Karl Logan is sitting in the Center Hall of the airy Santa Monica Mall supervising the final construction phase of his first retail store. Sipping black coffee and smoking incessantly, he recalls a fateful night about a year and a half ago that would impact the course of his life.
“I was sailing the British Caribbean on vacation,” he says with an irrepressible grin, “and there wasn’t a lot to do but drink tequila and think a lot. I was lying there one night looking up at the stars and I made a decision that I wanted to have it all. And even if I only got 50% of it, it would be 50% more than I had before.”
Although the youthful, 39-year-old designer might not yet have it all, he’s got more now than he’s had in the last 20 years that he’s been piecing, sewing and designing his progressive signature-clothing collections.
The company closed out its 1988 fiscal year with a record $3 million in sales; in January he won the California Mart’s coveted Designer of the Year Award; for spring he introduced a long-awaited menswear collection, and this week he will unveil the store he hopes will serve as a showcase for his complete men’s and women’s collections. Not bad for a middle-class kid from Bakersfield, who still jokes he “has straw behind the ears.”
Just recently, even his personal style has changed. Gone are the trademark black beret and shoulder-length locks. Today he sports a short, spiky do and a more refined look that includes his own tasteful black-and-white check, double-breasted suit, white T-shirt and cutout, peek-a-boo black leather shoes. The look is indeed more in sync with the competitive business world in which the still rebellious, yet business-minded Logan has become a part.
“When I tell people that I’m opening up my first store in the Santa Monica Mall, you should see the looks on their faces,” Logan says, and laughs his infectious laugh. “But you know what I say to them, ‘They spend money in malls; they window shop on Melrose.’ ”
Since joining forces with partner Joseph Morales three years ago, the intrepid duo has carefully nurtured the Karl Logan name into a label that commands recognition and respect--even from hard-to-please New York retailers. Barneys, Charivari and Saks Fifth Avenue head the list of impressive East Coast accounts.
“Early on, we tried to address the attitude and taste levels of Easterners,” explains Morales, a former chief operating officer of NutraSweet.
“Easterners prefer suitings; Westerners are more casual in their dress. So we incorporated both concepts.”
Most recently, his path has taken him into menswear, where he hopes to loosen up the corporate look. Or, as he puts it, “take the gray flannel suit out of Wall Street and into Soho. I’m designing for me.
“I make everything I want to wear, but can never find. I want the customer who looks aggressive and is progressive, not the corporate guy who lives and dresses by rules and regulations.
For instance, he says: “I would never buy anything that costs more than my rent,” which is $1,000 for his West Hollywood apartment.
He also believes in putting personal style ahead of fashion: “Fashion is something you put on, style is something that you have, it’s your sense of wit, practicality and what’s involved in your life. It’s what makes you, you.”