As menswear designer Todd Snyder takes the fashion world by storm, he talks with us about his passion for design — and shares essential style tips for updating your wardrobe this fall.After viewing his Fall 2012 collection in New York this past February, GQ creative director Jim Moore remarked, “Todd Snyder has arrived.” With all due respect, Mr. Moore may have been a little late to the party. Though the Iowa-born designer was recently named one of the magazine’s Best New Menswear Designers — and anointed with a Council of Fashion Designers of America nomination — Snyder arrived nearly two years ago with his stunning Fall 2011 debut. Invoking Savile Row tailoring and Jermyn Street swagger (the high-water marks for British sartorialists) with a hefty dose of New York Americana, Snyder’s designs gave new meaning to modern masculinity at a time when menswear desperately needed it.
And if we’re being totally honest, it’s only now that Snyder is finally getting the respect he deserves for bringing J.Crew menswear out of the basement-and-back-room recesses by spearheading the company’s avalanche of heritage-brand collaborations (with Red Wing Shoes, Alden, Thomas Mason, Timex and countless others). In fact, the move was so successful that it led J.Crew to open its industry-redefining Liquor Store haberdashery.
Despite these recent accolades, though, back when he was growing up in Ames, Iowa, Snyder never imagined he could — or would — actually become a relevant New York designer. “Fashion is not the most obvious thing for boys to get into in Iowa,” he says. Luckily, his engineer father and artist mother were both “black sheep who left the family farm — so they were okay with the idea of me not doing exactly what they were doing.” That said, Snyder didn’t jump headfirst into the currents of high fashion. Though he made pilgrimages to Chicago to shop on Oak Street and studied copies of L’Uomo Vogue, which weren’t available in Iowa at the time, he also helped his father run survey crews. And while he took the fast track from the sales floor to tailor’s assistant at the vaunted Des Moines haberdashery Badowers, Snyder actually studied finance during his first three years at Iowa State University.
“In the very back of my head, fashion was a dream,” Snyder says. “But it was very far-fetched at that point.” That is, until the future designer hit the job-fair circuit, where he interviewed with a host of banks and immediately thought, “What am I doing? I don’t want to be a banker.” At the 25th hour he switched majors to textile design, started working overtime at Badowers and created as many collections as he could for fashion-mart contests from Dallas to Minneapolis. On a post-graduation trip to Manhattan, he came to the realization that New York would be his permanent home, and the following year he cold-called the design departments at Ralph Lauren, Bill Robinson and Joseph Abboud, where he wound up working as what we’d now call an intern.