Dept 728 is cutting edge. Their new fall “Espionage” line, boasting images of guns and spies, makes that perfectly clear. But for anyone who has ever found the perfect shirt, only to find that it’s too loose, too tight, too long or too short, the young clothing line is also an end to the frustration—the entire label was created specifically with fit in mind.
“Dept 728 actually started when my business partner Sean [Carrell] and I…worked at Neiman Marcus in the sports department,” designer Ruth Karasik says. Noticing that athletic men had a hard time finding clothes with their “built upper bodies and slim waistlines,” the pair decided to do something about it. They left their jobs on July 28, 2006, and a clothing line was born.
Offering both a standard and an athletic fit for men’s tops, guys will have no problem finding something in their size with Dept 728. And while men were the brand’s original targeted clientele, this fall’s collection will make the ladies more comfortable as well. “[With] women, even if you have a size two, three size twos [don’t look the same next to each other],” Karasik says. “If women don’t find something that fits, they tend to think they’re shaped funny rather than the clothing.” Karasik’s answer? The morph skirt. Featured in the new line, the skirt can be worn as a variety of dresses or skirts, and tends to fit almost everyone, “because it’s so adjustable.”
Having perfected the fit in her developing label, Karasik’s latest collection, due out in September, will also be focused on high fashion. “This September’s gonna be the first time that the fit and aesthetics are coming together as one,” she says. Drawing inspiration from rather unexpected sources, Karasik strives for usable, but pretty, designs. “I take a lot from weddings and architecture,” she says. (Dwell magazine is her favorite publication.) “[My work ethic] tends to kind of jive closer to [that of] furniture designers and architects [than that of designers]. [Architects] look at the problem and solve [it] in a beautiful but practical sort of way.”
Her fall collection was inspired by the whole “spy” culture both literally for men and figuratively for women. “For fall, it’s got sort of a tongue-in-cheek, spy-versus-spy thing,” Karasik says. “[It’s a] fun look at that whole violent [scene].”
And Karasik’s customers simply can’t wait to check it out. With customers already fans of the current “zippy,” a zippered sweatshirt with a stand-up collar, (Karasik says she doesn’t think she’s had a customer that hasn’t bought it) the new fall version is already generating a lot of buzz. “[With] the gun sweatshirt, we have customers waiting,” she says. “[It’s] funny to see the one bold graphic that makes the shirt pop…people are salivating for the thing.” She herself is a fan of the reversible Colleen top in the women’s collection. “[It has] an open back and a drapey front…it reminds me of a calla lily.”
Karasik says that although My Body Fitness in Glenview showcases some of her clothing, for now, the web is still the best place to pick up her designs. (Wicker Park’s Bonnie & Clyde may soon follow suit.) All of the garments will be made available at www.dept728.com in early September, and as an added bonus, Karasik says that her company is still small enough to be able to accept special requests from online customers. “I will fix it and tweak it…for a customer with a special situation,” she says. “One customer is 6’4”. We can accommodate those types of requests.”
Some have been shocked at how accommodating the clothes truly are. “It’s been a pretty interesting response,” Karasik says. “People who were used to fitting into much tighter clothing [have] sort of adapted to the fact that [our line] actually does give them room to breathe and still does show off their bodies.”
As Karasik puts it best, “we’re really about making the person look good in the clothes rather than the clothes looking good on the person.” (Nicole Briese)