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I'm ashamed to say I’ve only interviewed and photographed men for this project, but I’ve decided to change that starting with Emilie Hawtin. Emilie knows more about menswear than you and I do, and that’s why J.Crew brought her on as editorial director. She’s worked at a plethora of tailoring brands, but really shaped her editorial eye working with Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist. Take a look at J.Crew Men's Instagram and you’ll see the clothes jumping to life on a wide-ranging cast of men from all walks of life, both in NYC and outside of it.
Emilie is also working on Clementina, a collaborative tailoring project for women, with J. Mueser, and she’s even wearing it below—the white linen suit. “The goal is to make tailoring like this more available to women, to break down the barriers of tailoring, and to provide a strong silhouette that I’ve wear-tested for years,” she says.
Below, Emilie and I discuss her career leading up to her role at J. Crew, what New York means to her and her favorite spots in the city, and how to handle a role as strenuous as editorial director. We also talk about how her high school uniform and borrowing her father’s clothes led her to Clementina, tips for dressing better on a budget, and plenty more.
For those who might not know you, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your career prior to your current role?
I was freelancing and traveling a lot, working as a brand consultant and writer. I love traveling and discovering unique people and places. I’d cover men’s style, sustainability, and travel. Brand-wise, I worked with larger heritage brands, smaller startups, agencies, and a Roman tailor in a lot of different areas–creative strategy, writing, marketing, and partnerships–any way that I could help tell their story in a meaningful way.
I grew up in New Jersey and moved to New York sixteen years ago to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. I just wanted to live here and work with clothes. I was strangely obsessed with style since I was a kid. I always had ten jobs at once, even in school, before realizing one can like things without needing to work with everyone. I worked with Andy and Kate Spade in the Jack Spade days, then went into men’s at Steven Alan and Loden Dager, an incredible, now-defunct brand of tailored ready-to-wear whose founders since moved on to bespoke. I did anything to learn, mostly by volunteering to handle things no one else wanted to do. That early education—working with garment district factories and on Bryant Park shows, understanding button makers and magazine editors—was way more interesting than school was for me. I feel lucky to have experienced a more analog era, before iPhones, and to become disenchanted with "fashion drama" early on. I found people I understood in menswear—those obsessed with textiles, culture, music, timelessness. I’ve never been into the fussy side of fashion—the drama, the bells and whistles.
I was hired as the editorial director at The Sartorialist over a decade ago, and that changed everything. Instagram was just launching, if you can imagine. Scott introduced me to Pitti Uomo, international tailors, and to a real entrepreneurial hustle. I developed a certain radar for street casting. I cast everywhere now and will really talk to anyone.
After an incredible stint with Partners & Spade, I went to Belstaff and fell in love with England. I moved to London for a while after that–doing projects with a magazine and luxury leather goods brand. I was a sort of loner, but I went to flea markets every weekend and experimented with uniform dressing—like, actually wearing old uniforms—and tailoring. That shaped my perspective on style, and brought me back to what I grew up with in a sense.
Where do you currently work, and what you do there?
I’m the editorial director at J.Crew and focus on men’s. I enjoy finding interesting people and telling their stories, and helping guys get dressed.
What does New York mean to you? What are some of your favorite spots in the city?
New York isn’t particularly pretty or natural, but it’s open and creative. New Yorkers are intensely loyal and inspired by each other—probably because we’re all hustling so much. I’d love to live in a lot of places, but the diversity, style, and cultivated perspectives here are really unique. I go to the same places all the time: St. Jardim and Pisellino for coffee; Il Buco, Altro Paradiso, AbcV, El Quijote, and Frenchette for dinner. Odeon, Commerce Inn, or Lodi for drinks. Places like Lovely Day and Gitane are reassuring. Nature is very, very important to me. But I live in NYC! I walk or run on the Westside Highway waterfront every day. We live near Jefferson Market Garden; it is a small gift.
J.Mueser is my second home at this point. Having your favorite tailor down the street is a comedically great situation. I can’t forget the heart of the West Village: Lifethyme. NYC doesn’t make vegans like they used to.
The role of editorial director is not an easy one. Do you have any rituals to prepare for a strenuous or busy day? Do you have advice for someone overwhelmed in their current role at their job?
Lists, prep, more lists, good collaborators. I wish I had the answers here! There’s a lot to juggle in the world right now. For me, waking up early and doing yoga at home and then walking or running outside before the Zooms is incredibly impactful. I can prioritize my day and think when I’m moving. I keep socializing to a minimum and try to have a day by myself every week in nature–I drive out to the ocean most Saturdays. That is a privilege and doesn’t always happen, but I prioritize it because it makes such a difference in my entire week. My work is always pretty aligned with what I care about so I’m always working in some way. The most frequent advice I’ve received is to let a lot of it go. I find that hard to do.
