“Handmade in America” are three words we can’t seem to get enough of. As a former proprietary trader on the New York Stock Exchange, Clay Tompkins began his journey into design the same way most of us do. His keen eye for detail, perfection, and love for classic English tailoring brought the birth of his line. We sat down with Clay this past month and dug deeper into his ideals, design, and more importantly, his coveted “Party Pocket” design.
Clay, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into fashion?
My experience in fashion came from the Wall Street years as a steady customer of celebrated London tailor, Henry Poole and bespoke shoemaker, George Cleverley. I have the eye for cut and proportion. The lapped seam on the trousers, for example, is a classic feature of English tailoring which gives the the impression of a longer leg to the trousers. All men’s clothing derive from the military uniform, but most offerings today seem to be inspired more by the schoolyard than the parade ground. My line came about to correct that deviation.
How did the Clay Tompkins brand come to existence?
I have young daughters, 24 and 26, and their beaus and other friends complained all the time that they had no clothing options, away from J Crew and Bonobos quality. The new office normal, tieless and suit free, created a tension for them: how to look elegant in a dressed down world.
Having spent 30 years as a proprietary trader on the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Futures Exchange, I developed an acute understanding of supply and demand and this looked like a swelling demand without fulfillment. That’s the genesis of the company.
I have to know where the idea for the “Party Pocket” came from.
I came up with the “party pocket” to play to the “lad” in guys. Or, if you have daughters, as I do, you might call it a public service. The I Phone “5″ shirt is a first, also, since it’s the only smartphone light and slim enough to “holster” under the arm. Another solution for guys who hate to carry around that cell phone “brick” in their trousers.
Do you do see other ways to bring innovation to menswear?
Since the 1920′s all men’s clothing has derived from the military uniform. The cut and silhouette are everything. That’s where my focus is. Most of what passes for innovation, what you see on the runways in Milan or Paris, is unwearable and inconceivable for most grownup men. I curate my collection with myself as the customer, so I’m never disappointed
What’s next for the Clay Tompkins brand?
A blazer that’s a mid-blue, which is more elegant and wearable than the inky blue that passes for most blue blazers. The basket weave buttons are hand- cast and hand- finished in England. The shirt is, again, of pinpoint Oxford but cut with a 3″ collar point, a fuller body, and contrasting inner/outer cuff. The cocktail cuff is also tighter to the wrist and less cut-away than the first iteration.
What does the term “style” mean to you?
The best style is one that flatters your best features and leads the eye away from your weakest. That’s why I return to cut. When the cut’s perfect, the overall look quiets down to the point that you’re wearing the clothes instead of their wearing you.
To view the rest of collection and site, click here.
(Cover Image/Images: Clay Tompkins)