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Moore, who has been with the men's magazine for 33 years, wanted to try them on. He wasn't disappointed. "They aren't flashy. Matt gives the jean up to the wearer — you can mold them to you, make them your own."
About a year later, in 2012, Moore met Matt for the first time at a trade show. He was impressed with the man, too — and with the collection beyond denim. He kept his eye on Matt and his brand and, early this year, was able to call the local designer with good news: The magazine was naming him a Best New Menswear Designer.
In Moore's eyes, Matt's Midwest perch adds to the glory. It allows him to step out of the industry noise, stay true to himself and design from a different perspective.
"Every fashion hero has a story, and Matt's homegrown-in-Kansas City element makes his story all the more compelling," he says.
On a mid-September weekday, recent University of Kansas grad Todd Harmon stops in at the Leawood Baldwin store to buy a KC hat in gray before moving to San Francisco. "I want to take some Kansas City with me," he says.
Business remains brisk here, though it's tough to pin down just who is the typical customer. The same day, store manager Hall hears from an elderly man who calls each fall to order a new denim jacket.
"We get the young guys who are into denim and the story of breaking in a pair, and then we get the older men who are drawn to quality and classic fit," says Hall, a Columbia, Missouri, native.
The Leawood Baldwin store serves as a laboratory of sorts, a place where Matt's customer interaction shapes products sold globally. He takes pride in what he calls the store's upper-level service, which includes on-the-spot tailoring. (Every employee sews.)
A jeans wall of fame hangs by the store's front entrance. There, wearers retire their well-worn raw pairs, giving way to design inspiration for worn washes.
The store has a sleek, clean and functional aesthetic, a design influenced by Baldwin's fondness of modern architecture and made possible by Hufft Projects.
Architect Matthew Hufft, founder of the firm (which has offices in Kansas City and New York), designed all of the Baldwins' stores as well as their home remodel. In Springfield, Missouri, he and Emily were high school classmates.
He says he often hears people ask Matt, "So, how much longer are you going to be around here?" Hufft knows the answer.
"Through his success, Matt's enthusiasm for Kansas City has increased," he says. "You see other people taste success and flee from their home, but he's doing the opposite, which I think is really admirable."
Other local designers are watching Baldwin's example. Christian Shuster, designer of the menswear line ChristianMICHEAL, says, "Matt Baldwin has proven that you don't have to transplant to the coasts to make it."
Friday afternoon, September 20, the new Plaza Baldwin store had been open for an hour. Matt was worn-out from the busiest month of his career so far, yet embracing the high time. He and Emily were at home for four days between New York trips, a schedule that had him missing his kids. The new issue of GQ had just come out — Jeff Bridges on the cover and, a couple of pages in, Baldwin posing in a glossy spread pushing the Gap collection.
He talked about what's next: Open one Baldwin-brand store, much like this one, away from the Kansas City area each year for the next five years. First up: Los Angeles and New York.
For now, all eyes are on Kansas City, the new Plaza store serving as the model for national stores. As shoppers trickled in, he flashed that eager smile and said, "It's so awesome to be doing this in our own backyard."