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Derek Mattison and His Slim Suit Appeal
A tech entrepreneur tailors his career to menswear
Derek Mattison didn’t start his professional life in fashion. The Michigan State business school graduate had founded an Internet marketing company, but as a self-proclaimed “superconsumer,” he was also chafing at what he felt were gaps in menswear design. “I always have a blazer on,” says Mattison, 36, peering from behind his postmodern Clark Kent glasses. “If you have the matching trousers on, they call it a suit, which is nice to have if you’re going to your cousin’s wedding. But I wanted to wear my blazers with denim or tennis shoes. Because there weren’t any designers offering these combinations, I decided to take simple color palettes and make the look into a brand.”
In December he launched his label, Mattison, and opened a boutique on Melrose Place. All of the pieces—in Italian wool, Scottish tweed, and cashmere—are tailor made locally, numbered, and signed. It was the only way Mattison could achieve what have become the hallmarks of his line: jackets with extremely narrow lapels and small chest pockets, thin-collared shirts, and skinny ties. When Mattison approached production houses with his designs for jackets featuring one-inch collar rolls, he was told the smallest they could make measured one-and-a-quarter inch. “Sounds like no big deal,” says Mattison, “but if it’s a quarter inch bigger on the collar, it makes the lapels wider.”
He also knew from frequent shopping that he wanted his jackets to have the longevity of a bespoke piece. “I’d feel jacket fabrics, see how they were made,” he says. “If they used fusing—which uses glue and is done with machines—then the jackets have a much shorter shelf life. Once you’re charging over two grand, a jacket shouldn’t have fusing.”