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Exclusive interview: Matthew Wood, creative director of Gant

Gant largely defined the preppy sportswear look and it continues to give new edge to this classic style. Global Blue gets to know the man leading the label

Sally McIlhone

Feature

by Sally McIlhone

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Gant is a truly international brand, in terms of both its history and its reach. It was founded in 1949 in the US city of New Haven by Ukranian-born Berl Gantmacher, whose American-raised sons Marty and Elliott spurred it to success. After 65 years in the fashion industry, Gant now has its head office in Sweden, a British creative director, Matthew Wood, and stores in 70 markets across the world, including many across Germany. Gant has refined its output into three key lines for men and women: Gant Diamond G, Gant Originals and Gant Rugger. We caught up with Wood to discuss the latest collections, the brand’s legacy and his plans for the future.

The dream team
Having trained on London’s Savile Row and held positions designing menswear for brands from Hardy Amies and Nigel Hall to DKNY, Matthew Wood is accomplished at creating clothing with flair. In March this year, Gant’s chief executive Patrik Nilsson announced that Wood had joined his newly appointed dream team, which would help Gant reach its goal of becoming ‘the world’s leading lifestyle brand by 2020.’

Gant has a clear aesthetic that has been built upon since its foundation. Its preppy all-American look began with the company’s first shirts and can be seen for autumn/winter 2016/17 in striped polo-neck jumpers combined with green leather bomber jackets for men, and in blazers and skirts cut just above the knee for women. ‘I am just building upon many of the ideas that the original Gant brothers started; thinking of modern consumers and what they need, then inspiring the team to create new, exciting products to delight them,’ says Wood.

Stylistic vision
He is quick to dismiss suggestions that it might be a big challenge to create new collections and drive the company forward while also retaining Gant’s signature look. ‘We are lucky,’ he says. ‘Many brands don’t have a stylistic vision to inspire them but Gant does.’ The fact that this vision continues to provide inspiration more than six decades after its inception is testament to its power and appeal. ‘Gant is a brand with an incredible history and archive of ideas. There’s nothing which can’t be the source of inspiration,’ says Wood.

Gant’s Diamond G collection modernises key pieces from the Gant archives by making them work for both daytime and evening. ‘Gant Diamond G is all about desk-to-dinner pieces, allowing the customer to live a hectic and modern lifestyle without having to stop and think about outfit changes during the day,’ says Wood. ‘It is very much about sophisticated on-duty and off-duty clothing and versatile tailoring. The collection blurs the boundaries between business-casual and leisure.’ By providing wardrobe solutions for today’s time-poor professionals, Gant keeps itself relevant in the crowded retail industry.

Wardrobe staples
Gant has become synonymous with key pieces for seasonal wardrobes. For autumn/winter 2016/17, the directional Gant Rugger line offers a timeless men’s leather jacket and its women’s collection presents a new take on the tuxedo. How does Gant continue to get it just right with such classic pieces? ‘It’s a continuous process,’ Wood explains. ‘Being innovative is one of our core values and a part of who we are.’

Elliott Gant, Berl Gantmacher’s son, has described the label as ‘tastefully different’ and this still rings true. Wood notes that the company’s credo is ‘never stop learning’. ‘We continue being innovativeand always strive to exceed our customers’ expectations while still staying true to our heritage,’ he says.

Triple threat
With its trio of winning lines, Gant has extended its appeal beyond a single customer group. Wood explains that the Gant Originals customer wears casual American sportswear: colourful classics and essentials interpreted in a modern way. ‘He or she is sporty,’ he says, ‘leads an active lifestyle and often does outdoor activities.’ The Gant Diamond G customer, he continues, is the sophisticated urbanite ‘who is all about subtle and effortless elegance. This customer is confident and stylish in their attire and he or she loves to travel and experience the world.’ The Gant Rugger line’s core customers are ‘all about the progressive alternative within American sportswear. The style of the Rugger customer could be described as effortlessly cool, and he or she is always wearing the on-trend pieces with an edge.’

New classics
If you only buy one Gant item this season, Wood recommends the Gant Tech Prep shirts. They are, he says, ‘made out of fully breathable and durable fabric while still maintaining the soft Gant touch.’ This versatile product is one of many in the latest collection that are guaranteed to become bestsellers. It may even become an archive piece that will one day inspire Gant collections of the future – and there will certainly be many more to come. Gant’s functional yet sophisticated wardrobe essentials have genuinely global appeal and this is a label that people can’t help but love to wear.

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