An Interview with Modern Fellows Founder: Jake Colvin

Firstly, can you introduce yourself?

I'm a husband and dad based in Washington, DC.  I've been wearing a suit for the better part of 20 years for my career, which explores the role of the global marketplace in companies' success.


How do you describe your personal style? What/Who are your inspirations?

I aim for "relaxed professional," though that means different things depending on whether I'm attending a board meeting, at a conference like SXSW, or hanging out with my kids on the weekend. I've found it's usually better to err on the side of over-dressing.  I can always take off a suit jacket, loosen a tie, or roll up my shirtsleeves, but I can't ever shake the feeling of being underdressed for an occasion. I take inspiration from the startup founders I've gotten to know like Derek Tian of Black Lapel, Seph Skerritt of Proper Cloth, Paul Trible of Ledbury and Aman Advani of Ministry of Supply. In terms of celebrities, John Legend and George Clooney both know how to rock a suit. 

What motivated you to create Modern Fellows and what were you doing before that? Was it something you planned for a long time?

I started working on Modern Fellows in 2011 when my wife and I were expecting our first child. For me, it was a creative outlet, something I could build from the ground up, and a chance to combine my passion for getting to know innovative entrepreneurs with my interest in style and fashion. Modern Fellows remains a side-hustle for me, and I work hard at a day-job that I'm passionate about.

How do Modern Fellows use style to empower viewers, especially entrepreneurs?

I've always been interested in the stories behind the brands. Every entrepreneur started their business to solve a problem or meet a need, and really the goal of Modern Fellows is to elevate that backstory. Style is personal, and I find myself identifying with, and wanting to support, brands that are solving for the same problems that I've encountered. Online suit startup Black Lapel and custom shirt company Proper Cloth were two of the first brands who were really generous with their time and peeling back the curtain for me on their startup journeys. They remain two of my favorite brands to this day.

How do you decide which brands to partner with, and how do you ensure that your fans are receptive to sponsored content?

I aim to create long-term relationships with innovative companies and founders who are interested in peeling back the curtain on their experience and philosophy, rather than one-time engagements for the sake of a bit of cash or a free sample. Generally, I will only write up products and brands where I have had a good experience.  I've shelved several stories when it became clear that the product was just not working out or where I didn't have a positive experience.  Also, while I may accept a free sample in exchange for a review, to date I haven't posted much "sponsored" content. To the extent that I do in the future, I would label it as such and ensure it aligned with my interests and goals. 

What inspirational quote do you live by?

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything," which is attributed to Mark Twain. Life may be all about who you know, but I think it's more about how you treat the people you know, and that starts with being straightforward and honest. I've been lucky to have several bosses and mentors in my life who have modeled that for me. 

What’s your weekend outfit like?

These days my weekend outfit looks a lot like my weekday outfit. A t-shirt or polo from sustainable fashion brand Pact or J. Crew or a button down from Ledbury or Proper Cloth; Revtown jeans or Bonobos chinos; colorful socks by Unsimply Stitched or Inclusive Trade; and my navy blue GAT sneakers from Oliver Cabell or oxfords from Wolf and Shepherd or Beckett Simonon. When the weather turns colder, I'll add some cashmere sweaters to the rotation from Everlane. 

And lastly, some words for your fans and our readers out there who aspire to be an influencer like you!

I'd consider myself more of a fan of fashion entrepreneurs rather than an influencer. That said, if you're passionate about a topic -- fashion or otherwise - find your niche and jump in. It seemed intimidating to me at first to start up Modern Fellows, but I quickly found companies to be responsive to my outreach early on. I quickly discovered that I enjoyed building something from scratch, and that writing articles and emails for Modern Fellows beats watching TV at night.