This interview started off as a Worn Out Wednesday but when we started asking Matteo about the brands he wears he just laughed, “I only wear my own!” Well what a novel idea.
Matteo Gottardi is the designer behind W.R.K (Work.Rest.Karma). He has wanted to be a designer since he was a kid. His father was in the optical design world but little Matteo had his sights set on Industrial Design. Alas, like most dreams, his bubble got popped by his parents when they encouraged him to go to business school. “I applied to the hardest schools like Stern and University of Michigan so I wouldn’t get in and then I would be able to go to design school,” he told us. But he did get into Stern and it ended up being a great experience. He interned with Ralph Lauren, Diesel and Armani so he learned both business and fashion.
In his last year he did an International Study Project with Stanska so he headed to Sweden to do a case study. When Matteo arrived at their biggest construction sites he ended up focusing on the workers’ uniforms and taking notes. “These Nordic work uniforms are incredible! There are colors based on jobs, so say a plumber would be in gray and an electrician was in brown. But the uniforms look like early 80s ski gear! They blew my mind,” Gottardi recalls. He ended up importing some of the work wear and selling it as fashion. That was the beginning of his first brand, Operations. He soon began designing for the line as well and they kicked open with selling at Bergdorf Goodman; but like many great brands, 2008 was hard for them and the life cycle came to an end.
When Operations closed Matteo took a trip to South Africa and motorcycled from Cape Town to Johannesburg. He realized he really loves design and didn’t just want to be part of the audience but wanted to contribute. So he began designing for Levis, Nordstrom, Macys and Neimans. After Neimans showed interest in seeing some original designs Matteo launched W.R.K in 2011. Now the collection is sold at Neimans, Saks and Nordstroms.
“I was never really in love with work wear, Americana, Heritage. But I did love that every detail was designed for a purpose so W.R.K. has that as a base: purposeful design,” Matteo explains. He thought about what the practical and functional designs are that a guy needs in his clothes, what is relatable to him and how they fit into his lifestyle. So Matteo has included design touches like articulated sleeves in his blazer so when you hail a cab the blazer doesn’t raise up to your waist. He has been reworking pockets so they fit what we use today.
“I started designing men’s clothing with the functionality to be practical but still look great. Something that is missing in men’s fashion is a ‘dudes’ line. You look at all these collections inspired by Steve McQueen but he would never wear those clothes! We have to stop scaring men so that they will feel comfortable in their own shell.
Here Matteo breaks down some of his favorite items from his collection:
The Touring Jacket
It expresses my design more than any other piece. It has the articulated sleeves which are great for riding. We waxed our cotton we got from Pennsylvania and it feels and looks great. Another cool thing is that is has four pockets. There is that space between the chest and waist pocket so I added a welt so guys have a hand warmer. There is also a snap-out quilted liner. That same liner fits in all my other jackets so if you buy another piece it will fit.
The Hyde Coat
It is a coated nylon cotton with a tall collar and hood. It has a hidden pocket on the chest that is great for a passport or credit card. The jacket looks very cool and practical but then it has these added bonuses that make it great for travel.
I personally love cargo pants. I know they are usually really big, baggy pants but ours are a modern fit. The cargo itself is inset. It has the pocket inside so it doesn’t bellow out. The flap is inset too so it will never flap out.
I’m a guy so I carry everything in my cargo pants! Since I ride, it is the easiest pocket to get to when on my bike. I carry my wallet and cell phone in them and it’s impossible for anything to fall out since the pockets are inside.
What is next?
For fall I am presenting a designer capsule. W.R.K is about good looking relatable clothes at a reasonable price point. So this line still has that DNA but adding more details. It’s going to highlight the mission of WRK as a brand. It will be a higher price point because of the amount of detail. The fabrics will be all high end European. It’s going to look great!
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