Paul Witt is one of those industry guys who you've definitely had dealings with. His impressive resume reflects a long career at fashion's most influential establishments. Last month, Witt branched out with an ambitious solo project a new online shop for men called Wittmore, which sells some of the world's most sought after labels . We caught up with him to learn more...
Tell us a bit about your career history? My first job was at Antique Boutique doing window dressing and visual merchandising. Antique Boutique was the first store in downtown NYC to have a DJ spinning everyday in the store and you could by new and vintage clothing there. Then, in the mid 90's, I joined the visual merchandising department at a small brand named Diesel. I moved into marketing for the North American market for the next 7 years. After that amazing ride I headed up global marketing and communications for brands like Sean John, Mavi Jeans and Original Penguin. And the last few years I've been consulting with a focus on launching new to market businesses and growing established brands through creative services, sales, e-commerce, marketing and public relations strategies. I work with fashion related clients that include retail, wholesale, on-line, and business to business services. My recent roster has included Creative Recreation, BB Dakota, Interview Magazine, Visuality, Paul + Williams, A Continuous Lean, and Valetmag.com
Why did you decide to open WITTMORE? WITTMORE has been a long time dream envisioned. Ever since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with style and design and have always dreamed of creating my own retail environment. I've been lucky to have worked within the fashion industry for 16 years, having learned everything from visual displays to marketing and press relations, to brand development for many high profile global companies. And now I'm developing my own.
The men's online retail market is getting increasingly crowded. How will you set WITTMORE apart from the others?
What makes WITTMORE different is the mix of brands that I am stocking; some known, some not so known, merchandised together in an approachable way. My goal is for the assortment of WITTMORE to also be different, and to better represent the boundary pushing side of each designer behind the brand. Thats my real goal. I hope to reflect a vision for each label that more closely reflects the seasonal vision. I won't be buying safely. The Internet allows for such flexibility.
In general I hope to speak to a wider selection of guys across multiple generations, instead of just representing the very young, or old. WITTMORE relates to guys in their 20's, 30's and 40's with varying degrees of budget and personal expression.I'm doing a lot of work around filtering with color, price, and other terms, and easier navigation across many types of search levels. The site is fast paced, intuitive, and is merchandised simply and effectively with navigation options right your fingertips. One example is a "Made in" filter that sorts products by where they are produced. You can quickly hyper-filter to exactly what you want to see. The online marketplace for men has just begun. There is still a ton of potential. WITTMORE will also take this concept to brick and mortar down the road.
How did you select which brands to carry?
I follow key trends very closely and take in what is going on. I'm also looking for the "Oh Wow" pieces that other retailers are not willing to commit to, but that I know the designers themselves are passionate about. I'm also creating a product mix that reflects established, niche, and emerging brands that I'd love to help bring a larger audience to. You'll see known brands and unknown ones, and I'll stand behind them all.
Your motto is 'MORE MORE NOW NOW NEXT NEXT' what does that mean, exactly? My motto for WITTMORE is MORE MORE NOW NOW NEXT NEXT and it's symbolic of how I feel about all the brands I'm carrying. I just can't get enough of them. Pretty much says it all.
Retail seems to be all about curation these days. When you were putting together the initial concept for Wittmore, what did you decide the core values of the shop would be?
We are launching with 20 brands to start including established style leaders like Levis Vintage Clothing, Riviera Club, GANT Rugger, Gloverall, Miansai, Norse Projects, Mark McNairy, and Imogene + Willie. Niche specialty brands include 8:15 August Fifteenth, Archival Clothing, HW Carter & Sons, Ian Velardi, Universal Works, Il Bussetto, Sandqvist, and Etiquette Clothiers. The site will also serve as a platform for newer, less established brands such as Monsieur Gris, OW Socks, Percival, Palmer Trading Company, and Move Slightly. Additional brands will launch throughout the year, including limited-edition goods and exclusives not found anywhere else.
Tell us about your focus on local production: Well, there are a few brands we are carrying that are made here in the states such as 8.15 August Fifteenth, H.W. Carter & Sons, General Knot & Co, Archival Clothing, and Miansai. I think it's important to support brands involved in this movement to bring back quality-made product to the States. WITTMORE is continually looking for brands for SS13 and beyond that are part of this community. Other key brands are made in Italy and Japan. We don't stop there though. WITTMORE stocks goods from many other countries as well, from all over the world. I think it's important to show that you can source products globally that are expertly designed and manufactured from all corners of the world.
What else is important to you when selecting product?
In terms of selecting product I look for a true point of view. I like when a brand believes and commits to what they are designing and selling. I hold those same values in high regard for WITTMORE.
What is selling well so far? We are selling a little bit of everything but the top brands are Levi's Vintage Clothing, Gant Rugger, Ian Velardi, Moveslightly, Archival, Miansai and Etiquette Clothiers. We are adding more brands soon such as Mark McNairy, Norse Projects, Imogene & Willie, and Riviera Club.
How are you getting the word out about the shop? Tell us about your social media strategy. WITTMORE is active on many platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. My content feed started off purely on imagery that inspires me. Sort of an ongoing story board. Now we've begun communicating brand assets and products, behind the scenes content, and sharing relevant information to help enrich the brand experience for our customers and readers. What inspires me is the key to understanding what WITTMORE is all about.
What inspires me: Family, friends, and others in the business that are pushing the boundaries. Respecting core etiquette and values while also having a good time with them. Modern mid-century anything. Futurism, Modern art, and street art. Overuse of color and the absence of color. Early adopters of style and cultural trends. Expressing personality through music. City-centric global travel. Automobiles, old and new. Well-designed interiors and modern architecture. Personal technology and how it affects us. Landscape design and agricultural cultivation. Green living, Environmentalism. Animals.
Do you travel often? Where do you go to find the brands you stock in the shop?
I have been extremely fortunate that I have travelled around the world for my career. When traveling I like to explore cities to see what people are wearing but I also am hyper aware of what brands are present in the marketplace. In person or via the web, there are more tools than ever to explore.
Photo by Matthew Kristall
The Fast Five: Where you live: The past five years I've lived in Hoboken, New Jersey because I wanted more space. Before that I was in NYC for over a decade
Currently reading: The Method Method by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry
Currently listening to: This is a hard one. But I like a lot of new music. I wake up early on Tuesday [for iTunes] New Release day. Currently on heavy rotation is The XX, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Hot Chip and Gossip
Favorite restaurant: Too many to choose, but here are the top ones: Pastis, The Modern at the MoMA, and Babbo
Favorite possession: My modern art collection, which I've been collecting since the mid 90's.