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The couple now has four area stores: a second Standard Style on the Plaza; Baldwin in Leawood; and the new Baldwin KC on the Plaza, which opened last weekend and is the first store heavy on Baldwin goods for both men and women.
While they have production in L.A. as well as a New York sales team, they've kept their base in Kansas City, a location that seems to have caught the fashion industry by surprise. And they have no plans to leave. The Baldwins are tried-and-true Midwesterners — Matt from Kansas, Emily from Missouri. This is home.
They're both beautiful, in that all-American way, and have three gorgeous and, of course, perfectly styled young children. They live in old Leawood, just a few minutes from their stores and offices, in a house they've given a modern, minimalist face-lift. To their friends, the house is a go-to for socializing — a place where the swimming pool, the turntable and the karaoke machine get equal action before and after the kids go to bed.
"It is a huge blessing that we're able to raise our kids here while also doing something unique," Matt says.
He's all about bringing Kansas City along for the ride. Local Gap stores didn't get last year's GQ-Gap collection, so this fall he has pulled every string he can to put his clothing in some of the area stores. He also has made sure to sprinkle his hometown in the collection. The KC hat in navy made the cut.
"People will be reppin' KC all over the globe," he says, through that enthusiastic smile.
Before denim, it was skateboarding and snowboarding gear. Growing up outside Wichita, in Andover, Kansas, Matt was part of the skateboarding movement of the 1980s and '90s. Skateboarding with his friends and reading Thrasher magazine consumed him.
He went to college in New Hampshire and then headed to Colorado to snowboard. There, life started to align. While teaching snowboarding, he met Emily, a wakeboarding instructor. He was drawn to action-sports fashion and moved to California, where he worked for skate- and board-gear brand Volcom. He surfed. He studied apparel manufacturing at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. Emily joined him there, and they married in 2001.
After Matt's graduation from FIDM, he and Emily returned to Colorado for a ski season and contemplated their next move. When a KC friend offered to invest in their designer-boutique idea if they came to the area, they packed their bags and opened Standard Style in Leawood's Town Center Plaza in 2003.
They stocked the store with items by their favorite designers, like Marc Jacobs, whose high-end handbags cost a few hundred dollars, as well as more affordable pieces that went for less than $50. The model was more in line with L.A. than the Midwest. A risk, yes. But why compromise?
"I've always tried to do only the things I'm passionate about versus following the money or doing what theoretically makes sense," Matt says.
Matt took the lead in the business and served as the house visionary. Emily was the creative director, the women's buyer, the stylist.
But Matt struggled to find the jeans he desired: American-manufactured denim featuring modern design and ultra-premium Japanese and American selvage — a reference to "self-edge," the crisp edges that don't easily fray. All denim was once selvage, but today only vintage shuttle looms produce the rare, high-quality fabric.