If you haven't heard of Ron Suhanosky the designer, there's a chance you've heard of Ron Suhanosky the chef. Or at least cooked from his award-winning book. The former chef-owner of the acclaimed Sfoglia restaurant in Nantucket and NYC won a James Beard Award in 2010 for Best New Cookbook, "Pasta Sfoglia," and has helmed the kitchen at many other New York establishments. But slinging perfectly cooked plates of pasta wasn't enough for the talented chef. So what made him leave it all behind?
"The industry has changed so I felt it was time for me to change."
For Ron, change meant hanging up his chef jackets and packing away his knives to tap into another creative passion that had until now been a hobby: style and design. "I used to come home after long days in the kitchen and start experimenting with different fabrics and materials," Ron says. A move to Harlem was all the infusion of inspiration he needed and Ron soon started XOR Style, his line of high-end men's and women's accessories. We caught up with him in his new neighborhood to discuss his new career:
What is XOR Style--what do you design, and how do you make it?
XOR Style is all about adding a kiss of sophistication, embracing fashion and rocking style. XOR is a line of men's and woman's accessories. I start by sourcing my fabrics, matching a complementary and contrasting trim and sew my patterns together. They are all started by hand then finished with a sewing machine. I currently am designing pocket squares, slim ties, 7-fold neck ties, and infinity scarves.
Tell me about how you started designing men's accessories. Did you always know you'd want to leave the restaurant world for design?
I started to teach myself how to sew last summer. I wanted to add some flair to my own wardrobe and after coming home from work as a chef, I found myself putting together designs that amazed myself. My entire first half of my adulthood was all about cooking. I have opened restaurants, written cookbooks, made multiple appearances on TV, and lived out my dream as a professional chef. The industry has changed so I felt it was time for me to change.
Celebrities like Will Smith have donned XOR pocket squares, but they're not just for high-profile events, right? How do you envision people wearing your designs?
I would like to promote my accessories as a brand for those that know style, that are a bit edgy and know how to carry themselves. My designs are each one-of-a-kind and I would like to think that we all have one-of-a-kind style. I like the idea of my accessories being the bridge of an urban man/woman to that sophisticated place that isn't over done or misunderstood.
How would you describe your personal style? Do you think it has changed since you've left food and become a designer?
My personal style is always effortless and simple. I like color and I love contrast. I try to encompass all this in a few different pieces and change it up on a daily basis.
And what about your creative process? How is it different to design accessories to create dishes or a restaurant? Or do you find that they call on the same creative devices?
As for the creative process, I believe it truly is the same to make a dish as it is to sew a pocket square (at least for me it is) I would never cook anything that I wouldn't feed myself. When I created menus or specials for my restaurants I always made sure it was when I was hungry. I felt that this was the best way for my creativity to come out. I have followed the same devices when designing my accessories. There is nothing in my brand that I wouldn't wear myself. I want to wear everything I make!
You've been an incredibly successful chef, restaurant owner, and cookbook writer, and now you've got a a new career in accessory design. What's your secret? A mantra, a philosophy, an attitude, advice someone gave you...?
Changing careers in not an easy process (mid-life) but I believe it is important to stay true to yourself and your beliefs, have a level sense of confidence, and keep pushing yourself. This formula always equals success!
And finally, where can I buy one of your pocket squares?
At the moment, XOR pocket squares (or any other of my accessories) can be bought on my website www.x-o-r.com (which is in the process of being revamped) or at Louis Boston. I am in the process of connecting with buyers from Bergdorf Goodman and Peter Elliot and I'm looking forward to seeing my accessories in many upscale boutiques and department stores in 2014.
Ed Note: Stay tuned for a special event featuring XOR Style at Red Rooster in the upcoming months!
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