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Image courtesy Marko Andrus
Interview

Marko Andrus

04.04.16

If you’re looking for a new, chic way to cover up after a dip in the pool, BASK founder, Marko Andrus has your answer. His terry cloth blazer, known as the “toweling blazer” is a highly functional addition to your next jet set. Andrus never intended to be a designer, but his label is another successful example of a non-designer launching a company based on a gap in the market for his product. He had a toweling blazer made for himself by his tailor and found himself with loads of personal orders after a trip to Nantucket. The versatile blazer is customizable to one’s liking and available for men and women.

Interview

Where are you from?

I grew up in Chicago but I’ve been a New Yorker for around 18 years. There is no better energy anywhere else – it is absurd that all of these millions people want to stuff themselves into this tiny island. But I’m proud to be one of them and I’m never leaving.

What inspired the idea for BASK?

I was inspired by my travels abroad and the photography of Slim Aarons, who famously referred to his work as “photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places”. I pictured his subjects wearing my Toweling Blazer around their pool, enjoying their Rose and being fabulous.

For those who don’t know, what is a “toweling blazer”?

When I first came up with it, I visited my tailor on the Upper East Side and brought him a pile of terry cloth and said “Make me a fitted blazer out of this and I’m going to wear it when I get out of the pool.” He laughed and said, “But that already exists, it’s called a ROBE!” But I wasn’t laughing and a few weeks later the first prototype was finished. I wore it on Nantucket and people kept coming up to me asking where I bought it. At that point I thought I might be on to something.

How does your love of F. Scott Fitzgerald factor in to the design elements of the BASK Toweling Blazer?

Fitzgerald’s characters in The Great Gatsby were certainly always impeccably dressed. We’ve lost a bit of that, specifically at the beach, where casual comfort is the norm. Our blazer is highly functional (even utilitarian) in that it is designed to get you dry. But you’re also going to look terribly chic in it. So I like to think Gatsby had a monogrammed Toweling Blazer waiting for him by the pool at West Egg. It feels a little like an updated smoking jacket to me. Very chic, very elegant, and perhaps a bit decadent as well. Isn’t that right, Old Sport?

Soon after coming up with the blazer I began thinking about adding a mark to the breast pocket that was playful and mischievous. Ripley, our martini-swilling monkey was born. His name and backstory was ripped right from the pages of The Great Gatsby:

“Clarence Endive was from East Egg, as I remember. He came only once, in white knickerbockers, and had a fight with a bum named Etty in the garden. From farther out on the Island came the Cheadles and the O. R. P. Schraeders, and the Stonewall Jackson Abrams of Georgia, and the Fishguards and the Ripley Snells. Snell was there three days before he went to the penitentiary, so drunk out on the gravel drive that Mrs. Ulysses Swett’s automobile ran over his right hand. The Dancies came, too, and S. B. Whitebait, who was well over sixty, and Maurice A. Flink, and the Hammerheads, and Beluga the tobacco importer, and Beluga’s girls.”

Clearly it is the right kind of backstory to give our mascot and it was another fun nod to Fitzgerald.

Are there major differences in fit between the men’s and women’s styles?

Both men’s and women’s blazers are cut for a tailored fit. Remember they were originally designed for very little to be worn under. So bikini + blazer for ladies and swimming trunks + blazer for men. But now our customers have found the blazer to be a lot more versatile than just a beach cover up and are wearing them to dinners, parties, even black tie events.

As a new label, have you faced many challenges in the initial start up of your collection?

My biggest challenge early on was convincing factories here in New York City to take me seriously. I had more than one door slammed in my face because the factory owners didn’t want to work with me because ‘you didn’t go to F.I.T. and you have no fashion experience’. But I had real vision for this brand and I finally found a sample production house that was willing to work with me. They ended up making our first thousand units. I’m thrilled we’re producing our blazers right here in NYC.

There are also many customizable options when ordering a blazer. Can you elaborate a bit more on that process?

We offer 8 different color combinations for men and 8 different color combinations for women. Of course you must have your monogram applied to your blazer (which takes an additional week). It appears just above the left cuff and draws your eye to the working sleeve buttons which people love.

How did the logo come about?

I wanted the logo and Ripley to be hand-drawn and have a vintage feel, obviously. We worked with an exceptional illustrator in the UK named Tom Lane. I found him, quite hilariously, by Googling ‘monkey illustrator’ and Tom’s business is called ‘Ginger Monkey Design’.

What’s your favorite color combination thus far?

For men it’s a tie…navy or white terry cloth with what we call Capri Blue trim, which is a powder blue. For women, the navy terry cloth with Cherry Bomb Red trim is stunning.

What is your vision for the brand?

I’d like our blazer to be a must-have article of clothing when you’re at the beach, cocktail in hand. And if we reach enough people with it then we’ll continue the adventure by expanding the line into more garments or products that you’ll enjoy beachside or poolside.

Your brand is very travel inspired. Where are some of your favorite places to vacation?

Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, outside of Rome, is one of the most magical places on earth. Also a big inspiration to BASK. I also love Jumby Bay in Antigua, The Ocean Club in Bahamas, and I just returned from a few days of spring skiing (in my Toweling Blazer, naturally) in Aspen.

What’s next for BASK?

I’m not exactly sure but it will likely include miles and miles of luxurious Turkish terry cloth. But I’m very certain about what’s next for me…a martini!

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