2012 December 28
Best of 2012: The (Chadwick) Bell Toll
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(NEW YORK) Attention, ladies—consummate gentleman Chadwick Bell has come calling! This darling designer hails from the sandy shores of Southern California, but he leans towards the kind of tailored, grown-up clothing that suggests a more ladylike sensibility. No wonder the girls are going gaga. BY MARIA DENARDO
Can we call you Chad?
Yes, I prefer it over Chadwick. But people call me everything: Chadly, Chadster, Chadigans, Chaddy Chad….
You’re very polite!
Maybe it’s because I’m from California, but the first thing I tell my interns is this: When you go out there into the world, you’re representing Chadwick Bell, so say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and open the door for others. You speak to everyone as if they’re your mother, not a Joe Schmoe on the street, because one day when
you start your own brand, you’re going to need them. If they remember you as a snot-nosed little kid, they’re not going to
do anything for you.
What are your parents like?
My father has been one of my biggest influences, and he taught me all about manners. He’s always said, ‘I don’t care what you do, as long as you’re a good person.’ That’s always stuck with me. I was weirded out when I first came to New York and saw guys who didn’t think to hold doors open for women—not that I’m attracted to women in that way, but still!
In what ways are you not old school?
I like the F word—a lot. You know those people who use the F word and it sounds dirty? Then there are others who use it, and it sounds okay. I hope I’m the latter case!
How many times a day do you drop the F bomb?
It’s really embarrassing…maybe 50? It’s a really great word in the English vocabulary! It can sum up an entire experience. People can get freaked out by it sometimes until I tell them, ‘I’m not mad. It’s just my word.’
What’s your typical Saturday night look like?
I’m pretty tame, but I’ve got to have a gin gimlet at some point. I’m very specific about them!
What’s your secret love?
The Marvel Comics movies and Transformers are genius. I used to wake up every morning and watch X-Men. If I were a super hero, I’d want to control the weather. And I love old-school, hardcore rap before it became commercialized, like Camp Lo and Timbaland & Magoo. I can rap every word to their songs.
What’s your not-so-secret love?
Coffee. I drink about eight cups a day. I don’t like to feel normal. I like to be a little shaky.
When did you meet your business partner, Vanessa Webster?
Our class took a field trip in the eighth grade, and we were in the same group. I knew we’d be friends when we were dancing on a boat ride, and we danced so well together. Now, it would be weird to go an entire day without speaking to her. She takes care of me and the business, while also making sure I eat right. She’s my rock.
Who wins when you have a company squabble?
Are you kidding? She always wins, and I always end up feeling super guilty afterwards.
What were you like in the eighth grade?
I wasn’t cool. I was the kid who painted all night and wasn’t very mentally present during the day. I was popular for all the wrong reasons. I was socially awkward, too. I often wonder if the fashion industry is filled with the awkward kids who never really fit in.
Veronica Webster: [Wandering over] "We changed as we grew older. When we were 18, we threw a joint luau-themed birthday party. It was in Chad’s backyard, and his mom was the virgin alcohol bartender, but everyone still got drunk. Chad drew the invitations, which were inspired by J. Lo’s green Versace dress."
CB: It was major. By invite only.
Did you really stage a 42-look fashion show in high school?
Yeah, my fake girlfriend’s mom helped me put it on. Looking back, my first thought is, ‘Oh god!’ But I’m proud of it. People saw me differently afterwards and talked about it for a long time.
How did you and Vanessa end up in New York?
After we graduated, I was living in one of those safe, planned communities in California working on the sales floor of Nordstrom. I hated every second of it, but it’s super important for a designer to work retail at some point. Vanessa, who was living in New York, called me one day and said, ‘Listen, if you don’t move here, I’m moving back home. We’re either going to do this or we’re not.’ I hung up the phone, quit my job, and moved to New York three days later.
Were you roomies?
Yes! She’s an amazing cook, and I’m great with the Swiffer. It’s all about the one-sweep motion.
VW: We used to live in this showroom, it actually felt like a dorm room. We slept in twin beds for two years.
CB: In our second apartment, we worked on defining the Chadwick Bell woman down to the way she brushed her hair. She has a Mason Pearson brush, and she doesn’t actually use it, because a very handsome man will do it for her.
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