A few weeks ago I was able to sit down with J. Henley, Men’s Design Director at Lands’ End and Lands’ End Canvas and get a tour of his office, some insights into what inspires him and some of his favorite items that are to debut in Spring/Sumer 2011.
I would personally like to thank J for taking the time to have this sit down. It was a pleasure and Noble County Gold hopes to have him back in the future.
NCG: What inspired you to become a designer?
J: I grew up in North Carolina and I guess it really started with my dad. He was from rural south Alabama and his family farmed cotton. As an adult he went to work for a company called Chemstrand, which spun nylon/polyester. My mom was very practical and made a great deal of my clothes, much to my dismay, as many were made out of polyester from my fathers company made. Because of these influences, I wound up attending and graduating from the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University. It was during college that I found I had a passion for design.
NCG: With all the different retailers out there, why did you choose to work at Lands’ End?
J: I was living in NYC working for a variety of brands and designers when a friend asked me if I was interested in coming to work for Lands’ End. My wife was pregnant with our first child and we were looking for a change, somewhere out of New York. Lands’ End had the history and the brand integrity that fit me. I had the honor of meeting our founder, who was still active on the Lands’ End board. He walked the halls, making himself accessible to everyone. He embodied the brand. I wanted very much to learn from him and the brand he created.
NCG: Lands’ End is a brand with a lot of history and tradition. What traditions does your family and friends enjoy here in Wisconsin?
J: My family is my #1 priority and we spend a lot of time together. I enjoy cooking for them. A great deal of it ends up being comfort food. I also build lots of fires, since the winter here lasts from November to mid April. The state is a great place to live and I and spend time outdoors with my daughters. We also take day trips to The Milwaukee Art Museum or an overnight trip to Chicago.
NCG: The Spring-Summer season has just started and a few items have dropped on the site. What items are you most excited about?
J: I’m really looking forward to our Chambray Blazer, Toggle Knit Cardigan, and Madras Popover Shirt. Combine those with our Slim Chinos and a pair of Boat Boots and I’m ready to take in some music at The Terrace, part of the University of Wisconsin Student Union or a documentary at The Wisconsin Film Festival, both are great spring/summer outings here in the state.
NCG: What one word can you use to describe the upcoming Spring-Summer collection?
NCG: Where do you look for design inspiration?
J: I’m inspired by a wide variety of things. Music and film weigh in heavily. Vintage design and apparel play a big part as well and not just from the expected places but from little stop-sign towns all throughout the South and Midwest. And Tokyo, what would I do without the Japanese love for all things Americana?
NCG: If you would have lunch with any person in the world, past or present, who would it be, and why?
J: It would have to be my grandfather. He forged his birth certificate and enlisted in the US Army at the age of 16. He spent time in the European Theater during WWII and was fortunate to drive General Patton’s jeep on occasion and even shared a foxhole with him once. He embodies the type of person I model my life after and hope to one day become.
NCG: What one (1) question would you ask that person?
J: What was it like to be in the company of these brave men and where did you get your courage to enlist at such a young a