Marriott Rewards member Kevin Lavelle is the founder and CEO of Dallas-based men’s apparel brand Mizzen+Main. (Photo courtesy of Mizzen+Main)
The inspiration for Kevin Lavelle’s fast-growing men’s apparel brand Mizzen+Main, named after the driving forces of a sailboat, came while he was working as a political intern in Washington, D.C., where he witnessed a man running into a building soaked in sweat. Maintaining a professional look in the notoriously humid capital — and for the frequent business traveler for that matter — posed an intriguing challenge.
“I was 19 at the time and I did not know about fashion, textiles, design and entrepreneurship,” Lavelle recalls, “so I just kind of shelved the idea and kept thinking about it for a few years.”
Like a lot of self-made leaders, Lavelle didn’t allow what he didn’t know to get in the way of his vision. His engineering degree from Southern Methodist University led to stints at a consulting firm, a venture capital group and an oil company looking at emerging technologies—jobs that took him around the world to places that included Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“Frequently I was the least knowledgeable person in the room but my goal was to quickly become the most knowledgeable in terms of what should or shouldn’t be done in the industry or to work on something a little bit differently,” says Lavelle, now 30.
With the idea of bringing advanced performance fabric to traditional menswear, Lavelle spent about a year in product development, sourcing fabric and even learning how to cut an sew. He came up with the first prototype in December of 2011, and officially launched Mizzen+Main in 2012. Three years later he was named a 2015 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist and was a featured speaker last fall at a conference for Inc. 5000, which tracks the country’s fastest growing private companies.
With its headquarters in Dallas, where Kevin and his wife and business partner Jen live, Mizzen+Main does the majority of its sales online, and its merchandise is stocked in 225 stores across the U.S. and Canada.
For Lavelle, form and function are not mutually exclusive. A look at the clothing firm’s web site reveals timeless styles and patterns, but with a twist: tapered cuts that are slimming, made with a flexible fabric that breathes better than cotton and doesn’t require dry cleaning or even ironing.
Pro athletes are among Mizzen+Main’s most loyal customers and some act as brand ambassadors, such as three-time NFL All-Pro defender J.J. Watt and MLB pitcher Jake Arrieta.
“We want guys to respect that classic style,” says Lavelle about Mizzen+Main’s mission statement, “have that crisp, clean structured look, just with much better fabrics.”
Lavelle is a frequent business traveler, visiting customers, investors and partners in the company’s supply chain, and attending trade shows in Charlotte, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York, among other cities.
He was first introduced to Marriott’s hotels and its portfolio of brands through his dad, whom he describes as having “the equivalent of 10 million miles under his Marriott Rewards points program.”
Travel can turn anyone into a storyteller, and with its You Are Here campaign, Marriott Traveler and Marriott Rewards are exploring how being a member has enabled individuals like Lavelle to enrich their lives with memorable experiences and live in the moment.
For pleasure, Lavelle is a CrossFit fanatic. He enjoys his bourbon and claims to have a chocolate problem. His most desired destinations involve “anywhere with a beach.” His favorite trip remains his honeymoon in St. Lucia, where he stayed at Jade Mountain, which is carved into a cliff overlooking the Caribbean.
And if you ask him where to dine in Dallas, he’ll tell you to visit Bolsa in the Bishop Arts District, which places a premium on seasonal produce and ingredients from local farmers, small growers, ranchers and fisherman, as well as Javier’s—Gourmet Mexicano, which serves up what it calls “Mexico City-style” cuisine.
“It’s a great way of having a taste of Dallas without having to go too far,” Lavelle says.