Our latest designer gives a new meaning to “woke male.” Designer Adam Dalton Blake creates an eponymous brand for men who live with the volume turned all the way up. A RISD grad and one of the LIFEWTR x CFDA partnership designers, Adam is primed to make noise in extravagant menswear and unisex looks. With an emphasis on fabrics and pushing boundaries, his first collection “Fifteen, LOVE!” – inspired by his father’s foray into racquet sports – hits the fashion scene like a grand slam. Today we chat with Adam about the influence of magazines, skipping down 7th Ave, and why pens are better.
How and why did you start designing?
I always wanted to be a painter and ever since I was a kid, I would paint the images I saw in fashion magazines. I was always doodling extravagant dresses and recreating the outfits I saw in said magazines, in particular the September Issue of Vogue every year. It wasn’t until I went to art school and saw the thesis collections of the seniors at the time that I realized that I could actually pursue a career in designing and create my own fashions and fashion images to put out into the world. I wanted to create the fashion I had seen in the magazines as a kid.
Tall order! What is the brand aesthetic you created?
My brand is definitely full of color, fun, a definitive wink and necessary shock. I am here to put clothes out into the world that I would want to wear to prance down the street. Men have that urge to walk down 7th Ave like it’s a runway, but there just aren’t as many options to do that. One day, you’ll see a guy walking in my clothes and you’ll have to ask him where he got his outfit. He’ll definitely tell you that it’s a look by Adam Dalton Blake and then he’ll skip away because he’s late for a drink with some of his best sisters.
What is your fashion philosophy?
I believe that fashion is the perfect tool for someone to live as a physical manifestation of any character they want to be. I dress for the guy who isn’t afraid to be seen and who lives with the volume turned all the way up. Men’s fashion tends to be very homogenous with a sea of navy, grey, and possibly maroon. There is such an underserved community of men who do not want to look like their finance commuter next to them on the subway, and I’m here to outfit that guy.
How has your design changed over time?
My design journey is constantly evolving because I am always thinking and drawing and creating. I love exploring new textures and fabrics with each collection, pushing the boundaries of what fabrics can do. With each collection, I try and think about what fabrics I want to use and then also more unconventional materials or techniques that might not be the type of treatment you see walking down the street.
What inspired your latest collection?
“Fifteen, Love!” is a contemporary menswear collection inspired by my father and his history with tennis, squash and racquetball in the early 90’s. I went through photos in my childhood home and found photos of my dad in tiny short-shorts, visors, and tinted sunglasses and I instantly knew that I had to make a collection about this time in his life. It was so reminiscing of what I, as a more flamboyant city man, would wear on a spring day to turn some heads, but my dad just wore it because it was the style in the 80’ and early 90’s. “Fifteen, Love!” quickly became a physical representation of the melding of my father and me.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
Besides general financial hurdles, building a brand is also about making sure that the right people see my collection and identifying whom my customer is. I think I know who wants my clothes, but I have to really get in there, shove it in their face and welcome them with open arms. There are so many fashion brands out there that in order to have a successful brand you have to find customers and keep them to remain afloat. I’m at that first part right now.
What do you think about fashion today?
I think fashion is as fun as it’s ever been. However, in menswear, that really isn’t saying too much. Most men are just starting to realize that personal expression through exciting or cheeky clothing is not something that strips away their fragile masculinity. With major brands pushing out menswear collections that embrace bold, eccentric, and innovative clothing, it’s only a matter of time until the mainstream male population realizes that they too can dress in a way that could be runway worthy.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
I draw and sketch all the time. I constantly have a pen and sketchbook in my hand. Whether it’s on the subway, at lunch, at Bryant park or in my bed, I am always getting inspired and pouring that onto the page. I then think a lot about myself and my familial upbringing, as well as art, movies, musicals and anything remotely creative. I’m a sponge for anything.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
Draw with a pen, not a pencil. You have to make decisions in a definite way. Even if the idea isn’t good, you get it down on the page, or put it into the world and then go on to the next one. In the beginning stages of a collection, it’s all about not limiting yourself in any way. Anything is possible when you start, and then reality evolves through the design process. Also, it is imperative to surround yourself with good people, who do good things, because it is truly what you surround yourself with that informs anything you do personally or even professionally.
Shop Adam’s collection “FIFTEEN, LOVE!” now on pre-sale.