INTERVIEW: David Novak, Quixotic founder

David Novak, Quixotic Founder.

We recently highlighted pocket squares from Quixotic, a company we're very excited about. (Our earlier review here). We recently had had the chance to interview David Novak, Quixotic's founder. David shares with us how he got started, why the company is focused on pocket squares, and what the future holds for Quixotic. 

LC: How did you come up with the name? Who's a Cervantes fan?

Q: We honestly stumbled upon the name somewhat randomly. I was trying out a number of other names before finding this one, but quickly fell in love with it. The definition is perfect (exceedingly idealistic and extravagantly chivalrous) - it fits really well with the overall mission and personality of the company. The literary reference is really fun - it gives substance to a unique word, and often gives people an idea of what we’re about before they even visit the site. I guess I’m the Cervantes fan.

LC: Who's behind Quixotic and what are your backgrounds?

Q:  I’m the primary individual behind Quixotic, although it would have never happened without the ongoing help and support of many many friends who are experts in their individual fields- marketing, graphic design, photography, fashion, etc. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but moved to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University. Since graduating, I have held finance and strategy roles at a number of different companies all over Texas. Most recently, I was the President and CFO of an online resource for chemical and pharmaceutical companies. I really enjoyed it and had a great team, but couldn’t shake the desire to start my own company. I entertained a number of different startup ideas, but really wanted to see the idea for Quixotic come to life.

LC: How did you and your team come upon this idea, and why did you pick pocket squares?

Q: The idea came about from the convergence of three different things: 1) I knew that I wanted to start a consumer focused brand with an interesting social component to it. 2) I was complaining to my wife about the cost and general fanciness of pocket squares while packing a suit for some event around Christmas. At the time, I only had two and I wanted more. They’re a perfect way to add some color and personality to your attire, especially when skipping a tie. 3) A friend told me about how his heroic actions had recently cost him a pocket square- while attending a funeral, an 85 year old gentleman was overcome by the heat of a Louisiana summer and passed out. My friend pulled out his pocket square, doused it with ice water and cooled the man’s face until the ambulance arrived. The man made a full recovery, but my friend lost an expensive pocket square.

As the idea for the Square for Square model developed, I fell in love with a couple of other components - it places a huge element of social good in the hands of customers and allows us, as a company, to develop a relationship with our customers. So many companies have a you-buy-this and we-give-that model, but I wanted to see what would happen if customers became an integral part of the story. This also allows us to interact with customers beyond the point of purchase.

LC: What inspired the focus on domestic violence?

Q: While the Square for Square campaign is focused on customer action, we still wanted to give back. More than a marketing pitch, it’s meant to be an example of the company living out the principles that it promotes. In my opinion, our donations to domestic violence shelters has gotten a little too much press, so we’re starting to downplay that in our marketing efforts. It’s no longer front and center.

We chose to focus on the issue of domestic violence because it is the root cause of so many social issues plaguing society today. We came across it organically- our research was initially focused on homelessness, but we quickly learned that domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness. After reading further, we realized that domestic violence is also the leading cause of injury to women, a leading cause of childhood development issues and that it creates a generational cycle of abuse (children who live in a home where abuse has occurred are far more likely to be abused or abusers).

LC: How did you select the original colours and selection?

Q: In my personal search for pocket squares, I grew increasingly frustrated that so many were bright, floral and silky. They didn’t feel masculine and I generally felt more comfortable skipping a pocket square than spending time trying to match a fancy one to whatever I happened to be wearing. Subtlety was key for me- I wanted them to be a small accent, rather than something that grabs all of the attention. With that in mind, I selected known colors and materials, so the squares would feel like staples.

I’m working on the Fall/Winter line now though, which will feature wool, raw silk and maybe cashmere. Almost all of them with have subtle patterns. I think it’s too easy to gravitate towards safe colors in fall/winter, which can make for monotone attire. We want to encourage color, but without going overboard.

Going forward, we’ll try out different materials, colors and patterns. We want to see what people like and what they’re willing to try. We will always carry a weekday line of straightforward, handsome squares though.

LC: Where do you see Quixotic growing over the next few years, and do you plan to diversify into other accessories or products?

Q: I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this lately. We have a lot more work to do with pocket squares, so I’m trying to be patient, but there are a lot of possibilities for the brand. We’re talking about fashion accessories and other products, as well as things in completely different fields. We feel that the ideals behind Quixotic can (and maybe need) to be applied to all sorts of industries.

LC: What brands and companies inspire you and your team?

Q: When thinking about solid brands in the socially conscious space, Toms, Warby Parker, Sevenly and Krochet Kids are the first that come to mind.

When thinking about expanding the brand into various industries, Virgin is the one that comes to mind. They have done such an amazing job instilling an emotion and ideal into their brand, no matter the industry.

There are also a few companies/founders in Dallas that have offered advice and encouragement along the way, particularly NEED and Foot Cardigan.

LC: Given the name, we couldn't help but ask for summer book recommendations.

Q: I have a few! These three have been my favorites this year. Love Does by Bob Goff, Start with the Why by Simon Sinek, and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.