REAL LIFE STYLE EXPLORES THESE UNIQUE, WELL-DRESSED GENTLEMEN WHOSE PERSONAL PASSIONS DRIVE THEM TO DRESS IMPECCABLY, SPEAK ELEGANTLY AND MAKE THOSE AROUND THEM FEEL AT EASE. WE SIT DOWN WITH THESE POLISHED MEN TO FIND OUT WHAT SHAPED THEM INTO WHO THEY ARE TODAY AND THEIR ADVICE TO OTHER GENTLEMEN JUST STARTING THEIR JOURNEY TO LIVING A LIFE FULL OF STYLE.
STEVE, TELL THE AUDIENCE A BIT MORE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHERE ARE YOU FROM, HOW DID YOU GREW UP AND WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING TODAY?
I was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium (all the rage in the 17th Century, think Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck). I moved to New York 2 years ago and worked in men’s tailored clothing at P. Johnson Tailors.
WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU TOOK THE CLOTHING YOU WORE A BIT MORE SERIOUSLY?
Probably in my early teens. I went to an all boys Catholic school and we wore a uniform every day, which consisted of a navy blazer, a white or light blue shirt, a navy tie and navy shorts during the fall and spring, grey trousers in winter, knee long socks and always proper leather footwear. Around the age of 13 or 14 I became very aware of what I was wearing and found ways to enhance the look without breaking the school rules. Adding a knitted vest, tying a sweater over your shoulders, a knitted tie instead of a silk one, adding a pocket square.
DID YOU FEEL LIKE THE WAY YOU DRESSED AFFECTED HOW OTHERS SAW YOU IN THE WORLD? WAS IT FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE?
I always dress for myself in garments that I love and you can’t deny that feeling at ease with what you are wearing gives you confidence. Having confidence and looking good makes you feel good and people do notice that. Sometimes they’ll even compliment you and that’s just a bonus.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
My style is very classic with a certain twist. I stick to the similar classic menswear staples like navy and grey suits.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION DAILY?
If find inspiration from everywhere but you have to be open to all visual stimuli. It can be from books and magazines, movies and television. Also, by going to see art exhibits and museums. There is so much to learn from seeing specific color combinations in paintings, but also by looking at friends, colleagues and like-minded gentlemen on Instagram and seeing how they dress. It’s all very inspiring to me.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO WORK AND LIVE IN NYC? TELL US ABOUT THE TYPE OF CLIENTELE YOU DEAL WITH AND WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR WITH P JOHNSON TAILORS.
There are just so many opportunities in NY with amazing people who inhabit and make the city great. It’s completely different than anywhere else in the world. It gives me energy. After moving here, I was enjoying a sabbatical after working over 20 odd years in different corporate jobs. During this time, I visited several tailors and decided to have something made at P. Johnson. They had recently opened their first showroom outside Australia in SoHo. There was something aesthetically that was completely different than what other tailors were doing that was very appealing to me. Six months into my sabbatical, I was very much triggered towards switching my career and following my true passion. After several talks with the M.D. for the America’s, I also met with Patrick (the P. in P. Johnson and owner of the company who was in NY for the ready to wear launch at Barney’s). I began their extensive training program and the rest is history.
At our showroom we see gentlemen of all ages and all walks of life, from right out of school to grooms dressing for their big day to successful men well established in their careers. Each individual has a unique set of sartorial needs and desires that speak to where they are at any stage in their lives. What they do have in common is that they are seeking high quality in both the garments they order as well as the experience they have.
IT WOULD BE FASCINATING TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR PHILOSOPHIES ON HOW TO DRESS EVERY DAY.
I think it is always important to first consider the situations you will be facing on any given day. Breakfast meeting with clients? A day at the office? Cocktails with friends? The opera in the evening? What elements will get you through all of those comfortably with confidence? I may tend to err on the more tailored side. Oscar Wilde famously said, “You can never be overeducated or overdressed”. I think that is a great rule to follow.
