The next Calvin Klein? Houston's Jake Joseph gets back to basics, focuses onmen's underwear
In the time I have spent watching the fashion industry closely, I’ve noticed an all too common phenomenon of designers “burning out.” After completing their education or spending some time working for another designer or store, young designers decide to branch out and establish their own eponymous label.
Upon a successful collection launch, some designers immediately think that they can do everything: Menswear, womenswear, shoes, accessories, housewares, ready-to-wear and couture. An entrepreneurial spirit is a great virtue, but you can’t do everything at once. In a high risk, ultra-competitive industry that is often hit the hardest by unpredictable economic recessions, it’s best to start small.
Jake Joseph has taken notice, and that’s why he’s decided to root his design ambitions in a niche, often overlooked, market: Men’s underwear.
“He saw a total void in the marketplace. Men want to look good when they take their clothes off, just like women do."
After graduating from Elkins High School and the University of Texas, Joseph moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in corporate communication. He worked with several designers, and after traveling to Spain for a job with a large alcohol beverage company, he was inspired to start making clothes.
“I have always liked clothes, and when I went to Spain, I thought: How stylish are these people! And even more importantly, all of their clothes actually fit them,” the 31-year-old designer told me over a latte at Catalina Coffee on a recent afternoon.
While Joseph and his label are based in Los Angeles, he makes regular trips back to Houston to visit family and friends.
According to Carrie Johnson, who manages all of Joseph's accounts in Texas, “He saw a total void in the marketplace. Men want to look good when they take their clothes off, just like women do. And no one was making something that he felt was perfect for everyday wear.”
So three years ago, Joseph conducted extensive research on the men’s basics market and determined that he could make a name for himself by producing a great pair of underwear with an extensive lifespan that people continued to come back to. And thus, Jake Joseph Underwear was born.
The lineup is simple: Joseph offers four basic fits that he believes he has perfected. “It was important to keep the choices simple,” he explained. “We don’t want guys to be overwhelmed.”
To begin with, there’s a trouser boxer, available in four different colors, that features the same kind of high quality construction usually applied to shirt making, like single needle stitching. “The simplicity is inspired my love for the 1960s — the fit is perfect and each pair features side venting and two snap buttons for extended comfort and durability,” Joseph said.
There are also three different fits in the stretch product: A brief, boxer brief and trunk. A distinguishing feature in each is the use of bamboo cotton that allows for four-dimensional stretching and dramatically extends the resiliency and durability of each pair.
“We also use stronger elastic for our waistband than most, and have included stress tacking,” Joseph said. This means that wash after wash, each pair of Jake Joseph underwear is going to hold up.
And at $35-$38 a pair, they should. “We realize that this is an aspirational purchase, but it’s a linear product that I’m confident people will keep coming back to,” Joseph said. “After all, I am putting my name on it.”
And if you consider that a pair of Jake Josephs will probably last twice as long as that $18 pair of underwear, the price is justifiable.
"As a company, we try to be a worldly citizen,” Joseph said. Much of the line’s manufacturing is done in the United States and the share that’s conducted overseas is held to the same quality standards as that done in the U.S.
“My goal is for us to be a trusted resource in fashion. I’m continuing to perfect my basics, and I see us doing a loungewear trouser sometime in the future. We’ll see what comes next after that, but I do have a desire to possibly expand into making shirts," he said.
Jake Joseph underwear is currently available locally at the Houstonian Spa, M2M and 310 Rosemont. Other stores stocking the line include Bows + Arrows in Austin, The Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, Calif., and Fred Segal in Los Angeles. In the fall, you will also see Joseph's products in Neiman Marcus stores and on Amazon and HisRoom.com.