15 October 2019
As a young man, you worked on Savile Row. Now you’re opening your very own store on the same street. How does that make you feel?
I first worked on Savile Row in the early 1970s for a remarkable retailer, John Michael Ingram, which was an inspiration to me and where I first learnt about bespoke tailoring and proper cloth. I have to admit though that I am not a tailor – I can barely sew a button – but I know people who can. It never occurred to me that one day I would have my own shop on Savile Row in the listed townhouse once owned by Sir Hardy Amies, to whom I once sold stiff collars. I feel very privileged to be on Savile Row and in the company of such prestigious neighbours.
What makes Hackett such a quintessentially British brand?
It was not a marketing plan to create a British brand when I started Hackett in 1983 – it sort of evolved. I have always appreciated British clothing and in the early days I decided to model our clothes on Savile Row tailoring, albeit in a ready-to-wear format, and it just took off.
You’re given the choice to wear casual attire or smart tailoring for the rest of your life. Which do you choose and why?
This is a difficult question to answer because there is a time and place for both, but given the choice I would opt for wearing a suit – not because I have to, but because I feel more comfortable. Often when I wear casual clothes I feel like a sack of potatoes, whereas a well-tailored suit flatters my imperfect shape and makes me feel more confident. I am often asked what I wear at home and I usually say, ‘I might throw on a velvet smoking jacket and tartan trews, with monogrammed velvet slippers and a silk polka dot dressing gown casually thrown over!’ In truth, it is more likely to be a pair of jeans and an old pullover.
You’re asked to dress a future Prime Minister in three suits. What do you choose for him?
I notice that you are presuming a future Prime Minister will be a man, so on that basis I would suggest firstly that he has his suits tailor-made. I think that a plain navy blue single-breasted suit would be a top priority. Nothing says more about being British than a grey flannel suit. Fox Bros in Somerset makes the best flannel, and made the cloth that Winston Churchill wore. My third choice would be again navy blue, but double-breasted for when there is a need for the Prime Minster to adopt an even more formal air.
Who would make your list of current best-dressed men?
Charlie Watts, Bill Nighy, Jude Law and, my favourite, David Hockney, who appears not to give a damn but always looks great.
Should a man’s belt match his shoes?
Yes, in fact if I am wearing a watch with a leather strap it would bother me all day if it didn’t match my shoes. Yes, I am receiving therapy!
What are your thoughts on colourful socks?
I love them. I remember being at a dinner party in Spain and a female journalist asked me “Why do the British wear red socks”? I had never given it any thought before.
What are your top tips for dressing sustainably?
It occurred to me that in the early eighties, when Hackett sold second-hand clothes, we were at the forefront of sustainability. I am an advocate of buying less, but buying well. At Hackett, we don’t dispose of unwanted garments but look at various charities to see where the clothes will be of most benefit. Our designers are currently working on a collection of sustainable clothing – it requires a different mindset but it is in motion.
Where do you shop other than Hackett?
I tend to shop at Hackett mostly, no surprise there. I buy my underwear from the Swiss brand Zimmerli because I believe your underwear should be as good as your outerwear. I have my shoes made at either George Cleverley or Henry Maxwell, which coincidentally was once based on Savile Row – I would regularly peer in the window and marvel at the bespoke shoes, although at the time I couldn’t afford them. I still can’t, but it would be mean of me not to live beyond my means – to paraphrase Oscar Wilde. Didn’t someone once say “if you want to know if a man is well dressed, look down”?
Hackett, Covent Garden, 37 King Street, WC2E 8JS