborations
The Menswear Style Podcast
Geoff Stocker, Menswear Designer
Dec 31, 2020 Episode 106
Menswear Style

Geoff Stocker has emerged as one of the most creative and inspiring British luxury accessory designers this century. With a background in fine art, he was an early adopter of digital media, beginning in 1996 using Photoshop as a primary medium to produce limited edition prints of his abstract compositions, several of which were exhibited at the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. His original designs, full of vibrant patterns so intricately derived, have won plaudits from respected media and industry figures and likened to ‘modern works of art’. These print creations have been applied to iconic pieces using lustrous satin and twill silks. His dressing gown collection, the ultimate statement in contemporary luxury lifestyle launched in 2017. The result is a matchless contemporary collection celebrating a truly British eclectic handwriting. Even the names evoke a journey steeped in cultural and historical references: Neo Victorian, Saxon, Rajah and Sultan.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Geoff Stocker about his artistic background in digital design and the founding story of his eponymous silk accessories brand. All his pocket square, dressing gown, silk scarf and tie designs are his own and are digitally printed and finished by UK factories under his supervision. Our host Peter Brooker and Geoff also talk about how a trip to Japan inspired him to create a dressing gown collection, the inspiration behind the brand's print designs, the benefits of digital printing, and the joys of a challenging collaboration.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Geoff Stocker has emerged as one of the most creative and inspiring British luxury accessory designers this century. With a background in fine art, he was an early adopter of digital media, beginning in 1996 using Photoshop as a primary medium to produce limited edition prints of his abstract compositions, several of which were exhibited at the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. His original designs, full of vibrant patterns so intricately derived, have won plaudits from respected media and industry figures and likened to ‘modern works of art’. These print creations have been applied to iconic pieces using lustrous satin and twill silks. His dressing gown collection, the ultimate statement in contemporary luxury lifestyle launched in 2017. The result is a matchless contemporary collection celebrating a truly British eclectic handwriting. Even the names evoke a journey steeped in cultural and historical references: Neo Victorian, Saxon, Rajah and Sultan.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Geoff Stocker about his artistic background in digital design and the founding story of his eponymous silk accessories brand. All his pocket square, dressing gown, silk scarf and tie designs are his own and are digitally printed and finished by UK factories under his supervision. Our host Peter Brooker and Geoff also talk about how a trip to Japan inspired him to create a dressing gown collection, the inspiration behind the brand's print designs, the benefits of digital printing, and the joys of a challenging collaboration.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Unknown:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete broca. On this episode, I'm going to talk to Jeff stocker head of brand over at Jeff stocker. And I'm going to pull a short clip from Jeff's LinkedIn page, but you're best heading to his website for a broader picture of Jeff and his work, which you can find, by the way, at www dot Jeff stocker.com. I have been involved in fashion textiles for the past 10 years and I launched my eponymous name brand Jeff stocker in April 2014. Selling designer accessories exclusively to the men's market. All the product types and surface pan designs are my own and are digitally printed and finished by UK factories under my supervision. I produce two pocket square collections a year consisting of eight or nine designs, each in two to three colorways. I also have a classic range of men's lightweight silk scarves, which are suitable for a dress occasion or can be worn casually like a cravat. At best of Britannia, London in October of 2017, I launched my first collection of silk dressing gowns for men, consisting of a four piece range in two colorways each. My brand mission is to create unique and original designs that appeal to men who are looking to create an individual standout look for themselves. As such, my range of design styles is very broad and eclectic taking influences from World culture and past art movements coupled with my own background in abstract painting. So that interview of Jeff come and I really enjoyed it. We talked about many things to do with the history of textile printing and the changing face of fashion fusing with technology. And if I sound a little airy in the interview, it's because I was away from the studio over the Christmas time, as in my sound was a bit aerials in a big boom. In fact, we might even wish each other a Happy Christmas at some point but a little bit of life getting in the way but normal service will resume in the new year and Happy New Year. By the way, let's make it a good one, as Lennon would say. Before we get to Jeff, however, don't forget to check out the show notes at WWW dot menswear style.co.uk and on the social at men's wear style. If you want to tell us about your brand and your journey you can email the show here at info at menswear estado Koto, UK, okay. Let's get to it. This is a good one. And I hope you enjoy it. Here is that interview with Jeff stocker head of brand over at Jeff stock. Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce Jeff stocker, to the podcast. Jeff, how we doing this morning? Very well. Thanks, Pete. Thank you. Thanks. And Jeff, and please, For the uninitiated, give us a little thumbnail sketch of you and what it is that you do, please. Well, I'm a one man brands. I've been doing this just for the last 10 years, I wasn't involved in fashion textiles before that. It really is because the changing technology that I got involved because I'm a digital artist. So I'm used to actually working with computers to make standalone artwork. So previously, that was just on paper as archival prints to go on the wall. But when I discovered this, you're pretty onto fabric, it just launched a complete new direction for me. And I began by making a series of women's scarves using the same design techniques in Photoshop I've used before to make an abstract artworks. But this time, they were more functional and not just purely decorative purely to go on the wall so and so this started 10 years ago and it things went very well I get some I was working with someone else at that point. And we did some retail fairs around Christmas, and we will make a lot of money out of it. So we knew we were onto something good. And at the same time we were discovered by a European scout for Bloomingdale's, which led to a meeting within about three weeks or three weeks of that meeting with their buyers in London. And even though I said to them, You do know that we're only about a month old as a brand. And they said well we love your work. And we love the fact that you're made in England made in Britain. And men are looking for pocket squares. I said well anything you see here we can turn into any colour and any size. That's the flexibility of working with digital printing and Photoshop, which they loved and they weren't used to that. So this led to a first order within about two months of that and a big order 500 piece order So we went from nowhere to somewhere in a very short time. And even though the partnership I was in only lasted for four years, it yielded seven collections with Bloomingdale's, and we were outselling Paul Smith in the flagship stores in New York. Wow. So people really liked what we were doing. And you know, it was worth about 10,000 pounds a year for those three and a half years, so even though the partnership split up on for about four years, we went our separate ways. And she, she just he, so Brandon, I have mine. And that finish finished, the business finished. But by that time, we were both becoming players in our own right. So since then, I've just been producing my own collections, two pocket square collections a year. And then eventually developing necktie and scarf laterally, we dressing down collections. So it's been a slow, but steady, incline up the hill. And I really do feel now that the brand has got some respect. And it's well known so. So things are working really well. Fantastic. Well, I should say, for those that haven't had the joy of going on your website, when when I went on the website, was probably a couple of weeks ago. But revisiting it today. I think one of the most surprising elements is not only the quality of the design, but also the price. I mean, the price is incredibly accessible. And did you what other conversations like about when you have to price these garments means like, for example, 65 pound for one of these neckties of the site. I mean, if you know, for something like this, you probably expect to pay something in the triple digits. So perhaps you can just talk a little bit about Yeah, but I wanted to be an accessible designer brands, I didn't want to out price my customers really, because I like to keep an eye on really things on the ground floor. So I'm very, very keen on Instagram, and actually making contact with customers or clients on that sort of, you know, I don't want to appear aloof. I mean, as I said, there's only me and the people who I work with PR and for manufacturing. So in that sense, and I think it's a quite a contemporary thing, these days that you are open people do have access to your your life and to you more than just actually see that the name on the side of a carrier back. So I wanted the price is really to match that. I mean, I, and particularly the dressing gowns, it has made a difference for when I did price them initially at 750. And I sold none at that price, because I'm a designer brand, but I'm not Drake's I'm not Paul Smith, I'm never gonna be that size, because I like to keep the brand under my control. So I like to make all the creative decisions. So it just it senses a missing link between a top end designer price, and something that you might find in, you know, john lewis Selfridge or something like that. So they may have to go up eventually, because obviously, I need to reflect the production costs, you know, fabric and changes which are made, but I do tend to keep the prices fairly reasonable. And because I do very little trade now, it's all virtually everything this year has been through the website. I mean, I know it's been an unusual year. But it again, it means that I still make a healthy margin from any sale I make. Even if I offer as I do free Special delivery, postage, and if you pay over a certain amount, then it will be a free DHL courier delivery, which of course, means speed and security. So all those things, you know, really do benefit the customer. So it's very much a conversation between you and the customer, I think. And on the dressing gowns. Jeff, I don't normally ask this question, because