Gay Talese once said that dressing well “extols my sense of self, and helps define me as a man to whom details matter.” These words ring true when speaking to Rochambeau co-founder Laurence Chandler, to whom the smallest flairs and touches are integral to forming an identity through fabric.
Laurence can easily draw you a sketch of his ideal client. He sums up his company’s target audience so smoothly and succinctly, it sounds like one of Don Draper’s best pitch meetings: “The Rochambeau guy is not always at the center of attention in the room, but he’s always in the right place.”
Rochambeau, a rapidly rising men’s fashion brand, was founded by Laurence and his longtime friend, Josh Grouper, in 2007. The name is a playful wink at the game Rock, Paper, Scissors (sometimes called roshambo). That game represents the decision-making strategy Laurence and Josh often resort to when ending a “stalemate.” The 1, 2, 3 hand gesture battle of wits doesn’t just decide important questions over business tactics or design strategy, either—it’s even used to determine who has to meet the pizza guy at the door when they work late.
Growing up, Laurence was interested in creating art you could hold and feel—making something tangible. “I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a physical product,” he said.
He and Josh began their careers by designing a couple dozen t-shirts, which were sold in their friend’s shop. Fast forward to 2016, and the duo saw their work featured in the men’s portion of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)’s Fashion Week in New York City.
Laurence, whose influences include Helmut Lang and Raf Simons, has no formal training. In fact, under “Education” in his LinkedIn profile is a tongue-in-cheek entry for the “School of Hard Knocks” from 2000-2004. But the lack of a design degree may have been integral in pushing him to try new things.
“You learn very quickly from any mistakes that you might make, and in that sense, you’re held accountable to what you do, to go through and to produce the best product that you can.”