Little Style Finder is so excited to introduce you to a favorite brand of ours…
Frank & Lu– a new label for boys and girls ages 2 to 14, selling uber-chic outwear (the leather jacket is amazing!), sweaters, pants, denim, knits, tees, skirts and dresses.
Name: MIchael Jarvela
Title: Founder, CEO of Frank & Lu
Facebook: Frank and Lu
Pinterest: Coming Soon
Please tell us a bit about yourself: I’m a veteran fashion designer of 18 years, mostly in menswear, and most recently I left my post as VP of men’s design for Gap. I created JCrew’s best selling tee shirts ever when we went to lighter weight and softer washed tees right after Mickey Drexler joined the company. I’ve also designed for Banana Republic, Express and Club Monaco. I’ve lived in Manhattan for 23 years. l graduated from Parson’s school of design in 1993. I currently live in Chelsea with my wife, Kerry, two children, Francis and Lucy, and Marty- our dog.
What is the story behind Frank & Lu? The idea for Frank and Lu was born partly from necessity, and partly because after the arrival of our son 7 years ago, I really didn’t like the offering in boys’ clothes in the market. Since he was old enough to have an opinion, my son Francis would not wear scratchy, stiff clothes with dinosaur decals on them. And though my daughter loves pink, and ruffles and tulle, Lucy can be uncomfortable for about 7 1/2 minutes before a outfit change ensues. Uncomfortable clothes just don’t work for a busy family. So I built a fashion line that incorporates a high degree of style with comfort built in, using lighter weight fabrics that are easy to get in and out of. I also found it difficult to find beautiful solid color clothing to layer. I’m big on creating the perfect tee shirt for boys and girls, and I think it’s critical to have a tee you can layer under sweaters, without stuff all over it, or especially in girls, things like ruffles which don’t allow a cardigan to look nice or fit comfortably.
What does this brand stand for? I wanted to create some simple pieces with more of a twist, or nod to high style, with attention to some of the details that matter, like zippers, or buttons. I wanted to make clothes an adult would want to wear, but more importantly an alternative to all the clothes out there that are designed with every item having stuff put all over it. I also wanted to make a line, that was reasonably affordable. Most designer lines have some amazing pieces, but to get a perfect white poplin shirt, or peacoat, or sweater without stuff all over it, seems to cost the most when it doesn’t have to.
Who is the Frank & Lu customer (who are you designing for)? Parents who can’t find anything but pink and purple, monster trucks and pirates. Parents who need to mix in something to the pattern on pattern on color on color on stuff on stuff. Kids who want to be comfortable and look like Mom and Dad. If mom is shopping at James Perse or Vince and Dad appreciates Rag and Bone, or APC, then I wanted to create a line of clothes they would like to put on their children.
What drew you to starting your own line? The frustration my fellow designers expressed at how difficult it was to find fashionable kids clothes that didn’t cost their college education.
What inspires you? Beautiful, simple style with an attention to trims and subtle details. The most inspirational place for me to shop is Tokyo, because they have such a thoughtful eye toward design in how they do everything, from photography, to graphics, to presentation, packaging, and the twist they put on clothing design. I’d give you a more esoteric answer like fine art, or Sunday in central park, but I honestly love crafting product, making clothes is fun, and when you get something that looks great, and a kid will actually wear with ease, it’s a joy.
What children’s brands currently in the marketplace do you admire and
why? Trico Field – great design, but very pricey, and it has a lot of stuff on it, but it’s beautiful crafted product, fabric and details are great. I also like Crewcuts a lot, I think they’ve done a good job with mixing some of the whimsy, with some good simple design, and not too much stuff. And I wish James Perse still did kids clothes.
What advice would you give to parents shopping for their children? If at all possible put the clothes on your kid and ask them. I got so frustrated even getting my son in tees when he was young, I got to the point where I’d hold up two tees and say which one, and he’d always pick the lighter yarn, with looser tension tee, that was most comfortable. I’d rather have clothes that my kids will wear out and destroy than fight with them to wear something that they find uncomfortable. BTW my son is one of those kids who refuses to wear jeans, and only lives in sweatpants and shorts, so everything I design has to pass the test of whether or not he’ll wear it.
Do you find that most parents take the same stylistic approach with dressing their children as they do with themselves? Yes- I think that’s natural, but I think the options are somewhat limited for parents to do that, which is another reason I created the line. I don’t advocate the mini me dressing philosophy, unless a mini you really makes your kid happy.