STYLE INTERVIEW: Sherman Preston

Photo by Tommy Agriodimas

Peering in from the outside you’d think everyone in New York were devoted to looking damn good. We mean, the number one cause of subway delays last year were people falling out from exhaustion. And, while to some that may embody the go-get-it nature of NYC we who pay attention to dress know better. No one’s eating and everyone’s trying to look great in clothes. You might think it’s silly but you don’t get to where you’re going in New York City without playing the part and that means looking the part. With that said there are hundreds if not thousands of brands in Gotham that deal with just that business exclusively. We’re here to introduce you to another one. Well, because Sherman Preston just might be the one to win. The two part team is made up of Sherman Joseph and Preston Williams of the Bronx and by combining a classic menswear appeal with a few unique trap doors Sherman Preston (get it?) have their eyes on the contemporary menswear prize: an organically built menswear staple. If they keep making beautiful clothes they just might get it. Young, ambitious and looking into the future you might think they’d bitten off more than they can chew. You might be laying back thinking, ‘What if doesn’t work out? What then?’ Well, we’re here to tell you to stop being such a debbie downer because, what if it does?

We had a chance to sit down with the dynamic duo behind the brand and quizzed them on how they got together, how they plan to position their brand and frankly how they plan to beat the odds. These confident kids from the Bronx don’t shy away from a fight though so, New York, you may just have to take note.

Couch Sessions: Guys, tell everyone who you are and the name of your brand.

Preston Williams: My name is Preston Williams. I am the Creative Director for Sherman Preston.

Sherman Joseph: My name is Sherman Joseph. I am the Director of Business Operations at Sherman Preston.

Couch Sessions: First things first, how did you guys meet?

Preston Williams: We met as rivals actually in *junior high. We were always competing against each other for the number one spot in the class. With Sherman being an intellectual and I being an intellectual we always battled and competed with each other about a lot of things and that’s where our friendship really grew from. It started as an intellectual thing and then it grew into athletics. He’s a self-proclaimed track star. We played every kind of sport..

Preston & Sherman: The *junior high school was PS 106 and then we both went to Rice High School. Then we stayed near each other during college.

Sherman Joseph: I went to Babson College.

Preston Williams: And I went to Mount Ida College in Massachusetts so we’ve always been about 10 minutes away from each other. We’ve known each other for a very long time. It gets annoying after a while. *laughs*

Couch Sessions: What made you guys get into design and menswear?

Sherman Joseph: I think we’ve always had an eye for menswear when it came it down to how we like to dress and how we’d like people to perceive us down through our friendship. But, it started from being in college. I had just stopped playing basketball and had all this free time all of a sudden. I knew it was officially over and the NBA dreams were out of it. *laughs* Eventually I got over that and being at a school for entrepreneurship (Babson is one of the top entrepreneurship schools in the nation) it just naturally happened. We were always going shopping and we could never find the pieces that we actually wanted. It seemed like we would always have to go from store to store to store just to put together a great ensemble. Then, one night, I called Preston at about 3am in the morning and of course he was up. We’re night owls. Of course he was up and I told him, “Let’s start a brand. Let’s do it the way we’ve wanted designers to do it for so many years.” This was in 2007. November 5, 2007. It’s funny that I have the exact date.

Couch Sessions: You gotta have a birthday right?

Preston Williams: Yeah, so Sherman called me up and he was like, “Yo dude, let’s start a clothing line.” And, I was like, “Yo, get outta here. Where are we gonna start from? We don’t have a background in fashion. We didn’t go to school for fashion. How are we gonna start this process? We’re just college students.” He was like, “No, I’ve started a little bit. I have some designs and I’m going to send them over to you and you can tell me what you think.” I said, “Ok.”

Sherman Joseph: So I pitched him these wack ass designs. *laughs*

Preston Williams: At the time they were great!

Sherman Joseph: They were pretty good but it was enough to get him on board. After analyzing we came together and, Preston said that, “If we’re going to do this thing we have to do it the right way.” And, that was really the birth of seeing into the future and really seeing how we wanted to develop the brand and, what it came down to. Before we had a name and before we really had a concept we wanted to make sure that it was an entity that could grow. That we can grow with and that can grow with us. The original structure and the original designs that I pitched to him, they were great for the time being but what Preston thought of is, “10 years from now will we be able to wear this clothing? And, will it transcend with the way we plan to grow and the way we plan to develop? And, the more that we learn?” And, it didn’t. So, typically, when people decide to start a line they typically start with t-shirts but we decided to take a different approach and jump straight into the fire and really do it the way we wanted to do it.

Preston Williams: Yup, we started in college and we said, “Let’s start with our immediate fanbase..” We both go to two great schools that feed out into others and if you’ve ever been to Massachusetts or gone to Massachusetts then you know that all these schools are right next to each other. And you’re always around other like minded people so we said, “What would they love?” So we decided designing cardigans and scarves. Very preppy. A lot of color. Great fits and it caught on. We used that to propel ourselves into doing a bunch of trade shows and a bunch of fashion shows and so on and so forth and we said, “Hey, you know what? Let’s really hone in on exactly what we’re doing.” That was when that classic element, the cardigan, was beginning to come back into the fashion atmosphere and that was where the big brands were moving as well so we took that as an opportunity to start our own little footprint.

Preston Williams: We took some time off (after graduation) and we said, “You know what, let’s really develop this brand thing.” One of the things that Sherman and I do really well is taking ourselves out of our element and really looking at everything and overseeing exactly what we’re doing. And I think that’s really one of our strengths. Harnessing what we’ve done so far with what we want to do and how to get there.

Couch Sessions: How would you guys describe your aesthetic?

Preston Williams: I would say Sherman Preston is definitely inspired by an English ideology with a twist of modern innovation. We have elements of the everyday man but also have elements of the fashionable man who wants to be more than what he came from and aspires to be.

