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Labels We Love: Rag & Bone

New York fashion by two British gents.

Labels We Love: Rag & Bone
February 12, 2019

Where New York fashion meets English tailoring. Where classic style transcends seasonal trends. Where how you feel in your clothes is as important as how they look. This is Rag & Bone.

Marcus Wainwright and David Neville created Rag & Bone in 2002, because they noticed their jeans and tees never fit quite right. They meshed their school-uniform-wearing British roots with their love of American streetwear to create a men’s collection—and women’s, shortly thereafter—that focused on well-made clothing that feels amazing to wear.

But how did they turn a simple idea into a coveted brand? We had the chance to listen to Marcus tell his story at Nordstrom Live in fall 2018.

Model in a sweater.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That was the story of Marcus’ first foray into the denim business. He ordered 300 pairs of jeans from China based on a sketch he drew, and—no surprise, given his lack of a design background—they ended up being all wrong. Instead of going back to the drawing board, he took it a few steps further and studied at a Kentucky denim factory for 18 months to (literally) get a feel for everything that goes into crafting a pair of quality jeans. He remembers watching the women working at the factories. “They were some of the best sewers I’ve seen to this day,” he says. Many of them started their craft in their teens and continued to hone and refine it for decades. “[They were] what made those jeans perfect, in my eyes.”

Marcus is candid when he speaks about building his fashion brand, and if there’s a common thread woven throughout his story, it’s authenticity. It’s why Rag & Bone quit doing runway shows. Marcus felt that putting looks together for the sake of the runway felt “too prescriptive,” and he realized how unrealistic it was for people to wear one brand from head-to-toe. He also tried a different take on the traditional photoshoot: The DIY Project. Launched in spring 2011, the project allowed models to take home bags of Rag & Bone clothing and photograph their outfits, showcasing the clothes in genuine environments. The project resonated with the heart of the brand, prompting a relaunch of the initiative in spring 2018.

Model in a sweater.

Rag & Bone bucked the traditions of the fashion world once again when it began pushing out advertising campaigns highlighting men and women who represent the diversity and breadth of their customer base. And Marcus doesn’t choose models based on social media clout. He selects people based on their cultural impact and what they bring to the table in terms of “authenticity and originality.” For those same reasons, they don’t use Photoshop, their models wear very little makeup, and the lighting is staged only to feel natural.

When it comes to the clothing the brand is known for, their bread and butter is, of course, denim. For men, they create three types of fit, aptly named Fit 1, Fit 2, and Fit 3. Fit 1 is their lower-rise, extra-slim option that hugs the leg through the hip and thigh, down through the knee and calf. Fit 2 is most popular. It’s a mid-rise jean that’s slim, but not too slim. And Fit 3 is what they call classic. It’s a mid-rise, straight-leg jean. They all come in a wide variety of shades, as well, from light grey and black to various washes in blue.

Jeans make up only a portion of what Rag & Bone’s women’s collection has to offer—don’t sleep on their excellent selection of shirts, sweaters, and coats. The clothes are street style-centric, simple, and made to be worn every single day. The English tailoring comes to life here, front and center on sharp-looking blazers and coats. And it’s very apparent in the lines and symmetry on handbags and accessories, like the best-selling Atlas bag. (You can never go wrong with a structured leather bag.)

Marcus is always looking for new ways to tell the Rag & Bone story—whether that means a collaboration with Eminem on some tees and hoodies, or obtaining the rights to modify original illustrations of Mickey Mouse for a special graphic T-shirt. The clothing has become iconic in its simplicity, but never fails to have some sort of urban edge.