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2012 November 8

Former Calvin Klein PR Director Becomes a Gent

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Gents Gents
Yu Tsai
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(NEW YORK) Attention, ladies and gents! Industry vet Josh Reed has dabbled as a publicist for Calvin Klein Collection, consulted for Gilt, and worked as an agent in Los Angeles. Now he's putting on a new hat as an entrepreneur with the launch of the men's lifestyle brand, GentsKicking things off with an upscale baseball hat, he has plans to fill a hole in the men's market. Reed sat down with The Daily to fill us in on his ambitious venture. BY EDDIE ROCHE


What's the concept behind Gents?

It's a chance to offer consumers the best of a product that's not owned in the market place, but is really needed. A baseball cap is one of the first things that I noticed that didn't have an upscale version. It's such an essential in every man's wardrobe whether you're gay or straight or dressing high or low. I've aimed to create the best baseball cap, and we're going to grow into the best t-shirts, gym bags, and dog tags--things that aren't owned by anybody else. Dior makes amazing suits, and Prada makes incredible shirts. I'll never be doing those. It's the products that   guys really need that I've had a hard time finding. The price point will be above H&M and Gap, but below designer prices. 


And you're kicking off with a hat...

There's 25 styles. The site is really easy to use, and the customization is super cool. Customers can go to our site and start by choosing a base color. Then there are pre-made graphics in black, white, or tonal embroidery. When I was consulting at Gilt Group for six months, I saw that guys shop in a very specific manner. Unlike girls who go on and see what's out there, guys know they want a red hat so the way I designed it is you select a color and you can see all the options available. One of the most popular items is the director's cap, which is inspired by the classic image of a director behind the camera with a cap on his head. It speaks a lot about the structure and form rather than what's in front. All the designs are very minimal with iconic imagery. I wanted to put something on the hat that makes a fashion statement that a guy would like to wear, but that isn't going to be loud. It's the opposite of Von Dutch and Ed Hardy. It's a different era now. 


What do the caps go for? 

$59 for basics; monogrammed hats will be $69; other designer caps sell between $100 and $400. 


Tell us more about the customization…

It's a similar technology as NikeiD. You make it all yourself in real time, you play around, and we send it to you in 7 to 10 days. Unlike some of the other companies that are based in China, we ship it here so you get it sooner. 


You've put a lot into the ad campaign...

It was shot by Yu Tsai in Pasadena, California at a private residence and was inspired by classic Helmet Newton images. It stars newcomer Melissa Bolona, Adam Senn, Kevin Sampaio, and Chad White. Chad's big comeback will be with this campaign. It debuts with eight pages in V Man, and then it's going to be running in GQ, Men's Health, Playboy, Details, and Nylon for Guys next month. Later we'll go on to Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and Out. 


Why did you decide to launch in  V Man?

It's such a great fashion insider magazine, so I thought it was a cool way to launch it discreetly and bring it to the industry before going to the masses next month. 


How did you come up with this idea?

When I was at Calvin Klein, I was always dressing up for events, and I loved to wear baseball caps. I started pairing a really nice cap with a blazer or a suit. I'd do that and work red carpet events. When I was working in L.A. as an agent, I was traveling around doing endorsement deals with all these big actors, and they were always wearing caps because they were coming off a plane. They were saying that they get sent everything from jeans to t-shirts. Their publicists' offices are filled with free things, but there were no good caps. I thought, 'You're right! I can't find a good hat either and my friends said the same thing.'


Did you just google "making hats" and see what came up?

No, my first step was to go downtown to the markets in L.A. to find different kinds of base hats to use as proto-types. I noticed that nothing was exactly what I wanted; it was so important for me to have a great fit. I started working with manufacturers in China and designed the hat myself. We began with a slab of fabric, and they would build it and send it to me for feedback. In January, it'll be two years since I started. Everything has been a learning curve. Working as the PR director of Calvin Klein, I got to see every facet of the business, but there was still a lot of learning tools.


What's the plan to get the hats on celebrities? 

There's going to be a big celebrity push. We'll be giving them to celebrities, but it's going to be organic. I have these relationships, but I think that people are going to like the caps themselves. I didn't want anybody wearing them yet, because we hadn't launched our site. 


Why did you decide to call it Gents?

I didn't want to put my name behind it. I wanted it to be a brand that was really accessible. It was created for the guy who is really into fashion, but he might not wear something that's really fashion forward. I was worried that something so sporty would define the brand right away as athletic and not high end. I was looking for a word that would be a great juxtaposition for that. I was in London going to the bathroom, and I saw the word 'gentlemen' on the door. I thought, 'Gents! What word can communicate sophistication more than gents?' 


What's been the reaction of editors you've worked with in the past at Calvin?

They've been supportive, giving me their ear. But I haven't felt any kind of favoritism because I've worked with them. Everyone has really liked it; they understand the need in the market. 


Are the hats only available online?

We launched a teaser style at the GQ pop-up Nordstrom store. Now they're sold in Alpha in Palm Springs. We have our big retail push this month with showrooms in L.A. and New York, so by January you'll see it in more stores. 


Can women wear these?

Girls have been loving them! We call it the boyfriend cap. We're learning that women don't want a girly cap. 


How's the former Calvin team taken your new job? 

Super supportive! I'm still really close with my former boss Malcolm [Carfrae], and I talk to Italo [Zucchelli]. They were supposed to come to my launch party. [Canceled last week due to the hurricane.] It's completely different from anything they do. It's so not competitive.  


We hope you've ordered a lot!

I did! I definitely sat up in my bed in L.A. and feared that I'd go to New York and be laughed at, but people have always said to do something you love, and the response has been tremendous.

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