If you're a professional in the fashion industry, chances are you'll hear Paul Witt's name long before you get the chance to him. He's the ultimate people and brand connector; at one point or another, he's probably consulted for one of your favorite menswear brands or must-read lifestyle publication. His resume is extremely impressive. Paul worked for ten years at denim powerhouse Diesel during the nineties where he oversaw the global marketing plan for all branches of their business: Diesel kids, 55DSL, Diesel Style Lab and D-Squared. From there, he went to be VP of Global marketing at Mavi jeans, followed by another VP of Marketing & Communications position at Original Penguin.
In 2009, he flipped the script and began consulting full-time. His clients to date have included Creative Recreation, Interview Magazine, Club Monaco, Man of the World, Valetmag.com, and A Continuous Lean.
His newest personal venture is a new online store and brick & mortar shop called Wittmore. The e-commerce shop was launched in the Fall of 2012 and the physical shop opened a year later. Both outlets are developing quite a loyal following due to Mr. Witt's expert curation of men's brands and his deep understanding of shopping trends. We met up with Paul on a blustery, bone-chilling afternoon during NYC Market Week in late January, and you can enjoy the ensuing interview below:
How did you first get into this crazy world of fashion?
I studied at the School of Visual Arts for Graphic Design in New York City and got a job at a famous shop at the time called Antique Boutique. It was one of the first shops in New York to have a DJ spinning full time during operating hours. My role was head merchandiser and visual manager for the window displays. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be in this ever-changing fashion business.
From all the different places you’ve worked in your whole career, what job or client stands out the most?
The job in my career that I would say stands out the most would be at Diesel. I joined the company in the mid 90s and saw the brand explode in nine years. It’s hard to replicate the growth that brand had because it’s a different time now. But Diesel showed me the world and from a brand perspective, you have to believe in what you are doing in the marketplace. Those skills are always with me.
Everyone seems to know you as the connector and the man who knows nearly everyone – do you have a secret to networking?
Secretly I am an agent for everyone. There is no method to my madness but I like a good conversation and genuinely getting to know people. It feels good to connect people and brands with each other. It is like making magic happen.
In your experience, what do you think is the biggest misconception about the fashion industry?
The Fashion business is full of very creative and influential people from all over the world. It feels like public perception is that everyone hangs out, shops, travels and looks amazing all the time but what they don’t realize is that we work all the time.
Is there a movie that captures pretty accurately the fashion industry you know?
There is not one movie that comes to mind. But if you have not seen the documentary “Unzipped” which is about Isaac Mizrahi’s brand in the 90’s high point of fashion, I highly recommend you see it.
Moving on, what would you say is the overarching fashion approach and merchandising angle with your shop Wittmore?
Wittmore has a very at ease approach to its merchandising mix. I want a guy not to feel “vibed” out in the shop or online. The brand mix is taking a bunch of genres and presenting them in an approachable way that is edited to the best of the best for that guy who doesn’t have time to be checking out every retailer.
What are the brands that are most embraced by your customers?
Almost every brand has performed very well on the site and in store in our new LA location. Our core brands are Universal Works, Levis Vintage Clothing, Apolis, Creep, Gant Rugger to name a few.
What facet of your business generates more revenue – online or the physical shop in Los Angeles?
We are still such a new business. But the website has been around for 1.5 years now so it has a jump start to the brick and mortar portion. Looking at the first quarter of the two combined I can’t complain about at all.
How would you describe the customers that come into your shop – are most of them very savvy about the world of menswear or are they guys just wanting to look good?
The guy that comes into our shop is a mix of in the know, the local and the tourist, which evens out in that percentage. Many guys now are more comfortable in what is happening in “menswear” so they are taking an interest in where the brand comes from, their story and where the product is made.
How would you describe your own personal style – what fundamentals are your wardrobe built around?
I like to have a good time with my personal style. I like to mix it up a little with the brands I wear and styles. There is always an inspiration with what is coming from the runway to the street. But I do go through periods of being minimal and morphing it all to a uniform with no decisions.
You recently moved to LA after being a certified New Yorker for so many years – how is the transition and how are you adjusting?
There was no adjustment. I spent 18 years in NYC so it was time for me to take a chance and try out living somewhere else. I am from Long Island and New Jersey – so Los Angeles is a City/Suburb that basically has the best of both worlds. Also the weather is great all year long!
What goodies and special offerings can we expect from Wittmore for S/S 2014?
SS14 we were definitely inspired by California. There is an “at ease” nature out here that you don’t see anywhere else around the world. The pieces chosen were picked to merge the east coast to the west coast. I am a big believer in wanting guys to be inspired when they shop in our shop or online.
Where do you see Wittmore 5/10 years from now?
There definitely could be 3 – 5 stores on both coasts for Wittmore in that time period. This concept can go many places which I think about all the time. Women’s keeps coming up but I am on in the fence with that. Wittmore is not a cookie cutter retail brand and as long as I am involved in this business it won’t be.
If you're in LA, visit Wittmore at: 8236 W 3rd St Los Angles, CA 90046
Or you can shop online at: www.shopwittmore.com