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Magasin’s Josh Peskowitz Has a Theory About Men and Clothes

And it’s pretty genius

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Josh Peskowitz, far right, with friends at New York Fashion Week / Getty Images

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September 24, 2018

Menswear expert Josh Peskowitz has cut his teeth at some of the coolest and most competitive businesses in the fashion industry, from The Fader and Esquire to Bloomingdale’s and Gilt Groupe. But his latest gig—owning a small menswear boutique in Los Angeles called Magasin—is a new challenge entirely.

 

Opening a brick-and-mortar retail store in today’s landscape takes guts, for one, but it’s also the vision Peskowitz and co-owners Simon Golby and Christophe Desmaison have for Magasin that makes it radical. The clothes are understated, well made and elegant, but the store doesn’t cater to an exclusively wealthy, older clientele. In fact, walk in on any given day and you’ll see mostly 20- and 30-somethings. Kids in Vans. Dads in Birks. That sort of thing.

 

Inspired by the store’s unconventional, iPad-free approach to retail, we asked Peskowitz to walk us through his background and business plan. Here’s what he had to say.

 

Can you tell me just a little bit about how you first got your start in fashion?

 

Josh Peskowitz: I worked at a clothing store when I was in high school and I really thought I was going to open my own store right away. That’s what I wanted to do, but I also was an avid fan of magazines. I just loved the idea of access, about having exposure to all these things that I was interested in.

 

My two favorite magazines when I was in college were The Face and The Fader. The Fader had just launched at that time, so when I came back to New York after school, I asked a very good friend of mine who was working in their photo department to introduce me. And that was my first job in editorial. At first I was like, "I can’t do this," and my friend was like, "Stop being an idiot. You put clothes on mannequins all day long, just go." At the time, I was a window display guy for Urban Outfitters, building shit in the basement of the store on West 4th Street in Manhattan.

 

There were six of us putting out the magazines at a time, maybe eight? It was just such a wonderful experience to be part of something that felt like it was really capturing the moment. The early 2000s in downtown New York—the music scene, the art scene, the fashion scene—was encapsulated in the pages of The Fader, and some of our contemporaries like Vice, Tokion; it was just a big community back then, and so I was really lucky to be a part of it. It opened a lot of doors for me and a lot of people who worked for them have gone on to be successful people.

It’s funny how so many of my creative fashion friends did stuff for Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie when they were young—it was really a launching pad.

 

Josh Peskowitz: You gotta remember like in the late '90s/early 2000s, Urban Outfitters was kind of where it was at. It was an interesting organization to work for—I didn’t part on the best of terms with them, which we won’t get into, but it involved getting injured on the job. When you’re working with the power tools you know how some things can go wrong.

 

And in the middle of the night! They have crazy shifts, I remember...

 

Josh Peskowitz: Well that’s what I did for the first two years that I worked at The Fader, and I worked there for four years. The first two years I would go to work at six in the morning, and I would be there until about three in the afternoon, because the store opened at ten, so I would do most of my heavy moving stuff, and then I would go to The Fader. I would be at The Fader from three o'clock until God knows when, and then obviously there was always a show or a party or something we either needed to or wanted to go to. I didn’t have any money back then, so drinking free beers was the closest I was getting to dinner. And then I’d be out late; I’m not even sure what time I’d get home, and then at six o’clock, I'd turn around and do it again. You can do that when you’re 22. I don’t think I can do it anymore, but that was the way it was.

 

Urban was a good place to work back then, they definitely bought a lot of interesting innovative brands, and ended up copying a lot of really interesting innovative brands, but at that time it was definitely a place where a lot of creative people went, because you basically got a job being creative, which was cool.

It’s interesting that now, after more than a decade in editorial and retail, you own your own store. How has that experience been for you?

 

Josh Peskowitz: I got to a point in my life where I was like, "If I don’t try this now, I’m never going to do it." And that’s a moment a lot of entrepreneurs have. I got to a point where I looked at it and I said, ‘If it’s not now, I’m never going to do it.’ I didn’t know if I could live with that, so I decided to try.

 

I also felt as though there was a necessity for what we try to do at Magasin. There are two extremes in fashion right now: There’s the super high-end, very exclusive, very flashy right-now hype model of fashion… And then there’s the other side of it, which is disposable. People have started not to value clothing. So it makes people feel that either clothes can be thrown away or they’re a precious art piece, but there’s a lot in between there that is worth paying attention to, worth celebrating.

 

What we focus on in the store is craftsmanship, innovation, and rarity. What’s it made out of, who made it, why did they make it, where was it made, how many of them did they make? Those are the kinds of questions we think about when we’re buying for the store, and our customers appreciate it. Those are the stories that we love to tell at Magasin, and there really wasn’t a store in the United States that was paying attention to it on that granular level.

