Spending Time with the Team at Timo Weiland

Spending Time with the Team at Timo Weiland

The design trio redefining rapid expansion through their brand Timo Weiland talks to V Magazine about the Internet’s role in fashion, late-night DJ-ing, and how it feels to be the inaugural team in the CFDA + Cadillac’s Retail Lab

The design trio redefining rapid expansion through their brand Timo Weiland talks to V Magazine about the Internet’s role in fashion, late-night DJ-ing, and how it feels to be the inaugural team in the CFDA + Cadillac’s Retail Lab

Photography: John Daniel Powers

Text: Sara Zion

Stepping into Timo Weiland’s new studio in Greenpoint, I get the overwhelming sense that I’ve arrived early to some sort of fashion loft soirée complete with the requisite attendance of young New York City trendsetters. I will later find out that all of these beautiful people are employees or friends of the brand—at once its greatest influencers and target audience. Though I’ve never met anyone in the room, I’m immediately greeted with hugs and a chorus of cooing hellos as the cheerful group rises from the sitting area (complete with a Marcel Breuer chair!), and offered a craft beer and a seat on one of the minimal-chic couches.

Donna Kang, Timo Weiland, and Alan Eckstein

The first thing I notice about the Timo Weiland headquarters is that it’s a direct iteration of the brand itself: clean lines with a splattering of colorful accents throughout. It’s approachable, yet sophisticated, and its versatile layout is peppered with a catalogue of cross-genre artistry. This new location is a poetically appropriate one for the brand, too. Like Greenpoint, Timo Weiland has done a lot of growing up in the past few years. Just as the borough’s waterfront area has gone from a destination for gritty warehouse parties to a picturesque home for young professionals and budding families, the Timo Weiland team has expanded from their shoebox-sized CFDA Incubator space in Manhattan’s Garment District to their current location, a light-flooded, open office/showroom. “The new space has been like a new chapter,” said Timo of the move.

Relocation, however, isn’t the only milestone this year for Timo Weiland, Donna Kang, and Alan Eckstein, the trio behind the blossoming brand. The team also collaborated with Banana Republic on a capsule collection featuring their signature crop tops and flouncy skirts, and, just hours before our meeting, celebrated the official announcement of being the first in a series of young designers to set up shop in the CFDA and Cadillac’s newly-launched Retail Lab. “It’s sort of the next step,” Eckstein says of setting up a physical location under the association’s guidance.

As any graduate will confirm, though, often the best part of an experience is the people you’re surrounded by on a daily basis. Working and learning amongst their peers, including close friend and designer Jonathan Simkhai, is definitely one thing the three have missed about the Incubator. Donna puts it perfectly, saying, “The people on the floor were the best part…we all were on the same path, around the same age and [dealing with] the same issues.” That does not mean, however, that healthy competition was lacking. Weiland reminisces, “Us and Jonathan Simkhai were totally swamping the work area…it was crazy!” Alan adds with a chuckle, “I would tell [the other designers’] interns that there was a sale going on downstairs and they’d leave the work room. ‘Yo, kids in Parsons and FIT, there’s a sample sale going on!’”

Timo Weiland Menswear

At the end of the day, though, all three are grateful for their time in the Incubator and for their experience with the CFDA as a whole. While many forget their roots in the wake of success, the Timo Weiland team has managed to stay grounded. As Timo says, “The CFDA is just being so gracious with us and, you know, I think that they like to help young designers [and] they have a great platform to help emerging [talent].”

Like most Millennials, the three designers will not let themselves be confined to only designing clothes, and offset their love of fashion with many other interests. Alan, for example, somehow still finds time to deal in high-end furniture, lending his eye for beautiful construction to other media. “I’m the type of person that gets more passion—I get very passionate about something; I learn a lot about it, and then I might move on [or] it might stay with me.” He finds some of his best furniture pieces at estate sales but there’s no escaping the web: “There are so many resources online to get beautiful things. If you have a little bit of taste and a little bit of knowledge, things really start opening up.”

As we discuss more about the information superhighway, I learn that the brand has managed to gain notoriety without the advantage of an online retail site until the end of last year. That said they are already feeling the effects of a broadened consumer base. “Everything’s at the fingertips [of the consumer] on the internet… So, for us to just be launching e-comm at the end of November, we’re finally tapping into that,” says Weiland. Like their consumer-base, all three designers are a part of the “Information Generation,” giving them a better understanding of their customers’ needs. When designing a cocktail dress, they know that cocktail parties may be outdated, even if the silhouette is timeless. Alan chimes, “Creating clothing is always trying to create something that’s your ideal self, so I think that’s a really interesting place to start. Like, what would you wear on, say, a time with your girlfriend? What would you wear with your boyfriend? What would you wear to look your best—and not [necessarily] to look the fanciest but look your coolest?”

The Timo Weiland Office/Showroom in Greenpoint

Their position as both creator and consumer means they also understand the millennial inability to wait for anything. Case in point: we get sidetracked for a moment as our stomachs rumble and Alan admits, “I cannot fathom the wait of an hour at a restaurant in a place where great restaurants are everywhere. Plus, when you’re hungry, you gotta eat!” At a time when a few seconds seems to be too, the future of design may not necessarily be in “fast fashion,” but fashion faster. This isn’t exactly a revelation, though. With mid-priced brands from around the globe just a click away, the on-trend offerings available to the consumer are more readily available than ever. Alan lays it, saying, “We’re all competing with the Zaras and the H&Ms and the COS of the world, and they’re all doing a great job at what [they do], so we have to diversify. This marketplace, this price point, has to get smart.”

So what sets them apart? “I would like to say our quirky personalities,” Alan muses and, even though he means it as a joke, it is their personal views and life experiences that they bring to Timo Weiland that gives them a unique voice in a saturated world of fashion.

As we begin to zero in on their collective journey into fashion and life in New York, the team dives into their love for music, which permeates their designs, as well as their everyday lives. With the eclectic mix of folk, alternative, and pop-rock music that served as the soundtrack to our meeting, it’s no surprise that Timo and Alan have even been DJ-ing—under the apt name T&A—for years. As a result, they have drawn lots of inspiration from the late-night party scene. Timo explains, “there’s a really eccentric group of people that you encounter when you’re DJ-ing… You never know what you’re going to encounter, still to this day in New York!” Like any 20-something in the city, though, Timo remarks “[we are] very particular about where we DJ now, just [because of] our time. You know, we love it, we love music. We love doing these snippet sets where it’s not long—like an hour.”

Amidst all the changes, one thing has stayed consistent for the team: inspiration and input from those who are close to them. The brand’s stylist is Eckstein’s girlfriend, Haley Loewenthal, whom he calls a muse for their designs; and during my visit Timo steps away to take a call from his mother, an early supporter of the label, and the person he credits with teaching him to sew at an early age. “She works with us a lot. She’s been involved since day one, heavily involved—she’s great!” says Donna. The trio even met through an old roommate of Alan’s, but they go back almost a decade now. Donna can rattle off the entire story of the day Timo met the love of his life, and each of the three can finish one of the others’ sentences.

Whether it’s their friends or music, the most important influence on the team is feeling. “When we chose our photographers and things like that, it’s more about the attitude; and that’s the same with the music, too. There’s a feeling there, an attitude, and the rest just comes kind of naturally.”

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