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An Interview With Patrick Grant

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At MFM, we’ve always been a fan of Patrick Grant. The british fashion designer has been on our radar for a while, and it was finally great to rack his brains on style and his exciting collaboration with the whisky Chivas. Creative Director of bespoke tailors Norton & Sons of Savile Row, he also relaunched E-Tautz as a ready to wear label in 2009. Awarded numerous awards, Patrick is someone anyone can learn something from.

Editor Paul McGregor got invited down to the Westbury Hotel to catch up with the man himself, to discuss style and his recent collaboration with Chivas. 

Personally your style is elegant but effortless at the same time, so what factors can you highlight that allows our readers to look elegant but stay effortless?

I think the most useful thing that I can say is to try and find a uniform, if that doesn’t feel like a too off putting way of describing it. You know, I only wear three or four different things. I wear a suit, and I almost wear a dark suit, a pale shirt, a dark tie, a pair of cufflinks, a decent pair of shoes and I always have the same cut of suit throughout. I have one customer who wears a double breasted jacket, slim cut trousers never matching as a suit, a v neck t-shirt, and a silk scarf and he probably has 50 jackets, 50 pairs of trousers, god knows how many scarves, and the same t-shirt, and that uniform simply allows him to pick anything out of his wardrobe, stick it together, and he always looks brilliant but it never looks like he’s had to try at all.

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On my off duty I’ll wear a big pair of vintage army pants rolled up, I cycle in with a pair of canvas trousers, a pair of trickers brogues or a boat shoe and something simple, a crew neck jumper, shirt buttoned up, there’s certain uniforms that I know works and I feel comfortable wearing and I almost never vary it. It’s just about wearing the same, slightly mixing up colours or wearing a different tie, a different hankie, because if you have a kind of uniform you can go to you don’t have to change the overall thing. By changing the smaller details it makes it look like you’re always wearing something different but you’re wearing pretty much the same thing all the time. That’s the easiest way to do it. You can wear the same grey suit 50 days a row, but if you have a different shirt, tie and hankie, it looks different.

What shopping tips can you give the regular reader to look stylish?

The way I shop is I always stick to certain brands. Find a brand that suits you and you like, and stick with it. If you have the underpinning basics the same, you’ll always manage to look like you’re wearing your own thing. I don’t do a lot of shopping, but when I did, when I was in my early 20’s, I did all my shopping second hand. This was before vintage was invented, this was just second hand (laughs), and I used to spend hours at the weekend just hunting through pieces that suit me. I used to spend six or so hours a day shopping for things I liked, and always come back with a simple black jumper and a pair of grey trousers. I used to think why  have I spent all this time doing this? I like black jumpers and I like grey trousers and once you’ve found a good one you almost just always seem to go back to it. I think, you add a little bit of something every season, you might change your outerwear or might change your shoes but keep those basic things the same and you can never go far wrong. 

What key garments would you recommend to keep things timeless and stylish?

I think a brilliant suit is of course the best place to start, it’s very hard to cock up wearing a suit. There are a lot of bad suits out there but in terms of cut and fit, there will be a certain cut that looks best on you and it wont change every season. The thing that makes me look as good as I can look and feel most comfortable wearing the clothes is going to be the same every year. Unless of course I change shape. Just because the fashion pages are full of shorter jackets, doesn’t mean that shorter jackets are going to look good on me, in fact I don’t think they look good on anyone. So find something that makes you look good and you feel comfortable wearing and then don’t worry about what anybody is saying is a particular trend. Because if you don’t feel comfortable in your clothes, you’re going to feel awkward. If I go out the house wearing something and I catch site of it and I don’t think it looks right I feel weird all day. So it’s less about fashion, and more about a personal sense of style that makes you feel good.

Whats your viewpoint in trends then?

I think trends are invented post factor, we put our collection out along with all the other designers and we’re not getting together before hand to decide what trend we’re all going to feature. We don’t get together and say we’re going to do big checks this season, or use a lot of orange. It just happens, and people then say I’ve seen 4 shows with orange in this season so orange is a key trend… it’s just a way of simplifying the process of writing about fashion. People pay too much attention sometimes to being on trend, and it’s much more important to be timeless. I’m happy for anyone to dress anyway they like, as long a there’s a sense of expression of their own personality and they look like the feel comfortable wearing it. You can tell when someone is wearing something they think ought to look right, but you can just see in their eyes that they’re like this isn’t me, I’m not myself in these clothes. It’s much more important to feel comfortable with what you’re wearing as opposed to following trends. The best dressed guys I know hardly pay any attention to what’s on trend or what’s popular this season, they just wear the clothing they like and because of that they look cool wearing it.

What should a stylish man drink?

Again it depends on your style. I’m a big fan of buying one big thing a year and spending all my money, rather than buying 50 things and them being rubbish. If you’ve only got £1000 to spend on clothing each year just buy one thing and you’ll build up a decent wardrobe over time. I take exactly the same approach to the food I eat and everything I drink. I’d rather go hungry for a week and eat something great (although I do like a McFlurry).

