NEW YORK — Lansdale native Aleks Musika wants to give Tom Ford a run for his money.
And with just five years in the men's high-fashion business, it looks as if he's well on his way.
As one-half of the New York-based menswear line, Musika Frère, Musika — pronounced Mu-see-ka — and his business partner, Davidson Petit-Frère, dressed Chadwick Boseman in chic cobalt for the actor's Black Panther premiere earlier this year. They also outfitted Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson in an olive green one-button for Power's Season 5 premiere.
Sean "Diddy" Combs and Jay-Z also made snazzy appearances in Musika Frère bespoke this year, too. Diddy in slick white for the Met Gala. His jacket was long. And the collar was round. Jay-Z received a Clive Davis Award at the pre-Grammy party in a velvet Musika Frère tuxedo, with black lapels. (I find this particularly noteworthy as both of these music moguls count menswear as part of their heady business portfolios.)
And did you happen to see the extra sharp black tuxedo complete with velvet-trimmed lapels that Daily Show host Trevor Noah wore to the Primetime Emmy Awards? That was Musika Frère, too. Another red carpet win for, quite possibly, the menswear industry's most disruptive design duo out here right now.
Musika Frère suits range from $2,400 to $10,000. They make about 700 suits a year in Europe and throughout the United States, a modest number but they are a young company and their name recognition is on the rise.
"Every year we get just a little closer, …" Musika said, referring to his former employer Tom Ford, one recent Wednesday morning as we chatted it up in his midtown studio. To the right of Musika, who, by the way, absolutely, positively bleeds Eagles green, was a mannequin clad in a hunter suit jacket. Perfect for a certain ginger quarterback, perhaps? Musika has his fingers crossed.
Musika Frère is hailed in the menswear industry for its relaxed approach to bespoke suiting. But that doesn't make sense, right? How can a truly bespoke suit be relaxed? The art of bespoke suiting has its roots on London's Savile Row. For a suit to be bespoke it is made from a pattern using more than 50 of the client's measurements. If there is no pattern, it's not bespoke. Together, the tailor and client build the elements of a bespoke suit by choosing fabrics, picking collars, and quibbling over everything from the number of buttonholes to the kind of buttons. It often takes upward of three fittings to get a bespoke suit just right. There is nothing relaxed about this process.
But Musika and Petit-Frère made bespoke suiting modern by adding a dose of athletic funk to the pieces. In addition to classic silhouettes, they offer trousers with jogger-style bottoms and jackets that are more throwback-Members Only casual than tuxedo. Fabrics are a mix of classic twills and wools but they offer some silk brocades and other textiles not usually seen in menswear.
"We came on the scene interested in a mix of patterns and bright colors. Things that traditionally don't work together. But we wanted the [artisanship] of a master tailor."
Musika Frère has since cemented its disruptive reputation. It was the suit-maker of record for Entourage, the 2015 film based on the HBO series, and for Kevin Hart's Ride Along movies.
Speaking of Hart, Musika Frère dressed the Philly-bred comedian — and his son — for his 2016 wedding to Eniko Parrish. Omari Hardwick wore the brand exclusively in Power's fifth season, and Musika Frère will do the suiting for the Shaft sequel starring Samuel L. Jackson that is slated for next year.
"A lot of our inspiration comes from bad '90s style," said Musika, 34. The tips of his short hair are frosted blond like the members of N'Sync back in the day. He's wearing Italian seersucker pants with jogger bottoms, that, he said, are comfortable enough to play tennis in. On his feet are Nikes, more the tennis shoe than basketball variety. "Yes, everything we do is different. But everything we do also makes sense."
Musika grew up in Lansdale, the knee baby in a family of four children. His parents were both school teachers, so Musika's introduction to fashion was through his older brother's hand-me-downs. When he was 10, Musika wore one of his brother's velvet-striped sweaters to school — his brother was a decade older, so the sweater was woefully out of style. He was teased mercilessly.
He took odd jobs to buy his own clothes, mowing lawns and raking leaves to earn shopping money. While he played basketball for North Penn High School, Musika worked for a local tailor, where he began learning the craft of menswear.
After graduating from West Chester University in 2003, he began working as a gym teacher before moving to Miami. He taught there for a while before managing an AllSaints store. One day, he waited on one of Tom Ford's assistants, who was so impressed with Musika that he hired him as a Tom Ford made-to-measure suiting specialist.
"The first day I walked in [to Tom Ford] I realized this is what I wanted to do," Musika said.
Musika immediately started an Instagram account as a way to build his clientele. He began with selfies and graduated to taking timed pictures on his rooftop and in the fashion district in New York. It didn't take long for Musika to build a following of thousands — Musika has 192,000 followers now. One of those followers was Petit-Frère.
"We were both suited and booted," Petit-Frère said. "We just meshed."
Petit-Frère, who lived in New York at the time and was working in real estate, wanted to launch his own brand. He asked Musika to join him.
They designed a logo and started an Instagram account. Musika kept working at Tom Ford, where his clientele included Flo Rida (to whom he once sold a $50,000 mink coat). Musika and Petit-Frère began ordering fabrics and designing. Musika still kept working at Tom Ford. Vanity Fair peeped Musika's personal Instagram and offered to make him one of its best dressed. He declined as not to stir up trouble at Tom Ford. But he kept working with Petit-Frère on the brand. Eventually, Musika said, Tom Ford's higher-ups got wind of his emerging brand.
"They told me to take down my [personal] Instagram, or said I'd have to step away," Musika said. "It was a life-changing moment. We didn't have an investor. Within two weeks we had a company. And within a month we had an an investor."
Musika moved to New York and with Petit-Frère launched Musika Frère in 2013. The duo's first client was Los Angeles Clipper Marcin Gortat, who spent $12,000 on five suits.
In a few weeks, Musika Frère will launch its winter/holiday collection in luxe velvets (there is a lot of royal blue) and skins (emphasis on pythons). And the brand's signature fragrance will hit the internet before the holidays. While Musika says he hopes his company will evolve into a lifestyle brand, suits will always be his specialty. Why?