Invention vs. Reinvention: Why You Should Make the Product That Already Exists

Modern classics are the items that resonate with us, that become an indelible part of our everyday routines. Staples are synonymous with quality, thanks to frequent use and wear that relegate a poorly-crafted item to the dark corners of the closet if they don’t make the grade. Today, we talk to four designers about why they chose to put their own spin on the classics, and how they used heritage, history, and forward-thinking design to create a memorable end product.

Cover photography provided by Grovemade


Grovemade: Reinventing Tech Accessories With A Handmade Twist

Grovemade was founded by friends Joe Mansfield and Ken Tomita in 2009.


Why redesign the sleeve?

Ken Tomita: Our brand is not about finding something that has never been done, or inventing new technologies. Our value is not in the idea of the functionality of a product. Our value is in execution. Due to our unique setup where we both design and manufacture under one roof we believe we can do anything well… it’s just a matter of picking which areas we want to go into.

What does your design do differently?

Ken: Our tech sleeves started with the construction technique. We constantly experiment with materials and construction methods and found a combination we found appealing. Laser-cutting veneer into the geometric pattern and laminating it on wool felt creates an interesting combination of soft malleable feel and hard smooth texture.  When the device is placed into the sleeve, the faceted exterior flexes outwards creating a 3D geometric pattern.

How do you frame your item from a marketing perspective?

Ken: We like to think of our products as extensions of ourselves. Hopefully, rather than thinking about our products as simply an object our customers see who, what, and the why that is behind the product.


Lazlo: The Heirloom White Crewneck T-Shirt

Christian Birky is the founder of Lazlo, a Detroit-based menswear essentials brand launching in July 2015.

Why redesign the white crewneck?

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Christian Birky: I find it most meaningful to design the pieces I’ll get the most use out of, and at the top of my list of wardrobe essentials is a white crewneck t-shirt. The t-shirt is arguably one of America’s most significant contributions to menswear. Its roots are in workwear and in the military, and I’m fascinated by the political and cultural connotations of that history. A significant focus of our design has been around quality, and, in particular, the fabric. To stay true to the roots of the garment, we went with a heavier weight fabric than a lot of t-shirts are made of today. If you want to work in it, which we hope you do, it’s going to stand up well and only get softer with time.

What does your design do differently?

Christian: Because the garment has been done so many times, the easiest way to make our Heirloom Tee stand out would be to do something bold, but what I really wanted to do was to get the subtle details perfect. That’s why you notice the slightly curved hem, and the drape that’s encouraged by the vent and the little bit longer, slimmer fit. We’re always looking to simplify, so each detail we adjust has to add value and be done very consciously. I thought about how I would wear the shirt and how our target customer base would wear it; getting feedback about what they’re looking for has been very helpful.

How do you frame your item from a marketing perspective?

Christian: We frame Lazlo as an opportunity to create a more meaningful relationship with the clothing we wear every day. We reconsider the perception of t-shirts as a disposable item and talk about how the Heirloom Tee is designed, sourced and crafted responsibly. We aim for transparency by describing how our supply chain is vertically integrated, and make sure customers are aware that we provide fair wages, support local manufacturing and that we have eliminated toxins from the production process. We are lucky to be working with a 100% organic Supima cotton fabric, which really stands on its own; to put that in perspective, only 3% of American cotton is Supima, and only 1% of that is organic. To convey the attention that has gone into developing the custom jersey and into construction details, we offer a lifetime guarantee.

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Marieclaire St John is the designer of Dresshirt, a customizable line inspired by authentic 1920’s shirting details

DRESSHIRT: The Classic Tailored Shirt

Why redesign the classic tailored dress shirt?

Marieclaire St John: A classic is a classic for a reason. A woman will always go back to a classic tailored shirt so it should continue to evolve and to adapt to the lifestyle of the modern woman. I find it so exciting to take on that responsibility, to read what we as women need in our lifestyle today and to put that into a garment that makes us feel strong, sexy and confident in our personal style.

What does your design do differently?

Marieclaire: The MSJ Dresshirt is women’s silk shirt that adheres to menswear details while fitting a woman’s body. Most of the menswear-inspired designs on the market at the moment feature an oversized, masculine silhouette with feminine details. By offering the opposite, we are playing up the most beautiful elements of womenswear and of menswear, flattering the figure instead of hiding it while giving a little bit of masculine edge.

How do you frame your item from a marketing perspective?

Marieclaire: The MSJ Dresshirt is a must have, it is a go-to item for today’s woman that is both functional and cool. With customizable features such as convertible cuffs, a removable collar, and custom embroidery, you have the opportunity to have your classic and make it personal too.

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Imperium Woodcraft: The Men’s Razor Made Beautiful

Dan Janssen is the founder of Imperium Woodcraft, a small artisanal woodshop producing high-quality hand-turned grooming accessories available.

Why redesign the men’s razor?

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Dan Janssen: I think people have come to a point where honest hand-made goods mean a lot. Smart consumers are looking for products that show thought, skill, style and a craftsman’s touch. Most of what is sold today is machine made, mass produced, and quite honestly ugly. I think we do ourselves a disservice by surrounding our homes, and lives with these things. Honest, stylish goods with quality material, and a makers hand, have always been a passion of mine. I have always sought to fill my life with as much quality as I could manage. Yes I could shave perfectly fine with a cheap plastic razor, I could also wear a cheap tie from walmart, but using something that looks and feel good everyday adds a great deal of satisfaction and style to my routine. And quality just feels better.

What does your design do differently?

Dan: Our razors fit the Gillette line of cartridges, but they are made from sustainable hardwoods, turned by hand in MD.  Our look is truly unique and our style is unsurpassed. You simply can’t buy a finer razor.

How do you frame your item from a marketing perspective?

Dan: We are proud to make our razors by hand in the USA. We promote our small batch production along with our attention to quality.  We also promote the idea that well made products like our razors are a luxury but are also affordable. Our hope is to be thought of as the most exquisite razors in the world and promote shaving as a ritual to be enjoyed.

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