Having lived and worked in men’s fashion for years, Seth Howard, Style Director at Alton Lane, knows a thing or two about looking good. Although the seasoned pro is a relatively new addition to the custom clothier, that hasn’t stopped him from dressing Wall Streeters head-to-toe in their Sunday best. We grilled him about the perfect suit, developing personal style and how Mad Men is helping us dress better.

There are so many trends right now that people can infuse their own styles. People are mixing really cool vintage with high-end luxury brands. You don’t have to follow the herd, you can do it the way you want.

MADE MAN: To begin, how did you get your start with Alton Lane?
SETH HOWARD: I started last August. It was pretty simple, I saw the posting online and recognized the brand. My friend had the suit for his wedding made by them and he raved about both the process and the brand. Plus, he looked great in the suit! I submitted by resume and that was that.

MM: How has your experience in the fashion world defined your role as Style Director?
SH: My background is primarily in magazines and styling. I’ve also had a lot of experience helping brands launch online, which has really helped me here with starting the e-commerce. I also really enjoy lending my experience and sense of style to creative marketing and market research. Making sure that what we are doing as a brand is elevating and on track with the market is important.

MM: Tell us about your personal style.
SH: I would say it’s very attainable and effortless, but refined. Not too pretentious or avant-garde, clothes are what we live in, so I want to be comfortable!

MM: What’s your style mantra?
SH: I don’t really believe in the “fashion” rules because they can be very limiting. I put things together how I want them to work. Fashion is an escape and expression. It allows you to become who you want, so it shouldn’t be contrived.

White shirt, navy jacket, can’t lose.

MM: What three key pieces should every man have in his wardrobe?
SH: A white oxford, your typical white button-down. A navy suit, because it is great for all seasons and you can break it apart and wear just the jacket or trousers or wear it all together. And a basic cashmere sweater, cable-knit or a V-neck.

MM: What trends are you seeing for Spring/Summer 2013?
SH: I’m glad we are moving away from the bright fluorescent colors. They look great on the runway, but for everyday use they aren’t practical. They’re toning down the color palettes as well as the patterns and refining the elements—intricate design details that I think menswear has been missing for a while.

MM: What are you most excited about for menswear in the near future?
SH: Looking at things from a cultural standpoint, you can see that history and fashion are cyclical. Definitive trends follow specific times, like war or recession. It’s exciting to see how people will embrace trends. It’s not just a women’s market anymore—men are starting to reclaim their style and pride in dressing. Mad Men is bringing back the skinny tie and refined, masculine style.

MM: How does Alton Lane translate menswear trends to customers?
SH: Most of our customers tend to be politicians or financiers. Very few are hardcore fashion lovers, so this is something we really take into consideration. We don’t want to sacrifice our creative freedom, but we have to make a living at the end of the day. I look for what speaks to me, go through fabrics and put together a selection that doesn’t alienate our clientele, but elevates them. We also have to be competitive with our style choices. It is a delicate balance, and so far, I think we’re doing a great job of walking that line.

Inside Alton Lane, where the rug really does tie the room together…

MM: Give us your outlook on the current style climate in the US?
SH: It’s the perfect breeding ground of possibilities. It’s not a time where if you’re not wearing this, then you are out of the loop. There are so many trends right now that people can infuse their own styles. People are mixing really cool vintage with high-end luxury brands. You don’t have to follow the herd, you can do it the way you want.

MM: What elements of style interest you most?
SH: I love menswear, obviously. I find it infinitely more interesting than women’s, simply because there are more pieces. You can take them apart and put them together and make them your own. I usually start with one piece that really speaks to me and to work around. It might be a trouser, shoes, coat, but I build everything else around that one piece. Magazines dictate the editorial industry, each model is dressed head to toe in one look taken straight off of the runway. I don’t find much creativity in that, and it’s not much use off the page. It is more fascinating to take individual pieces I love from different designers, with different looks and see how they can work together.

MM: Parting words of wisdom?
SH: Have fun! If someone doesn’t like your top, who cares? You can wear a different one tomorrow.