Glass Houses: John Glass Dives into Swimwear

Monday, June 13, 2016

John Glass was probably always destined for a career in fashion. “My earliest memory is of my father handing me a swatch of herringbone and explaining what it was,” he says.

John is relaxed and at ease during our photo shoot in Southampton. His blond hair is a bit messy, and he smiles warmly while we talk. The conversation is easy, and there is a natural, charming, low-key quality about him.

A native New Yorker, Glass graduated from St Bernard’s School before moving to London to attend Richmond University, where he got a degree in ancient history. While living in London, Glass spent a lot of his time with the experts on Savile Row. “I had the tailoring bug from a young age, but that really kicked into gear in London when I could drop into tailors’ shops and really get into proper clothing, and fit and construction,” he says.

Originally, Glass wanted to work in the art world, but when an internship opportunity to work for Tom Ford came up, he took it and joined the brand’s image and marketing department. But his desire to be in design remained strong, and four years ago he decided to launch an eponymous label, GLASS NYC.

“I decided on swimwear because I both didn’t know of any brands that I liked and because I feel it allows me to be very creative within the product,” he explains.

He decided to start small. The first collection had only one style in a few prints. Influenced by his love of art and his sophisticated eye, the swimwear was a wild success. The jeunesse dorée adored the clever, witty ideas behind the line. One print, inspired by his love of the ancient world, was a reproduction of Emperor Caligula’s head, the Caligula Coin.

“Swimwear is probably the one article of clothing for which men are given free rein to wear loud and funky prints, so I thought it was time someone made trunks that aren’t just plain colored or printed with just the standard crabs, shells and flowers,” he says.

John is a perfectionist when it comes to the quality of his product. All the suits are made in Istanbul and digitally printed on a light, soft and fast-drying fabric woven specifically for GLASS. All the trimmings are custom made as well, from the zipper pulls to the cord ends on the drawstring. The flattering fit stems from his obsession with bespoke tailoring.

And then there are the prints, whimsical and with a sense of humor—from omakase sushi pieces to the iconic Nami wave that set GLASS apart and gives it that unique touch. “I have been really influenced by a lot of artists,” he says. “We do two prints each season in different colorways inspired by Frank Stella and Larry Poons. I also like to have some photographic prints, some figurative illustrations, and some abstract ones,” he explains.

Having sold exclusive prints for Moda Operandi, at the moment GLASS can be found only online at With the volume of sales constantly increasing, however, the plan is to expand into select stores around the world in the following year.

“I’d definitely say the biggest change with GLASS is that in our first season, I knew more than half our customers, and now it’s probably only about 5 percent. I now know that our success isn’t just due to charitable friends,” he laughs.

When not traveling between New York, Istanbul and London, Southampton has become John’s favorite getaway both in the summer and especially off-season.

“I really love to drive on back roads out here, when you catch these beautiful sunsets over the fields where the treetops meet one another above the middle of the street. There is a slowness to it. I find that pace and time really cathartic and dreamlike,” he says. “And the beaches are great too of course.”

Photographs by Ben Fink Shapiro

Styled by Maria Cecilia B. Campos

Groomed by Etzel Ecleston


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