North Carolina Highlander Meets Effortlessly Chic New Yorker: An Interview with Brandon Aldridge, Founder & Creative Director of Highland Duds Menswear
What exactly was it that inspired you to fill a need in the market for smart, casual, high quality…menswear?
Growing up in North Carolina, I never was able to afford designer clothing. A desire to provide high-quality, designer-looking menswear without the designer price point served as a kind of “fuel” that drove me to create Highland Duds.
"The best everyday clothing you never knew you needed until you owned it in HD."
Would you say growing up in North Carolina influenced you as far as the direction you took the clothing line?
Absolutely. The highlands of North Carolina have an easy, casual, welcoming vibe. I knew I wanted my clothes to evoke that feeling. The low-down gritty sense of humor of the locals. The friendliness. The neighborly feeling. The stylish, well put together southern gentleman. North Carolina’s preppy vibe. And of course, the distinct aesthetic of growing up in the 80’s. I envisioned it all wrapped up and combined seamlessly in a line for men who are looking for effortless dressing.
You moved to New York City from North Carolina almost twenty years ago. What do you love most about NYC style?
How it’s influenced by the City’s urban landscape. Its neutral color palette. All the grey and black. Street style. Smart, casual, well put together men who style their outfits with sneakers. Vans, especially—which are my go-to. The edgy style of the City—its dissonance that just somehow “fits”. Its resident’s sarcastic sense of humor, intelligence, wit and sophistication—and how that all translates into a style that’s modern, yet classic; anonymous, but attention-grabbing. I guess you could say I have quite the appreciation for the stylish, well put-together urbanite…
Why did you feel so passionate about designing the specific, staple pieces that made up HD’s launch collection?
Because they are wardrobe essentials that every man should have in his closet—regardless of age, location, style preferences, etc. It was important to me that our launch collection really conveyed the fact that these clothes are for every man. I spent a lot of time designing the collection—and put a lot of thought into the designs, so that our wearers wouldn’t have to…
Wouldn’t have to... What exactly?
Wouldn’t have to think, that is. I wanted a line of menswear that took the guesswork out of getting dressed every morning…for your Friday night dinner date…for your niece’s soccer game… etc. I wanted to create countless classic, smart, casual looks that could easily be layered, mixed and matched—all at affordable price points.
High quality, modern classics. That’s really what it comes down to. “Classics” are classic because, well, they never go out of style. Think: stylish staples that make dressing easy, and look good on everyone. Looks that you can put together with very little effort. The best every day clothing you never knew you needed until you owned it in HD. The launch collection featured my favorite pieces and I wanted them to be favorites for my customers, too.
What sets your designs apart from other menswear brands?
Quality fabrics, fit, style, and branding details (logo buttons, stripe tape). A cohesive collection at an affordable price point. Menswear items for every man, with items that are effortlessly interchangeable. One-stop shopping for every day of the year. Shirts that look great tucked in or left out. Relevant menswear that’s on trend, but not trendy.
"Relevant menswear that’s on trend, but not trendy."
What do you love most about designing clothes in general?
I love turning my vision into a real product that makes someone’s life better. I love the process of dangling my ideas out in thin air and then sketching them onto a napkin or a piece of paper. Playing with color/pattern/scale/proportion to transform my ideas into reality – a reality that’s visually appealing—is something I genuinely enjoy. I love seeing someone spend their hard-earned money on something I spent my valuable time creating. Making the world a better, and better-looking place is what drives me.
Which designers do you admire most?
Great question. A lot of my favorite designers have lines heavily influenced by the 80’s— a decade in which I grew up. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Alexander Julian. Anything 80’s preppy to modern street style.
What does ‘living your life in HD’ mean to you?
There is a definite play on the double entendre of Highland Duds and “high definition” – which means high degree of detail and quality. For me, ‘living your life in HD’ means spending less time putting yourself together, and more time living and enjoying the life that awaits you outside of the wardrobe/dressing room. Looking your best in all of life’s best moments – or all of life’s moments for that matter – and feeling confident and well-put together is what I call ‘living life in Highland Duds’.