Chris Molnar’s one of our better-dressed friends. And that’s not a comment we lend to many, especially when the nominee sports little more than a basic t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. But Chris has held steady to a tip that has somehow become overlooked in fashion: a simplistic focus on style. We recently caught up with understated aficionado while on a walk with his best friend, Diego, this past week, and had a little chat about the premium essentials empire he’s carefully built over the past 18 years, the best advice he’s ever received from his father and why personal style is the only true currency in fashion.
So when was Goodlife first established?
I designed our first logo in August 1999 when I was 19. The brand has gone through a lot of iterations. We made our first premium basics in Pennsylvania in 2005 and then re-launched the current brand as it is today in 2012.
Was there a specific moment or event that led to you founding the brand, or was it something you’d thought about for a while?
I was always making my own t-shirts at the mall so no one else could have the same graphic I was wearing. I guess that’s probably where it first started.
Tell us a bit about your father. His background’s in fashion as well, right?
My dad was a Hungarian immigrant who moved to LA in the late 60’s. He always wanted his own fashion brand and started a small Italian made shirt line. At the same time he was introduced to two German brothers who were looking to bring their small fashion label to the US. My dad ended up pioneering that brand, Hugo Boss, into the North American market from the mid 70’s to late 80’s. He basically put them on the map here so I absorbed a lot from watching that.
How did he influence you and what would you say has been his greatest piece of advice to you?
My dad was a self made Eastern European immigrant. I grew up in an old money, kind of “waspy” town in North Jersey so you can imagine the looks he got cruising around the tennis club in his Porsche Targa, wearing short swim trunks, an Italian t-shirt and black Chuck Taylors. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but having confidence in your own style definitely rubbed off on me.
Chrissy, Chrissy, if you’re going to be a man at night, you have to be a man in the morning.
His greatest piece of advice to me actually has nothing to do with business. He moved our family to Budapest when I was 14 and the morning after my first night at the bars, I was hurting bad, with my head on the kitchen table. He slapped me on the back and said, “Chrissy, Chrissy, if you’re going to be a man at night, you have to be a man in the morning.”
Over the past few years, it seems a lot of brands come and go—many of which relying on trends or short-lived elements spawned from social media. What does Goodlife bring to the table that’s unique, and what’s your approach to ensuring the brand’s longevity?
As long as I can remember, especially after watching my dad, the only real currency in this industry is your own personal style. Goodlife is a basics or essentials brand because we don’t want to tell people how to dress from head to toe.
We provide the essentials of a man’s wardrobe from season to season. You can mix and match our product, you can take elements of our product and incorporate them into your wardrobe and create your own style, but we are not designers. There used to be a lot of innovation that people would see flashes of in magazines from fashion shows and then months later the product would hit a store.
Now, a designer could show their designs on social media or be written about online and a fast fashion company with endless resources could copy those designs and have them to market before that designer even finishes their selling market. It’s a copy cat industry. It’s full of celebrity endorsed product that doesn’t lend much to one’s personal style and we like to think we stay above that as we are all about style not fashion.
You mentioned that you guys have also been working on a short film. What’s the idea behind that and when/where can we expect to see it?
The video will be on our site through the summer. It’s a short video that will be a part of a series of videos we release each season. It shows seasonal product, but it’s more about capturing the idea of what a Goodlife can mean to us during that time of year. This first video is a glimpse into the production of a new swim trunk we made in NYC and for this Summer, it’s about the simplicity of driving to the beach with your dog.
Any other big plans for 2017?
We are growing steadily and continuing to expand our assortment of seasonal and year round essentials. We are excited about continuing our video series for Fall and then we are also going to be doing a Holiday Pop Up in NYC featuring an artist, product collaborations, and a Goodlife Affogato bar which I have wanted to do for a very long time.