Sibylle’s Style Diary: Will Kehler on Feeling Inspired by the Glittering Prohibition-Era Lifestyle
Sibylle’s Style Diary: Will Kehler on Feeling Inspired by the Glittering Prohibition-Era Lifestyle

This week’s style diary is about Will Kehler, the founder & CEO of Manhattan Moonshine. The young entrepreneur successfully launched in New York a boutique moonshine meant to recall the speakeasies of New York and the glittering Prohibition-era lifestyle. He aims to bring style and the trendiest spirit in New York with a stylish Art Deco-inspired bottle. He shares his perspective on style with us.

Sibylle Eschapasse: Describe your style?

Will Kehler: My style is simple and professional with a focus on versatility. When I leave my apartment, I want to be dressed for just about anything. And since, when in doubt, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed, I err on the side of being overdressed.

To me, people who have style dress effortlessly, or at least they look like they do, and they look comfortable in their own skin.
— Will Kehler

Ms. Eschapasse: If a close friend were to describe your personality in three words, what would they be?

Mr. Kehler: Innovative, focused, and friendly.

Ms. Eschapasse: How did your style evolve since you were a teenager?

Will Kehler, founder & CEO of Manhattan Moonshine at the Mamo restaurant in New York on July 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Will Kehler’s Manhattan Moonshine, in a stylish Art Deco-inspired bottle. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Mr. Kehler: It evolved significantly, and thank goodness for that. Gone are the baggy jeans, gone are the T-shirts with references to brands and businesses that don’t exist, and unfortunately, gone is the giant fur-collared leather jacket.

Ms. Eschapasse: What is the wildest thing you ever wore?

Mr. Kehler: The wildest thing that I ever wore was a fur-collared, suede peacoat from John Varvatos that would have been at home on a rock star, but was a little much for everyday wear.

Ms. Eschapasse: How do you dress on workdays versus weekends?

Mr. Kehler: The only thing that changes on weekends is that I swap out my brown oxfords for 30-plus-year-old boat shoes. Because I work in the liquor business, I have to look professional on weekends because I often frequent the bars and restaurants with which I do business.

Ms. Eschapasse: What are three accessories you can’t live without, and what’s one item that makes you instantly more confident?

Mr. Kehler: My 30-plus-year-old boat shoes, my brown leather jacket that still smells strongly of leather despite its age, and my briefcase, which makes me feel like a traveling salesman, and which in doing so reminds me to hustle.

Ms. Eschapasse: Who is your style icon?

Mr. Kehler: James Bond is my style icon. Although the style of the character has changed with the eras, James Bond is always dressed for anything and looks like he didn’t have to put any effort into looking the way he does.

Everything else will come and go, but suits are forever.
— Will Kehler

Ms. Eschapasse: Who have been your greatest fashion influences? 

Mr. Kehler: Manhattan has been my greatest fashion influence.  Wherever you go, people are dressed wildly differently in New York, and as you walk from place to place, you get exposed to so many different styles that it’s easy to find inspiration for yourself.

Will Kehler, founder & CEO of Manhattan Moonshine at the Mamo restaurant in New York on July 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Will Kehler, founder & CEO of Manhattan Moonshine, at the Mamo Restaurant in New York on July 22, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Ms. Eschapasse: What does having style mean to you? In other words, please define style.

Mr. Kehler: To me, people who have style dress effortlessly, or at least they look like they do, and they look comfortable in their own skin. 

Ms. Eschapasse: What is one purchase you’re most proud of? What would you pay a lot of money for, and what would you never pay much money for?

Mr. Kehler: I purchased some custom dress shirts on sale from Second Button a few years ago that fit me extremely well and have held up very nicely. Definitely worth the investment. I would not pay a lot of money for any clothing other than a suit. Everything else will come and go, but suits are forever.

Ms. Eschapasse: When you go on the red carpet, how do you want your outfit to make you feel? Which designers can achieve that?

Mr. Kehler: For someone at my height, I just need to feel like the clothing all fits properly. Typically, Dutch designers can achieve this, because they tend to design clothing fitted for taller men.

Ms. Eschapasse: What do you think of how others dress and what’s your advice to people who would like to develop their personal style?

Mr. Kehler: People are dressing more and more extravagantly every year, and I think it is in big part because of Instagram. There will always be someone more wildly dressed than you are on Instagram, and so the people who are already pretty out-there in terms of style will feel comfortable pushing it further, and allowing themselves to truly wear whatever they want to. This in turn inspires people to photograph and post pictures of these people, which in turn inspires more people to try to outdo the people they see online.  

As far as I can tell, this trend will continue to increase as manufacturing and materials become more sophisticated and diverse, and as people get better access to wider selections of small clothing companies. Looking forward to seeing some strange things in our future.

Will’s Favorites

Favorite color? Forest green. Not all that common in the city, but is very calming.
Favorite perfume? None. People smell good without it, and our science is not at the level where it can compete with the natural pheromones that we produce in terms of complexity and attractiveness.
Favorite restaurant in New York? Ken & Cook on the Lower East Side. Their food is amazing, the atmosphere is nice and low key, they serve my whiskey (which is obviously a big plus), and the Gipsy Kings occasionally play there, which is incredible.
Favorite drink? Manhattan Moonshine Old Fashioned. It is light, sweet, and complex, and is the perfect drink for unwinding after a long day of work.
Favorite movie? “Muppet Treasure Island.” A Muppet musical about pirates based on a Robert Louis Stevenson book with music by Hans Zimmer and starring Tim Curry? What is not to like?
Favorite book? “Hardcore History–Blueprint for Armageddon” by Dan Carlin. It is technically a podcast but it’s extremely long and extremely informative. It details and dramatizes the entirety of the First World War and is a must.
Favorite quotes? “There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.” —Raymond Chandler

Sibylle’s “Style Diary” is a column that explores style from the perspective of choices, and what that means for different people, with personal advice from some of the most stylish people in New York.

Sibylle Eschapasse is from Paris and now lives in Manhattan. She is a journalist and a contributing writer to various publications. Sibylle is also the author of a children’s book, “Argy Boy a New York Dog Tale.” She may be reached at [email protected]

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