Nowadays, the most successful brands are created based on an identified gap in the market. This is exactly what Zachary Prell did before launching his namesake menswear collection. Prell previously worked in finance, and understood from his own experience, what was missing from his wardrobe to satisfy all facets of his lifestyle. Initially the brand offered a contemporary version of the traditional sport shirt – the shirt most professional men are required to wear every day – but Prell re-imagined this staple for the man who needs to go from day to evening. The brand, now ten years old, offers a full range of categories and is available in over 200 stores worldwide.
What’s your earliest fashion memory?
Recollections of my grandfather’s personal style…
What inspired you to make the leap from finance to entrepreneur?
Having worked in business casual environments in previous investment banking and venture capital positions, my wardrobe neither fit well nor was versatile enough to transition from day to evening. I saw an opportunity to solve this problem and conceived of the idea for a modern sportswear brand while earning an MBA at Columbia Business School.
Do you think the men’s fashion industry has experienced much growth since your label launched in 2006?
Absolutely. There are significantly more brands in the menswear market today than when we launched. I think this reflects a paradigm shift in the mindset of men – there is a more conscious effort to look sharp while pairing form, comfort and function. Significant advancements in e-commerce and social media have also driven the growth of our industry.
Can you walk us through a bit of the design process?
I’m inspired each day living in downtown New York City. When I’m not at home, I’m traveling to support our brand at store visits and trunk shows across the country. This on-the-go lifestyle influences our design process each season as I’m always thinking about how to travel more comfortably and design key pieces that fit neatly in a carry-on bag.
Every guy needs great sport shirts to anchor his wardrobe. We then design modern, luxe layering pieces – knits, sweaters, sport coats, lightweight outerwear, etc. – to round out our collection.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Clean and modern with subtle details; usually tonal navy, grey and deep burgundy layering pieces.
Your website includes “Profiles” of interesting male entrepreneurs in New York City. How did this idea come about?
It has always been in the DNA of the brand. I wanted to celebrate other entrepreneurs who are inspiring individuals that have taken initiative to build something and solve a market need.
Where did you find the inspiration for your latest collection?
The theme for Fall 2016 is “Discover.” I was inspired by the idea of looking closer, beyond and underneath the surface, thus “discovering” subtle, textural elements in our fabrics and details in our garments. It was also about creating a modern collection that could be layered together for a sophisticated, yet understated look.
What inspired you to make men’s sportswear your focus?
My own first-hand experience – I couldn’t find a modern, versatile, well-fitted sport shirt so I decided to start from scratch and design a collection myself. Our brand resonated with a lot of guys searching for something similar and our collection grew season after season thereafter.
What’s your favorite thing to design?
I really like designing outerwear. The right pieces possess a versatility that allows you to dress an outfit up or down and effortlessly transition from one environment to another.
What are three of your go-to wardrobe pieces for day to day styling?
I start most days with our essential Pima cotton tee layered under a light-weight knit and finish with one of our mixed media jackets.
Do you have any muses?
From a fashion perspective, no. But I’m inspired by entrepreneurs like New York City-based restauranteur Michael Chernow (owner of Seamore’s, co-founder of The Meatball Shop and host of FoodPorn) who see a unique opportunity and then hustle to make things happen!
Where do you see the collection in the next 5 years?
We are working to create an enduring modern American lifestyle brand, featuring sportswear, tailored clothing, accessories and licensed products sold through various channels, including wholesale (U.S. and international), our own online shop and ultimately a select network of brick-and-mortar ZACHARY PRELL flagship stores to showcase our entire brand experience.