Designer Timo Weiland on New York’s Garment DistrictBy Robin Bennefield
Timo Weiland is the perfect ambassador for New York‘s Garment District. He’s got love for Brooklyn too. The classic clothing designer calls both places home and sources of inspiration, splitting his time between his factory in the heart of the Fashion District and Brooklyn, where his apparel brand is headquartered.
Besides wanting to rock his eclectic streetwear (now seen at Banana Republic), Weiland is a guy you want to know.
He’s not from New York; he’s of New York. He’s happy to point friends, family and fans that want to dabble in fashion to his neighbor Mood, the fabric mecca made famous by “Project Runway.” He’s got a surplus of DJing skills on top of the design thing, so he’s the guy that’s going to tell you about the hot New York band (the Astors or The Skaters) that you have to see.
The neighborhood vibe has changed. It’s become much more upscale, but there’s still a flavor of the old New York. You feel like you are in Gotham City.
Weiland, along with his partners Alan Eckstein and Donna Kang, has seen their gritty midtown ‘hood transform right before their eyes, including the building of their newest neighbor, the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel, where Marriott TRAVELER caught up with the designer. He shares what he loves about New York and what he wants you to love too.
What is the vibe of the Garment District? What makes it special and how has it changed?
The Garment Center, for us, was really the birthplace of it all – as a brand, as a business, as a great collaboration with my business partners Alan and Donna… the neighborhood has really been a great launching pad. Anything you want to create can originate here.
The neighborhood vibe has changed. It’s become much more upscale, but there’s still a flavor of the old New York. You feel like you are in Gotham City. It’s a very productive manufacturing neighborhood and that really anchors it with a lot of character.
You see people really busy, running around with their lunch sacks, back and forth to trim shops and fabric jobbers and factories and cutting rooms and pattern-makers. You see people really working and not just working with laptops doing the modern-day tech thing; you see people actually lugging things around. I love that and it’s pretty rare.
A hotel experience feels special when you feel a question can be asked to anyone in the hotel and you can get a real answer about the neighborhood.
What makes the hotel experience memorable for you?
A hotel experience feels special when you feel a question can be asked to anyone in the hotel and you can get a real answer about the neighborhood. Google can only take you so far.
If you want to know about a dive bar or a favorite happy hour spot, I love being able to go downstairs and asking any number of people working in the hotel where to go. Because they know more than others where to actually go and what to see and what’s happening and I love knowing what’s happening.
Everywhere I go I ask a ton of questions. I ask the people that are on the ground. They can be eyes and ears and really open up the real neighborhood to you…. That seems to be cultivated here at the Renaissance. I love that it’s a real passion of the brand to bring that to the hotel.
What places inspire you creatively?
A lot of it is just around New York. So much inspiration is from here. From the city, from Rockaway Beach to even the Garment Center and running around where we are headquartered in Brooklyn. We don’t have to go too far to become inspired…. New York is almost a muse for us and it’s an extension of our personalities, because we really grew up here.
Play Navigator. Name a surprising place in New York City a newcomer should visit.
In this neighborhood, I would say Carbone on 38th Street is amazing. I had my first date there with my partner of almost seven years. It was a lunch date and the place is still there and it’s better than ever. It’s real authentic Italian food. [My partner] is Italian, so he was very impressed. Carbone is a gem. That’s one of my favorite places.
Also, Wakamba is a really amazing tiki bar on 8th Avenue between 37th and 38th. It’s kind of dive-y, very local, with lots of flavor. You never know what you are going to see in there, but I love that. We always take friends of ours, buyers, editors from Vogue and friends from other industries. We like taking people to Wakamba, because it’s a real experience. It’s been there forever and we love it.
In terms of Brooklyn spots, our headquarters is in the Pencil Factory, I would recommend that whole block. I live around the corner from Baby’s All Right, which is an incredible music venue that we also DJ at. Any night of the week you can see a world-class band or musical performance – everyone from The Knife to Jack White, even Wyclef and The Knocks.
I definitely see their names around down there and I know they are fans of that venue, and there is a reason for it, because it is very intimate, but it also packs a lot of energy. There’s a big lighting installation in the back…it’s just a really cool experience and very New York. I feel like for a lot of New Yorkers, that’s their favorite music venue.
What are your travel essentials?
When I travel, I travel pretty light unless I’m, going to a wedding that’s really dressy. I pack a couple of T-shirts, a couple of button ups, one or two leather jackets; maybe one piece of clothing appropriate for a dressy occasion, loafers and Vans. I love Vans shoes. They can take you from a plane to a DJ booth to a wedding.
It’s appropriate to be really dressed-up casual and as a brand that’s our look – casual cool, not stuffy, not overly coiffed. We’re definitely relaxed and there’s a little more ease to what we do.
All of us kind of grew up around and on sailboats, and fishing boats, so there are elements of that lifestyle, especially Long Island or Rockaway. Everything has to give. Nothing can be too tucked in or too buttoned up – a little more undone.
New York is almost a muse for us and it’s an extension of our personalities, because we really grew up here.
What’s one item that a traveler should take with them from your collection?
Definitely one of our leather jackets. It comes in almost every color. Our backpacks are also really versatile. They are minimal and modern. It feels luxe, but not too fancy. It’s a nice middle ground of functional and polished. It works for an adventure look.
What’s the next big fashion trend?
Versatility is more and more important. It’s something that people really look for when they invest in their look for the day, in the way they put themselves together for the office and that it looks good for drinks after or a work event.
It’s something that we’ve always had in our DNA. For our guy and girl, there’s a lot of spontaneity and unpredictability in their schedule. All of us have that in our lives. Things move fast, so you have to be ready for anything.