A trio of charismatic cousins is responsible for steering the success of Bilbao-based menswear brand Man 1924.
Family-run label Man 1924 is known among Spain’s best dressed for nimbly walking the line between traditional and contemporary with its preppy, travel-friendly tailoring. But its three affable owners – and their two formidable beards – have played no small role in popularising the clothes.
“I handle communications,” says Jorge Navares, who owns the company with his two cousins, one of whom, Olga Castillo, says that actually she manages communications. They agree that their eldest cousin, Carlos Castillo, definitely designs the clothing. As with many family businesses, it’s clearly an informal power-share.
It was after catching buyers’ attention at Florence menswear show Pitti Uomo in 2008 that sales really flourished. Jorge says that they are now stocked in some 60 carefully chosen shops around the world, plus their own outposts – designed by Carlos – in Bilbao, Madrid and Ovidos, a town north of Lisbon, and multi-brand Madrid emporium Denis.
But as rosy as the future looks, the cousins also emphasise their past, which goes back to 1924 (hence the brand name) when their grandfather Ambrosio Navares founded the company. “We still stick to the best materials,” says Jorge. “We don’t look at the prices when we buy them.” They source cotton from Italy, linen from Ireland and wool from Scotland, and make their wares in Spanish and Portuguese factories. The entire range – from wedding suits to pyjamas – is designed in Bilbao. “We know everybody around here,” says Jorge. “It’s like they’re part of the family.”
These three cousins have overseen Man 1924’s transformation from a small family business selling quality menswear into an international luxury hit for those in the know. Jorge juggles various roles to ensure that everything knits together; Olga manages production and Carlos stitches good design into everything they do, from tailoring to the shop interiors. “We grew up around this,” says Jorge. “It comes naturally.”
Carlos Mendizabal, Account manager.
“Takes care of the business accounts and is a valued customer.”
Xabi Sanchez, Personal trainer.
“Helps to keep everybody young and fit.”
Ainara Ipiña, Head of communication.
“The guardian angel.”
Amaia Zapirain, Owner of the Zapirain restaurant.
“Owns a restaurant nearby and has been a friend for over a decade.”
Juan Bautista, La Viña del Ensanche restaurant owner.
“One of Bilbao’s main characters and owner of the family’s favourite tapas joint.”
Elena Alvarez de Arcaya, CEO of Mosel design store, Bilbao.
“Friend who owns of one of the best furniture shops in the Basque country.”
Kepa Uribarrena, Shop manager.
“Forever travelling to keep the displays looking their best.”
Enrique Palomino, Businessman and head of mission at the Lithuanian consulate in Bilbao
“A top customer and ambassador for our brand.”
Ainara Herrera, Runs e-commerce.
“Prepares everything that goes online.”
Silvia Herrera, Shop assistant.
“In charge of stock and logistics; always acts fast with a smile.”
Paloma Luzarraga, Exports assistant.
“Keeps up relationships with export customers.”