Craig Von Schroeder . CEO . Commonwealth Proper
Interviewed by Susan Gerber
You’ve had 3 very distinct careers so far, what or who influenced the transition from one to the next? I've had 3 distinct careers so far - soccer player, lawyer and now business owner. The transition from one to the other was a timing thing. Life is all about timing. It's like relationships, which are also about timing. During my capricious youth years, I wanted to be paid for playing a sport, and was for a time. But as I matured, and the money ran out, I looked to do something a bit more "normal," so I went to law school and practiced corporate law for six years. I realized that I didn't want to be that corner office partner that seemed over-worked, over-stressed and bored. So I said F*** the man, I want to be an entrepreneur and be in the business of something I would love to do forever, and for me that is design.
As founder and creative developer of Commonwealth Proper, after you’ve established yourself in Philadelphia, what influenced you to choose Atlanta as the second location for your wardrobe agency? All of the demographic, financial and growth statistics made this city a smart business move for us to establish our second brick-and-mortar location. It's also a Southern city, and we wanted to test the viability of our brand and business model in a place quite different in many ways to Philadelphia. Our first year was successful in many ways, so it's been a great move.
You’ve followed your passion and proved the nay sayers wrong, what advice can you give to the entrepreneurs of today? Entrepreneurs are passionate people because they have to be. They see things that don't exist yet and have to use their passion to manifest it into reality. The nay-sayers will always be there and will simply grow in numbers as you become successful. Using their negativity as fuel has always been fun for me.
You are either a slave (working for someone else) or a hustler (working for yourself). Being a hustler is not for everyone as it requires about 10x as much energy as being a slave. As a hustler you may burn out, but as a slave you are guaranteed to fade away.
When a gentleman walks into your showroom, what service can he expect to experience from start to finish? Our shops are always hidden and hard to find. That's because it's a private sartorial experience. It's like being at your doctor or lawyer's office - you don't expect or want some random person interrupting what's going on. We care deeply about our clients' appearance. We offer a holistic, well-thought-out approach to dressing.
As you’re transforming Atlanta gentlemen one bespoke suit at a time, what’s on the agenda for the rest of the year? We will be introducing a more style conscious sub-label under CMMP akin to Burberry Prorsum, which is Burberry's high-end sub brand. This will give us a bit more design freedom to source the most interesting fabrics in the world. We will work with labels like Tom Ford, Prada, Zegna, Gucci, etc., to obtain fabrics that they are not currently using. These will be repurposed for some exciting clothing under our new sub-label.
Of all the places you’ve travelled around the world, where do you draw inspiration from the most? I find inspiration everywhere. I'm constantly snapping photos on my iPhone and reviewing them. I was a the ATL airport yesterday and there's this incredible metal sculpting display from an artist named Gordon Chandler that blew my mind and the day before in San Francisco (there for a trunk show) I saw a square jade side table that I couldn't stop looking at. Random and strange, but inspiring nonetheless because they were designed so well.
What sets you apart from the European/London bespoke suit? We aren't copies of our European counterparts. We're not trying to be Italian or English. We are American, which brings with it a more relaxed shoulder style wherein across the pond they have build up, stiff and roped shoulders. It's just a more pronounced style. We have a softer shoulder, less padding. It's the Ivy League style of dressing that the Japanese tend to favor now too. In any event, we believe in being a citizen of the world, which requires one to be appropriate in any setting, and that's all about proper fit. Fit is King at CMMP, so that's our focus.
First impressions are so important, dressing impeccably is vital to that. What is the most important piece of advice you can give to gentlemen when it comes to a well fit suit?
The two most important things to get right on a suit are the shoulders (the point-to-point measurement) and the seat of the pants (essentially the circumference of your butt). If these two measurements are off, then the respective garments cannot be tailored. Get them right, and all other things can be tweaked.
What is one of your favorite places you frequent here in Atlanta? Himitsu. It's a secret Tokyo-style cocktail lounge in Buckhead. It's designed so well. Tom Dixon did the lighting and other elements of the place, and when you are there it feels like the center of the universe.
Of all the charities you are involved with, which one is the most special to you & why?
We support Team I Hate Cancer. It raises money for many cancer causes, and they are a great group of people. https://squareup.com/market/teamihatecancer
If you could only choose one for a night on the town, would it be…..tie or pocket square? I'm a contrarian and it seems like the city favors no tie when out, so I'd have to select the tie option. Let's turn up the style factor in ATL, even if just for a night...
Images from Commonwealth Proper