American Woolen Company’s new campaign shares the stories of the style masters and modern tailors ushering in a new found appreciation for the art of tailoring and dressing the American male.
We visited Craig Arthur Von Schroeder, founder of Commonwealth Proper, at his flagship store in Philadelphia’s Center City. The ex-pro footballer turned lawyer, turned style guru, opened shop in 2008 that designs and makes custom suits and shirts for his contemporary clientele … rigorously Made in America.
What first lead you to design/tailor/craft suits and menswear?
My father is an architect. So growing up we’d travel as a family to places like Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” instead of Disney World. In addition, my older brother dabbled in modeling and always had cool clothes. I look up to both my father and brother, so an interest in design/clothing has always been a part of me. It’s just how I was raised.
I’ve had a few different careers, the first as a professional soccer player in Europe and South America. When I stopped I went to law school and thought it would keep me level-headed to do something fun while I was studying, and the first inclination was designing a menswear collection.
So it’s been an evolution, but a natural one.
Who is your customer and what do they ask for?
Our customers are hungry young professionals. They are driven, focused, and entrepreneurial. They are refined renegades that also adhere to things required to run a business, like respect and thoughtfulness. They believe in style over fashion. They want to stand out, not by defying what their generation wears, but by defining it. They want clothes that are uncomplicated yet confident.
How do you guide your clients with suit cuts and details, fabric choices and overall style?
Clothing advice starts with us asking a lot of questions about the client: what does he do for a living, does he travel, is he married, are there industry constraints to what he wears, who are his style idols, etc. These give us an understanding of where the boundaries are, if any.
What is the Commonwealth Proper signature suit and how did it evolve?
Our signature suit has a natural shoulder, peak lapel, one-button, side vented coat with interior cigar and stash pockets. The pants have an extended waistband and angled side pockets. It’s a hybrid of a traditional ivy league blazer fit with a modern twist.
How do you see today’s menswear and how do you see it evolving?
While we are mostly in the tailored clothing realm, we keep tabs on menswear generally. There are so many new brands, new designers and looks, the space is fractured. Yet for some reason a lot of the stuff looks the same. I think that’s because men don’t take as many risks as women in fashion, so the evolution is slower. Nevertheless, I think that substance will continue to overpower hype and that the future is going to be mad real. Utility, durability and meaningful details will define the future of menswear.
What does Made in America mean to you?
Control. When you have to subcontract your manufacturing abroad you give up control. When you lose control of what you are doing it usually falls short of your standards, be it design or quality. It’s also a statement of intent we actually sew into all of our garments: “Forever Made in the USA”. The maker culture here in the U.S. is growing and it will become the gold standard around the world in the next decade.
What’s next for CMMP?
We are looking to expand our private experiential retail concept we have established in Philadelphia. We recently opened our second brick-and-mortar space in the hip West Midtown district of Atlanta, Georgia. We are looking to add a few more locations in the near future. We are also looking to grow our tailored manufacturing base in Philadelphia as we grow our brand. There are a few other goals for 2015 that we think will help move the tailored menswear game forward, but those we have to keep top secret for the time-being….
1839 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
691 14th Street, Suite 123, Atlanta, GA
Photos by Christopher Draghi for American Woolen Company