Lands' End is the epitome of eternal prep. They've been around for nearly six decades and, in many ways, are a wardrobe mainstay. Every so often, when a brand with such a storied reputation dives into new territory, it faces either a nod of approval or a sense of confusion. Just in time for New York Fashion Week, enter Lands' End's latest collaboration - a series of products with another (yet much newer) preppy clothier - Rowing Blazers. On the launch of their collab, we spoke with Chieh Tsai, Chief Product Officer, on the newness of a historical empire and how now, more than ever, is a time to welcome a fresh sense of newness with plenty of fun color to boot.
You’re the chief product officer at Lands' End, Inc. Among many roles, you’re responsible for product design. What’s your approach to designing for such a storied brand with a rich design history?
Lands’ End being such a classic American brand, when I took on this position, I made a commitment to build on this rich brand history. My approach is to keep the customer at the center of all that we do, and build products that are timeless, versatile, and provide solutions for their busy lives.
You’ve been in the industry for a while – over 20 years. You’ve had many stints, but one important one was at Calvin Klein. What was your role there? What were some of your duties?
While at CK/Calvin Klein, I was the design director for the relaunch of the bridge collection. Helping to set the brand message, concepts and identify key silhouettes were a major aspect of my role there. Being able to take a deep dive into such an iconic brand has informed how I work even to this day.
When you joined Lands’ End, what drew you to the brand? What excited you about the challenges ahead?
Many companies speak to heritage, family, and inclusivity but Lands’ End has been adhering to these core principals since 1963. I was excited to take a look into our legacy as an American Heritage brand, and the tradition of listening and putting our customer at the center of what we do - making sure we hold true to our principles. While we’re anchored to our legacy and history, I wanted to also ensure that we’re always adapting and evolving our products to address the lifestyle needs of our customer today.
You’re gearing up for an exciting collaboration – with Rowing Blazers. How did this collaboration come to be?
We’ve been following the rise of Rowing Blazers and Jack Carlson and admire how they blend streetwear with a colorful preppy aesthetic. After an initial conversation with Jack, he invited us to a Rowing Blazers event at their store called, “A Celebration of the Rugby Shirt” that included a panel discussion with some members of the US Rugby Team. During that event, Lands’ End was mentioned and many of our rugby’s were on display. It seemed only fitting for us to then continue our conversation with Jack and his team on a collaboration to highlight such an iconic piece for both brands – the rugby shirt.
What, to you, is so important about bringing the two design houses together?
Both Lands’ End and Rowing Blazers have their own unique take on the classic, heritage rugby shirt and we felt like it would be a great synergy of both the past and present. It’s been an exciting process bringing the two creative teams together to create an updated version of a beloved, American classic.
Rolling out in September, what can you tell us about the pieces? What can we expect from the collaboration?
We created three limited-edition rugby shirts with differing colorways and patterns that were inspired by our vintage Lands’ End Rainbow Stripe pieces from the 80s. We used these same colors as a vision for our Lands’ End classic Seagoing Duffle Bag. All four pieces will be dropping during the fall season, however two styles – the first rugby shirt and seagoing duffle – will debut on Friday, September 6th. All items are shoppable at the Rowing Blazers store and online at LandsEnd.com and RowingBlazers.com.
I’ve read that embroidery is an important part to this collaboration. Why was this something that was important to the design trajectory?
Lands’ End has always been known for our spectacular embroidery capabilities. We monogram and embroider hundreds of different items, so this collaboration was no different. We worked with the Rowing Blazers team to create a unique embroidered patch logo that you will see on each of the items. And of course, you can monogram the items with names, initials or words to make them extra special and personalized.
Besides the Lands’ End collaboration, what other exciting projects are you working on that you can tell us about?
At the moment, we are gearing up for Holiday and will also be showing our Spring 2020 collection to press next month!
There are other brands in your realm that are historical, preppy, and carry some of the same design pillars. What makes Lands’ End stand out from the rest?
Lands’ End actually started out as a yachtsman’s equipment store in 1963 and quickly became known for high-quality rain equipment and luggage. Throughout the years, we have kept true to the same values and standards, longevity, core values, and pillars of business that are built over time. People look to a brand they can trust and depend on, and we listen and offer products with a purpose, value, and quality; we try to offer easy solutions so our customers can live their best lives.
There’s obviously this normcore/dad style vibe happening in fashion right now. What do you make of this?
I think there’s a feeling of nostalgia for the past, and people are looking to brands that they can trust and rely on. There’s been a shift in how we dress, and people are embracing casual, comfortable clothing more than ever before. The nostalgic, retro-looking pieces from our collaboration with Rowing Blazers work perfectly to the vibe that’s currently out there.
See images from the new collection below.