Tucked back on an old road in the Pacific Palisades, fashion designer, husband and father John Ward lives amongst the eucalyptus trees and brush of the Southern California canyon. The success of his first line, Three Dots, a quality T-shirt company that offered a variety of men’s sizes when everything was only one size fits all, launched his career. His learning curve widened, though, with his next brand, Maggie Ward, an ambitious project that eventually put him out of business due to the new challenges of creating a whole line and the backlash of the recession. But with any experience comes gems of wisdom. “One element of that line,” Ward recalls, “that always met with a lot of success is these leggings that I did with really beautiful Italian Ponte. It always sold well in the stores. Year after year, people would ask me for those leggings. So I talked to somebody who was interested in partnering up and starting a new line based on the leggings. That fell through. Gary Freedman, my lawyer for a long time, drew up some plans for me. When I told him it fell through, he said, ‘Well, it’s a good concept—why don’t you talk to Citizens about it?’ I threw together some sweatshirts to go with the leggings, made out of this artisanal Japanese fleece. It’s really very simple shapes, but beautiful fabrics. I showed it to everybody at Citizens and they loved it.”
Born from this huge setback in his life, Ward launched the new line, Getting Back to Square One, in 2013 with Citizens of Humanity, and the response was encouraging. They sold to approximately 60 stores and received several reorders. Ward’s penchant for details and quality fabric are key to the brand. The factories he works with in Italy use innovative treatments to create amazing Ponte, essentially a type of double-knit fabric. Ward explains: “The quality of the Pontes are incredible. People get them and wear them and just are amazed how much they hold up. They don’t stretch out. They’re indestructible. It’s almost like an investment that’s going to last, which is, in today’s world, almost a novel idea, that you’re going to buy a piece of clothing that’s going to hold up.”
Though leggings make sense in climates other than Los Angeles, they are practical and there’s been quite a revolution of how women dress on a daily basis. It’s common to see women wearing yoga pants to run errands, so leggings are a smart bet for the market. “It’s practical to get in and out of the cab with leggings. It’s a practical thing to throw a sweater over. It’s practical indoors and out. It’s great to travel with. It’s easy to just throw in a suitcase without worrying about getting wrinkled. It’s an easy, versatile piece of clothing. It’s something, if you put the right things together, you look put together, rather than sloppy. Especially when you want to do something quickly … I think women are feeling more secure about wearing tight things on the bottom, period. It’s sort of an easy jump for this. Also, I think there are a lot of cheap leggings out there on the market. People don’t want to look trashy, so the idea of a premium legging is appealing. It doesn’t have to be so fashion-based. It’s a fundamental part of what you need from day to day,” Ward shares.
Not one to underestimate chance, the opportunity to create a line with Citizens has helped relaunch Ward with a line that can’t be taken for granted. Ultimately, the idea of his product is embracing a real great quality of fabric, something he has always championed.
In his words, “Getting back to square one simply means getting back to something that you really know how to do well and taking that approach.”