Exit Interview: Frank Muytjens
Who: Frank Muytjens, Menswear Director, J. Crew
Trying to reinvent a classic is never an easy task, but it’s a challenge that Frank Muytjens is up for. With a new collection of denim out, the sartorial icon talks about the evolution of men’s style, authenticity in fashion and the timeless appeal of your favourite jeans.
Why is it so important to honour denim’s history?
There is something humble and beautifully earthy about denim. It’s a fabric that fades and develops a personality over time. No other fabric has that; it’s very much a storyteller. In denim, it is very authentic because it has been around for such a long time. I look at pictures from the American gold rush and always feel like I am wearing a piece of history when I wear it.
In your experience, how should a brand communicate authenticity?
It starts with design. For us, we look where things come from. We love vintage and military items. What you find there is all these details on a piece of clothing, each with a specific function, which I think is really beautiful. Throughout the years, all those details have proven themselves and you want to honour that.
Describe the perfect pair of jeans.
The perfect jean is where you don’t feel like you’re wearing them. Personally, I think you should keep it as classic as possible so you can wear them forever. There’s a reason why the 501 has been around for so long.
You’ve been at J. Crew for 11 years, eight being the head of men’s design. What have you learned about the men’s market since you started?
It’s about listening to our guy. When he comes in, it’s my job to make the experience as seamless as possible. That’s why we have the Ludlow suit and the Bowery pant. If we familiarize guys with them, they know exactly what to expect. Consistency is so important in menswear.
Men have grown increasingly comfortable with expressing their personal style through clothing. How do you think that has evolved over time?
It has to do with social media. There is so much information available that guys are shopping and being a little bit more adventurous. Menswear can be so classic, so it’s less intimidating. Unlike womenswear, trends don’t come and go as fast. That’s comforting for guys, as well.
Denim is a timeless item that you can have for the rest of your life. What are some other must-have essentials?
A fitted navy suit, a pair of dress shoes, a beautiful white shirt and a watch. It’s all these investment pieces that you’ll spend money on, but will have forever and can build around.