Interview with Sean Dunn of Astor and Black

by Marc Jay
03.12.2010

Marc Jay: So I’m sitting here in Sean’s gallery-cum-shop. I would call him the fashion guru of Las Vegas, he’s probably not going to claim to be that person, but he truly is a legend here and he dresses some of the best people in Vegas, even myself from time to time. Tell us about your history and what you do here in Las Vegas, Sean.

Sean Dunn: We try to make the best look even better, so our whole thing is trying to find the guys who have the finger on the pulse of their own style and their own fashion and we try to collaborate with them to take it to another level.

Marc Jay: When I look at the list of like “The Hot 100 of Las Vegas” and think you probably dressed like 85% of them, it makes me wonder – how do you get your clients? How do people find you?

Sean Dunn: Word of mouth, 100% word of mouth in this town. In fact, I can trace back the majority of my business to one guy in this town, Jon Gray who is the VP of brand development over at The Palms, to about a year ago. He just started plucking me in with the right guys and, as you know in this town, once you know one guy, you know them all.

Marc Jay: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into – now what do you actually call it?

Sean Dunn: Astor and Black is a custom clothier. My role is essentially brand development of Las Vegas, as well as other cities, depending on where our clients end up. Since we deal with a lot of athletes, there’s a lot of travelling involved, chasing the athletes, as well as some of the execs. They’re not limited to one particular area.

Marc Jay: So if I’m like a 25-year-old guy living in Las Vegas and wearing overalls, half the time in jeans and t-shirts, I come and see you and how can you help me? You can obviously make me look better, but how do you go about changing someone’s appearance?

Sean Dunn: There are a couple things that come right off the bat. First I try to understand what their style is, or for a better term, what their lifestyle is. What do they really need to wear and what kind of message are they trying to convey? Then, number two is “What do they already have?” We want to start to build a wardrobe that they don’t have to throw away in a year-and-a-half. Because Vegas is so fashion-oriented, we try to do things that are more timeless – classic and stylish versus fashionable. Then three, we try to figure out what their budget is and then work within the constraints of all three of those things to start building a wardrobe that fits their lifestyle needs and their budgets. If they do have that creative sense, we collaborate with them and it allows them to express what they want to tell people about how they look and how they dress.

Marc Jay: Now people who shop at the average clothing stores probably think that having custom clothing is very, very expensive and only a unique amount of people can afford it, but it’s actually quite reasonable. Tell us about the procedure, what do they do, come in and get measured? How does that procedure actually work?

Sean Dunn: The gentleman who started it is only 25 years old and his family came from a lineage of discount retail. So what he was able to do was layer the high-end custom clothing model on top of a discount pricing model. By marrying those two, we can actually bring high-end custom clothing to the masses, which is really cool because we make it affordable for everyone. The process for getting started with us is essentially a quick phone interview, just to understand what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to accomplish, then usually anywhere from a half hour to an hour initial consultation either at our show room or at the client’s home or office, depending on what they do. Then from there we kind of sit down and go over those three things that we talked about, but then most importantly, we get in their closet. So once we get in their closet we try to really figure out where the glaring holes are, and that’s what we try to fill first.

Marc Jay: Do you actually travel and go to their homes and see what kind of mistakes they’re making at the moment?

Sean Dunn: Yeah, we kind of look for the good, bad and the ugly. It’s so difficult for a client, especially one who’s not very savvy with clothes or fashion, to sit there and explain to me what they have in their closet. I mean, we could be on the phone for hours when I could literally spend five minutes walking through their closet. By doing it this way I can take a mental inventory as well as a physical inventory of what they have, what they really like to wear, what they’d like to wear, if it fit correctly or if it wasn’t worn and then stuff that they would never touch again. We kind of separate it so that they can get a better understanding of what their style path is going to be because a lot of guys are just confused. When they have so much crap in their closets, it’s just overwhelming, so we kind of help tear down their closet. I always have the guys separate their closets into those three sections – what they love to wear, what they’d wear if it either fit or wasn’t worn, or stuff they would never wear again – and that helps them, before I even step in the door, to see what they want to do.

Marc Jay: For me, personally, I must have probably about 30 pairs of jeans in my closet. I probably wear jeans every single day, every minute of the day. Then I seem to somehow have black shirts – I have like 11 black shirts – so my wardrobe probably looks the same. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I probably buy the same kind of brands and the same style all the time. You may see me a couple times in the same week thinking I’m wearing the same clothes, but I’m not. Do most guys do it that way, or is everyone completely different?

Sean Dunn: Depending on what they do, a lot of guys, you will find, have the same sort of stuff in their closet. Like you said, you have a ton of jeans and a ton of black shirts. A lot of guys will come in and will do suits that are almost the same colors, shirts that are almost the same color, and then that’s where we have to get creative with tones and textures and stuff like that. For a lot of guys, that’s their comfort zone. If dark jeans and a nice well-fitted black shirt are in your wardrobe, then why really go out? It’s versatile and, especially in Vegas, you can really get use out of those things. I mean, that’s what you wear. Guys that don’t need to be in suits don’t need to be in suits, so why fake something? If you’re a jeans-and-a-great-button-down guy, then that’s what you’re going to go with.

Marc Jay: So you dress everybody, all “The Hot 100 in Las Vegas.” Could you give us a little insight as to who you take care of?

Sean Dunn: I’ll tell you who my favorite client is. He doesn’t mind because he flashes everyone the inside of his jacket because we put their names on the jacket and then he shows everyone his ass because he loves how his ass fits in our stuff. Jon Gray over at The Palms is probably my favorite client to work with because he’s so creative and heavily involved in everything. Like when we sit down, he’s not just like, “I need a blue blazer.” It’s like we sit down and we really, really find a cool blue that no one else has and then we do some cool understated details and then we put it together with these rad red pants or just different stuff. He pushes me and I push him so it’s a great collaboration piece. I’m so used to working with a lot of guys who are just like, “You take care of it.” That’s great because I want a part of our services to be the convenience of “Let us own you, let us own your closet, we’ll take care of it, don’t worry about it,” but from a creative design side it’s really cool to get those clients who are like, “This is what I want to do.” They pull the pictures out, they kind of have their own inspirations and to actually make that come to fruition, they’re like “Wow, I can’t believe that turned out so cool.” That to me is really, really rewarding.

Marc Jay: How long have you been in Las Vegas?

Sean Dunn: This summer will be my fifth year.

Marc Jay: And what were you doing before you actually came here?

Sean Dunn: I grew up on the East Coast in Pennsylvania. In 2000 I joined the military. I got relocated out to the West Coast in 2000 in the marines. Once my wife and I got out of the military we were in San Diego for about two years and just kind of working, going through school and then for some reason we had that pull to Vegas. My wife and I relocated up here in 2005 and finished up at UNLV. While I was going to school I got into retail and I worked for Donna Karan and that’s where I really kind of fell in love with the whole men’s and women’s fashion. Women were my biggest clients but I really enjoyed working with men’s clothing because it was such an underserviced market – and it still is to this day. I mean, even though there’s a lot of menswear, there aren’t a lot of menswear designers out there who really help men.

Marc Jay: So if anyone wants to get in contact with you, is there a website where they can track you down? How can they find you?

Sean Dunn: The main company website is astorandblack.com or you can also go to astorandblackvegas.com, which is a little more local. So we have our national website and then I have my local website that kind of showcases some of the stuff we’ve done locally along with some clients in LA and stuff like that.

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astorandblack     customclothier     customclothing     donnakaren     jongray     lasvegas     men'sfashion     menswear     palms     seandunn

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