News & Runway

Designer to Watch: Twenty Tees

In a testament to the power of social media I found out about Twenty Tees via photographer Ben Fink Shapiro who posted some shots from the brand's Spring 2013 lookbook shoot on Instagram. I immediately zoned in on the paneled pants pictured right and contacted the brand to learn more about its designer. David Helwani, I learned, is the man behind the label known for casual separates and dresses. From Montreal, Helwani joined his family textile business at an early age and dedicated himself to developing expertly crafted knits. He eventually took the helm of his family's mill, leading the operation to become one of the premiere North American producers for ready-to-wear designers looking for high-end and innovative knits. In 2009, because he felt there was "a lack of luxurious and sexy knitwear brands," he launched Twenty Tees.

Here, the designer talks about sourcing fabrics, quality control, line extensions, and more.


Instagram shot of a Spring 2013

Twenty Tees shoot by Ben Fink Shapiro

The Fashion Spot: Where did the name Twenty Tees come from?

David Helwani: We wanted a tee-centric brand name at our launch and the answer was right in front of us. T is actually the twentieth letter in the alphabet. Thus Twenty was born.

tFS: How do you go about picking your fabrics?

DH: Coming from a steep family tradition in the textile and fashion business and owning the premiere knitting mill in North America, it seemed like a natural fit to create a brand that was based in luxury. Fabrics are selected either based on fashion and technical trends that develop through the year or through a specific feel we are trying to achieve for that season. One thing is constant, however, we always look to have the richest and softest feel possible.

tFS: What do you consider to be the basics that every woman should stock in her closet?

DH: A white rib tank, a boyfriend tee, a crisp white V-neck tee, and a great fitting pair of denim.

tFS: Given that you're focused on closet staples and luxury fabrics, do you pay attention to seasonal fashion trends?

DH: Of course. Seasonal fashion trends are key to our survival. We always keep a close eye on what's happening on the runways, but we also consider ourselves industry innovators, continuously developing and setting trends along the way.

tFS: You have offices in both California and New York – how would you say the coasts compare in terms of style?

DH: New York is very forward, very ready-to-wear driven and sets trends. California is famous for its laid back cool, infused with fashion but floating towards the bohemian side. The advantage of being located on both coasts is that we can marry both styles together and present a unique perspective, which is far from obvious and never dull.

tFS: What are some of your favorite pieces in your fall collection?

DH: We've had a great reaction to our Ponte leggings and our dresses are perfect for the sexy and confident woman. However, in terms of novelty, I love our marbled French terry jackets with leather accents.


tFS: What can we expect for Spring 2013?

DH: Spring 2013 encompasses a lot of texture. We've opened up our collection to having a larger color variety which has helped brighten things up for Spring. We have also carried over the leather trend and our incredible mesh and crochets to detail the collection. Our vision for the season was to structure Twenty Spring 2013 like a full collection with an array of choices from tops to bottoms and dresses, coupled with the invitingness, ease, and comfort only luxury knitwear can offer.

tFS: Is there something you know now that you wish you had known when you started Twenty Tees?

DH: The business has changed so much since we first started. The toughest part of running Twenty today is keeping up with the constantly evolving landscape of which the industry of fashion has become. The customer wants something fresh every month!

tFS: Day-to-day, what are some of the biggest challenges in running a fashion brand?

DH: Keeping up with the most recent relevant trends, monitoring quality because ultimately it’s our name and reputation on the line. Additionally, remaining aware that my personal aesthetic might not always be the answer. We have to make sure we are catering to our customer and not strictly to a vanity closet.

tFS: What’s your personal style like? What are some of your favorite brands?

DH: My personal style is very clean and structured. In one word, sophisticated. That is the mantra of Twenty. Brands that excite me in womenswear are Marni, Elie Saab, Yigal Azrouel, Brunello Cucinelli, Isabel Marant, and Iro.

tFS: Any extension plans into menswear or otherwise?

DH: Yes, my vision is to make Twenty a lifestyle brand. Men are always forgotten when it comes to fashion. What guy wouldn't want to wear our fabrics!

tFS: What’s your biggest fashion pet peeve?

DH: Over designing. It's such an easy trap to fall into. If a trend is popular and you jump on its coattails, make sure to curb your enthusiasm and not to overuse. The beauty of fashion sense is basic. No matter the era, the core message is to make the wearer look beautiful, sexy, and feel good.

tFS: Luxury item you’re dying to splurge on?

DH: An Aston Martin.