Matt Baldwin is a busy man.
“You should stick around,” Andrew Rayl, Baldwin’s in-house tailor tells me as I browse the racks of the men’s store, waiting for the tall 30-something to finish chitchatting animatedly with a customer. “He’s very hard to catch. He’ll be out of here at five.”
The founder of the Kansas-City-based boutique Standard Style seems elusive as ever as he walks past me in pursuit of a certain pair of his self-designed raw denim. He grabs the rugged-looking jeans off of a low-to-the-ground rack and offers them to the customer, urging him to try on this specific cut. He then turns to help out a hurried-looking woman who had just pushed through the unmarked door with a return, striking up another conversation with ease.
Just one month earlier, Matt Baldwin was at the Aug. 26 grand opening of his self-designed, self-created, self-branded and self-owned luxury denim and apparel store, aptly named Baldwin. Now, he and the seven other men on his team have it operating like a well-oiled machine—which is exactly what the store’s interior resembles.
The menswear boutique is what Matt refers to as “modern-timeless.” The rustic wood-and-metal interior is cold and masculine, but very attractive. Working with local architecture company Hufft Projects, Matt jumped on the chance to “play the architect and designed the look and feel of his dream store—within a week of obtaining the location in the up-and-coming shopping district One Nineteen.
Using the finest fabrics and textiles from American and Japanese companies, Matt designs and sells everything from wool “KC” ball caps to classic oxfords co-designed with George Esquivel, a modern American shoe craftsman. In between, the store offers somehow-expensive-looking T-shirts and V-necks, crisp button-downs and, of course, a wall of custom denim. Along with their own products, Matt brings in other small American-made labels to stock in the Baldwin store as a means of offering a wider variety of products to the man who seeks them out.
Before opening the official Baldwin Denim location, Matt and his wife, Emily Baldwin, were selling the signature raw jeans at Standard Style on the Country Club Plaza and Town Center Plaza. He launched the initial design in the fall of 2009 and has been developing the cuts ever since.
The market for high-end men’s fashion products does not only extend to wealthy adults in Matt’s opinion. Though Baldwin is currently an international company—with 18 different stockists of their products worldwide ranging from Des Moines to the Netherlands to Tokyo, Japan—Matt feels that there is a market for the everyday man and even the high school student.
“Some guys just get it,” Matt said. “It really depends on what they’re exposed to—where they travel, what blogs they look at, what their parents tell them about. We have some young guys that come in here that are into it, that just get it.”
Matt sees the high-price tags on Baldwin Denim products as an investment rather than a splurge. Spending $250 on a pair of jeans can be justified by the quality of the American-made product.
“Someone could just go to, you know, the Gap — not to bash the Gap — and buy a pair of jeans, but that’s the Gap’s jeans, not their jeans,” Matt said. “If you buy a pair of raw denim, it becomes you the longer you wear it. That’s why people buy it — it’s so worth it.”
Just as Baldwin does not only offer denim, it does not merely specialize in menswear. A small hallway in the back of Baldwin connects the men’s store to the new Standard Style building next door. Though Matt had a problem with always being “a men’s’ section in a women’s store,” he capitalizes on the market for women’s raw denim and T-shirts with the help of his wife and co-owner of Standard Style, Emily Baldwin. The Baldwin label is moving toward expanding their merchandise to reach a larger audience with women’s shorts and even children’s jeans.
As Matt begins looking toward the future of the store, he smiles. He begins discussing the ideas behind it and the way he views men’s fashion on the whole. He admits that he and his wife, despite being the owners and running the show behind Baldwin and Standard Style, work normal hours and try to be as hands-on as possible within their business.
“I have a wife, three kids—and a nanny to make it all work,” Matt laughs. “And “B,” he adds, looking down at the massive golden retriever lounging happily on the store’s dark tiled floor.
Matt Baldwin may be busy, but he’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing—providing hand-picked products to the public and bringing much-needed menswear notoriety to the center of the Midwest.