I think it's a bit of a hacky question. But I didn't ask it on the last podcast and I should have done maybe you can talk about the the inspiration for the designs because because it is so design LED, I think people especially me would be interested in in knowing the process and the inspiration as well. Yeah, well, the booth the dressing gowns that was very much a result of taking a holiday in Japan, which was a long, coveted wish from myself, my wife and we weren't able to afford them previously. So we when we got to that point what we could do that we had a very very thorough trips so they involve her because she's a ceramicist seeing some, Potter's. And also, for me spending time in places where the chemo is really keen. So that is particularly can as our, in the western part of Japan. So when I saw some amazing chemos, which really do, you know, hit you right between the eyes. And when I came back, I just wanted to make a chemo. But I really calmed down a bit. And I thought, well, I can't really appropriate somebody else's culture like that, because for the Japanese, there's an almost spiritual link with this. garments, you know, there's an awful lot of go, that goes into the, you know, is almost like a sort of, you have to take on a sort of apprenticeship to actually gets to the point where you could even pick up a paintbrush to actually start painting or niederlande. Three. So I can't just leap over there and not acknowledge it. So I thought, well, what's the western version of this, and it is the gentleman's dressing gown, which has been around since the 17th. century, really, from in France. So. So from there, I just thought, Well, how do I start this thing? I have absolutely no idea. I've made accessories, but they're basically single piece of fabric. You know, they're not articulated gardens, which are, you know, it's a, it's a massive leap in complexity. So, yeah, just scour the internet to try and find a pattern of dressing down pattern. And I found one on the john lewis website, bought that, then then found some seamstresses locally and got them to actually make them up. I've got some prep fabric printed, obviously. Uh huh. And that was really the beginning of it. And from there, I found a, you know, a company that I used to do all the actual makeup, we were fantastic, you know, the skill, it was really off the scale. But really, it all started from that trip to Japan, it was a genuine inspiration, really, just in journal all the way through. And also, I did feel that when I started is 10 years ago, there were there were far fewer small brands like myself. So when we met Bloomingdale's, for example, when I was in partnership, previously, we really didn't have any other small competition in this country. But the easiest thing in the world is to make a small square of fabric, and then just have it around the sun and you got a handkerchief. So I felt that I needed to actually take the step up and away from this sort of sea of new brands. And really, it means that, you know, you've now done something that people are probably really compete with, and it also lifts the brand. And immediately, it started to attract attention, really. So. You know. And from then I developed the four four piece collection in a single colorway, first of all, and I launched that. And then the year after that, I launched the second colorway in there. And then I've just recently launched my silver pinstripe, which is now added to the collection. Right? So the correction, the collections is growing slowly outwards. But you know, it's, it really has lifted this brand above being a purely accessory brand, which is what it was when I first started out. So it's not obvious. And when you first started out Jeff, digital printing and manipulating fabrics through digital print, can you remember what the market was like, when you first started implementing that? And what what the layout was, was there other people doing it at the time that you sourced inspiration was surprised when I spoke to some people in the in the business, it didn't know anything about it, it was really going under the radar. I mean, I use a company called RS smart who really, for me, are the gold standard in this country. And everything I do is made in the UK. I've tried other printers, but I've got a very good relationship with them. And they are constantly keeping up with the new the evolving print technology. So the actual quality of the print is improved in that time as well. Right. But I would never have done this had it not be a traditional printing because I'm used to working on a screen making artworks with 1000s of colours in them with very sharp fine detail. Now if that if I had to give given all that up to actually work with a screen printing technology. Yeah, we're only got between four six or eight colours to work with. It would have been so it would really hamstrung my ideas. And I just wouldn't it wouldn't appeal To me and I will probably would have had to make maybe 50 metres was saying design now that that would have just been a business and industry and I'm an artist designer and so I need to I need change you know, I mean to see things so I made short run things so I'm moving on all the time really. So you know, obviously I've got designs which are now waiting and they will you won't see them for another year. And the other great thing about digital printing was the short run capability where you know, I can test a third of a metre if I want to so I'm when I'm doing the test for the actual pocket squares and everything is actually blocked printed across 136 centimetre width. So the way I actually presented to the printers is