Most people have a defining moment, or series of moments, in their style journey that set them on the path to what they dress like now. Do you have any specific memories of such a moment or moments? Has that journey and its touchpoints informed other aspects of your life?
Wearing a uniform in high school clearly left a mark because now I wear some version of one all the time! Between that and getting a nice blazer for holidays every year, getting deep into vintage and living in Europe later on probably had the most impact.
I experimented a lot. As a kid, I wore berets, loafers, even ties, and a lot of my dad’s old clothes. Then it was all about vintage, Doc Martens and velvet skirts. But the boundaries of a uniform, and learning the ways you express yourself within those, are so interesting to me.
Having a bespoke linen suit made by J.Mueser was the biggest turning point for me. I never thought I’d wear a white suit every day, but I changed my shirt, scarf, shoes, and was ready for anything anywhere in the world. Being OK with wearing something that elevated routinely, not being precious with it or feeling you need new things, it helps you define a relationship with yourself and the people who make your clothes—not to mention how much anxiety and money is saved in the long run. Less but better things can clarify every day. I had the same suit made in different color linens, and cashmere wool for winter. We call it the Clementina Suit, and are now working on making it available to more people through our collaboration.
What are some staples you can’t live without, both within and outside the realm of your closet?
White jeans. Scarves, bandanas, and pocket squares—I have too many to count. Fruilane slippers. A J.Mueser linen suit for the summer, and the same suit in wool for the winter. Large-collared, thin cotton shirts, particularly from Speciale and J.Mueser. A navy sport coat with gold buttons, a good Charvet tuxedo shirt, a white linen camp shirt, a Valstar Trench Coat, a Drake’s sweater vest, an Atelier Bomba linen safari jacket, old polos from Lacoste and Fedeli, a Barbour Jacket, olive green boy's chinos, and a cashmere cable knit sweater. For accessories, worn-in Belgian loafers, Baudoin & Lange loafers, a thin brown leather belt, a woven brown belt, and Bombas dress socks.
Outside of clothes, Santa Maria Novella sunscreen, nature, quiet, travel, simple, natural food, a travel yoga mat, sparkling water, and most importantly, good friends.
What tips would you give to someone looking to dress better without breaking the bank?
Wearing a uniform of sorts simplifies everything. It takes a while to figure out whatever that is, but something that’s personal and versatile anywhere in the world is life-changing. It removes anxiety and really defines empowered dressing.
Quality fabrics make all the difference. And buying one nice piece at a time, over time, and taking care of it and repairing it, is always worth it. eBay and Etsy are incredible resources for beautiful clothes, and vintage. I find most things on there and have them tailored. You can find old Charvet shirts or Belgians. I’m not a big shopper because I only wear a limited amount of clothes, so I notice what’s missing and either make it or wait a while until I find it somewhere. Sometimes it takes years to find the right thing of a good quality that’s also affordable and meaningful.
How do you find inspiration?
I absorb everything when I travel. If I could travel to a new place every day, I would. And I love people! There are too many interesting things to comprehend—big nature, big collars, good signage, hand-printed paper, cloth, textiles, tiny shops, uniquely dressed people, nonchalant gestures, gardens, tailors, art studios, furniture, velvet slippers, quiet talent, simple food, nice linen, farmers markets, small villages, spirited cooks, hospitality, old velvet, surfers, horses, terrariums, trees, camping, ambition, winemakers, farmers, skaters, Roman statues, rattan furniture, musicians, French flea markets, old magazines, rebellion, makers, and more makers.
When you’re not working, what do you do for fun? What are some of your favorite places to travel?
I go to the ocean, into nature. I love to walk and run long distances. Big trees and rugged coasts. Italy has been instrumental in my life, especially Florence, Rome, and Monte Argentario. Spending a lot of time there, working with the people there, their perspective stays with me every day and makes me a better, and maybe warmer, person. I always go at any and every opportunity. Otherwise, England. London, the countryside, the coast. Northern California is important to me, too. I spent time there as a kid and now I go to Big Sur and drive up to Stinson, Point Reyes, Napa Valley. The salt air and tall trees will reset anyone.
I spend a lot of time on Long Island during the off-season—the North Fork and Montauk. I like going in the fall and winter when it’s quiet. Even if it’s freezing and windy I’ll walk on the beach all day.
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