October 30, 2013 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
MF: 39, features editor at Mr Porter.
VR: Your educational background?
MF: British boarding schools, followed by university in London.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
MF: One wife, one daughter, one son, and a cocker spaniel. My wife is very patient with my interest in classic style, but she’s not keen on formality – she’s apt to ask why I’m wearing a tie.
VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
MF: My interest didn’t develop until I was in my twenties, so my parents never had to ask me to leave the monocle at home.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
MF: Architecture and design, books, music, food, wine, cars, travel, and rural life.
VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards classic style? Why classics instead of fashion?
MF: I chased fashions between the ages of 12 and 27. The results were very rarely satisfying. Then I had some shirts and a suit made, and the idea of classic style began to appeal to me.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
MF: I owe Christian Chensvold a great debt because Dandyism.net introduced me to the world of #menswear, and I’ve learned a lot from Michael Alden and his London Lounge – the key lesson being to trust my eyes, and seek to express my personality. What I know about products I’ve learned by spending money and wearing my purchases.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
MF: The usual roll-call of dead men (Windsor, Agnelli, Biddle, Grant, Gabin, Cooper, Astaire etc, etc). Among the living I find the Duke of Edinburgh’s clothes very interesting, and I met Massimo Piombo earlier this year – no one possesses as much sprezzatura as he. More abstractly I find the British country house aesthetic both inspirational, and relevant.
VR: How would you describe your own dress? Have you any particular style or cut philosophy?
MF: I like things that are hand-made, durable and will last for years, and I like them in classic colours. My tailored jackets all have soft shoulders – structured shoulders make me feel like an imposter.
VR: Based on your experiences, which shoemakers, RTW clothes makers or tailors do you favour today?
MF: My wonderful (but nameless) tailor is ex-Anderson&Sheppard, I’ve got beautiful and perfectly-fitting shoes from Gaziano&Girling, and Mary Frittolini in Paris is the best shirt-maker I know. I also buy lots of Bresciani socks, and Drake’s ties, and I wear Mister Freedom jeans.
VR: Please describe how you began writing about style. How did you eventually join the ranks of the British Esquire and then Mr Porter?
MF: My first writing job was on a hip-hop magazine, but I moved to GQ after I became disillusioned with music journalism. That led me to Esquire, and from there I moved to Mr Porter. In between times there were very fallow periods of freelancing.
VR: MP has better coverage on dressing well than most web stores. How do you select the content and topics for Mr Porter?
MF: We publish at least eight stories a week, almost all of which are about style. Naturally some of these are designed to promote the clothes that we sell, but there’s room for a lot of general style coverage. We approach it in a genuinely editorial way, and are freer to choose what we write about than are journalists on ‘style’ magazines, who have to ‘support’ their advertisers every month.
VR: Should we expect new ventures from the boutique anytime soon?
MF: In the last month we’ve added fine watches, and grooming products. Pens are next.
VR: What is your definition of style?
MF: A man should be at ease with himself and that’s hard to achieve if your clothes aren’t both an expression of your character and physically comfortable. Style is about dressing well; leaving dressing up to children and fashion victims.
VR: Over the years you must have learned quite a bit about apparel. Is there something you wish more men would know? This is a great opportunity to make a lasting influence on my younger readers. Most of us aren’t blessed with rakish relatives, which makes learning about style a challenge later in life — and yet another trait men are supposed to master. All tips and thoughts are valuable.
MF: 1 Don’t confuse knowledge of clothes with a sense of style. Lots of good tailors have no idea how to dress.
2 A man’s clothes should tell his, unique, story. You can admire what someone else is wearing, while accepting that it won’t suit you.
3 Try to buy things from the person or company who actually makes them. You’ll save money, and have a better experience.
4 Work out what’s flattering for you. There is a strong element of objectivity about this – ie does a pair of trousers make your legs look longer, or shorter?
5 Buy the best quality that you can afford. This isn’t the same as buying the most expensive that you can afford.
6 Exaggerated proportions are rarely a good idea, and expensive clothes in faddish styles represent very poor value for money.
7 This is all about looking good, which requires exercise, careful eating and no excuses. Given that classic clothes are looser fitting than fashionable ones it’s important to be in good shape to avoid looking dowdy.
8 There are no rules anymore, but there are things that still haven’t been done well – like shirts with epaulettes, or short sleeves, or both.
9 If you’re looking for something different try a new texture, rather than an eye-catching colour. A cashmere tie has a lot to teach a man on this subject.
10 If you’re serious about this stuff you better enjoy ironing shirts, and polishing shoes. Maintenance is important.
11 Most people know absolutely nothing about style, but this doesn’t prevent them from holding and expressing strong opinions. Ignore them!
12 It’s vital to ask yourself if the things you read about clothes hold true, and what has motivated the blogger or editor to produce an article – often money or freebies will have changed hands.
13 A dandy is not the same as a fop.
14 The price of bespoke clothes is the least interesting thing about them.
15 You can’t understand rock music if you haven’t heard The Beatles, the Stones and David Bowie, and you can’t understand style if you don’t look at the classics. You may not like them, but you can still learn from them.
Photos: Chloë Lederman