Brandon Mahler on High-Low Style
- August 7, 2014
- Written By David Chen
Just over a year ago, I met Brandon Mahler at an event held by The Houston Collective at The Class Room. He was running the 3Sixteen pop-up shop and noticed that I was wearing the indigo dyed 3sixteen X Converse. For awhile I thought he worked for 3Sixteen but it turns out he works for Gucci.
He is known around town as the guy who is super into fashion but kind of follows the beat of his own drum. He wears what he wants and looks cool every single time. Brandon discussed his opinion on High-Low style and took us through his fashion phases.
What are your thoughts on Frida Giannini vs Tom Ford (current and former creative directors of Gucci)? Do you think the dynamic has changed since Ford? Do you think it’s more squared away? More creative?
I think its a little more creative now, kinda sorta. It’s weird because it’s very hit or miss with Frida but with Ford everything was good, good, good, and good. Clients that have been there forever feel the same way too, especially with ready to wear. When I think about Gucci I think about women’s ready to wear and suiting.
What Ford did for the company was insane, I don’t think Frida is close yet to be honest. Her stuff is improving for sure, but have you seen women’s FW ’97??
Does she do anything better than Tom did?
Color, she is a big fan of color. A lot of stuff I see is very colorful but overall she does color pretty well. That’s just me and in my time what I have seen.
How would you classify Houston’s style now?
I’m trying to answer this without firing shots. Houston as a whole is still very conservative. Still very, behind. People are just now getting into selvedge denim and treating J.crew like it’s ’06 and there aren’t other choices out there.
Do you see Houston’s style evolving?
I don’t know how to describe it; I guess it’s like any bigger city. You’ve got so many small “cliques” and subsects of “style” out here. I see a lot of stuff going on so it’s hard to narrow it down. We’re a very diverse city so I do see all the stuff you’d see in NY or LA out here.
Talk about any aesthetic that you would like to see gain some traction in Houston:
This is such a weird thing to me because I am so used to everyone doing their own thing. I can’t think of any aesthetic that I would like to see more of. Maybe just people not caring so much?
One of my favorite things is High-Low, which is mixing high end stuff with low end stuff. It’s just cool. Not high end stuff with Forever 21 but more like a thrifted piece or something their parents gave them, I like that a lot and wouldn’t mind seeing it because most of the time you see a lot of people who are “oh everything is designer.”
Houston is definitely weird because there is still a lot of showboating. I guess High-Low because that is how people create their own style. It’s a good way to find yourself.
Can you share more about the philosophy of High-Low in depth?
I hate using the “norm-core” thing but I feel it is a pretty good example. People doing the Ervell denim, an older trainer, maybe a really jawnzy top that is crazy and a nice or not so nice hat. I do this all the time where I will wear a Helmut Lang denim; a really boring shoe, maybe Forces or something; a band tee and my CDG coat over it.
For me, High-Low is doing one designer piece and everything else will be a band tee or an everyday item, something that is normal and not crazy. I don’t know what other people consider “low” but for me its a non-fashion piece.
Many people who are into fashion are also into the arts as whole and have separate interests in other forms. What other form of art are you engaged in and how do they relate to one another?
I do a lot of photo. I find it interesting and I really like fashion photography. I also do a lot of film stuff. Other than that I just started dabbling in sculpture. I have friends who do photo, paintings and sculptures so it’s all interesting to me. I think all of it goes back to music because I am in bands as well.
Everyone that I have ever met and all the connections I have made have been through music. Someone will be on tour or just come out and we will talk about this and that and it turns out we have common interests. My friend Spencer for example was on tour with a band a few summers ago, we kept in touch and he would say “Oh you are wearing APC, that’s cool I’m wearing this” and I would say “oh I’m wearing Acne” and he would be like “oh my god.” We ended up going to The Class Room and then later he started interning for 3sixteen. We have been friends ever since.
I’ve just made a lot of friends through music that just do amazing photo work which keeps me inspired. It makes me think “that’s fun, I want to do photo too.” Each connection made helps me branch out.
Favorite designer past, future, present and why?
