Rebuilding a 100-year-old brand
In 1925, entrepreneur Joseph Smutek set up shop in Paris, France, and began handmaking bespoke, tailored jackets and suits for men. Joseph took pride in his craft, and invested his hard-earned savings into starting the venture. The menswear business, located at 66 rue de Bondy, was called Ketums.
That all came to a halt during World War II. In 1940, the Nazis invaded France, storming the city and demolishing the factory and the business. Because the Smuteks were Jewish, the family went into hiding. By a stroke of luck, Joseph was traveling abroad at the time of their invasion to procure new fabrics for Ketums, and escaped on what ultimately became the last boat out of Italy to NYC. Ketums was destroyed.
Today, Joseph’s old card is one of the only pieces of the business that remains. Enter Dan, Joseph’s great-grandson, who is picking up the pieces to where Joseph left off and rebuilding his great-grandfather’s legacy here in SF.
Joseph’s old card was more than enough to start with, and in fact it was quite exciting to examine a vintage piece of design from a pure art-nerd perspective. As the original logo was such a glorious work of custom Parisian art deco typography, we kept it, simplifying shape and linework (particularly on the K and S).
Because the Ketums story is so special to Dan and his family’s heritage, we definitely wanted to evoke the aesthetic and feel that could have come straight from 1925. This played a role in all of our design decisions - from what to draw (ie. illustrating a vintage camera rather than a new one) to the handdrawn style we drew in, pairing watercolor illustrations with messily scrawled handwriting.
One thing we wanted to emphasize in particular is Ketums' unique story - particularly in the initial unpackaging and first impression of the garmet that the consumer experiences. For instance, we screenprinted a small booklet to go along with the jacket that walks through Ketums' unique story.
The story is embroidered on a label tag that is sewn into the front right side of the jacket, so it is a physical part of the coat wherever it goes.
As a designer, when you work on a project that is so personal and special like this, you can’t help but get very excited about it. I’m so excited for Dan and his company and you can grab a jacket from Dan’s first line here.
(Above) Some early explorations & mood board