Catching Up With: Kevin Hansen and Michael Chilton, Badowers

by Harry Sheff

I caught up with Kevin Hansen and Michael Chilton of Badowers in Des Moines, Iowa after the Las Vegas shows to ask them what’s selling, what they picked up at the shows and what they’re tired of in the menswear market.

Michael Chilton and Kevin Hansen

Badowers launched e-commerce last summer with a limited part of their in-store inventory. It’s doing well so far and Hansen says the key is unique items like the Barbour/To Ki To jacket that Daniel Craig wore in the last James Bond movie ($799 retail). “We had eight of them and sold them all within about ten days, most of them online,” Hansen said. “A lot of calls and e-mails for this jacket were from overseas.”

Items like that from existing vendors are what’s been important to Badowers lately. “We’re still in that cycle where we’re not really looking for new things—I’m just looking for pieces from the lines I already carry,” Hansen remarked.

Much of their energy has gone into tailored clothing and they did add one new brand: Southwick. “I like lines that I can back up with made-to-measure—I can hang a couple sleeves and if someone needs a size I can get it to them in three or four weeks,” Hansen explained. “Our other store (Mr. B) sells Southwick but this is an extension of what they do: it’s a little bit shorter and trimmer with a different selection of fabrics.”

And their relationship with Luigi Bianchi continues to grow, he says. “We’re going to hang more sleeves this year. We’re doing an in-stock program with Luigi Bianchi where we’ll have a trim-fit suit made in Italy for under a thousand dollars. I had to buy quite a few units up front, so we’ll make a big push online. It’s in their newest fit, which is a drop-seven.”

For sport coats, Hansen says he’s done with hybrid jackets. “We had a lot of vendors showing us hybrids; we sold a ton of them three years ago and our guys already have two of them in their closets.”

But unstructured sport coats are a different story. “They continue to do really well for us,” Hansen says. “We saw so many guys at the shows wearing them. Once you go from wearing a big, bulky shouldered coat to a soft coat, you see a big difference.”

When I asked Hansen and Chilton if there were any trends that they were over, they laughed—this was a question Chilton had answered in January last year, and it caused a minor incident. His answer in 2013 was the same as it was when the blog We Are the Market asked him in 2012: He’s done with “ironic footwear,” and he called out Mark McNairy and Florsheim by Duckie Brown. It’s the neon soles.

FuckIowaThat comment irked McNairy, who’s represented by BPMW, the agency that runs Capsule and We Are the Market. It didn’t help that the interview was re-blogged by the Huffington Post. An angry McNairy tweeted in all caps, “Fuck Iowa,” and it may or may not have prompted the release of a t-shirt bearing the Future Farmers of America logo and the words “Iowa Bumfuck” ($32 retail).

Chilton’s attitude was that of healthy amusement at all the drama but he was disappointed McNairy took it so personally. Fortunately, Billy Moore of the leather and jewelry brand Cause & Effect—a mutual friend to Badowers and McNairy—contributed a peace offering: belt buckles that say “FUCK IOWA.”