Waraire Boswell, [wb] Collection:

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I’ll give you an example. I went to a boutique several times and I am showing him [buyer at boutique] [my clothes] and he’s like, “Oh it’s nothing new. I’ve seen things like this already before.� And as he’s talking to me, I’m looking at the other collections he has in his store and of course, none of them, in my opinion, compared to what I had nor did my collection look similar to any he had. He ended up saying, “It’s not going to work. Come back and see me next week.� So, what I did, I had a friend who she’s Anglo and she sells women’s clothes. I had her take the line in to him. And he was like, “Oh my God this is the best thing I have ever seen. Oh my gosh this is great!�

Try finding quality male designs that accurately capture the male physique yet balances it with modern style, attitude, sex appeal and sensuality. You’ll search for aeons. Enter Waraire Boswell, a graduate from California State University Northridge and self proclaimed “ambassador of style� who gets that men, like women, come in different shapes and sizes and accordingly, reflects a cross section of body shapes from 5ft 5in to 6ft 11in, in his designs.

His made-to-measure classics with a modern edge shows his great tailoring and fills the void in menswear; after you exclude clothes that only suit the rawness of the streets or the casualness of sports. That’s probably why a wide range of hot talents are seen in his designs: retired Basketball stars John Sally and Reggie Miller; Actors: Boris Kodjoe, Ashton Kutcher, Collin Farrell, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jamie Foxx & Mekhi Phifer; Musicians: Usher, Andre 3000, Justin Timberlake & Mos Def and Football stars: Chris Claiborne of the St. Louis Rams & Brian Kelly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What makes Waraire Boswell the authority on fit for today’s man? Read on to find out in this conversation with The Black Star News.

BSN: Hi Waraire. I’m informed you were into basketball, ladies and had a goal of being a teacher. But, here we are with you as a designer. Fill us in on how you transitioned from your loves for basketball and women to fashion?

WB: Well when I was growing up I was [a] regular height and could shop anywhere until I got to the start of the 10th grade going to the 11th grade. I went from being 5ft 5.5in to 6ft 5in when I returned for my 11th grade year. So, I grew enormously over that time. I was still playing basketball but there was a significant shift because  I could no longer at 6ft 5in just roll into any place and find clothing. After I graduated from high school, I still had ball aspirations [and] I was still playing basketball. But, there comes a point in every athlete’s career where you say, “do I want to take it to the next level, that is the pros? [F]or me, it was crystal clear I wasn’t going to because I didn’t have the love for it anymore. So, at that point, I started bouncing around and worked for a couple of film companies and talent agencies. I worked for William Morris.

[Then], my sister told me to find something that I enjoy doing and that I can get paid at. And when she told me that, I was working at Amen Ra Films, which is Wesley Snipes company, and I said I like fashion.  But, I never thought I could design anything, I had never gone to fashion school, and I didn’t have a large trust to just make samples. So, I wondered, “how I’m I going to do this?â€? But, as soon as I [decided] this was what I was going to do, it’s very strong the power of the mind, because things and people just presented themselves to me and I ended up making two pairs of pants. That was the first thing I ever made and they were for me because I couldn’t find clothes to wear. After I made the pants, I was introduced to people who manufacture sweaters and then the line was born.  

BSN: Tell us a little about the difficulties, if any, that you faced in becoming a fashion designer and owning your business . . .?

WB: The difficulty came from [having] financial resources. [I]n this country, many African-Americans start all things cool and set trends in fashion, music [and so forth]. We are very big on ideas but, a lot of us are very short on resources.

BSN: That’s true, very true.

