Business attire gets an athletic upgrade with Dallas clothing brand Mizzen+Main.
Frequent traveler Kevin Lavelle knew nothing about fashion manufacturing when he launched menswear brand Mizzen+Main three years ago. What he did have was an idea for a dress shirt that prevented sweat stains and wouldn’t wrinkle. Using performance fabric used by labels like Nike and Under Armour, Mizzen+Main did just that, developing a fitted design that both athletes and businessmen have embraced. With doctors, baseball players and guys-on-the-go (like Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban) following suit, we sat down with Lavelle to find out what’s next for the Dallas-based brand.
What sparked the idea for a performance fabric dress shirt? During an internship in Washington, D.C., I watched a guy run into a building dripping in sweat. I was 19 and knew nothing about starting my own company, but the idea stayed with me for years.
I’d been working in Dallas when I had to give it a shot. I really felt like, why would guys not want a shirt that performed like their workout gear but they could wear with a suit and tie? So far, people are loving the product; once you try our shirts, it’s really hard to go back to wearing a cotton dress shirt.
What’s the significance of the name, Mizzen+Main? The main, mizzen and jib are the first three masts on a sailboat. It’s an homage to that classic, East Coast lifestyle.
How did you determine the product would fill a void in the market? Ultimately, I think the reason athletic apparel companies haven’t done it is they need their logo, and guys don’t want to wear a logo dress shirt to the office. We don’t have one on our shirts; our signature mark is a blue buttonhole, which represents “blue collar meets white collar.”
We’re not trying to be trendy; we’re for guys that need to dress up but want their shirts to work as hard as they do. I want you to pick up the shirt 10 years from now and still feel like you’re able to wear it. Aside from online, where can people shop for Mizzen+Main, in Dallas and elsewhere? In Dallas, certainly here at our office in the Design District, and at St. Bernard’s, which is also in Austin. We’re in three Saks Fifth Avenue stores – St. Louis, New Orleans and just outside Manhattan in New Jersey – as well as 13 Kinnucan’s locations across the Southeast and a bunch of golf pro shops.
What new products is Mizzen+Main launching for the fall? Any attire for women? Because we usually do basics, we added a few bolder patterns like a madras plaid earlier this spring, and will add another in the fall. We’re stepping out a little bit with a blue dobby this season, which is a bit more of a trendier garment.
We’re still experimenting with men’s fits and patterns, but with women, you get one shot; we’re waiting [to do a line for] women because we want to make sure we do it right from the start.
As an on-the-go guy yourself, what are some of your tried-andtrue travel tips? I travel anywhere between two and nine times a month, so I’m pretty aggressive in my travel efficiencies and just in how I pack: Go with as many basics as possible so you can rotate through them, and wear your nice pair of shoes on the plane instead of packing them; if you do pack them, use shoe trees so they don’t crumble.
For shoes, I like brown, blue or gray, because it’s harder to mix and match with black. [Mizzen+Main] has one blazer that’s good for travel, but for guys who have to wear a formal suit I’d say wear it on the plane instead of packing it – or have a flight attendant hang it up – so it doesn’t wrinkle.
We will be doing suiting at some point next year though, so hopefully we’ll solve that problem.
In addition to its top sellers, the brand launches a line of polos and modern prints this fall.