Though he often works from his Woburn home, designer Christopher Cuozzo dresses up to a degree that most self-employed people don’t. On a recent winter weekday, he wore a fitted gray wool suit over a pink and white-collared dress shirt, navy socks and brown wingtip leather shoes. Even with the white pocket square, the look he considers “very, very understated.”
“Men especially don’t take pride in what they wear,” he said, “and that’s why I make a point every day of dressing to the nines.”
The 29-year-old fashion entrepreneur’s favorite color is pink, but lately he’s been wearing bright orange shoelaces and elbow patches like the ones on the cardigans he sells on his online store, Dressed by Christopher Cuozzo.
And he's not the only one. Esquire Magazine reports that "bold colors," including orange, are just one of the new trends that came out of last week's Men's Fashion Week in Milan.
Cuozzo recently showed off a spring look on the blog Unabashedly Prep after his small apparel business caught the attention of fashion photographer F. E. Castleberry. But even as he becomes better known in fashion circles nationwide, he doesn’t cover up his small-city origins. In a portrait taken on a brick-lined street in Cambridge, Cuozzo wears a pair of orange corduroy pants, duck boots and a cream knit cardigan emblazoned with an orange “W.”
“When I feel like representing Woburn,” he said of the sweater, “I just put that on.”
Doing what he loves
You might have seen Cuozzo around town, possibly at Beacon Grille or at the Thanksgiving Day football game at Woburn Memorial High School, his Alma Mater. He said that since he doesn’t work in downtown Boston, people tend to stare at his shirt and tie and occasionally ask him what he does. And when that happens, he relishes the chance to tell them.
In 2007, Cuozzo started having his tailor sew colorful, designed material onto the collars and cuffs of oxford cloth and twill dress shirts. The style recreated one he had seen in the men’s section of a department store, except it cost much less to make and guaranteed him a one-of-a-kind shirt.
His friends admired his touch of flair, he said, so he began designing dress shirts for them. Then one day, he asked himself: “Why not do what I love?”
Thus he created his website, Dressed by Christopher Cuozzo with the intent of selling custom clothing for under $100. Men and women’s oxford shirts compatible with 20 different lining patterns go for $79.99 and are $39.99 without the accents. Over the past two years, the inventory has grown to include twill shirts ($89.99), pocket squares ($20), polo shirts ($49.99), cashmere scarves ($89.99) and t-shirts ($16.99).
Many of his new clients, he said, are men looking for dress shirts to wear to a wedding or other formal occasion. Cuozzo ends up helping some of these men, through his “closet rehab” service, get rid of out-of-style clothes and buy new, fashionable ones that fit them.
For now, Cuozzo plans to stick with the website instead of opening a shop. He said that like him, many people prefer to shop online, the economy is still too unstable and his inventory is limited. But at the same time, he’s expanding his purview, accommodating clients on the West Coast and turning to clothing manufacturers beyond Boston. Last weekend, Cuozzo took the train to New York City to search the garment district for new fabrics, particularly repp-silk, for his spring and summer collection.