the way it's printed. So there's no conversion of ideas. There's no compromise. What I send them is what I get back. So which is, you know, that is just an absolute dream come true to have that sort of conversion from idea from concept to delivery. I'm in love with your pocket squares. Jeff. I've got a thing for Valero because I like well, I like Ravel's Bolero and Dudley more intense. So I've got my eye on that. So many other ones that I'm just reading through at the minute. And we'll put all these over on the show notes. But I implore people to have a look at Jeff stocker.com. If they haven't done already, yeah, well, whether he also starts with the pocket squares, obviously. And he might try and do a sit between a six and eight p collection twice a year. And and there was only one year in the last four. But I wasn't able to do that. I think it's probably because I was spending my time I shared the development of the dressing gowns, and that whole process from concept to collection took 18 months or so because there was a big steep learning curve really, and a lot of research and development to finding the right people to actually do the production as well. But as I said, it's all it's all coming out in the wash eventually. It certainly has. And Jeff as an artist, do you get asked Commission's like do people say oh, can you digitally do an image of this? And then I have done I've worked with a number of I've done a number of collaborations and commissions. You know, grey Fox, the blogger? David? Yeah. Good friends with Dan. Yeah, I did a collection with him on based on Harry's Labrador. purely out of a, an idea. You know, he was all he always Instagrams him and Harry. He does. And his and his land rover. Exactly. Yeah. And I said to him, because I've met him before I knew him. Previously, he done a little feature on us when I was when I was in a partnership. So I met him at shows and things. So I said, you know, you Harry would make a great motif. You know, I'm quite happy to actually just knock a few ideas together and send them over, you know, and then we can do a little test on silver said, you know, it's my idea. So I'll tell you the actual testing costs. He loved the idea. So I presented him with several different versions of everything. And it turned out to be like a two part collection neckties, three different one design in three colorways. And then two designs for the pocket squares in three and two colorways. So you know this all really well. It's very different to what I would normally do, obviously, because I don't usually use photography or anybody else's designs, but skill I like. Yeah, I like seeing the good people working together. Right. Yeah, that's right. I have done a few other things as well. I mean, I but I do like it when people give me free rein to say, okay, we want to do something and, and maybe we like it in this sort of style, because there's so much to choose from, obviously from the actual archive designs. I did something for a men's grooming company called Big Boy, which was going to be a gift set, which included some of the beard balm and then my pocket square and their Sicilian brands. So and they just said okay, we like this design. I pointed to one he said anything that's sort of in that sort of ballpark. So I said, that's great. So got my head down. I thought well, you know, what, what is Sicily? What do we know about Sicily? I think well basically, it's it's pizza and volcanoes, isn't it? So I so I developed a motif which was a like a triangle with a sort of red top and for the volcano and then a circular disk with lines going through it criss crossing like a segmented pizza, but it doesn't look like a pizza. It just looks like a little needle. And then I just created a repeat from that. So I sublimated Sicilian culture into that design. But when you look at the design, you see it purely as a pattern. Yeah, and it's that sort of challenge I really like, you know, because it involves a concept, as well, in the end, it's got to where you've got to feel that it's actually something that can be worn. So this sort of duality, which actually is something I never had before, when I was purely working for walk, the work was going to be framed on the wall be removed, but when you're working in silk, it's gonna be warm. So it's, it's almost never going to be seen flat either. And this is a tie. So it crumple. So you've got to think about what happens when it becomes a three dimensional object. And with a pocket square as well, you only ever see, like, a third of it, you know, so describe as like an iceberg where you know, you've got two thirds, and if you're underneath the water inside the pocket, so you've got to get create a hit in a very short space. So you know, which is, you know, is a very different way of working from when you're purely working, you know, for something that's going to be seen on a wall and is remote. But there are challenges, really, and they're also constrictions which are actually very good to, you know, you become very good at improvising around a theme, really So, and I love that design challenge. And I'm always trying to find more people, a lot of people don't want to collaborate, I don't know, whether they're intimidated or what but, you know, I've done something with a brand called Sussex tweed, which is I did the supplying for some of the limited edition caps. And that worked very nicely. I mean, Jonathan, the head of the brand came over, and I just laid out a whole load of its wares and say, Look, finally something amongst all that that you really like. And I'll make a variation. I am not precious about holding, you know, if you want