The upsurge in the number of “bespoke” retailers in recent years has been exciting to follow, both as a member of the tall crowd as well as a market forecaster. The evolution of technology, manufacturing, and ecommerce has certainly had wide applications in democratizing fashion. And yet, in this broadening landscape, the most successful entrepreneurs know that being all things to everyone is not only impossible—it’s simply not good business. That’s why there will always be room for the innovators and the individualists—the Clavon Leonards of the world.
Clavon is one of those folks who you know—from first conversation—is not only in the right field and on the right career path, but is destined for success. His story began as the son of an impeccably dressed father—he grew up watching his dad don hats, pressed and starched suits, and take great pride in the details of his dress. From his own first suit and hat (worn to Kindergarten, no less!), Clavon was hooked. His love of fashion design became a profession several years ago, when he started designing his own suits and clothing for his wife and children because he couldn’t find off-the-rack styles that suited his taste. From there, he built the Clavon’s Wear website to sell custom made (and customizable), one-of-a-kind, and modern suits to men of all sizes and heights, as well as a new couture collection for women. Several runway shows later, tastemakers from coast to coast are increasingly turning to Clavon for his distinctive vision, unmistakable creativity, keen attention to detail, and charm. I couldn’t be more excited to introduce Clavon’s Wear to all our tall men of taste—as his product is a go-to for guys who see the world in colors beyond the blacks, navys, and grays.
Clavon Leonard, Founder | Designer | Stylist, Clavon’s Wear
Clavon, thank you so much for joining us and telling our readers your story. Would you mind kicking off by sharing with us the events that led up to you starting Clavon’s Wear?
CL: I’ve been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been intrigued by the elements of style—the small details that propel an outfit into an ensemble. A contrasting thread for visible stitches, an interesting lapel, a bold pocket square. When I was about 15, I dreamt of having a runway show in NYC during fashion week. Years later, when I couldn’t find what I was looking for in stores, I began to design for myself. I later made items for my children, my family and friends. The reception was really positive, so I launched a website and began to sell one of a kind, custom made suits direct to the general public incorporating all the unique details that I required in something I would wear. On my birthday last year, September 11th, 2014, I had my first runway show in NYC during fashion week. That show launched my women’s couture collection Zsa Zsa La Femme, named after my first grandchild Ava Marie Zsa Zsa Leonard. The rest as they say, is history.
Exciting! So what challenges do you find men are facing in the suiting space?
CL: I believe the challenges are an oversaturated market with very mediocre choices. If you want something bold, unique, and well made, you have few options to go to that are going to give you what you need at an affordable price point. Every man deserves a great suit.
There are a thousand reality shows focused on dressing women for weddings. The budget for “the dress” is just as much as the budget for the wedding at times. Meanwhile, the budget for the suit? There isn’t one! The man is expected to rent or spend, at most, a couple hundred dollars. That woman will—hopefully—wear that dress once. The man could wear that suit on numerous occasions.
An excellent point and perspective! So would you elaborate a bit on where you fit in this category? What’s the Clavon’s Wear aesthetic? Who is your ideal customer?
CL: Not everyone can afford Purple Label by Ralph Lauren, but who says they aren’t worthy of the same craftsmanship and luxury? That’s the space we fill at Clavon’s Wear.
We want to dress the ordinary man extraordinarily so he feels like he can conquer the world. Because he can!
I love it! So where do you get your inspiration from when designing new seasonal collections?
CL: My inspiration mostly comes from what I would like to wear. The events I’ve been invited to, and what I could see myself wearing. I’m also inspired by my children and their life experiences. My son Clavon Leonard III recently went to his junior prom—I designed a suit for him and a dress for his date. My daughters Kelcie and Alexius are also huge sources of inspiration when it comes to my women’s line. They’re very fashionable, and have never been slaves to trends. They wear what they like and what they think looks good on them, foregoing what’s “in”.
I tried to instill in my children, especially my girls, that their worth has very little to do with their outside and everything to do with what’s inside. They find their confidence in their faith and it’s noticeable in what they wear and how they carry themselves.
What a beautiful sentiment. So what should every guy consider when he is buying a suit, especially a custom one?
CL: FIT, FIT, FIT! Fit is probably the most important thing to consider. Just because you buy a suit off the rack doesn’t mean it’s ready to wear.
Take it to your tailor or the local dry cleaners, have it altered to fit you and only you.
Speaking of fit, which suit fits from the Clavon’s Wear line do you recommend for tall and slim men? Or big and tall men?
What are the styles from Clavon’s Wear that you most frequently wear? What are some customer favorites?
Would you mind telling us about more about the aesthetics you’re seeing in suiting and menswear in 2015? What excites you from the couture space?
CL: What excites me is the unique use of color and detailing.
I’m seeing more of a variety in design, draping, and hem lengths, and that is refreshing.
Who would be your dream client to outfit in a Clavon’s Wear suit?
CL: Two clients: Tom Cruise and Kobe Bryant.
I like the mix. And finally, what’s coming for Clavon’s Wear in 2015 and beyond?
Bold designs, unique colors and lapels, and lots of plaid and stripes.
Thank you so much for telling your story, Clavon! We look forward to seeing what Clavon’s Wear has in store for the future. And be sure to check back next week for Ted’s review of his custom made Clavon’s Wear suit.