Sherman Joseph: That traditional, classic, American brand.. that’s Tommy Hilifiger, that’s the Ralph Laurens and they already have a strangle hold on that element and that lane. So we looked at how we could distinguish ourselves. How could we make something that was very contemporary and very modern and make it our own designs and not be strangled on what was done however many years ago. We pay homage to those classic designs but really try take it to the next level. We really want to change the perception of Mens fashion. To be fashionable you don’t have to be feminine. There’s a very big difference and men have traditionally stayed away from being fashionable based on those very same connotations. We feel it. We feel like there’s men shopping more and there’s men caring about what they want to wear. There’s a study right now that says men prefer classical wear but I honestly believe that’s because they haven’t been exposed to something different. And that’s what we really want to bring to the table.

Couch Sessions: Do you guys have a price point in mind?

Sherman & Preston: For a blazer, 450.00US and for a two-piece suite, 950.00US.

Preston Williams: We will also be doing custom tailoring in the future. Right now we are doing custom tailoring for certain clients which are all made to order pieces but we’re trying to make sure that custom tailored fit is standard for all our clients. But, it’s all custom.

Couch Sessions: What are you guys working on right now and where do you guys see yourselves in a few years?

Preston Williams: Well, right now we’re working on our Fall/Winter collection and right after that we’re working on our Spring/Summer collection to debut at Fall fashion week. After that we’re working on a couple of collaborations and just trying to be a better brand and a stronger brand. Where do we hope to be in the next two to three years? At the CFDA awards. That’s where we.. not hope but expect to be. We’re on a good path. We know exactly where we want to be and we know exactly how to get there so we’re just chipping away at every wall that we come upon.

Couch Sessions: What kind of man wears Sherman Preston?

Preston Williams: I like to say that the Sherman Preston guy is the everyday guy that hangs out with his grandfather and his friends. He’s a person that understands where he’s from and understands the people that are for him and uses those ideologies to push him forward. A behind the camera kind of dude. It’s effortless. It’s effortless to him. It’s a way of life. I hate to say it’s a lifestyle. That’s so mundane and so over used but the Sherman Preston man understands that the Sherman Preston aesthetic is how you live your life. It’s not just the clothing but it’s a style. It’s the way that you present yourself. It’s the manner in which you speak. The manner in which you shake someones hand. That’s our guy. That’s our man. As Sherman was saying we’re trying to change the perception of a fashionable man from where he used to be five years, ten years ago to where he’d like to be five or ten years in the future. He’s the guy who shows up in the credits but no one knows who he is. He’s the guy with the bankroll that can walk the street because no one knows who he is. He takes the train every day but he does it in some great loafers. He does it in an amazing tie. He does it an amazing spread collar shirt and everyone admires him but no one knows who he is. That’s our man and I think the glory in that is the mystery and that’s what we want to tie in especially with our future branding.

Sherman Joseph: Especially in our Fall/Winter collection. Not to give too much away but it’s really about reflection and really about honing in on who you are. And becoming comfortable with that. About being understated.

Preston Williams: I’m wearing one of our ties right now and I do think it’s a good looking tie but, for example, no one would know that we have suede on the back of our ties. That’s just for you as a person.

Couch Sessions: Ok, so where can we get Sherman Preston?

Sherman Joseph: Currently we’re going through the wholesale process so it’s being shopped around to department stores and boutiques whatever. Most of those are in NYC and it’s mostly because we’re control freaks. *laughs. We want to see it go up. But other than we’re launching our on-line store soon. It’s going to be accessible of course from our main site,

Preston Williams: We’re definitely selective. Once again we’re very particular with what we want to do with our brand and where we would like it to go. We’re open to conversations though. We’re very particular and very detail oriented and it’s all about presentation for us. We’d definitely like to be apart of a retail environment where we partner with the retailer in order to make sure that our presentation is on point.

Sherman Joseph: Especially with being a young brand that’s just developing I didn’t feel that between the two of us we just didn’t want to over reach our boundaries and lose the core elements of what we spent these years trying to develop. A lot of brands reach to grow rapidly and quickly and that’s great for their bottom line but we’re in this for longevity and being a very small, tight knit team we don’t want to be in a million stores and we can’t manage any of those accounts. We wanted to grow organically and have it not be forced.

Preston Williams: We’re not trying to saturate ourselves. We have pieces that are only one of one. For example our Spring/Summer t-shirt is only one of one. It’s only one of one because it’s individual t-shirt because the pattern that we use and the way that we use it. *laughs* No one will have the same t-shirt that you have. We won’t have it. We might have the same style but the way that we cut the fabric and used it on the webbing of the t-shirts can’t be duplicated. There’s definitely going to be some key pieces and signature pieces where you can say that you’re the only one that has it. No one else can say that they have the same thing and because we want to keep to those conscious decisions we can’t mass produce a lot of things. And, that’s the benefit of Sherman Preston. That’s the benefit of a brand that really cares about what you wear and how you wear it.

Couch Sessions: So what can we expect out of the next collection?

Preston Williams: Our next collection is, it’s so amazing and we wanted to really up the ante and say, you know, ‘This collection was great but how do we follow up with a great collection.’ How can we turn this good collection into a great amazing collection. Because, luckily, this collection is what is going to be offered in retail stores so we wanted to make sure that each and every piece stood out on it’s own and collectively it was a super hero collection of great clothes. We hope to be at Fashion Week in the fall and we’d like everyone to look out for us soon!

*Sherman Preston is being represented by Pronounced and if you like what you hear you should continue to look out for them as they’ll be in stores soon. Inquiries can be directed at their website.

*Corrections: Sherman Joseph and Preston Williams met in Junior High and not elementary school.