Christopher Jones is the kind of guy who turns heads. He arrived one Tuesday this fall at the Bleu Bistro — a cavernous Capitol Hill...
Christopher Jones is the kind of guy who turns heads.
He arrived one Tuesday this fall at the Bleu Bistro — a cavernous Capitol Hill haunt known less for its modish clientele than for its grilled-cheese sandwiches — wearing a gold polyester button-down, a fitted black cashmere vest with silver pinstripes, and a patterned-orange knotted tie. Two business casuals stopped their conversation to watch him walk by.
A year and a half ago, Jones launched his own design label, Like a Rock Star — a flamboyant, retro-meets-rakish line of custom-tailored men’s clothing — out of Seattle, a city that (despite the best efforts of dapper Belltowners) is not known for its swank.
But Jones isn’t daunted, partly because most of his business is conducted online and partly because his design ethos hinges on the belief that an appreciation for music — something we schlumpy Seattleites certainly have — is interdependent with fashion.
Most Read Life Stories
- Staff at Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan's restaurants quits following sexual misconduct allegations
- Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan responds to sexual misconduct allegations in Seattle Times report
- J. Kenji López-Alt is Seattle’s most powerful food influencer — and its most reluctant one
- Rant & Rave: Crows are quite smart. They don’t need your help finding food
- See the Pacific Northwest this summer with these 12 road trips from Seattle
“Music informs fashion and fashion, music,” says Jones. The aptly named label is inspired by the late 1960s and 1970s-era rock ‘n’ roll greats — “Pete Townshend, Ray Davies, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards,” Jones intones breathlessly. And its mission statement implores its customer to “burn your wardrobe,” “lose your inhibitions,” and embrace the “church of music.”
“Like a Rock Star is about more than just fitted trousers and velvet,” explains Jones. “It’s about what they wore in their backyards, before they hit the stage. It’s about the manic cool and the slick lads of London who lived it.”
Ahead of the mall and out of the mall
Jones discovered the urban English rock stars that would inform his personal style while growing up far from the fray in small-town Minnesota. As a high-school kid working at the Mall of America, Jones preferred to buy clothes at thrift stores, then alter them to fit his style. Frustrated by the “boxy and baggy cuts” popular in the ’80s and ’90s, Jones’ debonair flair eventually led him to experiment with his own sketches, working with a local tailor to make original clothes for himself. His everyday chic earned him a lot of attention — in Minnesota, Los Angeles, and then Seattle, where he has lived for the past six years.
In 2004, while walking down Dexter (“with my iPod in, playing air guitar,” Jones adds), he realized he could start his own label, drawing an initial clientele from friends, co-workers, and the circle of strangers who already regularly stopped him on the street to ask about what he was wearing.
No cookie-cutter suits
“His style is bold and adventurous, but still something you’re going to wear,” says Mike Truttman, who had no plans to buy a custom tailored suit before encountering Jones’ business. Now, Truttman often wears either the blazer or the pants of his Like a Rock Star three-piece suit to work. “It’s for anyone who doesn’t want to be That Guy in another cookie-cutter suit,” he says.
Since launching the label over two years ago, Like a Rock Star has gained notoriety via word of mouth and Myspace.com, designing two to three custom suits a month. During the “wedding season” this past summer, Jones designed 17 two-piece suits, including one for a local restaurateur, and one for Truttman on his wedding day. Jones credits the popular upwelling of nattier fashion in Seattle to — what else? — “the changing tides of music.”
Rakish indie music superstars the Strokes, who arrived on the scene in 2001 with galloping beats and a penchant for blazers, were “the most influential thing that has happened to fashion” in the last decade: “All of a sudden it became cool to wear ties,” Jones says. After that, he cites rockers Franz Ferdinand and the Libertines for inspiring a new wave of “pretty young things who enjoy the look and feel of fine fabrics.”
In accordance with its musical roots, the label’s Web site (which will be even snazzier after its November re-launch) will allow clients to peruse classic photos of rock stars lounging poolside or ducking the paparazzi, and then order their clothing — pants à la Mick, anyone? All clothing is designed by Jones, then custom-tailored according to a client’s measurements, color preferences, and fabric choice, by a family in Bangkok, who Jones “discovered after months of trial and error” with expensive American tailors and a few unscrupulous international firms.
Because Like A Rock Star is currently a one-man, Internet-only show that depends on exported labor, Jones has been able to keep costs low, especially for a company offering exclusively custom-tailored haute couture. A pair of velvet trousers inspired by “fashion, rock ‘n’ roll genius/icon” Brian Jones will run you $125. A 1970s-era blazer will run you $225. By comparison, a custom-tailored blazer of similar material might run upward of $1,000 locally.
Like a Rock Star is still just a hobby for Jones, who works days at a local philanthropic foundation and nights as a bartender. He hopes one day to make designing his full-time job, but also hopes to keep it a small-time label, dedicated to custom-tailored products (“No malls, no generic mass consumption,” he winces). But in the meantime, when Jones is up until 3 a.m. writing copy for the Web site or sketching a Keith Richards-esque vest, he loves every moment of it.
“Fashion is empowering,” he says, taking the safety-pinned punk bands from the late ’70s as examples. “They got a whole lot of fans wearing plaid, and then all of a sudden, they had a whole lot of people standing for something bigger than their clothes. They dressed the part of a movement and then started to internalize it. It doesn’t always go fashion-then-protest, but a uniform certainly helps to spread the word.”
Jones hopes that the fans who embrace Like a Rock Star will be responsible for a movement too. A movement that embraces the decadence, passion, and no-holds-barred energy of the 1970s. A movement that encourages creativity and brash individuality. A movement that “begins with you dressing as if you were the person you’d like to be,” says Jones.
At the very least, you’ll turn a few heads in Seattle when you walk into a grilled-cheese shop.
Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745 or firstname.lastname@example.org