When Marc Keiser, a 27-year-old who is infinitely warmer and friendlier than his black-and-white-toned personal Instagram account would have you believe, was in his second year of law school, he got the crazy idea to start a fashion business.
How One DM Changed This Streetwear Designer’s Career
You need to know Marc Keiser of Keiser Clark
“I’m a lawyer by trade,” he says, sitting in the Manhattan office of the agency that will now handle public relations for his brand, a big deal for the two-man company that had, up until this point, muscled every aspect of the business themselves. After graduating last summer and successfully passing the California Bar exam—no easy feat—Keiser presented a self-funded collection at Paris Fashion Week, the pinnacle of most designers’ careers, last season. “I would not recommend the law school and fashion line combo. That was an aggressive choice,” he muses.
Even with only two people bootstrapping the entire Keiser Clark organization—sales, marketing, design, production and more—and zero experience in fashion between them (his partner is in luxury real estate), the slick men’s fashion company has very quickly become a go-to source for red carpet and award show celebrity styling. The number of notables wearing Keiser’s pieces are too many to list and increase almost daily, but among them are Kyle Kuzma, Steph Curry, Chris Brown, Meek Mill and Drew Taggart of the Chainsmokers.
It wasn’t an easy transition from law school student to fashion designer, though. “The first jacket we did, we didn’t have any idea what we were doing. We didn’t even have a pattern. We Googled, What is a pattern?” Keiser reminisces about his first hurdles, thumbing his many silver rings.
Since then, Keiser has learned a thing or two about growing a fashion business. He sketches each new piece himself, sources the materials and fits the samples. He even taught himself coding to build an e-commerce website and has single-handedly built relationships with industry insiders to amplify his vision. “You have to do everything. If you’re not willing to do simple things like drop a pull off to a stylist or learn coding or pattern making, you’re not going to make it.”
One of Keiser's most recognizable signatures has been vintage tees—primarily of wolves—that are screen-printed with the brand’s logo in a silver metallic and the phrase “Creatures of the Night.” Each shirt is a one-of-one, sourced from vintage stores in Los Angeles and the depths of the internet (Keiser has spent many nights trolling eBay), and countless celebrities and athletes have fallen in love. Keiser identified a motif that permeates American history and embodies his childhood spent growing up in the woods just north of Boston rocking L.L. Bean duck boots and graphic tees: the wolf. "The wolf tees felt authentic to me. We can all relate to that pack mentality and the aggressiveness of wolves," Keiser explains.
But how did the designer take his brand from dorm room to main stages? In late 2016, Jason Rembert, a stylist for Ezra Miller, Rita Ora and Charlie Puth, reached out in a direct message on Instagram (he sent the post in a message, asking, “Hey, what’s your PR email?”) to pull some leather jackets for his clients. At the time, Keiser had constructed only seven jackets in total. They were all one-of-one. “We thought, Are we going to get these back? We only have seven!”
Keiser has been a constant champion of community and kindness. “Lead with love,” he says. “So many young designers spend a lot of their time knocking other people. You have to create a family and acknowledge who has contributed to your brand.”
If buyers of major department stores or celebrity stylists or the press don’t react well to the collection, Keiser tries to “treat every no as an ‘I need to see more effort.’ They just need to see more work, more passion, more colors. When you can think about it that way, it lights a fire.”
In a world as ruthless and cutthroat as fashion, that constant negativity could outweigh the triumphs. But Keiser leans into the rejection. He wants to game the space.“Prove me wrong,” he challenges.
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