– By Khahlil Louisy
Grab your snack, coffee, cocktail, or water because this one is an extensive piece.
Everything that is going on in the world right now makes us want to find a remote island away from civilization and stay there. Of course, we also want cell phone service and luxury amenities on that remote island as well, but you get the point, we all just want to be away from the madness. But what happens when you can’t leave because of your job, family, or other necessary responsibilities? Well, you can certainly imagine yourself away or you can buy yourself nice things that can make you feel like you’re on an island in the breeze. And that’s what luxury Italian-made brand, SCARCI, does.
SCARCI is a resort brand that offers light, easy-to-wear clothes constructed from luxurious fabrics. Shirts are made from fine linens, cottons, and silks. Even the most basic pieces, like Polos, are elevated, using Filo di Scozia Italian 80/2 cotton yarns to ensure a soft and refined finish. This is the perfect brand for the modern traveler who enjoys comfort, style, and elegance without being over the top or screaming for attention.
I met Kevin Swan, co-founder of the brand, at Nat Sherman’s Townhouse last month, where he hosted an event to introduce SCARCI to the New York market. Kevin is an accurate reflection of the brand that he’s building – put-together, well-spoken, well-traveled, cultured, and has fantastic hair.
After walking me through the collection, I quickly realized that SCARCI is an ideal brand for New Yorkers who head out of town on summer weekends. It’s functional in the way that the lightweight fabrics won’t cause overheating on hot days, but also elegant enough that it can be worn to a summer party or evening out.
Once the madness of New York Fashion Week Men’s and market week ended, I had a chat with Kevin to learn more about both him and the brand. And like the guys who would wear SCARCI, I find out that he is a man of many talents. Here is an edited and condensed version of our conversation:
Khahlil: It’s actually really hot in the city, so that’s perfect for having a resort wear line.
Kevin: I know you were at our Nat Sherman event, too, right? And you got a chance to see the SCARCI collection. What did you think of it when you were there?
Khahlil: I liked it. It was fun. And you guys do a really good job of playing with fabrics and textures, which is really nice. And it’s light. And it’s Italian-made! I could go on.
Kevin: [Laughs] Whenever we design any sort of piece, we do so from ground up. We always start with what the piece could be used for and then how we can creatively use it. We love textures, we love fabrics, we love how they feel and what you look like when you’re wearing it. I’m glad you love it.
Khahlil: Can I just ask you what your background was before SCARCI?
Kevin: So, my education background is in advertising. I, as a creative person, went to school for advertising to become an art director and creative director. Shortly after I was in college, I actually was approached by a music producer that said, “Hey, I hear that you could sing really well.” He asked me to audition for his band. The music producer’s name was Maurice Starr, he was a really big music producer. He made New Kids On The Block, New Edition, and all of these bands, so…
Khahlil: So you were a real singer—a singer, singer?
Kevin: [Laughs] So, yeah, I auditioned for his band. I think it was probably around 1999 or 1998. I auditioned along with about four to five hundred other people, made it and immediately went into the studio to begin recording our first album and just doing artist development, dance, and a cappella training. We recorded the first album and released it in 1999. So that is my background —my college background is in advertising and then I went into the music business for about five years. When I came out of the music business, I went back into advertising, where I developed my own design company and sold it in 2013.
Khahlil: Wow! Man of many talents.
Kevin: [Laughs] I’m glad somebody thinks so!
Khahlil: Okay, but let’s talk about the brand a little bit because your resort collection—you’re made in Italy, based in Atlanta as opposed to New York which is the fashion center of the U.S. Why the decision to set up your base in Atlanta?
Kevin: I guess, because, well, one, SCARCI is actually based out of Milan. Our home office is in Milan, Italy, which is where we started the company in early 2015-16. We decided to move the U.S. distribution office back here to Atlanta, but the home office is still in Milan. Our U.S. distribution office—we decided on Atlanta because it was a kind of a central hub for international flights in and out and because we are dominantly a hot territory resort location. It was a unified hub between Miami versus the Caribbean and New York. And plus, I just love it here. I love New York, too, but New York to me—I’ve always told my friends, “I love, love, love going to New York, but I have to have somewhere to go home to.”
Khahlil: I feel the opposite. Where are you guys currently sold?
Kevin: In the Four Seasons. So, we just negotiated a deal with the Four Seasons to distribute the SCARCI collection through their resort locations. Currently, most of the resort locations in Four Seasons that we’re located in are on the West Coast—in California and Hawaii. We are moving down into Orlando and then down into Miami.
Khahlil: Wow, that’s a lot! And then I see that you guys are also doing an artwork collection on t-shirts. That’s cool — Artwork paintings on t-shirts.
Kevin: That’s right. We do have a small collection of these. We wanted each artwork to show the look, the hand-painted, authentic artwork. And so we’ve contracted three artists from around the world—one artist in Italy, one artist who’s in, I think, South Africa, and then one right here in the U.S. We kind of gave them our direction on what we’d like to portray in the scene, or in the artwork.
