Garter + Derringer is a premium denim company, owned and operated by brothers Alek and Amaury Esposito. Talk about sibling synergy; Amaury designs and Alek handles the business side. Based in Manhattan, Garter + Derringer is authentically a product of New York City, just like the brothers themselves. I caught up with Alek and Amaury to discover what Garter + Derringer is really about and how these brothers have built a successful line around one of the most difficult garments to make and do right: JEANS.
Alek: That’s a good one. It can be hard at times because we can both be very opinionated and sometimes stubborn, but we have learned to agree to disagree at times because the company has to always comes first. We both understand it's always business- never personal. After all, we are working towards the same goals and I feel like all siblings have their ups and downs growing up and most grow out of it. We are no different.
Amaury: Alek says it all. Most importantly, nothing gets held back.
Are your backgrounds in fashion? How did you arrive in the world of apparel design, specifically denim?
Alek: I have worked very little in fashion, but I have always shopped the market. I have always been a fan, especially appreciating quality denim and superior fit. I am more interested in the day to day running of a business. That has always been my end goal- to learn the ins and outs and have something to call my own. In this case, our own.
Amaury: When I was 18, a friend and I attempted starting a Hoodie line; it did not work out. I decided to go to work in the industry before trying anything like that again. I landed at Helmut Lang where I stayed for 4 years. I opted out of college so I like to think of my time there as my education, and I’m glad to say I had some unbelievable teachers.
As for denim, there was always a love and adoration for it, but with that also came a great fear; denim is no joke. By the time I was ready to step out on my own it was a full-blown obsession and I was ready to embrace the fear.
What inspired the creation of Garter + Derringer?
Amaury: We went to elementary school in East Harlem in the 90’s, where everyday was a fashion show, and the critics were harsh. Iif you didn’t have those new Jordans or ANYTHING Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hillfiger then you just weren’t doing it right and chances were, you were going to hear about it. I think that definitely left a lasting impression on us both. We like nice things.
As for starting the line, I’ve always known I wanted to start my own line. I’m far too opinionated a person to just critique others (plus, that’s unhealthy.) I had to put something out there of my own. So after working in the industry for a while and gaining some much required knowledge and experience, I felt that I was ready. There was an uncontrollable urge and will to start this. And here we are.
Alek: Yeah, when I was coming out of elementary school and into junior high in 96-97 it was Tommy, Polo, and Nautica and that was all that mattered! That was fun and all, but I'm glad we've come to the point where if you're trending-you're not. These days you have to make it your own.
What sets Garter + Derringer apart from other denim?
Amaury: This is always the toughest question. Well for starters, our shank buttons are made with 24k gold. Just kidding! We put a lot of emphasis on quality and fit, and since all our denim is produced in New York City-our home, it allows us to keep an extra close eye on making sure the consistency is always there, sometimes I feel as if I live in a factory.
Our denim is very minimal and classic, no bells and whistles. When you ask for a 5-pocket jean, that’s exactly what you’re going to get. There’s no gold. It’s really a no frills approach.
Amaury: Manhattan is the the center of it all. The Garment District houses a large amount of the world’s top fashion brands, and although many have split from the neighborhood over the years for lower Manhattan, it’s still the epicenter. It’s where the magic happens. Garter + Derringer is very much a product of Manhattan. We've lived our whole lives on this Island. It represents so much of what we love and what we're about. There's so much energy on these streets it’s impossible not to be influenced and inspired. We are privy to some of the best street style in the world. To see it, all you have to do is walk out of your door. I sometimes walk the streets for hours on end, never getting bored. There's always something interesting, always something new and cool- two words that resonate very deeply in fashion. And that’s what we’re all about: staying new, the impossible cool. It’s what we strive for every day.
Alek: That sums is up for me as well. It's also a place where a lot of women are going straight from the office and out to dinner or drinks without going home and changing. It's more of a seamless transition here than anywhere else; you never know where you'll end up and I feel like denim in the workplace is a lot more common and acceptable these days, which is great.
Have you had any "We've arrived!" moments at Garter + Derringer? The kind of moment when you know that you're on to something...
Amaury: I can’t say that I’ve had that moment yet. My gut tells me indeed we are on to something and it’s close. We’ve set the bar high; knock us out of our chairs when that moment arrives. Still waiting to be floored, please!
Amaury: We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing while growing as a company. As a designer, there’s always that sense of urgency you get when you know you’re on to something and want to rush into things and start producing everything. We realize that can be very dangerous. I wouldn’t say we're going to play it safe, but let’s just say I wouldn't expect to see any special deliveries of neon jeans anytime soon. We're reasonably young as a company and as people; so everything is next, just a question of when and in what order it will come.
As for what's inspiring us today, any and everything. Time is moving fast and people are willing to put up with a lot less BS. It's got to be better each time around. Complacency is the enemy.
Alek: I totally agree and the 2012 consumer is much different than let's say the '02 consumer. I feel like even the average shopper knows what a quality garment looks like these days and would rather pay top dollar for it than to cheap out on something that will have to be replaced a year from now. You go into a store and see more people looking at the seams of garments and touching the fabric, even checking the country of origin label. Consumers aren't clueless these days. You have blogs and magazines and endless resources that weren't as readily available 10 years ago. More and more, people are shopping for timeless wardrobe staples that will be with them for many seasons to come. We are trying to give them that.