Brand: Willem New York
Backstory: After graduating with a history degree from Harvard, Sean McDonagh indulged his love of kicks by working on branding for the Greats, the buzzy sneaker brand. But he soon got restless and sought to tell a fuller men’s wear story. “I’m someone who jumps into the fire,” he said. So he created Willem New York, a casual men’s wear collection rooted in American staples such as jeans, hoodies and T-shirts but with subtle design twists. In addition to updating classics, McDonagh also strives to tell a story with Willem. For spring, a collection he titled Paradise Lost, he was inspired by Seventies Montauk, N.Y., where he’s spent his summers since childhood, and photographer Peter Beard. The influence of the lensman, who is renowned for his images of Africa and its wildlife, is found in several pieces of Willem’s spring offering such as safari jackets as well as the earthy color palette.
Key pieces: Although Kenya and Montauk might not on the surface seem to have much in common, McDonagh has managed to seamlessly blend the aesthetic of both in his spring offering. The design is intended to represent “a beach town with safari details,” he said. That translates into twill pants and jackets made from Japanese herringbone as well as shorts created from antique military nylon. Oxford shirts have arched seams, painter’s pants are offered in stark white, and there are dark denim jeans made from Cone denim that feature 1 percent stretch. Sweatshirts and T-shirts are washed and faded as if they’d been thrown in the ocean and dried on the beach. And Beard’s influence is seen in the suede safari jacket.
Prices: The collection is direct-to-consumer only, an intentional strategy by McDonagh to keep the prices low. “I’m tired of the $800 hoodie,” he said. T-shirts retail for $50, hoodies are $118, oxford shirts are $150, jeans are around $200 and outerwear starts at $260. Willem is hosting a pop-up on Allen Street on the Lower East Side Wednesday through Friday of this week to introduce customers to the brand. McDonagh shipped in three tons of sand for the installation and created a space intended to have a beachy feel. On the walls are images from brand’s look book, which was shot at Andy Warhol’s estate in Montauk and feature Waris Ahluwalia, Bill Powers, Brett Robinson and Max Robinson.