We asked them to paint using whatever method they wanted—if they want to use chalk or if they want to use acrylic or watercolor. But we wanted this to be done on a large canvas and then we bring it back into the office. We digitally shoot them, so as to make sure that we retain all of the intricate brushstrokes in each piece of art because when we print these to the shirts, we want each shirt to kind of tell a story as opposed to just being a computer digitized piece of art.
And second point to this is—our goal for the brand is to launch our own brick-and-mortar retail stores. That’s why we asked them to do these on very large canvas pieces of art. We want to be able to display these throughout the stores that we partner with and then the stores we own ourselves.
Khahlil: Cool, so I just wanted to ask because it’s such a somewhat disruptive time in retail, especially brick-and-mortar stores: Do you guys have any special concepts for the store, or what’s the goal?
Kevin: Yes, it is. We are focused right now on two different locations for SCARCI retail. First location is in Las Vegas. We’re currently talking to Caesars Palace about a space that they have in their atrium there and the second location is between two different locations, actually. For the second location, the fashion district in Miami, and the Atlantis in the Bahamas. The Atlantis in the Bahamas—I’m consistently talking to them, almost on a monthly basis, about opening up a SCARCI store within the Crystal shops there.
The thing with that is, the Atlantis is so well-known, that all the stores—and there’s not that many stores that are actually in the Crystal shops —maybe about fifteen or so stores, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so they’ve solidified their spaces there. And that’s what the Atlantis says. They said, “You know, you’re basically on a three year waiting list for a store here.” And so I said, “Okay, well, make sure that I’m number one on that list then, because I’m going to keep calling you every month and make sure that you remember who I am, because I’m number one on that list!”
Kevin: Right, exactly! Our other option—and our clothing, because it is resort wear, is perfectly designed for that climate in that destination, for our resort wear —is the Baha Mar, which just opened in April this past year. They just opened across the street from the Atlantis, so I have reached out to them about opening up a store. We’re currently putting together a proposal on what this would look like, as far as square footage and as far as what the decor and the space would look like.
Khahlil: Big plans for SCARCI.
Kevin: Oh, absolutely, you gotta go big!
Khahlil: I hear you, I agree! So, I heard that you have some really fun linen shirts for the summer.
Kevin: We do, yes, we love linen! And it’s not just because it has cotton and cotton-stretch. But we have partnered with some of the top Italian fabric manufacturers including Albini, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. Albini is probably one of our best Italian partners and when we approached them, we did so on two parts. We said, “We need a really, probably some of the absolute best, relaxed linen that you guys can have, with the délavé wash.” It’s just so soft and feels great.
And then the second one is, “We want something to wear in the evening time.” If you’re in New York, or you’re in the Atlantis, or you’re in Las Vegas, we need something that you can put on and dress up and wear out to Nobu, to a very nice, elegant dinner that would still be nice, relaxed, cool, and comfortable.
So we have developed our seaside linen collection and it’s all made out of 100% Sahara linen from Albini. Now, this is such a fine linen and it’s got a jacquard-woven texture through the linen. It’s so soft, but it stays fairly crisp through the night and it’s got more of a classic Italian look. So, when you get to some of the relaxed linens that we have that’s got the délavé wash, this is more of your traditional-style linen that is really soft, relaxed.
Actually, we’ve got this one style, and I can talk about this all day because I love talking fabrics and talking shirts. I get excited about it. We’ve got this one shirt that was designed specifically for SCARCI from Albini, it’s about 80%—and I may have even showed it to you at Nat Sherman—it’s about 80% linen and 20% silk. So, to have something so fine as silk intertwined with such a soft, relaxed linen, I mean, it’s hard to describe what it feels like. You just have to be able to position your fingers and just say, “Oh my God. This is like something I’ve never even seen before.”
Khahlil: —like liquid mercury, we’ll say!
Kevin: [Laughs] Exactly! And every shirt that we design has been designed with the absolute best elements. Every shirt has true mother of pearl buttons and depending on the color of the shirt, if we do a dark navy shirt, make it black mother of pearl buttons. If we do one of the light colored shirts, like a pink or a white, make it white mother of pearl buttons.
Khahlil: Right, and like you said, this is so great for now because everyone gets out of town on the weekend. You hang out on the beach, then you go to dinner, so you need something you can dress up in, but that is still comfortable!
Kevin: Absolutely. I was in the Caribbean just last week right after New York Men’s Week. Literally, I came home for about two days, prepared a shipment out to one of our retailers, and went home, picked up my wife and my kids and flew straight to the Caribbean. And I’m telling you, my whole suitcase—I mean, I guess it’s no surprise—my whole suitcase was stocked full with SCARCI!
