Wardrobe: Changing Course

When David Chu sold his Nautica clothing brand in 2003 to VF Corp. for more than $585 million, the designer and businessman envisioned whiling away his days on the golf course. But after only nine days of indulging in his favorite pastime, he became restless and realized the life of leisure was not for him.

Chu soon boarded a plane bound for Italy, where he developed a menswear collection that he describes as “luxe sportswear,” comprising cashmere/goat hair blazers, trim moleskin trousers, and full-length yellow shearling parkas. The David Chu collection quietly debuted last fall in selected Saks Fifth Avenue stores, which had a one-season exclusive with the label. This spring, Chu will present the line to a much wider, albeit still discerning, audience through such specialty retailers as Andrew Davis in Indiana; Garys in Newport Beach, Calif.; Family Britches in Chappaqua, N.Y.; and the Vivre catalog and web site. To coincide with the spring launch, Chu also plans to open a six-story brownstone in Midtown Manhattan, where he will offer a complete made-to-measure service for mostly handmade suits, dress shirts, and neckwear.

“With this collection I really wanted to push the taste level up a notch [from Nautica],” says Chu, who founded that mass-market brand 23 years ago with six sailing jacket models and built it into a $1 billion powerhouse. The revenue from the Nautica sale gave him the clout to source exclusive fabrics from Italy, Scotland, and Ireland, and to contract some of Italy’s finest menswear factories to produce apparel for his new venture.

As he did at Nautica, Chu has based his spring collection on specific themes, which he has named Deauville, Naturals, and Blue Chips.

“Deauville is a navy-on-light-blue and white color story,” explains Chu, who uses these classic hues in pin-striped linen-and-wool blazers, fine English pinwale corduroy trousers, and cotton peacoats. The Naturals, with colors ranging from shades of oyster to sand to khaki, are what he calls his “leisure-elegant” sportswear pieces: relaxed-fitting linen herringbone blazers and lightweight waxed cotton outerwear. Blue Chips represents the designer’s take on business attire and includes softly constructed wool crepe, linen, and silk/cotton suits with Neapolitan-style armholes and working sleeve buttons. “The suits and jackets have a very American-English design aesthetic, but with an Italian make,” says Chu, noting that his tailored clothing is made in Naples by the same company that produces suits for Christian Dior. Ready-to-wear prices range from $225 for dress shirts and $1,295-plus for suits to $3,000 for outerwear. Made-to-measure prices will run about 25 percent higher.

While Chu created a rugged, outdoorsy image for Nautica, with his new collection he intends to reference fashions from the 1950s and 1960s, when, he says, “men dressed casually but also a bit more elegantly.” 

David Chu, 212.277.6407, www.davidchudesign.com

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