Oi Polloi

An Interview with Home Work main-man David Mullen

Published: Tue Jun 05 2018

Home Work is a new one from the mind of Save Khaki head-honcho David Mullen - based around the idea of making 21st century clothing for those who work from home. 

Classic workwear details, such as triple stitching and tough cotton twill, remain - but more comfortable, contemporary touches have been added into the mix (like the drawcord hems on those work-jackets). It's all made in America too. 

We talked to David to find out a bit more... 

First things first, how would you describe Home Work?  

Home Work is workwear for your home. It’s a modern take on workwear - more often people are working from their home. 

The name is also a play on manufacturing the product here at home (in the USA).

What led you to start it? Was there a spark that set it off? 

To me design is about function. Home Work came from the desire for comfort and function in our busy lives. For example, the pants have draw-cords and sometimes elastic at the waistband for ease and function. 

From what I can gather, all your stuff is made in America. How important is that to you? How easy is it to make clothes in the USA in 2018? 

With Save Khaki United, it’s all made in the USA, but not all components are always American. With Home Work every component of the garment has to be made in the USA. 

We value American workmanship, ingenuity and tenacity — sustainability, fair labor and efficiency are at the core of our endeavors. 

Manufacturing in the USA is challenging. Automation and technology hasn’t drastically changed garment manufacturing — so it is still labor intensive. 

Without going down too much of a rabbit hole, what are your thoughts on America these days?  

America is a great work in progress. We are stumbling a bit, but we are resolute bunch. We’re very lucky to be free and independent. 

The fabrics look pretty special. Can you talk us through what they are? There’s often more to cotton than meets the eye. 

Our focus is on cotton — my favorite is ‘seed’ cotton that’s woven in a small mill in Pennsylvania. We recently partnered with the mill to help them stay open. The seed cotton that hasn’t been ginned and is woven in a mini-herringbone texture, and some seeds remain in the fabric for a homespun texture.

It’s better for the ecosystem as there’s less processing – sort of like whole wheat flour instead of white flour. 

How important are vintage pieces? Do you have an archive of things to take details from? 

Vintage pieces are great inspiration, but we don’t feel obligated to them. Our hope is to improve workwear and move it forward.  Often that’s about simplifying details and getting the garment to its purest form. We want to create our own history. 

What do you look at for inspiration? 

Shaker furniture - nothing is added without purpose. There’s an elegance in the simplicity. The Shaker philosophy is, “don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.” 

Wise words indeed. What makes a good piece of clothing?  

When it’s something you want to wear year after year. 

Going back a bit, what clothes were you into growing up? Is there anything that stands out? 

LL Bean was my favorite. I was the sixth of seven kids, so I often got hand-me-downs. They were broken and faded, and just right.

Growing up in blue collar Pittsburgh was great; I was surrounded by workwear - brown duck canvas and denim. I got my first job at age 13 and started buying work clothes from Sears and Penney’s. 

When did this interest go beyond just buying clothes and become your job? 

Post college, I worked in accounting and financial world and was restless. I wanted to create something and followed my intuition. My friends laughed at me when I said I was going to start designing clothes. My first brand was called Joe America. 

What sort of things did Joe America make? 

Joe America consisted of tees, sweats, ball caps, knit watch caps , varsity and attendant’s jackets. There was a bit of an army navy surplus feel. It celebrated the American Vernacular.   

Do you think that American style still exists now? 

Sure, American style in my lifetime has always reflected our diverse people. Denim is ours, but we mix it with English tweed, Italian cashmere and Scottish Shetland knits. 

What do you get up to outside of clothes? Have you seen any good films lately? 

I’m a proud father with a 28 year old son. He’s my best friend and roommate. We are big sport fans! 

I prefer older movies. Anything with Paul Newman – Absence of Malice, The Verdict. The clothing and set decoration are a powerful part of story telling. English Patient, Out of Africa and North by Northwest are a few of the best. 

Some good recommendations there. Anything else you’d like to add? Any words of wisdom?  

Buy less, but better. Clothing should be purposeful. 

See the Home Work stuff here.