Matt Baldwin is the designer behind the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist denim brand, Baldwin. The designer has been in the industry for years running a retail shop in Kansas City, Missouri, his hometown. The store stocked over 30 brands of denim, and eventually Baldwin came to know denim inside and out, and the designer portion of his career began. Being based in the Midwest is an authentic extension of the brand – this is where workwear was truly born. The worn-in look is quintessential in a town like Kansas City and an important design element of Baldwin denim. As Baldwin continues to grow in the coming years we can expect to see new products and retail concepts from the brand.
You’ve become one of the new creative faces of your hometown. Was it always a dream of yours to move back to Kansas City to start your brand?
It was truly my destined path looking in the rear view mirror. My wife Emily and I moved to Kansas City in 2003 to open up Standard Style. Every opportunity has very naturally presented itself as we have evolved as creatives and innovative entrepreneurs. In 2009 it was the right time and place to start the journey of BALDWIN.
How did your boutique, Standard Style, evolve into Baldwin Denim?
I was the “go-to” guy for premium designer denim for the Midwest region. We offered 30 of the top denim brands in world for men and women. I always say that I earned my Masters Degree in Apparel at Retail. In 2009, the economy was at its lowest and we went from 30 brands down to 3 for men and 5 for women. I had been working on the development of the product, and my instincts told me this was the time. Every season the best stores in the world understand “the power of new” and BALDWIN became that new. We sold 22 pairs the first 3 hours of them hitting the shelves in the heart of the recession September 2009. BALDWIN was born.
Does being based in Kansas City help to keep the business a family affair?
Emily and I wanted to raise our family in the American Midwest. We have three kids, Henley (11) Rogan (9) and Rivington (6) and a golden retriever named Scout. We operate our home and business in a modern family like ecosystem. Kansas City is an amazing place to raise a family and build a start-up business.
What is a typical day in the life for you?
It’s the ever evolving 13 year hustle of raising a family, design, inventory planning, marketing, E-comm, retail, global wholesale account development, press, production, future concept design, financial analysis, team building, attracting talent, travel, market research, public speaking and keeping the vision.
You describe the Midwest as having both “grit and grace.” How has that inspired your denim collections?
The Midwest has traditionally been the mecca for workwear in the US. Most of the workwear factories were in Kansas and Missouri up until a decade or two ago. I describe “Grit & Grace” as the grit of worn-in clothing from the hard work to achieve a vision not yet attained. The grace is the beauty of the complete and architectural clean lines of modernity and the refinement of the future. My statement for this is “experiential knowledge builds the future.”
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
The transformative nature of connecting people with product to enhance one’s life.
Would you ever consider expanding to include childrenswear?
I’ve done it in past seasons. We’re a family, so it’s inevitable.
How has your career changed since becoming a CFDA finalist, if at all?
Life’s professional business opportunities is the combination of the people you know and the resources you have. My rolodex and resources grew a lot last year. Mentorship is vital to any industry and professional career and I was blessed to be around the best in the business.
It seems you have a great appreciation for architecture and interior design, which is quite evident by the thoughtful remodel of your Kansas City home. How does that play a role in your creative process?
Home is where the heart is for the Baldwin’s and we truly create from the heart. I look at macro design dressing environments as architecture and interior design and micro design as dressing the body. They need each other to proceed in life.
What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?
Raising a family is the number one priority for me. Second to that, being the GQ Best New Menswear Designer in 2013 and Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist in 2015.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
Baldwin will continue to organically evolve the current business and to expand into the future with innovation of new product, retail concepts, trusted services and unmatched hospitality.