Ben Ewy has recently accepted the position of Creative Director of New Era, a hat company dating back over 85 years. In this position, Ewy is responsible for the look and feel of all New Era headwear, ensuring that all products exhibit the core brand DNA of Individuality, Authenticity, Pride and Collaboration. A seasoned veteran, Ewy is one interesting guy – having the ability to create a range of hats that cross boundaries – sports lovers, fashion aficionados, devotees and cultural junkies. In his new position since last August, we took some one on one time with Mr. Ewy and found out why hats will always reign king.
Life+Times: You began your gig at New Era last August and since then, have been acting as the brands Creative Director. What exactly does your role entail?
Ben Ewy: Ultimately, I am tasked with ensuring that all of our product is in keeping with the brand’s DNA and delivers on consumer expectations in terms of design and our long tradition of quality. We make the best caps in the world and we will continue to under my watch. I am also tasked with pushing the boundaries of what people expect from New Era. If we keep delivering the same product over and over again, we’ll become stale. We have many classics that will always be mainstays, however, we have to keep it fresh and continue to offer unique product. We have to be aware of our long heritage, but we can’t be stifled by it.
L+T: You’ve previously worked at companies like Nautica, Springs Global and South Street Industries – but now, you’re focusing specifically on headwear. What is the biggest challenge with your job?
BE: New Era is such a large company, with incredible global reach, that coming up with product that resonates around the world is a fun challenge. I can’t think of another brand that reaches so many different consumers, young, old, sports fans, fans of street culture, athletes, fashion forward fashionistas, all wear our product and they wear it in every corner of the globe. We have to create product that is relevant to local needs but still feels like the New Era brand no matter where in the world it is. Our Japan product range is different from that of product in North America. Our European consumer likes simpler product, South America is focused on different sports than we are, but all of our product still has the New Era essence.
L+T: As a company that is over 85 years old – what fresh perspective do you bring to the brand?
BE: My degree is in Apparel Design and most of my career has been spent working in apparel and accessories and I think I bring more of that “collection” based thinking to our range. I am a big fan of story telling through product and want to make sure when people walk into our stores they see an overall theme for the season. I also want to always make sure my group is not just designing hats, they are designing components of an overall outfit or “look”. As we get into more categories, it is going to be increasingly important that we are creating full outfits across all of the design teams.
L+T: Hats are a massive part of everyday life – what does a hat mean to you?
BE: Hats are cool because they both allow you to be part of a team, but to also stick out if you want and show your individuality. We tell people to “Fly their own flag,” and our product allows you to do that. If you want to show that you are a Yankees fan while at the ballpark, we have the product to do that. But if you want to show who you are by wearing a limited edition hat with the visor sticker still on it while on the streets of New York, that’s up to you. We give people the tools to express themselves however they want.
L+T: Where do you see the brand in the next 20 or so years?
BE: New Era is quickly becoming more than just a headwear brand. We are bringing the same promise of quality and design to other categories (apparel, bags and packs, belts, wallets, cap care) and are providing a complete wardrobe to our fans. Before I started at New Era I would always think to myself “Where is the rest of it?” I knew I loved the hats, but I wanted more. I am so excited to be one of the people tasked with how to translate our hat DNA into other items.
L+T: When designing, where do you find inspiration?
BE: I find it everywhere. First off, I am inspired by New Era’s long history, starting in Buffalo, NY in 1920 as a gentleman’s headwear manufacturer then starting our relationship with MLB in 1934. We have such a rich history as a brand that it would take a book to tell it all. Second, I am inspired by people who love our product. I am constantly tracking our Facebook page and love seeing the passion of people who love our brand. If they like something, they’ll tell you, and if they don’t, they’ll also tell you. And you know what? Sometimes they’re right. Third, I am kind of a culture junkie. Constantly on blogs, reading magazines, watching movies, going to art openings, playing and watching sports, and somehow digesting it all and making sense of it. I like to watch things happening in other industries to see what might impact us. A lot of times I am more inspired by, say, going to a furniture store than I am going to a headwear store. Lastly, I am inspired by people. I watch people and what they wear. I love the individuals, the people who do their own thing. I’ll see someone wearing a cool outfit on the train and think, I want to design a hat for them. What would they wear? Would they match a hat to their shoes or would they want their hat to be a pop color and not match anything else they are wearing? I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I get paid to inspire a team of the best graphic artists and product designers in the world to make product for people who inspire me. We help athletes perform at the peak of their game, and we help fashion people improve their fashion game.