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What role does celebrity play in your work?

I think my relationship with the sports and broadcasting world has been very strong. In 1988, soon after I launched my first collection, Bryant Gumbel asked me to design his outfits for covering the Seoul Olympics; he was really the first anchor ever to do that. The amount of press we received was amazing. Bob Costas, the host of the Olympics and really the franchise player for all of NBC Sports, is a good friend. He says, “Whenever I’ve had anybody else make my clothes, I never feel as comfortable, I don’t think I look as good, and I want you to continue to work with me.” Wynton Marsalis has done events with me and worn my clothes, we’ve designed for Brad Pitt.

But we don’t play the game of chasing celebrities. Most of the relationships we’ve had over the years are genuine, very honest. We do something right that makes the celebrity feel good and they become supportive of the work. Could you describe the evolution of your brand and how you connect with your customer? Jaz is my new creation. Just the name “Jaz” speaks to American style, which is classic in its roots but full of innovation and improvisation.

And I love how far-reaching that name is; it doesn’t need translation anywhere in the world. It’s pretty exciting. I’ll be honest with you, we’ve launched in a very strange and difficult climate, where retailers have suffered tremendously with people not shopping.

Often men are the first to say, I don’t really need a new suit, maybe I’ll just buy a couple of shirts and ties. Some men are going to stop depending on clothes. But for the most part, young men still believe that clothes represent who they are. So I think that there’s a lot of hope for the line. You have to be smart about making the consumer want to buy the clothes. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

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