Who What Why Wear: Garmento’s Jeremy Lewis Explores His Style Origins


Who What Why Wear: Garmento’s Jeremy Lewis Explores His Style Origins

Tina Chow
Tina Chow
Tina Chow
Isaac Mizrahi
Steven Patrick Morrissey
Steven Patrick Morrissey
Steve Jobs
David Byrne

A journalist friend once said to me that “no great publication ever makes money.” The New Yorker is supposedly sustained by the reality-TV-ratio ROI of other rags under the Condé Nast umbrella. Early Details—when it was a black and white East Village scene zine, when it was amazing—was a community effort; its advertisers were the clubs, bars, and boutiques that its writers and readers would frequent. Fashion media can be very lucrative (New York Magazine‘s The Cut expands and, with it, the ad revenue for the whole). Because of this, it’s easy for fashion magazines to fall into the one-big-ad trap. Advertisers that buy space will often expect to show up in editorials, etc. This is all to say that for those of us who look for actual content in our fashion media, Garmento is a revelation.

Garmento is a semi-annual fashion zine, currently in its second issue, headed up by one Jeremy Lewis. It looks a lot like early Details, not just for the economic black and white printing, but also because of its 1980s style nostalgia. Garmento’s focus is, “on the contemporary and the historical, insisting that the two are one and the same.” This is Jeremy Lewis’ passion project and, like all great publications, it may never make big money. That’s not what it’s after. “In the midst of a saturated fashion culture and flagrant consumerism,” Garmento asks, “what more can there be to clothes?”

Garmento’s Jeremy Lewis is the perfect subject to inaugurate our new weekly column, Who What Why Wear, which looks at the everyday embodied experience of fashion, talking to great individuals doing great things about what they like to wear and why they like to wear it. Jeremy studied art and costume history with the intention of being a curator but, “got a bit stir-crazy and wanted to work in the industry rather than observe it from afar.” On top of editing Garmento, he regularly contributes to Encens and Pin-Up magazine, and has also done stories for Fantastic Man and Wilder. In true New York style, he wears yet another hat, working as a trend reporter and internal fashion editor for a clothing manufacturer that specializes in more mass market clothing lines.

Here, Jeremy talks to us about his work and how that relates to his personal style.

How and when did you start Garmento?
I started Garmento almost two years ago after being a bit nonplussed with what was happening in fashion media. The focus seemed to be less and less about the clothes and more about everything else. Around the same time, a costume curator I worked with named Charles Kleibacker had just passed. He himself was a wonderful designer and a very wonderful man, and I didn’t feel his work received the recognition it deserved, so I thought to make my own zine to feature it. Getting the zine together was a steep learning curve, it still is.  I knew absolutely nothing about the magazine business, but a good friend of mine who edits and publishes his own magazine held my hand through the process. I was extremely lucky to work with some incredibly talented designers and contributors to make it happen. But I went in being totally naïve and with nothing to lose, which helps to get things done sometimes.

Garmento spans history, but there is definitely a thorough-line. How would you define that undercurrent?
It’s hard to say. I love understatement and I love the look of ease. I always say: elegance is effortless beauty. And “beauty is truth, truth beauty” as Keats said. While I do love humor and irony the latter has its limits despite that it seems to be dominating a lot style and aesthetics in both fashion and media right now. I suppose Garmento is searching for a specific feeling about clothes, a kind of matter-of-factness? And this is such a cliché, but I do think timelessness is really a wonderful but rare quality. That something can be designed or styled at any given time and keep its quality and appeal over however many years is remarkable. Something so resolved in its intent and execution that it can survive the fickleness of tastes and trends and world altering paradigm shifts? That’s probably as good as it gets. Its very classically oriented in that regard.

Have you always been interested in fashion?
I’ve always been interested in dress and this idea that how you look reflects who you are or what you feel. It was never a matter of being judgmental or shallow; it was a love for symbols and simple visual pleasures. But fashion for fashion’s sake? I couldn’t have cared less until I got to college. I thought it was really boring and was more interested in industrial design and architecture. That all changed when I was about 18 and became totally consumed. Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme had a huge impact on me as it only could have had for any lanky young man in the very early 2000s who was left dejected by modern menswear and was desperate for an alternative. I was obsessed. I didn’t even know who Christian Dior was then, but I learned quickly.