Kevin: Right, exactly, because that’s the environment that we—at least for this specific collection, the environment that we have designed our materials to breathe the best, to feel the best. Whenever you’re going out to dinners, or even going down to the swimming pools.
It’s just a quick trip that my wife and I went to with the kids. My wife and I have taken trips like this many times but we never take the kids with us. It’s always just the two of us and this was the first trip that we said, “You know, we have to get out and get our kids cultured a little bit.”
Aqsa: So, you said the shirt is perfect for the current climate, obviously because of its linen composition. I’m curious how the company tests for environmental conditions such as humidity—like making sure that the linen is breathable, that you’re not sweating in this shirt?
Kevin: Right, so, when we go into the development of each fabric and each product, we do give the fabric manufacturers—and I’m in Italy quite often because I work hand-to-hand with each one of these manufacturers—but we do give these fabric manufacturers strict guidelines on what finishings that we want in this, what the purpose of this shirt is, and the environment it’s gonna be used in, if it’s going to be around saltwater, or hot climates, or chlorine.
We’ve got several pieces that we do, that has a 24 tier gold SCARCI emblem attached to it. These are all tested with the conditions of chlorine, or sand, or salt water. We hired Intertek to come in. If you don’t know what Intertek is, they are the global contract company that comes in to do quality control check. They test for everything. And that’s one of the things that makes SCARCI so particular about the luxury quality that we deliver.
A lot of companies will come in and when they do a quality control check, they’ll do a check on say, one in twenty pieces. You know, they’ll pull twenty pieces from the line, and then they’ll do a quality control check on one, and say, “Okay, well that one passed, so this bulk is cleared to go.”
SCARCI does a quality control check on one in two, so every two shirts that are pulled, we do a control check. And in some cases, depending on the shirt, it’s a one in one, so every single shirt is checked for either loose threads, loose buttons, loose anything. So, that’s really where we focus, the majority of the quality of our product is in the actual construction and the actual fabric of the product.
Aqsa: Nice. How does someone clean this shirt or maintain it—extend its lifetime basically?
Kevin: As with any other luxury product, we always ask for the shirt to be dry cleaned. And even me, I dry clean all of mine. I mean, I guess when you’re paying the retail price of quality, luxury, Italian shirts, you probably would not want to throw that shirt into the washing machine! But, you know what’s funny—and you’re probably gonna laugh when I say this—but a lot of times through the production, through the sampling, through the prototyping of each one of these products that we do, In addition to just literally sitting down with the factories and outlining exactly what happens with each one of these shirts and what it’s used for, once these prototypes come back—I will take a prototype, and I will wear that shirt for about a week straight. Then what I’ll do is, I’ll send it to the dry cleaners! I will! [Laughs]
I mean, trust me, I’ll do some crazy stuff with this shirt that people are like, “You should never do that with a $300 shirt!” I’ll wear it personally, send it to the dry cleaners and when it comes back, I analyze it next to another sample. Then, I’ll give it to my kids and have them wear it to mow the grass and when they bring it back in, I’ll put it in the washing machine. I will literally put that shirt through everything that a luxury shirt should never see. And you know what, the fact is, I know what I’ve planned for this shirt and the usage of this shirts, but I don’t know what my customers, are going do.
So I have to anticipate everything. If this shirt comes back, and it starts unraveling at the hem or a button falls off of it—well, chances are, we’ve got to go back to the drawing table immediately on this shirt and rectify this problem before we go to production, or else it’s just not gonna make the cut.
Khahlil: You’re right.
Kevin: I’m so passionate about this product.
Khahlil: I can tell!
Kevin: Again, it’s the quality first. It’s always quality first and quality fabrics first. We can worry about the retail and distribution and all of that later, but until I have a product that is up to my quality standards—and I’m probably my worst critic—it’s not gonna make the cut.
What I was going to mention to you just a second ago is—and you picked up on it when I said with this particular collection, we do deal with a lot of linens and lightweight cottons. This is a resort wear brand and looking at the future of SCARCI, that’s what we produce, resort collections. But our two to three year plan is also to move into SCARCI Snow, to be able to create pieces for Vail, or for colder climate weather. So, still resort wear, but just a different season of resort wear. Even though we talked a lot about the Caribbean, the beach, and we talked a lot about Miami, but SCARCI is more of a destination travel brand. Our biggest market currently is in Las Vegas and so, for all intents and purpose, Las Vegas is not a beach. I mean, they’ve got a lot of sand, but there’s no beach!
Khahlil: Right, but all the same, so…
Kevin: Las Vegas is probably one of the biggest resort areas and so I think that’s really the key backbone behind SCARCI. When I say resort wear, it’s more destination travel.
Khahlil: Alright, this is awesome! I think I’ve learned quite a bit about the brand today. Thanks Kevin!
You can check out the brand’s website and order your pieces at www.scarci.com