Rudes Awakening

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

“The simplicity of what I do is in the brilliance of the product,” Jeffrey Rudes, the men’s wear designer behind the eponymous label, says modestly.

Dressed in a simple black t-shirt, a pair of well-tailored skinny jeans, paired with one of his varnished calfskin belts, he’s the quintessential laid back American man. The only thing he’s wearing not from his own label is a Cartier watch.

“I have been wearing exclusively designer for 20 years,” he says when asked how he developed his passion for style and luxury.

Rudes is best known to the fashion industry as the man behind J Brand, the denim line founded in 2004 that sought to provide the perfect fitting jean. In 2014, he sold it and two months later launched his label. This fall will mark his fourth collection.

Jeffrey Rudes: Spring/Summer 2017
Rudes at his spring/summer 2017 presentation. Photo courtesy of BFA.

Rudes has championed the “see-now-buy-now” philosophy, selling styles that suit the season as well as products that work year-round. The simple idea is that designers show and customers buy merchandise in-season, not a season ahead. “The impact of a season-ahead schedule is hard for retailers,” he says.

Rudes’ own difficulties finding clothes that met his standards inspired him to start his own brand. “I’m a finicky shopper. If I find one good thing the morning after a new season rollout at a department store, it’s a miracle,” Rudes says. “What frustrated me was after I found one good piece, there would be no evolution. After that season, that cut or that style would go away. They wouldn’t bring it in a new color or anything. Seasons are supposed to be about evolving. I would wonder what these buyers were doing.” His approach to design builds on what’s been successful.

Rudes’ passion for product shows as he models his own garments. He throws on a black lambskin bomber jacket enough to be worn most of the year. It’s minimalistic, refined luxury. “The men’s wear market is tricky. There’s too many extra details nowadays. I believe less is more,” he says.

Every season, seeing samples is a “Yes, we did it,” moment. One of the proudest came when his store was completed, and he really felt he had established a brand. It all happened fast. After selling J Brand in June 2014, he’d spent the next several months fleshing out his concept. That August, he was in Europe hiring a design director. A month later, he was at Milano Unica, the international textile fair in Italy, picking out fabrics. Then he designed two collections, and by July 2015, his SoHo flagship was open for business.

All of the brand’s manufacturing is done Italy, except for the denim. Rudes feels Los Angeles is where the best jeans are made.

In an era when some say suiting is dying, Rudes’ sales say otherwise. His two best sellers are blazers and suits, followed by outerwear, shirts and bottoms.

He’s now working on other categories like shoes, belts and men’s bags as he begins to take a more lifestyle approach to his brand. “We didn’t want to execute too much. Again, oit’s all about evolution. We always start with the basics, then evolve into pieces that are more fashion,” he says.

There is no shortage of designers he looks up to. He wore a Dior suit for years, and was also a big fan of Hedi Slimane’s rock and roll looks at Saint Laurent. Dries Van Noten is also a favorite.

Jeffrey Rudes: Spring/Summer 2017
Jeffrey Rudes with Eric Rutherford at his spring/summer 2017 presentation. Photo courtesy of BFA.

Yet, despite his penchant for head-to-toe designer gear, Rudes says, “I’m either wearing jeans and a t-shirt, or a great outerwear piece or blazer.”

His favorite pieces in his up and coming spring line are skinny flare leg jeans.

This season, look for the brand’s first sneaker made from leather and nubuck suede worn with a crepe de chine silk trench.

“The men’s wear customer is smarter,” Rudes believes. “Every season more guys are dressing with a passion. They don’t have their girlfriends or wives dressing [them]. They are putting in the effort themselves.”

And New York men have the best style, he says. “New York has been the fashion capital in America, so the consumer is more aware. You also find that in Milan and Paris, but it has a different uniqueness in New York. This is the industry, this is where fashion happens.”

Visit Jeffrey Rudes website at


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