A hippie kid obsessed with biker culture, a Southern California surfer, a Bay Area art student, a punk rocker, a dock worker, a scenic artist for Disney, an interior painter, a fashion designer. “My life’s sort of been this path that’s gone off course a lot,” said Mike Rubin, the creative director of menswear brand Krammer & Stoudt. Rubin, born in 1958, grew up in Orange County and was exposed to many of the subcultures prominent in California through the ‘70s. The twists and turns of his life led him to the fashion world in his mid-50s, when he founded Krammer & Stoudt with his wife, Courtenay Nearburg, in 2012.
Rubin’s creative path narrowed to focus on men’s garments after he and Nearburg traveled to Florence for two months. During the day, he would take long walks with a sketchbook, drawing the various monuments, and at night he would walk past the city’s famed clothing shops, perusing garments in the windows. After returning to California, Rubin and Nearburg conceived a clothing brand that would blend the best aspects of refined Italian tailoring with the wide range of influences from Rubin’s life. Krammer & Stoudt’s first line was inspired by mid-century Los Angeles, old Hollywood and the suiting of mobsters. It was a curiosity for the fashion community: a fully developed debut collection coming out of South California, created by a middle-aged designer with little experience in the industry.
In order to expose Krammer & Stoudt to a bigger audience, Rubin and Nearburg moved to New York and set up shop in a loft in Dumbo. Since the relocation, Krammer & Stoudt has received international attention, garnering both new fans and new accounts after showing at New York Men’s Day during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. The current A/W 2016 collection is a brooding take on classic menswear, from textured twilight overcoats to understated dark western shirts. The main influence on the collection was the German artist Markus Lüpertz, a neo-expressionist on the fringe of the art world who dressed like a devilish dandy. The upcoming S/S 2017 takes on warmer tones, channeling Latin influences both in materials (pieces that use woven Guatemalan fabric) and shirt designs (such as the Cuban guayabera).
Reflecting on the breadth of Krammer & Stoudt’s collections, Rubin cites his own life as the underlying inspiration. “Basically, it’s all about the things I’ve worn since I’ve been alive,” he said. Through each collection, he is able to draw out different elements of the different subcultures he identified with — biker, surfer, punk rocker — and blend them with components of Western style and Italian tailoring. Rubin is most animated, though, when explaining the different colors and textures of fabrics used in each of his garments, as it fuels his artistic expression. “It’s kind of like painting, to me, in a different kind of way.”