SWIM DOWN MEMORY LANE. Top male model Garrett Neff opened up a new chapter with his own swimwear line, KATAMA. He raps humbly about the inspiration behind it and shares valuable insight on the fashion business
Garrett Neff wearing the latest collection from KATAMA
Many models have tried to break out of their role by moving to the other side of the lens, be it as a photographer, stylist, etc. Only a daring few would come up with their very own fashion line. Because, while fashion is fun, the business part of it is nothing but a long string of surprises—often of the unpleasant kind.
Garrett Neff, of course, knows this all too well. Having been in the modeling business for more than a decade, he has become the face of a bevy of brands, two of the most recent being the campaigns for Salvatore Ferragamo fragrance and Carolina Herrera. But going from in front to behind the camera (and often behind the one behind the camera) is not as easy as it might seem. Following KATAMA’s latest spring/summer fashion presentation in New York and a pop-up shop in Miami, the world’s top male model tells the story with unbridled honesty.
DA MAN: Hi Garrett, let’s start from the very beginning. When did you have the idea to create a swimwear line of your own?
Garrett Neff: So much of what we create at KATAMA is based on those memories of summers with my family, those endless, activity-filled days in the sun. The idea for the brand was in my head for a while, but looking at old family photos and seeing how well those swim trunks styles held up, I knew I had the foundation for a great line.
DA MAN: And how did you approach the business part of this venture at first?
Garrett Neff: When it came time to approaching the business, I knew I wanted to tell a story not only with the classic styles, but also with the brand images. You’ll notice that we like our canoeing, our sailing, our lawn games, lakes, bays and rivers. There’s something inherently luxurious about moments that are so simple. I felt that this spirit has been missing.
DA MAN: Did your background and experience as a top model in the industry factor in to the reason why you wanted to explore and jump into the business side of things?
Garrett Neff: Growing up, I had no grand plans to work in fashion. I loved the way clothing could help you take on different characters, but modeling really helped pique my curiosity in the industry. Having modeled for eleven years now, I have not only grown to love fashion but also have learned a great deal about both it and myself. I love the stories fashion tells and the collaborative process of creating them. A decade in, it finally came time for me to tell my story, and I had the education and enthusiasm to tell it.
“Looking at old family photos and seeing how well those swim trunks styles held up, I knew I had the foundation for a great line”
DA MAN: Who did you look up to for this project?
Garrett Neff: Bruce Weber and Ralph Lauren immediately came to mind.
DA MAN: Any interesting advice from the people you had worked with in the industry?
Garrett Neff: The one that always stands out is from Phillip Lim: “Keep it tight, keep it right.”