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Q&A With OPENMARKET Menswear Denim Brand’s Kevin Chen

The guys in our office recently became fans of the menswear denim brand OPENMARKET and reviewed a pair of red skinny jeans and dirty-mint skinny jeans accordingly. Launched by designer Kevin Chen, OPENMARKET is all produced, manufactured and designed in LA. We had a chance to ask Kevin some questions and get the behind-the-scenes on what makes this brand unique.

Denim Therapy: Let’s start from the beginning. What inspired you to get this brand off the ground?

Kevin Chen: I’ve always been inspired with all things old and new and I think a lot of that has to do with my affinity with flea markets (like Rose Bowl. It has a lot to do with rediscovering old ideas, and seeing if we can reinvent them. It’s from these experiences coupled with my creative design instincts that I felt I wanted to create a brand  that could facilitate old ideas into modern ones. That is the premise of OPENMARKET: a collection that puts new meaning to MODERN work wear.

DT: How do you differentiate yourself from the hundreds of popular denim brands afloat right now?

KC: We pride ourselves upon the fact that OPENMARKET is 100% made in USA, and not only does the collection comprise of our signature 6-pocket denim jeans, it also includes our uniquely oil-stained carpenters, henleys, Tees, chunky-knit sweaters, leather jackets, blazers, denim jackets, hooded/non-hooded sweatshirts in a multitude of fabrics.

All designs reflect a deconstructed approach to vintage work wear, re-engineered with a modern appeal. We like to believe that we extend beyond the traditional denim line, because our collection is multi-dimensional and offers many essential items. Even our denim is done in a non-traditional way (details like the 6-pocket design set them apart).

DT: Do you have any pre-designing rituals?

KC: I’m not sure if it would be called a “ritual”, but I do often research trends by people watching and make a mental note of what they’re wearing. From there I meet with my team and we search for vintage garments (often times at flea markets) that possess old work wear details, good for merging with unique and unexpected fabric.

It’s important to me that my designs are timeless and as the brand grows with each season, I want to add new silhouettes and colors that are modified from the original concept.

DT: Describe your ideal target customer.

KC: Our ideal target customer is a self-assured, confident, cultured, and well-composed man. He is artistic, athletic, and is that guy that is admired by his peers.  Not only does he have a good job, but he’s a humanitarian that actively participates in charitable causes. During his free time, he enjoys quality dining but can sensibly appreciate hole in the wall restaurants. He goes by the philosophy of working hard, and playing harder.

DT: What would be your dream collaboration?

KC: In the future, I would like to collaborate with a great footwear company. I want OPENMARKET to have a diverse product line that will dress someone from head to toe.

DT: What are the most popular washes/fits in the line? What are your favorites, and how would you style them?

KC: A few of my favorite pieces is the K8-Grey Herring Carpenter pants, O3-Dk Indigo Raw Blazer, O4-Burgandy Leather Moto Jacket, and our ultra plush O6-Black Alpaca Wool cardigan sweater. I like pairing my bottoms with blazers for a more dressed up look, and when I’m doing a casual look, I like wearing it with a basic t-shirt accompanied with some loafers.

DT: Do you have any favorite/least favorite denim trends right now?

KC: I like that trends are leaning towards a cleaner cut with simpler details. What use to be a market full of logo-centric designs has taken a more subtle approach. However, I do think that in the men’s market, bright and vivid colors will be on the rise. Men today seem to be open to colors. I think it has to do with wanting to diversify their wardrobes and express themselves.

I remember when wearing “pink” signified a man as being more fashion forward, but I do believe times have changed, and colors will be very inspirational. I also think that there will be a transition in their wardrobes as they begin to seek non-denim jeans… or should I say the look and feel of denim, but constructed with non-traditional fabrics.

DT: Street style and style blogs are huge in the industry right now as a source of inspiration, influencing the high-end labels rather than vice versa. How much does street style influence your designing?

KC: I take into account what is happening on the streets. There are a lot of distinct styles that I have seen in “streetwear” and I think it embodies a sense of “coolness” to it. When you look at the OPENMARKET collection, I’m sure you can see a lot of elements that are traditional yet modern, as well as street edgy. It’s important to keep in mind that street styles range from the inexpensive & chic to the lux & exclusive. The OPENMARKET collection will definitely encompass all these elements.

DT: How many pairs of jeans do you own?

KC: I own way too many jeans and too many that I call my favorite. But I’m going to be honest, my two most favorite pairs right now is OPENMARKET K1-6 pocket jeans in Dark Orange, and the K8 Carpenter pant! These two pairs have been on serious rotation for me. Both great washes with amazing fit!

DT: Can you give us hint about what’s next?

KC: Denim tops with non denim bottoms, and of course, a lot of colors.

Keep up with OPENMARKET online!

—Michelle Christina Larsen

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Posted Apr 02 2012 in Denim News » Interviews
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