Like many other New York fashion success stories, Friends & Co began as an interesting idea that grew into a real-live menswear label. Michael Foronda founded the line in 2003 as a side project from his job as an art director at a men's television network. "It was essentially a T-shirt line that incorporated bold typographic treatments of the word FRIENDS. The expansion to cut-and-sew pieces led to the introduction of FRIENDS & CO with the help of my friend, Leslie Siu," he says.
Foronda's latest line under the Friends & Co moniker still shows an active interest in graphics but now with more emphasis on craftsmanship. "I wanted to create something scholastic that also represented classic American workmanship. The aim was a timeless, honest, modern take on traditional men's style," he says, and which seems evident in the year-round embroidered Christmas sweater graphics that adorn his T-shirts and sweatshirts. Similarly, hoodies skip over the kangaroo pouch and get classed up with leather buttons on the pockets, looking like the type of thing your grandfather might wear if he was into streetwear and fitted caps. "Details like the leather buttons go back to my childhood growing up in a small town outside NYC where fashion was often dictated by the latest LL Bean catalog."
The graphics themselves may harken back to those humble origins, but no one would confuse the all-over print pink houndstooth or herringbone T-shirts with a product from an outdoorsman's catalog. Among the most conservative pieces in the collection and also the most desirable are the cardigan sweaters and sweater vests. Subtly adorned with monochromatic elbow patches, the cardigans look like one of those things that you'll happily wear until your social security kicks in. This tempered brand of timelessness portends great things for the future of the label, and Foronda continues to look ahead. " I hope to evolve the brand into a more unisex line through collaborations with my wife, Sally Penn," he says. Until that day arrives, we'll button up our cardigan and wait patiently, perfectly content.
Time stands still for a clever new menswear label.