Updated: Aug 2, 2021
On the tree-lined block of Christopher Street in the West Village sits the fabled atelier of F.E. Castleberry. Frederick, the founder of F.E. Castleberry, welcomed me into his third-floor space that felt nothing less than a storied living room. He set up shop in this location just over one ago. Yet one would never know. Upon first entry, the sumptuous rugs overlapping each other on the floor, the many relics framed on the walls, and the glorious objet carefully placed about suggest something different. One would think Frederick has occupied the space for many years with its collected feel. One may even wonder if the space and its contents are generationally passed down. While that may be the case for many of the items, over eight years Frederick began experimenting in his apartment to nail the look of the store.
Frederick refers to this as “world-building.” He began building worlds at Ralph Lauren under the Rugby label. While the initial idea for F.E. Castleberry was sparked before his start at Rugby, it was not until the line folded was it the perfect moment to leap. Frederick recants on the early days of his venture, “it was a blessing” he stated, “I did not know too much.” His circumstance and lack of expertise made for a superb scenario.
At the outset, Frederick toyed with the idea of accessory creation. When speaking of his preliminary idea, he began to explain his ethos, "I wanted to build a world and invite other people to join. Building a world around sunglasses does not work. Do you trust a sunglass designer to design a bespoke suit? No." He followed with, "If I show a belt on someone, what I am showing it with?" leading him into the realm of made-to-measure garments. Whether an individual comes to Frederick for a supremely tailored suit made from the finest of British cloth or simply joins him on Instagram, he or she is a part of his divinely crafted microcosm.
The unique nature of F.E Castleberry is not only found within the beautifully designed bespoke ware but the enveloping identity Frederick has created for the brand. It is personal, atheistically successful, and authentic to Frederick. Stepping into Frederick’s world is like stepping into a living Wes Anderson film. Similar to Wes Anderson, Frederick has innate attention to detail that translates into an encompassing feast for the imagination.
I enquired about his sartorial and creative influences. He began to divulge, "I loved Ralph Lauren growing up." The Rolling Stones, David Hockney, Sid and Ann Mashburn, the past of preppy, rowing stripes, Gerald and Sara Murphy, and much more came to his mind. When asked the degree to which Wes Anderson influences him, "almost too much" he replied. Notably so. He pays clever tribute to the famed storyteller throughout. Tales of his grandfather also came up. Frederick spoke with great bliss telling me about his late grandfather, a sculptor.
His world is ever-evolving as well. His atelier works as a testing ground for the next iteration of the brand. Frederick's use of a bellhop cart as a clothing display is one such experiment.
Cheeky nods like this are a true testament to his ingenious spirit.
To understand the true essence of F.E. Castleberry one must be of a curious mind. Frederick designs for the "creative class." He desires discovery, nuance, and challenge within his garments and brand. This is what excites and drives him. At the forefront of a new wave of prep, F.E. Castleberry is a rarified experience of a bygone era.
An enormous thank you to Frederick Castleberry for inviting into his world.
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Images: Frederick Castleberry