FOR MANY MEN, ATTAINING A WARDROBE THAT PORTRAYS THEIR STYLE IS TOUGH. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO GUYS SEARCHING TO FIND THEIR OWN PERSONAL IDENTITY OR STYLE? HOW WOULD YOU TELL THEM TO GO ABOUT FINDING/ATTAINING A PERSONAL STYLE?
Starting your professional life in your early to mid-twenties you can experiment a lot. You have to find your sartorial language, so that means a lot of trial and error. What looks good on you and what doesn’t? By your thirties you have sort of figured this out and you can start experimenting on a different level, mixing fabrics, patterns and colours in a more sophisticated way. Going into your forties you have probably mastered most of this and have defined your personal style. After that, in your fifties, the fun starts all over again because you can start to explore and experiment again like in your twenties, but with a greater knowledge.
WHILE THERE IS A BIG RESURGENCE IN TAILORED CLOTHING, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HOW MOST OF THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS DRESS? IS THERE A LINE ON BEING TOO COMFORTABLE/CASUAL IN PUBLIC?
It’s not about the younger or older generation to me. It’s all about the lack of, or the complete ignorance of codes, conduct and rules. Everything is possible and allowed these days. However, people unfortunately don’t know what is acceptable and what’s not when getting dressed. 2 or 3 generations ago, young gentlemen looked up to their fathers and grandfathers for style advice. We now have a generation of fathers that have absolutely no clue anymore, so how can they pass on any advice to their sons? Luckily, with all the new media, as well as through books and a couple of good magazines, the present generation is able to learn. And what you have is that probably for the first time the younger generations are dressing for themselves and far better than their fathers.
HOW HAS WORKING IN THE MENSWEAR INDUSTRY (OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS) HELPED YOU MOLD YOUR PERSONAL STYLE INTO WHAT IT IS TODAY?
For me every type of clothing has its time and place. You wear sweatpants to go to the gym, not to go to the office. You don’t wear swim shorts on hot days in the city you wear them at the pool or beach. It often makes me sad to see gents wearing canvas sneakers when it snows or ruining proper leather footwear in the pouring rain while there is proper footwear for both weather conditions. I often want to ask these people if their parents have never told them what to wear.
AS A GUY, SOMETIMES WE HAVE ASPIRATIONS TO HAVE A CERTAIN PERSONAL STYLE OR WE TRY AND MIMIC PEOPLE WE SEE IN THE MEDIA. DO YOU THINK THAT’S OKAY AND WAS THERE ANYONE IN YOUR LIFE YOU LOOKED UP TO OR MODEL YOURSELF AFTER?
That is indeed perfect and to be applauded. Guys should have role models. I always ask myself what would Steve McQueen or Prince Michael of Kent do?
WE ALL HAVE A GARMENT, FAMILY HEIRLOOM OR PIECE THAT IS PERSONAL TO US. DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING THAT IS NEAR AND DEAR TO YOU THAT YOU ALWAYS WEAR?
I can think of 2 things. The first is a white linen pocket square from Simonnot Godard that is literally over a century old and was given to me by a dear friend. The second is a gold watch by Jaeger-LeCoultre that my mother gave to my father for their engagement.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO A GUY WHO WANTS TO START A CAREER IN TAILORED MEN’S CLOTHING?
Follow your heart, follow your passion. If it is just something you are doing to make a quick buck, forget it, but if you’re in it for the long run, for sure! It is a very challenging and exciting career. You have to be a good listener, be open and receptive and be a diplomat. And never underestimate the fact that as soon as a client arrives, he wants to be shut off from the outside world, he’s in for a good time, he needs to forget his worries and troubles and have a good conversation. He’s looking for guidance and advice (not only for sartorial matters) and sometimes you even have to play the role of shrink. It’s very personal. It’s about trust and you build long-lasting relations and often friendships while working. We provide clients not only the necessity of clothing, but also the luxury of indulgence and the enhancement of their self-esteem.