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My fashion life - Bruce Gifford

The 360Sweater president works 24/7 with his wife Leslie to explore the fashion possibilities of cashmere.

Bruce Gifford

Bruce & Leslie Gifford

You set up the brand 360Sweater together with your wife, based in Los Angeles. What are the best things about workingalongside her?
Everyone asks us the same question. We eat, live and breathe the business.

And what’s the worst?
Probably the fact we never get a break from the business. It’s 24/7 for both of us.

How does your partnership work?
Leslie has exquisite taste and loves sweaters, especially cashmere ones. She wears her 360 sweaters every day. That’s how she keeps the collection fresh - she is the number one customer. She has a background in design and retail. I take care of production and marketing.

How do you both stay inspired?
We are in stores every day, so certainly great stores are inspiring to us. We go into a great store and imagine a place for our collection in it and we are inspired to make the collection that would work in that store. We are influenced by the great designers - Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Chanel and Isabel Marant -as well as great ad campaigns. We are also inspired by stores such as Zara and H&M, which are doing terrific jobs.

What does the name 360Sweater mean to you?
I have a fascination with physics and the study of the physical world. The most natural shape in the universe is round. There is completeness in 360. The name keeps us connected to the world around us.

What is it about cashmere and other fine yarns that appeals?
Cashmere is the most luxurious yarn in the world. Like pure wool, you can do almost any kind of styling with it. The difference is the softness. Because cashmere yarn is so expensive, most of the sweaters you find are fairly basic. The logic is that if someone is going to make an investment in a sweater, they are going to want a basic that they can wear for years and years. Ours is a fashion approach and we style cashmere in a contemporary way. We look at our sweaters as a complement to premium denim. We love to see our sweaters styled with great jeans, designer boots or shoes and a great designer bag.

You launched the brand after selling your business Sweater.com. What was it and why did you decide to sell?
We started Sweater.com as an ecommerce business. It crashed in the first ‘internet boom’ in 2000. Then we launched it as a traditional sweater company in 2002. The company had several brands and we were offered a great price for it by a large public company. Financially it was a good decision, but Leslie and I were not really happy. We missed owning and operating our own business. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to do that again.

You sold it in 2006 for about $12m (£7.4m). What was the first thing you bought with the money?
Nothing really. I was given advice not to do anything for a year. When the waiting period was over, I bought a car.

What has been your career highlight so far?
That we were able to go into business in 2009, in the depth of the recession, and build a successful company.

If you weren’t in fashion, what would you be doing?
I would probably choose to be a serial entrepreneur in the tech industry. I really admire the way these young people, just out of high school or college, are able to conceive, fund, start and sell a business so quickly. Then do it again.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you want to be successful, look for someone that is successful and try and do what they are doing. Simple words by [American life coach] Tony Robbins, but true.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I love the creativity of the business. Every day you can make a difference and do something great. There is a certain magic in creating products that people are going to wear and going to love. And of course working with my wife.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made that you’ve learnt a valuable lesson from?
The biggest mistake is thinking that you have it figured out. Whenever you think you have it figured out, you don’t. You also have to keep moving forward. You have to take risks and keep the ball moving. Every time I’ve sat back and thought “I am happy right where I am” I’ve ended up in trouble.

What other brands do you admire, and why?
My favourite is probably Louis Vuitton. The stores are amazing, its photography is collectable and there is never anything on Sale. The brand has a terrific history and has built tremendous brand value. I also admire Ralph Lauren, even though I’m not really a customer. Ralph Lauren has conveyed a consistent image for more than 30 years.

Where are your favourite places to shop?
For bricks-and-mortar, I like Rag & Bone and John Varvatos. For a department store I like Barneys New York and the men’s department at Selfridges. For ecommerce, I like Mr Porter and Revolve.com.

What’s the most expensive item in your wardrobe?
A Saint Laurent motorcycle jacket.

 

 

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