Around the cutting table, discussions (and sometimes arguments) about the differences and nuances between fashion and style can often be overheard. The point to which these conversations always seem to return is that fashion is fleeting, while style remains. The former changes with the times, while the latter exists like a rubric against the quiddities of each generation.
For our cousins in the designer clothing industry, fashions are created by the designers themselves, like shepherds leading their flocks. Whereas in the bespoke world, ‘fashions’ are client led and born of individual commissions.
Even so, each tailor brings with them certain preferences and techniques that form a house style. This is why, quite often, famous houses are known by the name of the person(s) who founded them. One only needs to take a walk-through St James’s to see evidence of this.
Here, at Oliver Brown, our head tailor Juan Carlos brings a Spanish flavour to traditional English tailoring, which has resulted in a unique combination of classic and modern styles.
Read on below for the first instalment of the ‘Oliver Brown Style Files’, which will ask a series of questions to one of our team once a month, providing insight into the blending of fashion and style that make up our brand:
1. What is your first fashion memory? It’s difficult to place a single first fashion memory. However, I spent a great deal of time with my father and grandfather at their tailoring business as a child where I was fascinated with all of their tools (which I viewed more as my own toys at the time) and the work in which they were engaged.
2. What is the most stylish item you own? An overcoat that my father made in the 1960s. It has many features of bespoke tailoring, like double back pleats instead of vents, that aren’t often used today. He always took great care of the clothing he made for himself, and it still looks great.
3. And your most valuable item? My grandfather’s shears. I use them every day at my cutting table.
4. What is the one look you wish you could pull off? Steve McQueen in Bullitt: a tweed blazer, turtleneck, dark-wash jeans, boots, and, of course, the classic mustang to pull the whole look together.
5. What is the one item that nobody should wear? I’m not sure I have a singular answer for this question. One of the characteristic parts of the bespoke industry is an understanding that what suits an individual is unique. It’s therefore impossible to develop a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts.
6. What are your thoughts on accessories? Accessories should be used sparingly and tactfully. They should compliment an outfit, not take charge of it. But, that being said, accessories like a good watch, cufflinks, or tie pin, are a chance to show off individuality and are to be encouraged.
7. Who would you say is the most stylish man to have ever lived? That’s a really difficult question to answer. There are so many people who have shaped what we consider stylish. Fred Astaire, the Duke of Windsor, Cary Grant, etc.
8. If you could invite three designers (past or present) to a dinner party, who would you invite and what would you serve? Alexander McQueen, Edward Sexton, and Mogro Vejo. I would serve a selection of my favourite Spanish dishes, of which I have many!
9. What is the one item you can’t live without? My tape-measure. It regulates everything I do in my work.
10. What do you like best about your job? Working with people who appreciate the craftsmanship involved in tailoring and make it a joy to carry on my work.
11. How do you feel about the industry? Traditional tailors (on and off Savile Row) and the broader fashion industry are working more closely together than ever. This has the dual effect of bringing updated fashion trends to old clothing houses and sharing the heritage and traditional modes of production with designers.
12. If you weren’t in the fashion industry, what would you be doing? I would like to be a pilot. It’s always been an ambition of mine to learn to fly.