It’s like which kid do you love more. Past for sure is Rei Kawakubo (CDG) and future, Gosha; he’s only had a few collections.
I haven’t seen anything that I am really into at the moment. I feel my future and present are interchangeable. What I do is always changing because I dress the way I feel. Ideally, Hedi Slimane is cool, Hedi right now.
Any styles you really want to get into but you just can’t?
I’ve tried so many things that I thought was cool. I tried to do my take on goth-ninja for a few weeks and I thought “this is sick”. I would wear cropped sweats and over-sized tees but then I realized “ehh this isn’t going to work for me”.
Cool hats are tight but I can’t do it. Something about my face. Saint Laurent did a huge men’s hat that I thought was cool but I don’t think I am tall enough and my face isn’t chiseled enough for that. I saw one at the store and I tried it on but honestly I don’t know what I was thinking, I looked stupid. There is this cool shop in Austin that I go to that carries Etudes. I tried that hats on and I don’t know what I was expecting, it looked stupid the last two times so I don’t know why it’s going to look good now.
SB– I keep buying slouch beanies thinking that it’s going to look good.
Brandon – Slouch beanies will never look good.
SB – I keep trying though.
Brandon – I have never seen a single person in a slouch beanie that I am like “DAMN, that’s who I want to be cool with.” It’s hot as shit outside but i’m in a jacket so who am I to talk.
I wish I liked shorts. I wish I liked going out in shorts but I feel really weird in shorts. I’ve only worn shorts a few times this summer and it wasn’t intentional. I left the house without thinking and realized “man, I’m wearing shorts”
Can you take us through your fashion phases?
I don’t know if I ever went through fashion phases but I have gone through style phases.
Middle school, I was really hesh. Hesh (Hesher) is when kids were really skater and wore jeans so skinny they would have to buy girl jeans because at the time guy skinny jeans didn’t exist so you were buying women’s jeans. I used to be like “mom, I need pair of jeans.” I would take a pair of her jeans and then get them sewn up so they were skinnier. They were also all elastic which is great when you are skating you need it. Then you would buy a really long tee. You would be in a 2XL tee or a XL hoodie.
That was the first time where I started dressing myself and I looked in the mirror and said “this is what I want to do” and it was so bad. No one has done Hesh in years but I see it sometimes and i’m thinking “hell yes, this kid just doesn’t care.”
After that I started doing scene kid stuff. I would dye my hair, wear tight jeans and wear band tees because that is when I started getting really into music.
Then I got into high school and I found out about thrift stores and started thrifting everything. In school we had to wear uniforms, which was just denim and a polo but I thought it would be funny to get a polo of something stupid like cheer or choir from a school I didn’t go to.
When they started relaxing the dress code a little more I started doing weird things. I would cut button ups with scissors if they were too long.
One summer I did a very Ivy League thing where it was shorts and polo oxford, Hamptons type stuff. I thrifted a pair of Allen Edmonds but it didn’t last long because I looked at myself in the mirror and said “what the $@#% am I doing? This is so bad” because I am nothing like anyone else who dresses like that.
From there I just went towards wanting to buy cool stuff and I started caring and reading up more. In my senoir year in high school, I kind of went through a traditional menswear phase. We had Barney’s here for awhile and I would buy a bunch of stuff there. I would also hit up Billy Reid but wait for sales then buy up tees or whatever they had. I was really just trying things out. I was into desert boots, they were hot, everyone was into those. I actually took my desert boots in to get another sole put on it and everyone thought “this is stupid” but in my mind it was so tight.
Working retail really helped when I started looking into designers a little more. I got into Y-3 and sporty type stuff. I also got into Thom Browne and I remember buying a Brooks Brothers Black Fleece rugby polo, oxfords and a really expensive pair of sweats. I really love sweats and I want to wear them everywhere.
I remember doing Cozy Boy for awhile, it was my favorite. When the UU collection dropped I bought almost every pair of pants. They are all super cozy and comfortable pants. The cropped sweats and the cotton pants was all I wore.
