On a balmy Tuesday night before New York Fashion Week, a mix of fresh-faced models, nightlife mavens, and industry insiders gathered to preview a new line of bomber jackets and celebrate the designer, virtually unknown outside of the fashion world, who made them.
If anyone told you that trend peaked in 2016, the news hadn’t reached the hundreds of people who partied at designer resale store What Goes Around Comes Around in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. There, Ayler Young presented his fall collection of MA-1 style flight jackets to a party full of people who could do nothing but extol the 37-year-old musician turned designer.
It’s easy to see why. Ayler (eye-ler) is charming and approachable, traits that translate directly to his clothes. Models wearing the Philip Ayler brand moved freely in the slim-fit jackets, in one instant dancing to the DJ’s upbeat set and in another, posing coolly for photographers. Tweed is far less pretentious when it’s on a bomber, not a blazer.
Unlike mass-produced bombers available everywhere from Urban Outfitters to Alpha Industries, each one of Ayler’s pieces is unique, with a price tag that reflects the time spent creating just one jacket: the trendy outerwear can reach up to $2,495.
“There are 38 individual pieces that go into making one of my jackets,” Ayler told the Daily Front Row. “I try to examine and refine every individual ingredient so that when they are assembled, everything works.”
Some pieces are visually very much like a reshaped Chanel blazer — and that’s not accidental. Ayler repurposes scraps of vintage Chanel tweed, among other warehoused designer fabrics, sourced in Europe and the U.S. for some of the coats.
There are variations on a houndstooth print as well, some black and gold, others pink. A vintage bouclé option is rich. But you wouldn’t immediately recognize one of the brand’s standout pieces on the rack; when Ayler’s jackets are reversed inside-out, a luxe red and black interior with the brand name stitched onto the inside pocket is revealed. The styling trick is most recognizable thanks to a widely circulated photo of model Gigi Hadid, though Ayler hadn’t designed the jackets to be worn that way.
“I don’t like the idea of having a logo on the exterior,” the L.A.-based designer told Yahoo Style. “It’s fun when people reverse them and you see the logo, but I didn’t intend for them to be reversible. They’re reversible because they’re well made.”
While most of the models and event hosts wore the collection’s newest pieces, an old friend of Ayler’s wore one of the coolest pieces, a black satin topper from the original batch of merch made for a Guns ’N Roses tour in 2016. Ayler said those early jackets made for the band had something like 32,000 stitches of embroidery in them, no detail or cost spared.
Ayler’s brand recognition is small — the company’s Instagram only has around 380 followers. (Ayler’s personal Instagram page has almost 10 times as many.) But a handful of famous customers — Gigi, Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey — make it seem like the Philip Ayler bomber is everywhere.
Though Ayler said he made thousands of jackets for the rock tour, he has no ambitions of manufacturing en masse for department stores anytime soon. Citing a young Ralph Lauren’s one-product business model as a source of inspiration, Ayler said it will be a while before we see anything besides jackets.
“I used [Ralph Lauren] as a bit of a reference to keep it simple, knowing that with one product done really well, I can move into different markets,” Ayler said. “Eventually, I’ll build a larger brand from this, but this is a fun and manageable place to start.”
Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style and Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.