21th July, 2018| California
Style enhances even more when paired with comfort.
Who doesn’t love to get dressed up? We all do. However, many times we need to make a tough decision. We need to choose between style and ease. What if I tell you, the ultimate blend of style and comfort is a gift you can get from an architectural background person? Yes! You read it right. LA POLO is in conversation with a clothing brand inspired by the fictional character - Old Bull Lee.
Q1 How does Old Bull Lee highlight the Californian culture and heritage in its clothing range?
After you have been here for a while, you start to recognize some of the discernible qualities that makes California so magnetic - Climate, contemporary culture, beaches, people reinventing themselves, economic mass. Because so many people have come from somewhere else and took a longer than usual journey to get here, there is an unusually high degree of open-mindedness and self-assurance here. In the beginning of the brand, we didn’t set out to steer it towards any one specific tone, but the distinctiveness of our products organically matched us with men who wear or do things because they want to.... Because to do so aligns with their sense of self and individuality, not because their minds had been subliminally gobbled up by some mainstream marketing campaign. Usually these types of people, the ones heavy on character, are the dynamic ones who end up being the ones who make the stories. So, I guess the answer isn’t as mentally simple and tangible as The Beach Boys or Hollywood - It is more of a: What we are is because of where we are & I am pretty sure there is some part of those qualities in each one of our products.
Q2 What inspired you to switch from architecture to clothing?
I don’t have an awesome answer for that.... and I should. I had been an architect for 15 years, one morning I woke up and literally on the spot decided to start a clothing company. Buildings are complicated and clothing is simple – So, I thought it would be easy. It took me about two weeks to figure out that making quality clothing is extremely difficult.
Q3 Old Bull Lee- a United States brand expanded to foreign countries like Japan and South Korea. How does it changes with change in location?
In the last ten years, the internet (and especially social media) has globally woven us much more tightly together. In the process of that, there is an enormous amounts of information flowing, but some entities have the financial resources to be heard more often and social media ends up delivering those echos to passives in an ever-increasing marketing loop, so we end up with consumers with access to tons of information, but inadvertently feeding from narrower self-serving sources of information – This has led to a dilution of cultural individuality. Sorry, technically and anthropomorphically heavy, I know, but it helps to paint a picture. Today, people are increasingly having to choose from the same similar parts, but there is still a difference is how people wear things - The styling or combination of things in unique to different areas. America has gone very casual/ informal, normal day-to-day dressing has become geared towards comfort. In Asia, they are more conscious of, I wouldn’t say fashion, but I would say style. They still wear the same things, but in Asia, outfits are put together, for instance, they might add a single piece that stands out and changes the whole outfit e.g., a black outfit with a single red accent or Old Bull Lee patterned shorts + a white shirt + a fedora.
Q4 If Lee W. Johnson is to style a man for a - beach party, a boys night-out and a lunch date, how will he fit the colors and designs?
I don’t want to give you a hypothetical answer like: wear green pants to a dinner party - the variables are too broad and I am not telepathic. Without a doubt, the best looking thing that anyone can wear is always a smile, which requires some built-in comfort on the part of whoever we are talking about, which is another reason I don’t want to prescribe a costume. The best way to answer this question is with two ideas - It’s always better to be overdressed than unredressed, & “To thyn own self be true”. Expressing your individuality is the goal here, but it has to come from a truthful place. My advice would be to build a personal style out of the already existing organic version of yourself. What that means is that you have to understand yourself or who you want to be. What are your interests? where do you come from ? Let the clothing you choose contribute to and support the idea of who you are or someone you want to be. Take risks, see what works, nobody starts at the finish line. Doesn’t have to be a perfect version of you, it’s about the smile anyway. life is about passion, not perfection.
Q5 If not a business person, what Lee W. Johnson would have been and why?
I am highly creative and I have already done a lot of things in my life: architect, fireman, scuba Instructor, bartender,etc. The only thing left that I can think of is astronaut. But most importantly, I enjoy Old Bull Lee, it doesn’t feel like work - Hopefully, I don’t have to become an astronaut anytime soon.
Q6 A fashion business person, Lee W. Johnson draws his style inspiration from whom and why?
I don’t think I could point to any one specific thing and say “that, that’s where it all came from”.... Because of where I grew up - set apart and insulated from the outside world (small, conservative, harsh climate) and the word “style” wouldn’t even known to us - Clothing was pragmatic, it served to keep us warm and dry. When appearance isn’t a factor you end up wanting things that are comfortable and durable. Quality was very important and I still very much believe that. I find quality very attractive because it has thoughtfulness behind it and thoughtfulness speaks to intellect and intellect can be very sexy.
Shorts, shirts, board shorts.... are all traditional garment types that have ended up being evolved over time to the present day point where they are now very well resolved. So, I think trying to make something completely new out of one of them is just going to blow up a good thing. Where exciting change is happening is materials: stretch, environmentally conscious.
When I think back on my answers, it seems like perhaps, I should have poured more sugar over my words so that they advance a candy coated agenda. I get it.... This is a business & don’t get me wrong, I truly love seeing Old Bull Lee shirts and shorts all over the Santa Barbara Polo and racquet club during matches. But the essence of things is, that my job isn’t to hype nothing into something, my job is to make a quality product.