Extreme Know-Howe

Courtesy Jade Howe

An L.A. designer reveals hip young men’s fashions for spring. A classic Southern Californian who comes from a skateboard/surfboard culture, fashion designer Jade Howe calls his menswear “cowboy punk meets English country gentleman.”

The goal, he says, is for men dressed in his designs to win compliments from women. One way, he suggests, is wearing blue: “Women are attracted to men wearing the color blue.”

Though European designers such as Hedi Slimane and John Galliano inspire Howe, he doesn’t take the game too seriously. He still gets true clarity “going for a surf.”

Not surprising from a designer who distressed denim, as he says, by “taking my ’66 Dodge Charger with a 427 V8 to Irwindale speedway and dragging the jeans around the track, then finishing them off in the winner’s circle with a burnout.”

A graduate of Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, Howe reflects the West Coast-centric nature of Fashion Week El Paseo. He spent many years designing for surf and skate industry leaders, including Quicksilver and Fox Racing. In 1991, he started the apparel and surfboard divisions for the popular  retailer Hawaiian Island Creations. Yearning to take his experience to the next level and seeing a need to help men like himself dress better, Howe teamed with skateboard legends Tony Hawk and Per Welinder; they filtered their creative energy into a new label, Howe, which emphasizes contemporary sportswear that’s sophisticated yet modern, and inspired by music and the West Coast lifestyle.

The “cowboy punk meets English country gentleman” comes from his blend of European fashion trends and fabrication, as well as a “punk dandy aesthetic.” Howe championed the skinny jean and deconstructed blazer and helped the industry define a stylish new look for thirtysomething professionals.

“I want to level the playing field for guys,” he has said. “Fashion isn’t just for women. In fact, we are not only creating fitted tailored clothing for men. We’re doing it in a way that appeals to women. That’s the goal, to get the compliment, that nod of approval, the hand on your shoulder for an extra second adoring the soft, tactile feel of European fabric, such as Italian yarn.”

Seattle Pacific Industries pur-chased the Howe label in 2007, freeing the designer — who stayed onboard as creative director with his core team — to heighten the brand to its current status.

Today, he’s interested in the “indie executive”: the “hard-playing, creative, and career-minded guy whose lifestyle has him on the move from his corner office to backstage within minutes.”

The Jade Howe collection featured at Fashion Week El Paseo on Men’s Night (March 27, 2009) benefits Desert AIDS Project.

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