When did you start dressing yourself and what did you wear? How did your style change through your childhood and teens, and into adulthood?
Until I got to high school I wore sweat suits just about every day. I loved the comfort and it was the closest thing to a superhero costume I could get away with wearing outside of the house. But this uniform made sense as I was always in my own world and was really oblivious to anything cool or popular. Of course I was picked on terribly because of this. When I got to high school I remember being astonished by how provocative a guy looked by simply wearing an open shirt with a white T and jeans, and I began to understand the sex appeal of style. I couldn’t fathom how he developed the look, which I later realized was just generic casual American youth style. I don’t think I ever wore a woven shirt except to go to church. And I didn’t wear jeans until 8th grade—they were too stiff. So there was this new need for style which developed while I was living with my family overseas in Germany [Jeremy’s father was in the U.S. Army; they moved around a lot]. I fancied myself being a little cosmopolitan and nothing from the PX (the Army’s version of Macy’s but not very nice) struck my fancy, so I bought all my clothes from European stores like H&M and a place called Jean Pascale. By the time I moved back to the U.S. for my last years of high school I had a very European, very “ Sprockets” situation going on. And this was when Abercrombie and Fitch had just replaced Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger in Midwest American high schools, so the ridicule didn’t stop.

In college I discovered fashion which was great but terrible. I started paying attention to trends on the runway. I started desiring them and then jimmy-rigging them together by scouring vintage and thrift stores. It was never about what looked good on me; it was more about staying up on the newest trend, to be at on the cusp of the next thing, which is a huge thrill. Moving to New York raised my self-awareness, and I slowly began to kick my fashion chasing habits. Doing a lot of work in trend analysis made me super sensitive to trends, and I began avoiding them at all costs. It took me a while to realize that at 6’3” and being ethnically exotic, I was doing myself a disservice by wearing all that fashion. It obscured me. I still wear trends and my style evolves with the times but I’ve learned to trust my minimalist instincts and found a system that works just as well as my old sweat suits. It’s built on basics though influenced by my nostalgia for ‘90s casual dress that I never got to wear.

What would you say is the most important thing you consider when acquiring a new garment?
Frequency of wear. If I can’t wear something all the time, for different occasions, I won’t buy it no matter how cheap it is—not worth the storage space. A lot of factors go into this, and it edits out a lot of color or novelty fabrics though it does make for efficient dressing. Quality is key. If the fabric or construction are lacking, then it really will have a finite amount of wearing before even a good dry cleaning can’t restore it. Besides, cheap fabric makes you look cheap. Comfort is obviously important, and if something is uncomfortable it will not be worn. The other aspect is simplicity; a complicated design loses versatility, though it doesn’t mean I don’t like a certain amount of flair. Generally that flair is for my own personal enjoyment, and it’s in the subtle details and proportions. In the end, it boils down to whether it helps me tell my story, allows me to be the character who I want to be, and most importantly if it gives me confidence.

How long does it take you to get dressed in the morning?
It depends. When it’s a work day it’ll take about 10 to 20 minutes depending on whether something needs to be steamed or pressed. When I go out or to an event, or I just want to look especially impressive, it could take an hour or even two; even though I’ll wear the same things I always wear. I just take my time scrutinizing every option.

If you were forced to wear a uniform everyday, what would it be? Or would you revolt?
Well, I already wear a uniform. I love uniforms. In warm weather it’s a billowy button collar shirt with abbreviated shorts and in the cold it’s either chinos or jeans with knit pullovers. However, I wouldn’t want to be totally committed to these things. It’s good to change it up and have options, to do something different when the mood strikes you. It can be the biggest thrill to wear something you wouldn’t normally do, if only once in a while. And sometimes you experiment and it works, and that’s how things evolve.

All images provided by Jeremy as illustrations of his personal style inspiration.