WB: So, for me, the difficulty was keeping my finances in line to conceive my aspiration as a designer, but also to survive. Because, while I [h]ad [a]n aspiration to be a designer [i]t’s not a field that people [t]ake pity of [you]. [For example], if you make something, nobody is going to buy it because you made it with your last $200.00. [He adds emphatically] It needs to be nice! You need to be able to sell it. So, with that in mind, you also have to keep in mind that you still got to pay your rent, eat and pay your car note. So, that’s where the difficulty came in. [I]t was around this time that I started to make suits. [I]nitially, when I first started, I did not want to make suits because suits that I saw when I started to design looked like child outfits. Also, most guys that designed suits for tall guys are like little short Italian guys and Anglo guys that don’t understand the flavor African-Americans have when they want to be stylish. So, it was perfect for me to come along at the right time to [design suits] and generate revenue for myself; because if I didn’t sell suits, which [were] a lion share of my income, it [would have been] very difficult.

BSN: What do you think sets the [wb] collection apart from other men’s designer clothing out there?

WB: I think it’s several things. The “less is more� [philosophy]. It’s something that once you purchase it, you’ll notice little things like the zipper in the placket section, collar stand with the hook and eye on it or the slits on the side of the shirt which enables you to wear it in or out. You just notice all the [details].

BSN: It is interesting to me that your site does not have any information about you. How much of that has to do with you being a black designer?

WB: It has a lot to do with [it] at this point in time. I want it to be about the clothing. I don’t want it to be about what Waraire Boswell’s race is. My ethnic background has nothing to do with you liking or buying a shirt. [W]hen you go to buy a shirt, it should have to do with the feeling that you had when you saw it. Not thinking, this is an African-American or Italian designer. It’s about how you feel when you put the shirt on in the boutique and look in the mirror. That’s what it’s about.

BSN: Well let me probe into that a little bit. What kind of challenges, if any, do you experience when people find out that the designer behind the line is black?

WB: Well the thing is the public has no problem with it at all. People buy the clothes and do not have a problem at all. The problem that I run into is with the people who own and buy for the boutique.

BSN: Hmmmm . . . 

WB: I’ll give you an example. I went to a boutique several times and I am showing him [buyer at boutique] [my clothes] and he’s like, “Oh it’s nothing new. I’ve seen things like this already before.� And as he’s talking to me, I’m looking at the other collections he has in his store and of course, none of them, in my opinion, compared to what I had nor did my collection look similar to any he had. He ended up saying, “It’s not going to work. Come back and see me next week.� So, what I did, I had a friend who she’s Anglo and she sells women’s clothes. I had her take the line in to him. And he was like, “Oh my God this is the best thing I have ever seen. Oh my gosh this is great!�

BSN: Are u serious? I’m stunned. Whoa! I didn’t know those things still exist.

WB: He bought 80 pieces on the spot and he said, “oh my God this is so innovative ‘blah, blah blah.’� And the thing a lot of people need to understand is that [with] buyers it’s all about a relationship. That’s why a rep is such a pertinent thing because the rep has a relationship with the people at Bergdorf [and so forth]. If this rep says it’s nice, okay now I’m rolling with you. Now hypothetically, let’s say I have a rep and she does the show “Bread & Butter� [fashion trade show in Europe]. When she does that show, I’ll then show up as a designer just so people can put the face with the name. The thing is when you have something like I sell, there needs to be an aura of exclusivity as far as you not knowing who the designer is. You shouldn’t be the designer, the quality control person, the sales person, the sales man, the rep. You can’t be all those things because when you do, it gives the appearance that you are a very small company.

BSN: Let’s really get into your designs. I think arguably that men are fashion victims because anecdotal and statistical evidence show that they actually spend lots of money on clothes, but they are still poorly dressed. How does your line help the male fashion victims of the world?

WB: The brand is all about cover. Like I said before, less is more. Most American men, we don’t grow up dressing. You don’t really care about dressing when you grow up. It’s only when you get a girlfriend or [have] a sister who let’s you know this is how you need to dress. So, to answer your question, I help the fashion victim by giving them color and personality. That’s how the line helps them.