I did the all white Tretorns, wore a long tee then took a Yohji cardigan and tied it around my waist. People were like “damn you look insane”and I was like “man I feel cool” but I looked at photos afterwards and I looked like an idiot. I still leave the house and wonder what the heck I’m doing.
It’s all about finding yourself. “What am I comfortable in?”
What would you call your style now?
Hmm, I made a tweet the other day and I called it “gothic sporty spice”. I am doing so much tech wear and athletic wear, but majority of it is black and white. From there I am mixing it with Saint Laurent denim or Adidas track pants. For example an outfit will be boots, SLP denim, an Adidas track shirt, a denim jacket, a dangly earring and an Adidas hat. You know, gothic sporty spice.
What is your favorite item that you have in your closet?
The Comme Des Garcon trench, I wear it all the time. It is so perfect for here because it’s so thin. It’s a wool but its not a heavy wool so as soon as it hits high 60s I am in that thing. It looks good, I can just build up from it. It’s between that and my Saint Laurent denim.
Conversely what are your worst purchases?
I have made so many of those. That cardigan (Yohji) is probably one of the best and worst things I have bought. I sell most of my bad decisions, but it could be that cardigan because it keeps coming to mind. It’s not even mainline Yohji.
Describe an outfit, head to toe, you want to wear, but don’t have the funds for.
Probably something super insane, Saint Laurent outerwear, Raf shirt, Raf pants and Saint Laurent boots. What I really want right now is a few more Raf and Saint Laurent pieces, Even working for a company that is associated with Saint Laurent and my discount it’s still insane. Especially for the items I really want like the outerwear and boots.
Where do you see yourself fashion wise in 5 years?
Honestly, I just want to buy less stuff. I want to perfect a uniform, something I can wear every day.
What is your fashion endgame?
What is anyone’s fashion endgame? I think about that a lot. When you are younger you are thinking about street wear or any other style but now as you are older you are getting more high end but really what is the end game? I don’t see myself wearing suits, that may be an end game for a lot of people but its not me. Maybe I will just end up not caring and then just start over. I think about “what’s next” a lot.
Tips for our readers?
Be yourself. At the end of the day we are such a small subculture and we are all, for the most part grown men talking about clothes and that is weird to most people.
You go to a lot of these events and you see people geeking over clothes but being yourself is probably the coolest thing you can do. I’ve gone to events and people think I’m cool because I like “this, and this, and this and I think that’s cool.” Fashion is a huge part of my life but I don’t know if i’m going to like it in 10 years.
I talk a lot of shit about what people do but at the end of the day who cares. Just do what you do. The majority of my friends don’t wear anything remotely fashionable but they are still my best friends. Remember it’s just clothes and I mean it matters but it also really doesn’t.
Here comes the fun part. One word answers. What comes to mind when you hear these words
- Ugh – does that count?
- Bow tie.
Lighting Round – You will be allowed only 8 seconds to answer.
- Top 3 designers: Raf, Gosha, Hedi
- Money is no object what fashion item do you buy? Saint Laurent 5 zip leather jacket
- What is an item so badass, you would buy the Zara\H&M\Forever 21 men version? Nothing. I can’t think of anything. The only thing I consider at Zara are birks. Maybe the women’s grid tee. I considered copping a women’s 3XL.
- Tom Ford Double Breasted Peak Lapel Suit or Hedi era single breasted thin notch black 2 button suit? Hedi but I’m not tall enough not skinny enough.
- Perfect leg opening? 7″ but then I pinch cuff it. I do that with everything.
- Douchiest item off the top of your head? There is just too many but anything Pyrex, anything with studs and sometimes I think Visvim is douchey.
- Derek or Hansel? Derek
- Blue Steel or Magnum (or Ferrari and Le Tigra for that matter)? Blue Steel
- Rank how bad these designers are in the order of shittiest to not shittiest.
- Marc Jacobs
- Michael Kors
- Jeremy Scott
Don’t forget to check out Brandon’s band: Dress Code
Also to check out more of his stuff follow him on Tumblr,Twitter and Instagram.
Photos are courtesy of Levi Lemaster:
Instagram – Levi@somethingbespoke.com
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