2013.021.002 Oral History with David Chu
David Chu was born in Taiwan and studied fashion design at F.I.T. He started illustration, fine, art, and architecture, which led him to later have an interest in fashion. This was through a summer course at F.I.T. In starting his own brand, he came back from Asia and was employed at an apparel company called Kayser-Roth. From this, he learned a lot about the garment industry that led him to creating Nautica. The concept of the company was based around the outdoor, active lifestyle. He believes that if someone has a passion for something, they will find a way to succeed. He believes that cultures need to be redefined and that the most important thing is to find your passion.


DAVID CHU: I never thought about fashion growing up. Because I loved sketching and drawing and I always thought I'd study architect or advertising or communication through a conceptual point of view. And uh you know just one summer course at F.I.T. in an illustration course in fashion history course, you know one of the professors took notice and said 'David you know, why don't you pursue fashion since you seem like you know, you like what you do.'

DAVID CHU: I was working after school and I ended up traveling to Asia and came back and worked for a major apparel company at that time called Kayser-Roth. And at that time it was part of the division of Golf and Western.

DAVID CHU: Working through the corporate environment, I learned a lot about the industry.

DAVID CHU: After five years with that corporation I decided I wanted to take a shot at this concept and that's how I started Nautica in 1983.

DAVID CHU: The reasons I picked Nautica is I always enjoyed traveling down to the islands, I really loved the lifestyle when I look at it, how beautiful the place is and how relaxed you are and the nautical concept always resonated. Also, when I started the concept, it was really more an outdoor active lifestyle.

DAVID CHU: I think one of the major icons for me in my mind at the time to look back, was J.F. K - John F. Kennedy: he was really a tremendous source of inspiration, especially one time, a documentary film where I saw him talking about the ocean. And I think one of the reasons Nautica was fairly successful was people all understand the concept so it's easy to design. It was quickly noticed by really good department stores and specialty stores. And that's how we launched the Nautica concept. After the Nautica concept, I went out to invest also in becoming chief creative director of Tumi, and to reinvent kind of the position of Tumi Luggage Company and it's an exciting challenge for me to do something I haven't done before. It's like the new journey you go on, travel to a new place that you've never been to. It's always fresh and always exciting.

DAVID CHU: The jacket that we're going to pick is probably one of the biggest jackets that Nautica created. It really became kind of the signature jacket for Nautica sportswear, and it's been in the business for-- it's been in the line for-- I don't know, a long time, probably still in the collection today. I think every designer has his point of view. I think you know, and also, you know we have a tremendous amount of young talent in our industry today and especially a lot of Asian young talent today in our industry. And I think because Asians is always interested in aspirational ideas and that's why I think, also about being creative. You can see the last fifteen, twenty, years this--our industry has attracted quite a lot of Asian young talent from Korea, from China, from Asia, from even people that are born here, like a lot of people you're interviewing today. I think it's great, I think you know, it is--now you see an impact, you see an impact of young Asian talents able to make a tremendous amount of impact into American culture. I think fashion is part of the culture, you know? Food, fashion -- and these we live this every day, and that's always going to be a part of our culture. I was very fortunate to be, you know, involved very early in the eighties to be involved in this industry and at that time, I didn't know a lot of Asian designers in our business, but it's great to see in the last ten years, fifteen years so many young Asian talents are interested.

DAVID CHU: We're living in such a global world today, I mean I think what's Asian, what's Western, what's European, it's all kind of a mix in a lot of different ways. I think in a way you see in our television, in our music, in our movies, in our culture, it's all intermingled.

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