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As exhibited by the many, many menswear options setting up shop around town, stylish LA guys have no shortage of sartorial selections. But for dudes with spare dollars seeking pro dressing advice, The Gent's Closet Style Haus founder and rising LA men's stylist Manuel Jackson—who also goes by Manny J—might soon become your right-hand man. Proof: He's def got that prints-on-prints deal down on lock.
With a client roster that boasts a whole host of leading lads (Ryan Gosling, Nick Cannon, Kellan Lutz, to name a few), sports stars and more, you'd assume the 32-year-old North Carolina native's styling company has been on industry insiders' speed dial lists for much longer than its youthful two years. In fact, Jackson had been a behavior therapist for autistic children before he decided to make a major career switch and pursue fashion in LA—a move he says involved "a great deal of sacrifice." We paid a visit to Jackson's Hollywood showroom (tour it in the gallery above) to chat about how he got his start, the rocky road that led to his fast-growing success and much more.
First things first: Why's it so important for guys to look their best?
"I'm a firm believer that if you want the part, you gotta look the role. So that's why we encourage our clients look the part and invest in your look. Once you have a gentleman with a professional aesthetic, it's a different feel."
What sparked your interest in fashion?
"Honestly, it's always been in my blood. My mom used to model in fashion shows and I used to sell people their programs, so I've always kind of been into it. As a kid, I wanted to have all the nice clothes—so I went and got myself a job. I'd babysit after school so at the end of the week, I'd get my little $100 or $120, go to the flea market or mall, and then I'd buy myself an outfit. All of a sudden, my style started to change how people thought of me."
What inspired you to leave your job as a children's therapist?
"I used to go to the store and rummage through clothes and feel the textures of textiles; that's how I'd buy my clothes. I was all obsessed with dupioni silk and micro fiber and micro suede. My aunt really inspired me to take fashion seriously...she told me, 'You really know your textiles.' [At the time], I was going to school for psychology; I was 22 and then I switched [majors] at 23."
Crazy! Tell us about that journey.
"I moved to LA from North Carolina in 2005 to go FIDM for apparel manufacturing and management; I literally moved out here on New Year's Eve. It wasn't easy getting here; I stayed in a homeless shelter for a few weeks, right down on skid row. This transition has not been easy at all, but being here and being able to walk into this beautiful space on Sunset—it's been a lovely journey."
So how did The Gent's Closet get its start?
"I designed a developed a line of bowties and men's accessories, and I was in the market for a men's showroom that was 'masculine' and had something that I wanted my brand to sit beside. I couldn't find anything like that LA. At the same time, I got laid off from my job working as a behavior therapist for kids with autism. Six women stopped me that day and said, 'Man, you look good! I wish you could dress my boyfriend or my husband,' and that clicked as the business. It was a great deal of sacrifice; I lost everything. I was going through a divorce, I lost my job, I had lost a lot of money. Today, it means a lot to see where I've built this thing up from."
Some guys think suit shopping is a nightmare. Any tips?
"Get your basics out of the way—you're always going to need a pair of black shoes and brown shoes, and get different belts for slacks and jeans. And you need a staple suit; you've gotta have a black one, a gray one, and preferably a navy blue one too. But where it comes in is your accessories: You can dress up suits with a really great tie, a great handkerchief, lapel flowers, great socks...You can kill a black suit with the right accessories, and it'll look totally different."
What does the future of your company look like?
"We want to create jobs in the job market; we want to work with non profits and charities...We want to just be able to give back to the community as well as make an impact in men's fashion, but also on people's livelihoods too. We don't wanna just sell clothes and make people look good; we want to be able to fill other voids that are missing as well."
· The Gent's Closet LA [Official Site]
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