We’re funny about drink in this country, we almost pour it down our necks like it’s a means to an end, when actually a lot of incredibly talented people have spent a long time making something that’s perfectly balanced and perfectly flavoured so that we can really enjoy it. I think we need to give due respect to the work they’ve done, put it in a beautiful glass, take it with a drop of water at just the right temperature and enjoy it. Don’t make the drinking of it a means to getting to another place in our lives. Just make that the point, make the enjoyment of what we’re doing the point to drinking. When we drink beer, we always say this is a lovely pint. So it is natural in men to enjoy the process of savouring and drinking in that way, and even if I’m drinking a cup of tea I like a teapot, a saucer, a nice cup, and it almost becomes a ritual. There’s so many things we rush through… so just calm down and do fewer things but in a better manner. Why rush through things, its much better to have one beautiful glass of whisky than to have 20 bottles of something else… and life will be a lot better the next day as well.

It’s all about enjoying the process behind something, and it’s similar to why people enjoy coming to a tailors… partly its because we can make you the clothes you want every time. There’s nothing worse than having a jacket that fits, you wear it for a couple of seasons and then they change the pattern and it doesn’t fit anymore. Your pattern is always there, you can always have exactly the right trousers and exactly the right jacket and exactly the right fit of shirt, but also, it’s enjoying the process of having it made. We all do so much at such speed, we’re doing 50 things on our telephones all at one time and it’s kind of stepping out of that and just remembering that actually we should take time and enjoy the things we’re doing.

Is that one of the main reasons you collaborated with Chivas?

Yes it is. I love whisky. I took to drinking whisky in my early 20s and it’s a drink that I enjoy a lot, it always seems like a nice way to end an evening. I like to drink it sitting in a chair, on a table, with a nice heavy cut crystal glass, because it feels like part of being a grown up man to do it the right way. I don’t want to drink it in a crowded bar, being jostled by somebody. It’s one of those things, like tailoring, shoe making, watch making, or whatever it is, the more you get into the world of it the more you get out of it. It’s steep in craftsmanship, history and heritage, and the kind of romance of these mills scattered around highlands. It’s similar to wine, the more you drink and you more you understand about the process of it the more you enjoy it. You don’t have to be an ass about it, but personally you will enjoy it more if you understand the process. You’ll discover that actually there’s a variety of tasting experiences that you can get from it, and again, when I was growing up the only thing I had access to was pretty nasty stuff because my parents would lock the cabinet and I wouldn’t be allowed near the good stuff, but I think once you get to the point where you’ve earned a few quid, you can put all that behind you and start drinking something really genuinely delicious.

So talk us through the process and the inspiration behind the design of the Chivas tin?

I started off with the idea of telling a story of my favourite things of classic men’s tailoring, and it evolved to what we have now. Which is kind of a snapshot of everything that’s great about elegant mens tailoring. And to the extent that every stripe and every herringbone and every piece of textile that’s on there is oriented exactly the right way. The fabrics are exactly where they need to be, we’ve taken enormous care and put attention into everything, showing exactly the right cuff, the handkerchief, the fit. The textures are on there, and they feel different.

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Accessories play a huge part in this collaboration, how important are accessories for men?

It boils down to again having a simple uniform that you can alter, you could have a wardrobe that has 20 different suits all cut the same way, dark shades of navy and grey and if you have great shirts, great hankies, great ties, great cufflinks, beautiful shoes, nice socks, the suits will last you 50 years and all the other stuff is less expensive and it can be changed and it can be updated and you can wear it in different ways. I think they’re really a fundamental part of mens dressing and its really interesting that for a long time they were discarded and people just stuck to white shirt, dark suits, dark tie, no hankie and it was just a bit one dimensional. Now all of a sudden it’s added all these different layers and options for guys that just expand the repertoire. Before it was like trying to play a tune on a piano with just two notes, now it’s like a full octave and you can do a lot more.

Was you a fan of Chivas before the collection?

I actually have a lot of whiskies. It’s a bit like the clothes you wear, the things you drink are very mood dependent. So I have a lot of different whiskies, I have a few at work, a few at the studio, a few at home and Chivas was always one I really enjoyed. I like blends as well as malts, and when I first started drinking whisky I was a total malt slob. Like a lot of people are, when you don’t know enough about whisky you automatically just think malts are the be all and end all of whisky drinking. But actually malts are blends anyway, and the process of blending a whisky adds a whole level of personality and refinement to it. I love malts, and there’s some malts that I actually adore, but it’s almost like a blunt instrument. Again, it’s a single note and what a great blender will do is it takes a lot of great malts and it will blend them together. I think most whisky drinkers will have a mixture of malts and blends. I personally have the Chivas 12 one, and the Royal Salute. I actually think that’s the coolest bottle I’ve ever seen in my whole life, out of all the products I’ve bought it has the best packaging. It’s a ceramic flask made in the UK, with a beautiful velvet bag, it’s amazing. So yes, in short, I was a fan of Chivas before we teamed up.

Last but not least, if you had to define style, how would you define it?

I think something about it is a perfect expression of your personality through what you wear and how you behave. Its yourself projected through the clothes that you wear.

A huge thanks for Chivas and to Patrick Grant, this is one of the most insightful interviews we’ve ever published.

‘Patrick Grant has collaborated with Chivas Regal to create the Chivas 12 “Made for Gentlemen” limited edition gift tin (RRP £27.49) which is available now from here.

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Paul McGregor
Paul McGregor

Founder of MFM, and short course lecturer at The London College of Fashion teaching all things marketing. Read my personal blog here.

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