While on a golfing trip with friends in 2005, John O’Donnell was inspired to create more stylish clothing options for his buddies. This idea evolved into what is now johnnie-O.
In this interview with The Hollywood Reporter*, John discussed his big ideas, his biggest men’s fashion pet peeve and his brother, actor Chris O’Donnell.
The Hollywood Reporter: Is there really golfing up on the roof of your offices in Santa Monica?
John O’Donnell: Yeah, we’re putting up a net on the roof so you can work on your golf game during lunch hours.
THR: Is that where you will be at lunch?
JO: Yes! I wanted to have an office space where people actually want to go to the office. So we’ve got a couple kitchens, a great social area, people on the roof deck getting some sun any time of the day. We (allow) dogs in the office. It’s a real community environment. You can hang after work and have a couple margaritas on the roof and listen to music.
THR: You’ve had a good celebrity following. How important has that been in your business?
JO: I’ve never wanted to hang my hat on celebrity because it can only get you so far. You’ve seen these other brands that have had a meteoric growth because X,Y, Z celebrity wore it. But down to the actual product line, it wasn’t all that great and it crashed just as fast as it rose. The celebrity has been a bonus for us. Of course, I lean on my brother Chris, but I never lean on him too much because I don’t want it to be too contrived.
THR: L.A. is an interesting city for fashion. There’s a different style east of the 405 than there is west of the 405. Would you agree?
JO: We are definitely making a little more hay on the west side of the 405. We just don’t do as much black. It’s not a big color for us. I’d say on the other side of the 405 we are doing bigger business with the kids. Hollywood likes us, but people aren’t hanging out at the hottest nightclubs on Saturday night wearing johnnie-O. But they might be walking around on a Saturday with their kids at the Brentwood Country Mart.
THR: Do you have a favorite johnnie-O piece?
JO: I’m not a favorites person. People always ask, “What’s your favorite car?” or “What’s your favorite food?” I just love so much that I can never come up with one single thing. But right now, one of the leading categories is the new johnnie-O pants. They are a pair of jeans meets a pair of khakis. Mine are actually in the wash and I also gave some away. They work on the golf course to the bar to out to dinner. You won’t look like a nerdy golfer, they have style. But my favorite feature right now is our “tweener” button. It gives that perfect message: I’m not too buttoned up and I’m not too casual. It’s an absolute home run for us.
THR: Do you have a pet peeve about men’s fashion.
JO: I’m not huge on the untucked, button-down woven shirt look when they are big billowy shirts that are perfectly pressed. You go to Vegas and there are 12 guys walking around and they’ve got $200 perfectly pressed shirts on, all untucked. They look like blouses. I just want to tell these guys, “Come on.” It’s a bad look.
THR: Do you represent the johnnie-O guy?
JO: I do. I try to build our product around Chris and me and our buddies and what we would like. Chris has impeccable style — he really does. I don’t worry so much about what the industry or the big trade magazines are saying. If someone tells me that burnt orange is hot for fall ’15, I don’t care. I’m not going to make a burnt orange shirt because my customers probably aren’t going to buy burnt orange. I try to build a lifestyle that fits guys like me.
THR: You beat me to the punch. That was my next question: Who has better style — you or Chris?
JO: He’s got really great style. But it’s the same old story, the rich get richer. He gets all these free expensive clothes and I have to go out and buy my stuff at the thrift shop. But it’s always great to see him in our product.
THR: Who’s a better golfer, you or Chris?
JO: If I give him enough shots, we’re about the same (laughs).
Read the full article, “DESIGNERS DISH: JOHNNIE-O FOUNDER JOHN O’DONNELL,” on The Hollywood Reporter HERE.
*Interview dated January 2015