 

That’s an important thing for any entrepreneur to really think about. The method of business, the way you do it, is important. But what are you contributing? What are you doing that’s different from everybody else, what’s your angle? Just because other people do something and are successful doesn't mean you should try and jump on that bandwagon. That’s the most pertinent piece of advice I can give is to do it because you think the world needs it or because you really love it. If you’re not doing it for one of those two reasons, there’s a good chance it’s going to eat you.

I think you can tell when a business is built on a mood board that somebody in an office put together versus when it was built by somebody who—through blood, sweat and tears—believes in the idea. Magasin is obviously the latter.

 

Josh Peskowitz: I appreciate that, and you’re not the first person to say that to me and I really appreciate it every time I hear it. Point of view is the only thing that you can’t replicate on a scale—it’s something very personal to me and to the guys I started this business with. We believe in it. We believe that people believe. Probably only 20 percent of men care about clothing the way that we do, but we think and hope that’s changing. I think as men get more informed about these kinds of things, they almost treat it as a hobby, like the way they would about cars, or whiskey, or the Knicks, or whatever it is. They start to care about their clothing in the same way.

 

Once you turn that corner and you realize what goes into these things, the value that you put in them is so much higher. You start to think about, "OK, I need this to complete my collection," and your wardrobe becomes your collection. You take care of it, you keep it for a long time. Some people flip it and they go on Grailed or whatever they do and that’s fine too, but those are the kind of guys that I love it when they come in. They come in and they think they’re going to be there for five minutes and they end up spending an hour and a half just talking shop. That’s when I feel good, that’s when I feel like we’re really building a community.

As much as I feel like the lines that you carry and the vibe of your store is really modern, I feel like your sense of hospitality is old school. I was in a store the other day and I ordered what I wanted in the dressing room on an iPad.

 

Josh Peskowitz: I’m not going to have iPads in my dressing rooms because you need to come in, we need to talk about it. I want not only to provide really incredible service, but also I want the customer to feel as if they’re talking to their peers when they’re in the store and being helped by the people that work there. But that’s super important to build that rapport. And yeah, that’s definitely old school, but we're not selling old school things or trying to be a throwback. But there are times that the old way, which is now the hard way, is the best way. Sure, there are shortcuts that you can take, but if the end product suffers because of it, and if it’s not something that feels special, that’s a shortcut I don’t want to take.

The things you carry feel totally at home in LA on the West Coast—there’s a relaxed sensibility, soft tailoring, beautiful fabrics—but it doesn't feel like that cliché LA, palm tree T-shirt thing. Can you just talk a little bit about the point of view there?

 

Josh Peskowitz: The philosophy behind it is really rooted in the fact that men don’t have to have two different wardrobes anymore. There are very few professions where you need to wear a suit and tie to work, and even less so in Los Angeles. So once you take the idea that there’s an on-duty wardrobe and an off-duty wardrobe off the table, you still want to be able to command respect and be taken seriously when you walk into a room. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun when you get dressed.

 

You don’t really get to turn off anymore, and so your clothes should reflect that and should be a continuum. There are days where you need to be a little more casual, there are days when you need to be a little more dressed up, but it should all work together. That’s how we really try and think of it at the store. We sell clothes for grown-ups, but not for people who take it too seriously.

When you see guys out in the world, guys who don’t work in fashion, what’s the thing you wish you could impart on them?

 

Josh Peskowitz: I wish more men had the right attitude. Almost every man in the world thinks that they were born to walk on water and their opinions are pretty much rock solid on everything from politics to music to movies to whiskey. Whatever it is, you can’t argue with them. You can say your piece but then they’re just gonna say, "Thanks for talking but now I’m just gonna tell you why you’re wrong." When it comes to clothing, a lot of men don’t know what to do. They become very self conscious but in every other part of their life they have a rock solid opinion. And I want men to have an opinion about clothing, you know?

 

Back when I was at Bloomingdale's, I was at a suiting event in San Francisco and this really handsome, really successful man was like, "Man, I love your jacket!" I was wearing a brown windowpane jacket. I was like, "You like it? I got it right over here. Why don’t you come try it on." And he’s like, "I can never pull that off.” And I said, "Why not?" And he said, "Well it looks great on you but I could never pull that off." And I said, "Let me tell you something. You are better looking than me. You are richer than me. The only reason that you think that I can pull this jacket off and you think you can’t is because my attitude is 'I wear this jacket because I love it.' I’m not worried about being appropriate for the workplace, or the date, or what my significant other or my friends will think. I’m wearing this because I love it. And you can see that on my face when I’m wearing it. So you need to have that attitude about it, too." And he tried the jacket on and he loved the jacket. And he bought it! What I did that was important to me was I changed his perspective. All of a sudden he’s looking at clothes the way that he’s looking at all the other things in his life that he values.