Interview with Jake Wall
Written by Ivanna Woods
You may have recently become a fan of designer Jake Wall’s artistry from the most recent Project Runway Season 14, but if you’re anything like us, you’ve remained in the know about Jake since 2013 when he was a Designer in Residence at Fashion Incubator in San Francisco.
Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Union Square is an innovative mentorship opportunity dedicated to transforming talented designers into successful San Francisco entrepreneurs and employers. Clearly the tools and training obtained from FiSF gelled remarkably well with Wall’s already extensive educational background; a Bachelor’s degree from University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in Marketing and International Business from Pepperdine University. Impressive to say the least, right? In 2010, Jake challenged himself further by revamping his career to focus on fashion design and became an apprentice under a classically trained bespoke tailor in Hong Kong. Soon after, Wall founded Artful Gentlemen - think custom tailored suits, shirts, separates and progressively modern tuxedos. Everything is designed and created in San Francisco and all looks ‘address the fashion needs of men and women of all sexual orientations.’
On Thursday, March 3rd, Jake celebrated the opening of his new flagship store in Jackson Square. Walking up to his new space offered a feel of a red carpet moment with the red carpet runner leading up the stairs, velvet ropes with greyhound heads as the knobs to the metal stanchions - a nod to his beloved dogs, Chance (in memorium), Echo and SCOTUS. Artful Gentleman has been rebranded and is now JAKE - and remains to be Classic. Modern. Defiant. “We make fine clothes for men and for women who like to be noticed – one can get noticed at the grocery store or at a gala – it just depends upon them. The All-New, All-Different JAKE is really about taking that which has always made us JAKE and supercharging it with a few key additions. We remain the same great brand, now there are just more of us,” Wall says.
Ivanna Woods: How long has the plan to open a new flagship store been in the making?
Jake Wall: During Summer of 2015, we realized we needed to expand and refine the retail offering as we reemerged as JAKE and knew that as part of that, we wanted to do so in a new space in a neighborhood that we could really help define. Thanks to the help of our key mentors and great network of advisors, we were quickly aligned with Jackson Square and zeroed in on 619 Sansome completing paperwork at the close of the year and started the build just after the new year – we turned the entire place around from a shell historic space to our finished new showroom in just about six weeks.
IW: Were Interior Designers involved or was it entirely your own vision alongside the JAKE team? What was your inspiration for the ambiance?
JW: Both Nathan and I teach at FiDM and we are big supporters of bringing the classroom into a career setting with internships and opportunities for applied learning. We worked with one key student intern from FiDM – Jodi Tisdale – who has her eyes on starting her own interior design firm and mentored her to create what is the new JAKE. The space was very much my original vision as Creative Director for our brand. The vision was then refined with the skills and applied construction and operational knowledge of Nathan and our key intern Jodi. With that in mind, we would point out that every member of our team had a voice in elements of the design and the finishes here, so we really feel like this is a house that the entire JAKE team built.
IW: Tell us about the names of your unique, comic book walpapered dressing rooms.
JW: The dressing rooms are a special circumstance, we had three dressing rooms configured in the layout and as a nod to our past and we decided to name them after the three different places the business has “lived” since we opened our doors. We started things out at Harrison St. in my loft and moved shortly thereafter to Market St. within the McRoskey Mattress Co. building and now here we are at Sansome St. We love little “Easter eggs” like this and there are a number of these little gems woven into the finished space that give a nod to where we have come from.
IW: What design aesthetics are offered now that weren't before with Artful Gentleman.? Is there a revamp of design that goes along with the new space?
JW: JAKE is and always will be classic, modern, with a defiant twist. The new space simply offers a new way of experiencing all things JAKE as well as additional curated offerings including the signature Jean-Charles Boisset wine tasting bar, the expanded fine jewelry and finishing accessories from CAKE exclusively for JAKE, and a fine selection of rare vintage timepieces.
IW: Share with us the process of finding and selecting your space in Jackson Square.
For Nathan and I, it was important to find a neighborhood that we could really play a role in “establishing.” San Francisco itself is going through such a revolution in development and so for us we really hunted for a neighborhood in which we could lead the change in establishing a thrilling retail experience. Jackson Square was quickly put forward and Nathan instantly fell in love not just with the area but also with the specific place that we now call home. We can’t think of a better place to be on the forefront of a retail renaissance than our current home at the corner of Jackson and Sansome.
6. You have collaborated with other brands in the development of JAKE. Tell us a little about that.
We have worked with a lot of different and dynamic organizations from Fashion Incubator San Francisco to American Red Cross San Francisco/Bay Area, but when it comes to the new JAKE flagship everything is 100% our own from start to finish. Our expanded offerings are all exclusively JAKE, most notably with Blake Patterson also from Season 14 of Project Runway joining the team to focus on expanding our offering in womenswear to include cocktail, gowns, jumpsuits and other key offerings that complete the moment for woman who dresses to be noticed.
IW: We at FXM love that you always show appreciation to your team. Share with us something special about how the team collaborated in this incredible new endeavor.
JW: There is no JAKE without the team we have behind the brand making things happen. This new endeavor is amazing, but the flagship is only the “front of house” experience one sees. To really get a sense of how our team collaborates, I think it is best shown what we take on and what we actually do. In the same six weeks that we raced to complete the build for the new flagship and our amazing grand opening on March 3rd – we refined two new collections and readied them for pre-sales and production. We also prepared two additional “wear now” collections for release later in the year, as well as maintained an uninterrupted schedule at our previous location servicing clients. All of this was possible simply because we are stronger together and because we don’t take ourselves too seriously. If we aren’t laughing… then we aren’t doing it right.
IW: How does the San Francisco community play a role in the success of JAKE?
JW: From the outside of founding JAKE, Nathan and I knew we wanted to be loyal and valuable community members. Part of being a good member of the community is by providing an amazing good or service. We’ve got that covered. We also wanted to make sure that we were doing our part to support organizations that we think make a difference, and so with that we have done amazing work on the national award winning awareness event and fundraiser “SUIT UP for EQUALITY,” the San Francisco/Bay Area RED CROSS and our signature BESPOKE in RED fundraiser and awareness event are all ways we endeavor to give back to the community that gives us mentorship, customers and a true home that we intend to build an empire upon.
IW: Has the mission of the brand changed alongside with having a new location or is it the same. Please share with us what exactly it is and your dedication to that mission.
Classic. Modern. Defiant. We make fine clothes for men and for women who like to be noticed – one can get noticed at the grocery store or at a gala – it just depends upon them. The All-New, All-Different JAKE is really about taking that which has always made us JAKE and supercharging it with a few key additions. We remain the same great brand now there is just more of us.
10. Please share with us your inspiration for doing the Dr. Seuss reading.
“Oh the Places You’ll Go” is just such an amazing iconic story from Dr. Seuss. It is a book that my dad used to read to me as a kid and he gave it to me as a gift when I graduated from high school as a bit of a joke and it is a joke that we have used – in my family – time and again including when I worked it into my college valedictorian speech in front of the graduating class. Fast forward to our very own grand opening and it just seemed right to pull from the past to talk about the our present and future and to pull from something that I think so eloquently points out that sometimes the questions are the most complicated part and it’s the answers that are quite simple. Plus it was just a nice nod to the old man since he’s no longer with us.
Photos: Robert Silver