DenimBlog Exclusive: Interview with OPENMARKET’s Kevin Chen

We had a chance to interview Creative Director of OPENMARKET, Kevin Chen. OPENMARKET is a new brand that modernizes the classic James Dean look into pieces that are sure to be classics themselves and coveted by many who own them. The collection is amazing. There are some really great pieces, especially those striped trousers and those jackets. You can read about how he first started in the industry, what inspired him this season, and more below. You can also see looks from the current look book below.

DenimBlog: How did you get your start?

OPENMARKET: I started working in the fashion industry back in 1983 while I lived in New York. It was then that I fell in love with fashion. Over these past 30 years, my experience includes working in the garment factory as a trim buyer, pattern maker, and a production manager. I was also an owner of several high-end retail boutiques in California. For a brief time, I also designed an exclusive men’s dress shirt and neck-tie label under the name “Cinn Kediaoni” which was made in Italy as well as a private label leather jacket brand for Bergdorf Goodman.

The experience I attained from my previous years in the industry has led me to launch MEK Denim, where I was a founder, CEO and Creative Director from 2005 – 2011. I have always been passionate about fashion and its high pace. Although the fashion industry has been rewarding to me in many facets, it has also been challenging at times. However, I enjoy overcoming the challenges and being on my toes. Most importantly, I find being in the fashion industry allows me to be on the forefront of what the next big thing is, and that I find truly exciting.

DB: What made you want to start your own line?

OM: My vision for OPENMARKET was to create a platform that would allow designers and artists to work with me to build a company and a brand that represents these individuals in a UNITED environment, where each individual associated with the brand is PASSIONATE and SUCCESSFUL in what they do, and from that, to be able to achieve their personal WEALTH. I envision OPENMARKET as a place where I am able to bring creative and like minded individuals together. I can only hope that my contribution to the fashion industry is to give you another reason to smile.

DB: How did you come up with the name OPENMARKET?

OM: Well, my wife, Cynthia and I are quite fond of flea markets. It’s a pastime that we both enjoy doing together. Often times, we would attend the Rose Bowl Flea Market to rediscover old ideas, and to see if we can reinvent them and make something new from it. We have always found the idea of a flea market to be very unique and extraordinary because you never know what you’ll find, but you’re almost sure you’ll find something cool and interesting by the end of your search. In short, the name OPENMARKET comes from our love of flea markets and while on a drive with Cynthia upon this open road, the word OPEN came to her mind, and she suggested OPENMARKET. In other words, that OPEN road ahead of us signified the thought of simply being OPEN to ideas and staying OPENMINDED. Hence, OPENMARKET was born.

DB: What can we expect in this new line?

OM: The collection will be an extension to our SS12 collection and will host a broader line plan comprising of garment dyed leather jackets, sports jacket/blazers, chunky cable-knit sweaters & hoodies, amongst a few other key essentials like henleys and denim jackets in a variety of complimentary colors. Our fabric choices for tops will primarily include loosely knitted french terry, sheer thermals, leather, cotton denim, and Japanese hemp selvedge. In addition to that, we are also continuing other popular silhouettes from our SS12 collection, primarily our Boho Re-Engineered Tri-Blend T-Shirts, L/S Wide Stripe Henleys, Hooded Ponchos, Deconstructed Sweat-Shirts, Japanese Selvedge hemp dress shirts but with new updated fabric selections.

For our bottoms, our choice in fabrics are going to show up in a softer light weight wool pin stripe, Italian Twills, Duck Canvas and Indigo Denim which will allow for more drape and a softer hand. FW12 will also feature our signature 6 pocket jeans in a new straight cut and our signature carpenter pants treated with our own exclusive “oil dye” treatment. Additionally, we will be including a 14oz Japanese denim in a new slouch slim fit, color canvas in full leg fashion pants, and garment dyed 6-pocket crop jeans in multiple colors.

DB: What was your inspiration for this season?

OM: As we transition to FW12, our collection focuses on a more iconic portrayal of 1950’s icon, James Dean, encapsulating his essence during this decade, but with a 21st century perspective. We wanted to present a collection that we felt would give the feeling of true modern day man, but indicative of all the characteristics that James Dean once possess during his heyday. James Dean was rebellious, sexy, artistic, and admired. We wanted our collection to look and feel like something James Dean would have worn if he was living in this decade.

DB: I noticed a few pairs of colored denim. What made you decide to come out with color for the men?

OM: I have always loved colors. I live a colorful life, and I feel it’s important to include it in the wardrobe. It’s one thing to stick to the basics, as they do transcend from season to season. However, adding color denim to my collection was important because I think denim doesn’t always have to be blue to be a staple piece.

DB: How many pairs of jeans do you own? And which is your go-to?

OM: I own way too many jeans and too many that I call my favorite. But I’m going to be honest, my two most favorite pairs right now is OPENMARKET K1-6 pocket jeans in Dark Orange, and the K8 Carpenter pant! These two pairs have been on serious rotation for me. Both great washes and great fits!

DB: What are your favorite pieces from this season?

OM: A few of my favorite pieces is the K8-Grey Herring Carpenter pants, O3-Dk Indigo Raw Blazer, O4-Burgandy Leather Moto Jacket, and our ultra plush O6-Black Alpaca Wool cardigan sweater.

DB: At what stores will we find OPENMARKET at?

OM: OPENMARKET can be found at Bloomingdales, Atrium in NYC, NY; Blakes in Portland, OR; Stades & Co in Costa Mesa, CA; and other high end specialty boutiques.