Skip to main content

Look Swell in a Modern Wardrobe by Zachary Prell

zachary prell
Image used with permission by copyright holder
“My sport shirts were really poorly fitted. They were big and boxy, they were super-long and the cuffs were too tight. The buttons were too high near the chest and collar and as a consumer wearing that ill-fitted product, I just thought there must be a better way,” recalls menswear designer Zachary Prell about his days of working in finance from 1994 to 2003. When he attended business school to earn his MBA at Columbia the following year, he decided to forego the financial world and focus on fixing said fashion dilemma by creating an eponymous line of sport shirts with the perfect look and fit.

Ten years after soft launching his collection, it has grown into a full and covetable men’s lifestyle line that is carried by the best department stores (Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Bloomingdale’s) and numerous specialty boutiques. Clean, modern and high quality, it is a label that is definitely one to know. The business guy turned fashion favorite recently shared the story behind his success and gave us a peek into what the future holds.

zachary prell
Image used with permission by copyright holder

You started your line while in business school, correct?

While my peers were entering business school to get into the world of finance or consulting I was really seeking to redefine the men’s sport shirt and create a business from scratch. Those two years while I was in business school were really formative because it allowed me to use New York and the environment of being back at school as this living laboratory. I sought out a number of advisers, wound up doing prototype sampling in a local sample house in the Garment District and really pressure-tested my ideas. I tried to come up with a unique value proposition which was a better, modern silhouette coupled with the finest Italian fabrications and really smart innovative detailing.

We started with a V silhouette – so broad in the shoulders and a little bit cleaner in the waist. We shortened the shirt tail, expanded the cuffs slightly to afford space for a watch, lowered the top button stance on the collar so it was kind of the perfect amount of space so that it would fit nicely under a sport coat. It really was innovative product that resonated with a lot of men early on.

How has the line evolved since then?

I think we’ve created loyal community of followers and our fit has been very consistent so once a consumer finds a size that works for him he can buy the product online or at any number of stores. The fit hasn’t necessarily evolved. We really spent 18 months on product development early on in the formative years and that fit has really been successful for us.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Who is the Zachary Prell customer?

We target a customer who travels, who is tech-enabled, always on the go and leads a dynamic lifestyle. I want to create a collection that complements that lifestyle. I really spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of collection can help our consumer lead that lifestyle. So it’s about creating seasonless, transitional, layering pieces that can take him every day from his workday to the weekend.

Such as?

We do soft coat shoulders and we are doing a big knitwear program now out of Peru with super-lux Pima cottons. One of the most important aspects for me personally and creatively is creating an incredibly high quality product. So the tenets really are spending a lot of time on fit, spending a lot of time on fabrication – hand feel, weight, breathability – and a clean, modern aesthetic that also has color. There are a lot of brands out there that do an incredible job, but I think we really differentiate by providing a unique blend of tones, textures, and color.

Do you do thematic seasonal collections?

Yes. This fall our theme is “Discover.” The idea was to be able to uncover the richness of the detailing and the textures of all of our fabrics. Colors like deep rich navies and burgundies were really big for us this fall and again about whether it’s a stitch block on a sweater or a colorblock exploring and sort of discovering those details as a consumer was something that was important for us.

What is your favorite current piece?

I have a couple. The one that I am wearing, this knit blazer, I especially love. It’s super versatile, indoor/outdoor, week to weekend. I really love our Mercer tees in Pima cotton. They’re lightweight and super soft with a tech-inspired hand feel. We call it an everyday lux essential. Then I love the mixed media jacket and the lightweight 14 oz. merino colorblocked sweaters.

What is the overall aesthetic of the collection?

Clean and modern is kind of our skypost.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

And your bestsellers?

Our hallmark sport shirts. There is one silhouette in three collars: our point collar, our modern collar, which is slightly smaller, and then our button-down. That has been the framework for the shirts. We’re up to close to 100 shirts. We are also launching a suit separate program for the spring. We think there is a great opportunity for that modern kind of hybrid sport coat in the marketplace that you could effortlessly dress up or down. It’s not so serious and you can pair it with either a sport shirt or a knit piece and that’s kind of a personal push to see that business evolve for us.

Why should a reader of The Manual buy and wear your clothing?

