Rowing Blazers takes center stage in WWD's piece "The Rebranding of Preppy" (Talking the P-word with Women's Wear Daily)
One sunny afternoon a gentleman in his late 40s walked into Rowing Blazers‘ New York pop-up on Rivington Street. He asked the brand’s founder, Jack Carlson, to join him next door for ice cream at Morgenstern’s, where he proceeded to offer Carlson unsolicited advice about his line. The man was a Princeton graduate, preppy and pleased with the brightly colored rowing blazers and rugby shirts Carlson designed, but didn’t like the T-shirts he created with Joe’s Pizza.
“He said something like, ‘They have no place in the brand,'” recalled Carlson, who is 31. “I was polite, but in my mind I was thinking it’s my brand and if I think it’s cool, then it makes sense. There are people who don’t quite get it, but you never hear any of these comments from younger people.”
Carlson, who started Rowing Blazers in 2017, can easily be described as preppy. He grew up in Boston and London, attended Georgetown University, studied archaeology at Oxford University and was on the U.S. rowing team. But he stays away from using what he calls the “p” word in relation to his line because of its connotations, which Carlson believes are stuffy and dated. With his collection, which he created after putting together a book, also titled “Rowing Blazers,” which documented rowing blazers from around the world, Carlson wanted to reenergize preppy staples in an authentic, relevant way and present them on a variety of models who don’t all look like they grew up on Nantucket.
He’s become the collaborator of choice for heritage brands such as J. Crew and Sperry that are trying to reach a customer who’s no longer impressed with the preppy lifestyle and entranced with streetwear or ath-leisure — Carlson doesn’t categorize Rowing Blazers as streetwear, but it has influenced the line and the brands he works with, such as Eric Emanuel and Death to Tennis, which is selling out of a rotating space in Rowing Blazers’ Grand Street store.