November 20, 2013 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
MH: 35, Creative Director of Drake’s/Cleeve of London.
VR: Your educational background?
MH: London College of Fashion.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
MH: Yes, Wife and a young son. My wife is an art curator and therefore very supportive of our commitment to our high standards of craftsmanship and quality.
VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
MH: My father, Charles Hill, was a tie maker and my great-grandfather a shirt maker, so there has not been that much of a reaction. I think they are happy I continued the tradition.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
MH: Cooking, sports, spending time with my family and art.
VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards classic goods? Why classics instead of fashion?
MH: I grew up around my father’s tie factory, so I’ve been steeped in the classical aesthetic. I find it slightly silly to be buying something that would be out of fashion six months later and would much prefer to invest in something that would last.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of apparel and tailoring — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
MH: When I left school, I spent time in Italy working at the various textile mills before attending the London College of Fashion. I also learnt on the job as I worked at Richard James during my studies, and, finally, when I first joined Drake’s, I was fortunate enough to work very closely with Michael Drake and travel the world both sourcing and selling.
VR: How would you describe your own dress? Have you any particular style or cut philosophy?
MH: Comfortable classics, but not staid, hopefully.
VR: Apart from Drake’s products, which RTW makers or tailors do you favour today?
MH: Aspesi, Junya Watanabe for Comme Des Garcons, Slowear, Alden, Engineered Garments, Beams+.
VR:Please tell us how you became the head designer and what goals you set for yourself in the beginning. How have you been received so far?
MH: I became the head designer when I, together with Mark Cho, took the company over. We inherited a wonderful company which was in great shape, so we wanted to keep the continuity, adhering to same principals and aesthetic that had been set down. In terms of goals, we had wanted to start retailing, set up a great ecommerce site, open a Brick and Mortar store and, finally, build a new factory. We moved into our new premises at No.3 Haberdasher St. where we now have consolidated our showroom, office, factory and factory shop. Thankfully, all of these goals have been achieved.
VR: How are your designs born and how does the process go through to the finished goods?
MH: It’s a process with many layers that constantly evolves over the development of the seasonal offering. It involves working closely with the mills, many of whom we’ve worked with for thirty years, developing cloth with them both in terms of weave, colour, print, motifs, etc. It involves pulling from our extensive archives, seeing what we have there and re-designing and re-colouring favourites. So, throughout the design process myself and the team are constantly checking to see what fits with what, and if the whole collection sits well together in all aspects. Also, we would take a lot of influences based on our previous offerings and how they were received by our customers.
VR: How would you describe the pieces you create? Do you employ a particular design philosophy?
MH: The Drake’s style, which begins with a refined English discrimination, has a touch of consummate French chic and a nod to the Italians for their abundant sense of style and colour.
VR: There are hundreds of men’s accessory stores online — why should my readers try Drake’s?
MH: Hopefully we’re a little bit different. We’re manufacturing and selling ties which are handmade in London. At our store, No.3 Clifford St., and on our website, we are able to curate the most comprehensive Drake’s offering there is.
VR: What’s your definition of style?
MH: Style tends to be an honest reflection of oneself, an outward demonstration of one’s manners. It’s more about the inside than the outside. True style is really about how you comport yourself and that is down to your way of being.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
MH: Tends to be people I work with in the course of my job. In Japan, there is Mr. Keii, Mr. Kasai, Mr. Nakamura and Mr Kurino, who all have great style. As does Otto Mantero and Luigi Turconi, titans of the industry! But also by things that are perhaps tenuous and random, not even necessarily relating to clothing world or fashion world.
VR: Over the years you must have learned quite a bit about accessories. 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.
MH: It’s all well and good to know rules of classic menswear but don’t be afraid to bend or break the rules to express yourself outside of those rules. I shouldn’t be saying this, but enjoy dressing, it’s only clothes at the end of the day.