When it comes to a new brand or shop, I typically prefer to wait and see. I don’t want to buy into hype. I’m more interested in the simple and the good, not just newness. When I saw Junior’s for the first time I could recognize it was different. I liked how simple it all was. The merchandising is straightforward and the point-of-view of the tailored clothing is compelling. If a brand was going to become an American version of Drake’s this looks like it could be it.
The founder of Junior’s is a man named Glenn Au. He has worked at some of the best haberdashers in America. His experience at those shops has helped to refine his perspective on menswear and the Junior’s product. While we all want to support and celebrate the classic menswear retailers that have long served fathers and sons, it’s also important to also help upstarts like Junior’s pave the way for the future.
I’m impressed by the way that Glenn has assembled the clothing at Junior’s. I’m inspired by his willingness to go forward with his vision in a time of great upheaval. I appreciate that things are made in England, Italy and the United States. I also want to buy the clothes — which is always a good sign. Glenn and I spoke about his path to Junior’s and what it’s been like to sell tailored clothing in a pandemic. Our conversation is below. Hope you like it.
ACL: You started Junior's at seemingly the worst time — what has the last year been like?
Glenn Au: What a first hurdle out of the gate, right? COVID-19! I was about to send out the first Junior’s e-mail campaign days before the major shutdowns happened. When we all went into lockdown I halted the e-mail and basically went on a hiatus for the next 2 months before restarting everything. The last year has been a roller coaster. In the beginning I would have a few great days with vendors or potential clients then the next day I would have a setback and think "what am I going to do?”, "how am I going to contribute to my family?” and “will this even work?". I plateaued around August 2020 and feel like it has been a slow climb up from that point. I, of course, would never want to go through something like 2020 again and don’t ever want a virus shutting life down but, on the other hand, I gained a lot of experience in the last year and became nimble in adapting to the situation and making Junior's work and ultimately getting through 2020.
How did your time working at O'Connell's in your hometown of Buffalo shape both your perspective on style but also the vendors you work with?
O’Connell’s had and still has a major impact on my personal style, how I think about assisting clients, and working with vendors who produce quality, genuine products. I couldn't have worked at a better place to start off a career in men’s clothing. To learn about and work daily with the garments that are the foundations of men’s clothing left a big imprint on me and ultimately on what Junior’s is. I took that experience at O’Connell’s and carried it with me everywhere I worked and I use a very similar philosophy for Junior's. I like to find the real thing. For example, India Madras, knits from Scotland, proper button-down collars and soft American tailoring.
What do you think menswear is going to be like next year?
I am optimistic that menswear is going to have a renaissance in the next year or years to come. I like sweats just as much as the next person but I can’t express to you how happy I feel when I get dressed for the day in anything other than loungewear. A Shetland sweater and button-down feels above average these days but then when I have appointments and wear a coat and tie I feel my confidence and well-being sky rocket. Furthermore, talking to clients and peers in the industry, I get that same sense that guys want to get dressed again. We need to peacock a bit, it’s how we show our personalities to the world.
The assortment you've put together is very tight and I appreciate how focused it is — what was your thought process on merchandising your initial offerings?
Thank you, appreciate you noticing that. With being a new business, finances play a big role in determining what products to buy and inventory. Tying up funds in physical goods is a gamble but it also makes each sale very appreciated. So funds is one part of the thought process but the other, more fun part, is that I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone and sought out items I already love. I bought what I like and what I wear often and it seems like guys are relating to that. I am also particular about what I buy for Junior's and won’t force it just to check off that category. It has to be right. I have loved Shetland sweaters for years and that’s why I wanted them. My canvas trousers are one of my favorite pairs of trousers and that’s why I wanted Junior’s to stock them. I wear Alden shoes 90% of the time so that’s why I wanted to work with them. The choices were fairly easy but they were also calculated.
What's your tailored clothing like? Natural shoulder? Made in the USA? Talk us through it.
100% Made in USA tailored clothing & shirts. All suits, sport coats, trousers and vests are made on the East Coast of the States and the suits and sport coats come standard with a full canvas. I have a “house style” for suits and sport coats that is a 3 roll 2 front, open patch pockets, side vents, pic stitching and a half lined interior. However, I have some clients opting for the full-Ivy look and adding a hook center vent instead. For cloth, I use some of the best English, Scottish and Italian mills that include Harris Tweed, Marling & Evans, Lovat, Abraham Moon, Hardy Minnis and Drago. I have a similar “house style” philosophy for Junior’s shirts, too. I use 2 collars, a spread collar or button-down collar that I worked with my shirtmaker to develop uniquely for Junior’s with a specific point length, tie space and interlining. I try to keep the choices simple but I can get as in-depth as a client likes, too.
The business made it through a very difficult year and if you can make it through 2020 you can probably make it through anything. Where do you see Junior’s in 5 years?
It sure feels like it could make it through anything! In 5 years I would love to have a physical space for Junior’s in addition to expanding the ready-to-wear clothing while still being calculated in the offerings. The physical space could be a ground level storefront but I am not opposed to a showroom tucked away on a quiet street or on a second floor. Since I have been working by appointment, it has been a great way to personally connect with each client and to learn about what they already have, what they want and what they need. Personally connecting with each client was a goal of mine when starting Junior’s and to continue to work by appointment in a showroom ensures that Junior’s never loses that advantage.
What inspires you these days?
It changes daily but ranges from anything including my family, my friends, the buzz of the city and trout. My family inspires me in the sense that it feels good to be striving for a goal that helps provide for them. Having an 18 month old son and a wife who supports your dream will make anyone work hard and they keep me motivated. My friends are some of the most stylish people I know and I constantly feed off their energy even though I haven’t seen some of them in over a year now. Sending “fit pics” is nothing to be ashamed of! Moving about the city, especially when dressed, is one of the best feelings of the past year. In a world where sweatpants and casual wear have become the norm, I like to be out and about in a coat and tie and make everyone rethink what they’re wearing. I also want them to know that Junior’s is here to help.