Many thanks to Jen Graves at The Stranger for this great feature in this week’s issue.
Michael Cepress is a fashion designer—which to him means being an artist and a historian. Ladies, the clean-cut, dandified clothing by this Wisconsin native is not for you: It’s for and inspired by the underserved male body. The designs rest on centuries of European male fashion history, which often looks more “feminine” than modern wear. But they’re also influenced by Cepress’s own well-groomed classic Midwestern American background (“men with a comb in their pocket, who shower and shave every day, who tuck in”) and, increasingly, bright and flowing non-Western menswear.
In 2006, after graduating from the University of Washington with a master of fine arts degree (“Being a fashion designer as an artist was like a second coming-out—I was so afraid of rejection”), Cepress went to study with prestigious theater designer Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center in New York, then spent two years working in the exacting costume department at Seattle Opera. In 2008, he opened a little storefront at 417 East Loretta Place, where he ran a retail operation and shared space with a fellow MFA grad. But Cepress isn’t a retailer: “I went to art school for a reason.” Just this week he’s rechristened the former store as an open studio—he’ll work on commissions (334-7602, www.michaelcepress.com) and talk with anyone who drops by, but the clothes will be on sale at other locations, chiefly Velouria, a new boutique on Melrose Avenue. He has a simple gospel to preach: basic fashion consciousness for men. “So many guys come in and say, ‘Oh, I just don’t think about clothes,'” Cepress says. “Well, actually, you do. But you’re making the choice not to make any decisions about it, and that’s just as much a decision.” JEN GRAVES