Josh Kercher is a man of mystery. He is a fashion designer whose inspirations range from tuxedos, tattoos, and motorcycles (lol yes). I know that sounds like Tom Ford 2.0 (more on that later), but Kercher has built his custom clothing business to the point in which he is known to many as the premier customer clothier in Chicago. Not limited to the Windy City, his client list spans regions, industries, and cultures. We are talking about a guy who makes suits for everyone from Vic Mensa to Kliff Kingsbury to Lewis Howes and Taylor Kinney. That range of clientele is about as diverse as Josh is himself.
Determined not to be known as “the suit guy,” his style ranges from bespoke suits (obviously) to leather jackets and v-neck tees. He’s gotta show off the tattoos too, of which he has many. As he has evolved over the years as a man, so has the vision for his company as we sit down with him in the midst of him finalizing his first round of Ready to Wear, which consists of Jackets, Knits, Trousers, and Chelsea Boots. The Leopard joints (BRUUUH!) are a must have.
Recently we sat down with Josh to highlight why he is not your average designer. He is a men’s style expert who goes against the grain, values authenticity and views style as a man’s way to build a platform to be recognized. Most importantly we learned why an individual’s style should have a sense of authenticity too it.
HFL: Who is Josh Kercher?
Josh: I think I would want to be a minimalist, but at the core, I love stuff that has a function. I design my life around the idea that I want to have a purpose and I want to do things that matter.
HFL: A lot of times people say “I’m not really into fashion, I’m not into clothing.” They don’t really understand the psychological aspect of how clothes make people feel. How do clothes help you make that impact you are trying to deliver?
Josh: It’s a huge thing. One of the most significant catalysts in the move to being a designer was realizing what clothes can do for you. After high school, I wanted to go to college, but I got maybe three classes in and realized that it was something that wasn’t for me. So, I dropped out, and I said to myself I don’t need this, let me go and work and make money. But what happened was I fell on my face.
After about four years I racked up debt, had cars repossessed, I couldn’t get anything right. I was basically a punk kid. I didn’t know where to turn, so I went to a car dealership and interviewed for a sales position, and they told me “you might be good at this job, but you look like shit. So, if you get cleaned up, then we might hire you.” I had like bleached blonde hair, and I was wearing whatever was hot at the time, maybe some Vokal lol or whatever Nelly was doing.
HFL: Derrty ENT
Josh: I go and get cleaned up, and I’m working with these people selling them a Lexus and they look like they have their things together. They have a house, a family, and here they are buying this $60,000 car from me, and I’m just the same ole punk kid. The only thing different for me was my clothes.
I realized then that the way I dress could change people’s perception of me and over the years it just changed my attitude. Leading me to read more about fashion and clothing. Doing research on construction and fits and I became a designer. Clothing is unique; it is one of the great neutralizers in the world. The ability to dress up in a particular way allows you to walk into a room and belong whereas otherwise maybe you wouldn’t.
HFL: What do you feel it is that makes you a style expert?
Josh: I think it’s how long I’ve been a student of fashion. I care so deeply about what’s going on. I care deeply about why things are the way they are. Why do suits look the way they look? Why are they cut the way they are? It’s that process that makes me question things which also enables me to understand the customer, and allows me to tell their story uniquely.
HFL: What is your personal style aesthetic?
Josh: I’m simple. Everything I own is very monochromatic. A lot of blacks and whites. One of the key things I tell myself and I say to my customers is to buy fewer things but better things. That way everything in your wardrobe is cohesive, and the key to that is simplicity.
HFL: You design both ready to wear and bespoke clothing. Is there one that you are more passionate about?
Josh: There is an answer in both directions. What I love about bespoke clothing is the opportunity to get to know the customer and what inspired them. Asking them why is it that you want this to look the way that it looks? There is a tremendous opportunity in that conversation to become part of someone’s life. Helping someone buy a custom suit and feel like a bad ass is rewarding.
However, the creative side in me is more in tuned with ready to wear. To create a collection that can live on and to think that I made something that someone can own for 30-40 years and can pass down drives me.
HFL: How do you approach the process when developing ready to wear versus designing custom clothing?
Josh: Honestly, I’m really making pieces for myself. I live my life in a really particular way so when I’m designing things, and I’m looking at fabrics, I look at them like this is a representation of who I want to be and the way I want to live.
HFL: Your client list ranges from Taylor Kinney to DJ Irie to Lewis Howes. What do you feel has been to the key to your success to date, and what advice would you give to someone else who is trying to break into the custom clothing business?
Josh: The biggest thing that has led to our success is focusing 100% on great work. I’ve never paid for marketing or brought in salespeople. I want my work to be one-on-one and create intimacy in that relationship that people enjoy and want to tell their friends about. Which is something we’ve been able to do well over the years.
HFL: Who are three of your fashion inspirations?
Josh: Tom Ford is the king. I like the way he perceives things and the details. Some of the collections he has done have taken the words out of my mouth. When you see Tom Ford collections, you know the sensuality.
Virgil Abloh, and what he has done with Off-White. His ability to not be typecast into one role. As I never want to be known as just a suit guy. That is why I want to highlight the versatility and show who I am.
Jerry Lorenzo, Guys that have taken fashion and flipped it on its head. Guys that don’t stick to a traditional fashion calendar. They don’t come from fashion houses, but they entered the luxury game because they wanted too. They put the product out there, and it went well.
HFL: How do you feel about designers known for a streetwear background, such as Virgil Abloh with Louis Vuitton and Maxwell Osborne, and Dao-Yi Chow formerly leading in DKNY, being given the opportunity to run more traditional fashion houses?
Josh: For me, I never went to school. So, to see guys like them who come from a non-traditional background that is inspiring to me. Let’s me know that yea, we can all have success.
HFL: Kanye recently tweeted that “too much emphasis is put on originality. Feel free to take ideas and update them at your will. All great artists take that and update it on a regular basis.”
Josh: It’s so true that there are no new ideas. What if the most dangerous thing you can do is ask yourself “Is what I’m doing original?” That is a gateway to comparing what you are doing to other people. If you go looking to see if other people have done what you have done, you will find it, and that’s going to put you down and kill your spirits. That’s a sin. The thing you need to do is do it your way because no one can be you.
HFL: Finish this sentence. Style is…
Josh: An opportunity to tell your story to the world.
Written by: @Its_what_ev
Production: Legindary Productions @become_legindary