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Interview with Chris Laverty from Clothes on Film


May 5, 2013 by Ville Raivio

‘I’m in my mid-thirties, creator and editor of Clothes on Film, writer, broadcaster and consultant. I have an honours degree in Theatre and Film. I worked in fashion for a number of years, but have no academic qualifications in the subject. I’m married, but have no children. My wife, Gilly, sports a very individual look, kind of 1960s/70s fusion with touches of contemporary, so she’s interested in what I wear, too. Clothing and styling in general is probably what we talk about most of the time. Neither of us cares less what’s considered “on trend”; in fact, if anything, this would put us off.


Although I don’t come from a fashion background, my father (now 82, used to be a greengrocer) has always been into clothes. He understands classic style, but is far more daring than I. He mixes bright colours with the confidence of a man a quarter of his age. He is mine of information, too. Forget what fashion history books say; if you really want to know what people were wearing years ago, talk to the people who were actually there. I don’t think he or any member of my family was surprised when I took such an interest in clothing. It’s in the blood.

[My fascination comes] definitely from watching movies, especially period attire which in my youth fascinated me. Films such as Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way, then later Boogie Nights and Swingers caught my eye. For a more classic look I took my cues from Get Carter, Marlowe and The Italian Job. I ate up little details, like Steve McQueen’s rollneck sweaters in Bullitt and Michael Caine’s spectacles in Billion Dollar Brain. Books are useful. I own all the usual suspects (Flusser, Roetzel), yet there is no substitute for talking to people: tailors, those working in fashion, stylists, costume designers and my parents for trips down memory lane. When I worked in retail fashion it helped me to understand what people want, and how they perceive themselves. Studying books and magazines might teach you four different types of tweed or why Esquire says you should be wearing red trousers this Spring, but for most people clothes are far simpler than all that. Know your colour, your fabric and your fit – the rest is just PR bullshit.

I keep it simple, but try to have something different and interesting on every single day. More often than not this will be a vintage item, most likely a coat or jacket. I won’t wear anything trendy off the peg. If striped blazers are in I’ll find an actual club one rather than shell out £600 for the identikit version at Brooks Brothers. Also, I hate the idea of bumping into someone in the same jacket, probably because they’d be taller and more handsome. Really, though, we’d both look like a couple of idiots. It’s not that you’ll never see anyone in the same clothes as you, not unless you buy everything bespoke anyway, but spotting someone in the same John Smedley sweater is not nearly as mortifying as realising you’ve both been stupid enough to fall for the same pink candy striped blazer.

Fit is everything for me. All of my suits are vintage 60’s or early 70’s; I have short arms and I’m only 5’ 8” so they fit me far better. Brands I like for day to day wear are Ralph Lauren (knitwear), Pace (jeans), Richard James (shirts), RM Williams (boots) and M&S (underwear). If I had the money I’d get all my suits tailored at Douglas Hayward.

[My site began from] an everyday discussion with Gilly about how much we enjoy clothes in movies. Work was dry at the time and I had web experience so it just seemed like a logical step – talking to others about what I enjoy and know. I genuinely never expected it to become so popular, and I remain grateful to my readers for continuing to come back and spread the word. I have some expansion ideas for the future, but I’ve always been mindful of being focused on one specific subject and not becoming a sprawling mess of ideas. The site is at a transitional time so I’m keeping my goals close at the moment. Until people get sick of me, though, I’m not going anywhere just yet. Incidentally the title Clothes on Film comes from the Duran Duran song Girls on Film that was playing on the car radio when I was talking to Gilly. Like I said, I like to keep things simple.

People inspire me. Those who respond to what I write, positively or otherwise, prompt me to carry on. There is no point in having something to say if no-one is listening. Well, to quote James Bond, “I’m not what you call a passionate man.” That said, I do enjoy a drink. I’m an amateur cocktail maker; I like mixing for Gilly and friends in my spare time. It’s a hobby, definitely not a career. I’ve never set foot in a gym in my entire life, but I run outdoors and hold a first degree black belt in Karate. But what really makes me happy, apart from clothes, films and my wife? Honestly, I’m still searching.

There is no magic formula. If in any doubt, keep things as simple as possible, and for goodness sake, pay attention to fit. If I have one bugbear, it is gentlemen who wear their trousers too long – it can ruin a beautiful suit. George Clooney is often guilty of this; his trouser hems bunch around his ankles like pyjama bottoms. It’s not about money – it’s never about money. You can buy a suit off the peg for less than £100 – if it fits perfectly, it’ll look better than one five times the price that doesn’t.

My only other tip is to steer clear of sales; you’ll probably buy a terrible shirt that is too small and doesn’t go with anything. Remember, there is a reason it was left on the shelf in the first place. Actually, one more tip: consider context. Just because Ryan Gosling looks good in a white satin scorpion jacket does not mean you will too. That’s a movie; when you step out the front door wearing that thing it will be real life. Stick to Steve McQueen’s Harrington instead.’

Picture: © David Wade

1 comment »

  1. Heard Christopher speak at the British Library , thought he was brilliant, not what I was expecting to hear at the BL at all , hope he’s booked for somewhere else soon! so enthusiastic and it comes over in a totally new and very fresh way. Congratulations to him and the BL for ditching their stuffy image, great evening.

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