BSN: Okay, let’s have fun with this! I’ll give you four guys and taking into account their body shape, height, lifestyle, personality and the importance of fit, tell me what and which [wb] collection you’d dress them in.
Guy #1 is out of NY. He’s about 5ft 5in and is a corporate lawyer. He enjoys looking good, likes  nice clothes and proper grooming but is highly disinterested in “designerâ€? clothes which make him make a spectacle of himself with  the “metrosexualâ€? look, i.e. clothing that seem to highly feminize and borrow designs from women. How would you dress him? 

WB: He definitely sounds like a man’s man and will most likely be a [wb] custom client. With the custom aspect, it’s like the customer is pretty much designing what they want. [W]ith the ready to wear collection that is more so for a guy who is very secure with his masculinity but also likes to have fun with colors and step out of the box. So, this guy he may feel that the ready to wear collection is too metrosexual for him. So, this is definitely a guy who will be in a suit, a pin stripe suit, maybe a Glen-plaid shirt with a nice tie.

BSN: Guy #2 is 6ft 9in and a professional basketball player. He has the build of Alonzo Mourning and is always on the go because of his work. He thinks its cool how hip- hop culture has revolutionized the fashion world but wants more options beyond FUBU, Phat Farm, Roca wear or Sean John. He wants clothes that are lifestyle driven, mature and have great flair.  

WB: He would be in trousers and sweaters and button up shirts, but not oversize or fabric hanging everywhere [shirts]. I’m talking about [clothes] that [are] fitted to him and [are] also masculine. It’s not like too tight. Like the pants of Ron & Ron or Ozwald Boateng fitting. They are more like that tailored inspired but also something that fits and has an American flavor to it.

BSN: I heard your collars are very unique particularly when it comes to tall cuts. Could you tell [us ]a little more about that?

WB: There are two styles that they come in. It comes in a hook and eye and a two button collar stand. The reason why I did the collar stand a little taller is because most American shirts, the stand is like maybe half an inch. So, if you are wearing a suit or a sweater with it, like if you are somewhere and your body temperature raises or you just doing a lot of walking, a lot of movement, the shirt tends to fall into whatever is covering you or concealing you. Whereas if you have a stand, that is an inch or an inch and a half, it gives a better effect. It makes you look noble and more dope which is [why] I [created] it.

BSN: Guy #3 is based in L.A. He has a lean and fit 6ft 2in frame. His job is real chill. He is the total California guy. Spends every minute he can surfing. How would you dress him?

WB: He would be in jeans and Waraire Boswell Leisure top, the leisure top that has the terrier on the back. They come in plaids and solids. Once again, it is California and it is sunshine all the time so you definitely need wardrobe that reflects your surrounding. New Yorkers, for example, really rock a lot of charcoals, grays and blacks based on the weather. Here you have a lot of sunshine all the time, a tie with roses in it something more fun. So he’d definitely be a guy in the custom trousers or a pair of jeans and a nice pair of old school shoes on.

BSN: Okay, finally, Guy #4. He is about 5ft 11in. He is based in D.C. and has the shape of a quarter back and let’s just say he is style-challenged. He works as a lobbyist and he has a hard time finding clothes that fit his height, body shape and lifestyle? How would you dress him in a wb-collection.

WB: He will definitely be custom also and will be on my wardrobe system as far as picking [his] shirts, suits palettes, causal palettes. I’ll pick all of that out for him, style it up for him.  I’ll pick his ties if he wants suits. If he is just doing a short, nice pair of pants, I’ll pick his shoes, his ties. He’ll definitely be a custom customer.

BSN: What is your price point?

WB:  The wovens start at $120 and they go up to $198. It just depends on the boutique that it’s sold in. The blazers wholesale for like $720.00. So, they’ll probably sell them in stores for like $1,450. The suits wholesale for $1200 so they’ll probably sell them for like $2,500.

The wb-collection can be found online at www.wb-collection.com. In L.A. or surrounding areas, visit the following fine boutiques: Lisa Klein, Fred Segal Street, Wolf, H. Lorenzo and Satine. New Yorkers, visit “Pieces� located at 671 Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn, 718-857-7211 or contact the designer directly for custom one-of-a kind pieces.

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