David Neville and Marcus Wainwright could easily be mistaken for two lively teenagers in class, prodding each other and joking around. In reality they are grown-ups in their 30s and owners of successful fashion brand Rag & Bone, which has three free-standing stores in New York and countless outlets around the globe, including a pop-up store in Lane Crawford until the end of the month. The pair have been friends since boarding school in Britain, so they tend to regress to schoolboy behaviour when they're together. 'We do everything together; we hang out at work and outside work. Our sons were even born three weeks apart - but we didn't plan it that way,' says Wainwright, decked out in a cotton button-down blue tee and saffron-coloured chinos that embody the brand's cool aesthetic of American workwear mixed in with smart British tailoring and hip details. While Rag & Bone has only been available in Hong Kong for the past two years, the brand has built a strong following with local urbanites looking for wearable basics with a street edge. Hoping to capitalise on this, the designers have come to the city to explore future prospects, having already conquered the American and Japanese markets. 'When we started we were rightly told to focus on New York and America, so we did. We kept our heads down and have done well. Now we've looked up, we realise there is a lot more opportunity, especially here,' says Neville, the self-professed 'consumer' and more stylish of the two, who is dressed in a trendy striped tee, V-neck jumper and black jeans. Opportunities have come quickly for the duo since they set up Rag & Bone in 2002. Together with other New York-based young designers such as Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang, they are creating a fresh style that is understated, cool and, above all, wearable. Their designs have turned up on the likes of Angelina Jolie (a trench she was photographed wearing in Vogue magazine immediately sold out), Cameron Diaz and Jude Law, and have won accolades including the Swarovski Award for emerging talent in men's wear in 2007. This year, their autumn/winter show, held in February in New York, made style.com's top 10 list along with big guns such as Celine and Alexander McQueen. While other young American brands have fallen victim to the recession and shut stores, they have grown and launched other categories, including shoes and bags. 'You look at Dolce & Gabbana and all these established brands and realise there has to be a new wave of names with a different point of view, maybe a more relevant and modern take on what people are doing and how they want to dress,' Neville says. 'Our brand is very much about this. It has a story that helps educate people and is still fashion forward.' Listening to the two talk shop, it is hard to believe that the idea for Rag & Bone was conceived on a motel porch in Kentucky while drinking moonshine ('I definitely remember the hangover,' Neville says, laughing). So how did they make the jump from clueless Brit implants to arbiters of all things cool? Like all good stories, it was because of love - Wainwright went to New York to be with his girlfriend (now wife), and Neville to escape his (he eventually married American make-up artist Gucci Westman). They set out to create a men's denim brand, inspired by the city and the American Dream. 'In England you think it's totally cliche, and that the Americans are imagining it, but then you go [to New York] and you actually believe it,' Wainwright says. 'It took a long, long time. Our incubation period for the brand started in 2002 and we didn't have a pair of jeans to sell until the end of 2004,' he says. 'It only kicked off after we went to Kentucky and found a tiny denim factory that had downsized and only did sampling. We got them to make our first order of about 50 pairs of jeans, and we added a line of hand-painted T-shirts that we did ourselves. We had to figure it all out because we knew nothing - I even remember buying the thread from Wal-Mart myself.' The Kentucky find turned out to be a stroke of luck; not only had they secured a manufacturing source, but it also provided them with a basis of what would become their brand identity. 'The fact that the jeans were made by these old ladies who had been doing it all their lives set the framework of what our brand stood for,' Neville says. 'How things were made became a very important part of our philosophy. It was about keeping as much clothing made in America as we possibly could and keeping those factories in business.' After a few seasons they added womenswear and continued to source and build relationships with factories across the US - from a traditional operation that has been making shirts since 1947 to a butt on factory in Connecticut. By 2006 their look had started to infiltrate the streets with its distinctive combination of American workwear and British tailoring and fabrics, overlaid with a downtown New York vibe. Almost overnight Rag & Bone became the go-to label for well-crafted handmade classics, from the perfect pair of jeans to a shirt, leather jacket or sweatshirt. 'From a design point of view, we love fabrics because it started with Japanese denim,' Wainwright says. For autumn, for example, they used old English fabrics such as wool and Harris tweed to make their signature utilitarian outerwear. 'We like mixing what's key to American workwear, such as military clothing and functional items such as the field coat, with the idea of English tailoring and suiting,' he says. And for spring, they've come up with a cool military jacket and cotton long johns for women, and a functional waterproof mackintosh for men made from wool. Neville says: 'The attention to detail is something we've always focused on, largely because we didn't know what we were doing. You can go to China and they will send you the finished garment - they source everything from the label to the buttons. We do things the other way round - we buy every bit of fabric, design every single button and label, and put it together in New York. 'It's very labour intensive and difficult, but you get a unique garment because you put so much thought into every single part of it. The details by definition are integral to the clothes and continue to be.' This spring the pair launched lower-priced shirt and jean collections featuring basic pieces for men and women. Many labels have been broadening their price ranges, particularly in the US, to coax consumers back to spending during the global downturn. 'There are now more building blocks of a wardrobe at a more accessible price point for our customers. This allows us to have more distribution but it still carries the same DNA,' Neville says. 'What's cool is that we can do a tailored blazer that's handmade and goes for a couple of thousand dollars, and still sell it alongside our normal stuff. It used to be that higher-end designers would diffuse down, but now it's harder for them to generate diffusion lines and volume in the way that it is perhaps easier for a company like ours that is established in certain niches to trade up a bit,' he says. Whatever the future holds, the two have found their bit of the American Dream. 'If two straight guys with no training can end up sitting in Lane Crawford in Hong Kong with a fashion business that started from nothing in New York, then that in itself is testament to New York being a place where anything can happen,' Wainwright says.