I think that it’s the effortless versatility of our brand that’s able to suit their dynamic lifestyle. I think your reader is on the go, he’s obviously tech-enabled but it’s really about leading that lifestyle day to evening. Our brand, whether it’s the sport shirts, outerwear, knitwear or suiting separates is a brand that can complement that lifestyle.

What sets your brand apart?

I think to be able to have great pricing, beautiful fabrications, and a modern fit differentiates our brand from our peers.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Did you or anyone in your family have any experience in fashion?

No. My grandfather was an entrepreneur. He started a drugstore in L.A. and that’s what really inspired me early on. Just seeing the one-on-one connection my grandfather would make with his customers to me all these years later is really exciting because when I can go to a store and meet customers or work directly with the buyers and see directly the how the product is making a tangible impact is what I feel most proud about. This project that started out about solving a real problem in the marketplace has evolved to a lifestyle brand that is ever evolving. To me that’s really rewarding.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Blomquist
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Christopher is a native New Yorker who lives and works (mostly) in Manhattan. A longtime fashion journalist, he served as…
These are our favorite linen shorts to keep you cool this summer
Our favorite men's linen shorts to add to your summer wardrobe
Abercrombie & Fitch 6-inch Linen-Blend Pull-On Shorts on model

What's a good way to ruin your summer vacation? Sweaty, sticky thighs that make it so uncomfortable to walk that you can't even enjoy your gelato on the cobblestone streets of Florence. Nobody wants tight fabric, rough denim, or prickly polyester covering their legs when it's 41 degrees and only getting hotter. That's why we've got the best men's linen shorts to take you from a day at the beach with the kids to a fancy dinner with your wife with nothing but a simple shirt change.
The best linen shorts to elevate your look this summer

When the sun is blazing down on you and you can't see a cloud in the sky, you'll naturally be craving something that's comfortable without looking sloppy. Men's linen shorts are surely your ultimate wardrobe hero, coming in to save the day with their breezy, lightweight fabric. Whether you're planning a beachside vacation, an afternoon picnic, or navigating city streets, the right pair of linen shorts can elevate your entire summer look.
1. J. Crew 7.5'' pleated linen short

Read more
F.P. Journe closes the curtain on limited editions with one last watch
F.P. Journe releases its last limited edition watch ever
F.P. Journe Flyback Chronographe FB

F.P. Journe announced earlier this year that they would cease producing limited edition watches, though the "announcement" was more of a quiet whisper. The company is known for its small annual output of watches , which makes 1,000 mechanical and 500 quartz pieces. However, they would never end a party without a final confetti canon, and this one is in the form of a hand-wound flyback Chronographe FB.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Tokyo location, they've introduced this last limited edition. Going forward, they will stop engraving edition numbers on their watches, meaning the 200 Chronographe FB models released will certainly be highly sought after.
The F.P. Journe Chronographe FB

Read more
I never go to the coast without this jacket from Royal Robbins
This anorak is cozy and built for adventure
The author wearing the wearing the Royal Robbins Merced Anorak on the Oregon coast.

Whenever I head out to coastal Oregon, I never know how to dress. No matter how often I check the forecast, the weather often turns out to be the exact opposite of what I've prepared for once I've made the hour-and-a-half drive out to the Pacific. If I wear a heavier jacket for a grey, foggy hike through one of the area's many state parks, it'll warm up as soon as I arrive, and I'll be drenched in sweat after a mile or two. If I'm hoping for a sunny walk around Cannon Beach, the rain will come through and the wind will whip up, leaving me running back east to chase the sun.

But this spring, I found a solution in a jacket that's built for all of these situations and then some.
Why I love Royal Robbins' Meced Anorak Jacket
This Merced Anorak from Yosemite Valley-inspired outfitter Royal Robbins has quickly become my go-to outdoors jacket. This lightweight, nylon windbreaker keeps me comfortable in just about any weather out in the Pacific Northwest. It's thick enough to be a decent lightweight cover-up in cool temperatures but still thin enough to not get too heated when the sun comes out. The wind resistance this half-zip provides is next-level compared to any other jacket I own — no matter how the wind comes off the waves, I know it'll never chill me to the bone.

Read more