to use one of these designs as the lining, I'm quite happy to do that, because they're not actually on the website at the moment. Right. So and he chose this scribble designs, so and that's worked really nice for him. So he's real good as well. So that's turned out really well. I'm amazed that people don't want to get mixed up and do collaborations and throw design ideas at you. I have one for you, Jeff. Perhaps you can just take us to the hills or go tell me to pound sand. But here's here's one, I had an idea for a T shirt brand long ago called con artists. And this would be based on famous con artists. But it would be a pencil sketch of these con artists. So that's where the the artist comes in. Yeah, I had the the idea that the prototype was for Victor Lustig, who was this guy who sold the Eiffel Tower twice, I think for metal slatey. He kept on telling people that it's going to be falling down, and we need to disassemble it and sell it off for parts and construction sites. And he sold it to people I think twice. And then he got run on the third time. And on the on the back, you could have like the picture of Victor Lustig with like, against, you know, how are they doing in the in the crime photos when they have to hold up their numbers in front of them and they get their photo taken? Oh, yeah. profile of face on? Yes. So that was that would be something that you could get onto the back, I haven't really fleshed out the idea fully. It was one of these ideas that I think you have the name and then you work backwards? Yeah. I've done a few. But it's interesting. I've had a whole handful of ideas and kind of non starters like that. And you get the idea, you get the idea. And you think well, this, this has got to work. And then when you see it, or when you make it actually looks terrible. And I've I've done a few things like in fashion school where I've had the idea for what could be a good garment. And then I assemble it all together. And I look back at it and I go, how come the idea doesn't match the product? I think I think in the case of a T shirt is a you're only ever going to see it flatten in two dimensions. But if it was to put on a put on a pocket square, or a bandana scarf or something like that, then it becomes a pattern. I don't know. I'm sure you know the brand rampion code who use paintings from the National Gallery collection? Oh, yes, yes, yes. And you know that they get very, very good resolution. Very good quality versions. I'm not quite sure how they manage it. But they they've obviously got an agreement with the National Gallery to do them in copyright. But when they crumple them up and put it into a pocket, it's just a series of shapes and colours. And of course because it's an asymmetrical design, it's not a pattern then You know, it really lives in all sorts of different ways every time you put it back in a cup pocket, and I think they're very popular, I'm sure they're doing very well. So that's what would happen to your design, if you were to put it onto a pocket square, it would just reinvent itself. And, you know, because with a pocket square, you might take it out of your pocket, and show it to someone, but it'll go straight back in that pocket again, because that's his home. So, you know, that's, that's the way it's displayed. So it does have a new life. And I mean, I've done this with friends paintings, you know, I've taken photographs of them, and turn those into pocket squares. Because, you know, I know now when I look at something, I know when it's gonna, if it's gonna work well, silver locks, right. And it's always a huge surprise and joy to them when they actually see that because it reinvents their own work, and takes on another life. But yeah, I mean, at the moment, I'm just sort of, I'm looking at my earlier work, and I'm looking at it, the techniques I used to use 10 years ago, and I'm re, I'm revisiting those, but without the same pressure that I used to have to create an artwork I was happy with, knowing that it's actually going to live on silk. And it's not going to be seen in the way I'm actually composing it. So in a sense, the pressure is off to turn it into a true artwork, it's now become a design word. And actually, it's a real joy to go back. And, you know, it's almost like a different person working those way. Yeah, in those days, so, you know, but you'd be amazed. Yeah, yeah, yeah, throw me something over. For the next batch. Donna dancer Dan and Dan. Jeff, I could talk to you for hours about all of my failed design ideas, but I want to be respectful of your time. Jeff stocker.com is the place to go and I implore people who haven't checked out the designs to well just fall down all the rabbit holes and have a look. And Jeff is g o w F. For those people looking and also Jeff stocker on Instagram. Jeff, pleasure to talk to you. Pleasure to talk to you. Thanks. And have a happy Christmas and holidays. And you and a safe one as well. YouTube. Okay. Take care. Thank you. Bye, bye. Well, how about that, as you can appreciate, I can talk to Jeff for hours, mainly about my failed startup companies and historical con artists that have duped millions, but another time, another place. In the meantime, make sure you're supporting the good guys and head over to www. Jeff stocker.com and treat yourself or your loved one to some awesome high quality pocket squares, neckties, scarves, dressing, gowns, etc. That's it for my end. Thanks for tuning in. And if you like what you're hearing, do leave us a review. It does help our egos around here and until next time.

Background Story
Pricing Strategy
Design Inspiration
Digital Printing
Product History
Collaborations