Offering bespoke and ready-to-wear suiting from NYC’s Nolita neighborhood, White Chalk represents an international view of modern style. The humble shop on Mulberry Street is the brainchild of owner, head-designer and creative director Aaron Black.
Black’s philosophy is to embrace traditional techniques, historical details and modern touches in moderation. His expertise lies in sorting through the history of menswear, offering the familiar shapes, then tastefully toying with details like lapels, proportion, pocketing, belting, lining and accouterment. The result is uniquely stylish garb that balances sophistication with youth and whimsy.
Aaron Black’s path to becoming a fashion designer was unexpected and unorthodox. Born and raised in and around London, he was involved with graffiti and hip-hop in the 1980s. After art school, Black worked retail jobs for the likes of Browns and agnès b. to learn the trade. His taste for fashion was initially inspired by the punk rebels of fashion: the enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivianne Westwood, Comme des Garçons. Then, he explains, a shift occurred, “Helmut Lang was pushing boundaries and Dolce & Gabbana was playing with an aesthetic of a larger jacket and tapered pants.”
From there, Black developed a taste for vintage clothes, collecting obscure British labels and appreciating the art of tailoring. After his stint in retail, Black went into PR, which led to an assistantship with Jo Phillips, Creative Director at Tank Magazine. He eventually went into business for himself, styling menswear for magazines like Oyster and brands like Paul Smith. But as a stylist, he became “disenchanted with that side of the industry. I was mellowing out by this point.”
Eventually, Black dropped out of styling, moved to NYC and started playing in a band. He was encouraged to re-enter the fashion biz after designing a suit for a friend, then a handful of private clients. Momentum and word of mouth grew until White Chalk was born.
The minimalist interior – black floors and white tiled walls and a recreation of the NYC subway station ceiling – is White Chalk’s response to the prevalence of wood, exposed brick and taxidermy, which dominate boutique interiors. Black’s vision is to curate a gallery feel to keep the customer focused on his garments. His ready-to-wear is produced in limited number and he offers a complete range of underpinnings and accessories to complete the look.
Describing his made-to-measure suits, Black says, “Because of what we do, it’s old school details made modern. Each jacket is completely different. Each waistband is completely different.” One of his more memorable designs is a three-piece tuxedo with rounded lapels, a scoop neck vest and white buttons. Several styles feature a shorter jacket with lifted pockets and a signature half-cuff on the sleeve.
Employing top-tier fabrics from Holland & Sherry Mill, Black describes his vision: “We’re in between the avant-garde and the classic, making it modern and wearable without being vulgar. Balance is what it’s about.”
Text by Michael Cohen
Photos by Robert August