Exclusive Interview with Mark Francis VandelliMonday June 5, 2017
For the first time, Hawes & Curtis has joined forces with businessman and TV personality Mark Francis Vandelli, to create a summer capsule collection fusing British design with Italian flair. We caught up with Mark to discuss the inspiration behind his exclusive collection, his style philosophy and his passion for design.
What is the inspiration behind your collection?
“The inspiration behind the collection stems from my wardrobe and the clothes that I have collected over the last 20 years. I think of my wardrobe as a collection and I think that over time you refine your eye to really knowing what you like and you gain a great appreciation for menswear. I am inspired by what I know and what I love and the collection is a celebration of the culture of British tailoring. I wanted to make the collection available to people who haven’t had the opportunity to go to a tailor and have a bespoke suit made. I wanted people to experience the wonderful British tradition of tailoring with an Italian flair.”
Describe the collection
“I would describe the collection as the perfect hybrid between classic tailoring and a modern silhouette; on the one hand it’s timeless but it’s also relevant and modern, contemporary and very wearable in its sophistication.”
Have you always wanted to go into fashion?
“I had a jewellery business but I always found fashion very transient which is what I didn’t like about it. Then I realised that menswear doesn’t need to be so fashion focused; once you’ve found the perfect cut for a shirt and a jacket you don’t really need to make huge changes and that’s what I like. I love working on a very classic cut and considered silhouette and then change the fabrics and textures. What I took from jewellery was that appreciation of fine detail and I tried to instil that in some of the clothes.”
What’s your favourite piece from the collection and why?
“I love it all! I love the textures of the shirts but I think the most striking piece is our printed shirt because it’s the first print that I’ve designed. I think there’s something so unusual and wearable about it and it’s a print that really stands. It’s something that I would look at on a hanger and would never try on but actually, I absolutely love it and I want to wear it all the time! It’s really wearable – it’s wearable under a blazer for a dinner party in the same way it’s wearable on the beach with a pair of swimming trunks. And that, I think, is something quite rare.”
How have you incorporated Italian and British style into the collection?
“Italian menswear is often perceived as being rather flamboyant and attention seeking so we’ve tried to pare down the cuts and the over the top flair but maintain the textures and fabrics and a Mediterranean sunny mood. The very beautifully woven fabrics that we’ve used really catch the light without looking shiny and they have a slight depth and character. We’ve paired them with a very British modern cut that will appeal to a British man.”
The collars are slightly larger than average, would you say that this is an Italian influence as well?
“I’ve always had this phobia of a collar that slips under the jacket - I think a slightly bigger collar worn without a tie looks much better because it sits slightly more proud of a jacket and also looks great without a blazer.”
What is the most stylish city you have ever been to?
“Rome is an incredibly stylish city because of its rich history. You really feel as though you’re walking around an open air museum; every corner you turn is a new revelation of history, antiquity, culture, art and beauty - it is very inspiring.”
Who is your style icon?
“I’ve always greatly admired Tom Ford because he is able to combine British tailoring with a slightly eccentric, fashion forward aesthetic. He bridges that gap very well and I think it’s very rare to see him badly dressed. It’s easy to follow trends and then look back after five years and shudder at what you wore, just for the sake of following fashion.”
What was your biggest fashion faux pas?
“The worst fashion faux pas is following fashion too closely and being so absorbed in trends that you lose sight of reality and what actually looks good. Essentially, we all want to look good in what we wear and very often, that has a lot less to do with fashion and more to do with understanding our physique.”
How does the collection celebrate Hawes & Curtis’ iconic heritage?
“We have really celebrated the facts that this is British tailoring, it has an Italian flair and a very kind of summery aesthetic but it’s definitely something that would not be out of place in the city. All of our shirts would look great under a blue or grey suit, so they’re perfect for any office environment. It was just a case of modernising some of the traditional cuts and making them more relevant to a younger man who doesn’t necessarily think of Jermyn Street or Savile Row as his go-to place for suiting or menswear.”
How was it working alongside Touker Suleyman, Hawes & Curtis CEO and Dragons’ Den star?
“Touker is a businessman so he will see figures before anything else. It’s incredibly important for someone creative like me to work alongside a businessman like Touker because, like any brand and any enterprise, you need to find the balance between creating something that you love and making it work financially in a business sense. That is the genius of Touker; he understands both fashion and business but he always keeps his eye on the books.”
What was your favourite part of this process?
“I’ve loved every moment! Two years ago I was in talks with Touker about the collection, so when I finally came to Hawes & Curtis Head Office to meet Kate Regan, the Head Designer, it was incredible! I have loved working with everyone who has worked tirelessly on this project. It has been so interesting to see the different stages required to create this capsule collection. It was an enormous amount of work but it was so satisfying to see the finished product that you can wear and really love.”
Apart from yourself, who is the best dressed Made In Chelsea star?
“Everyone from Made In Chelsea has a style that is very much their own. We don’t have a wardrobe assistant or stylist or any form of guidelines that we need to follow apart from at certain events where we’re told there is a theme and we are told to dress accordingly. On the whole, most of the cast have an identity that comes out in the way they dress. Victoria is probably the best dressed.”
Describe your style in four words
“Timeless: I wear a lot of things that I’ve had in my wardrobe for over 10 years.
Appropriate: I always dress in a manner that is befitting or appropriate for the engagement or the situation that I find myself in. For example, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to wear shorts in the city, or a short sleeved shirt at a black tie dinner.
Personal: to me and my lifestyle and to what I like.
Curative: I think that in time I’ve become more and more careful about what I buy and my purchases are very considered. I don’t buy things that I’m not sure 100% that I like anymore.”
What’s your favourite trend for SS17
“This spring has been very interesting. There has been a lot of bold colour and a lot of brands have returned to logos and prints; this season is outrageous and it has a late 70s, 80s vibe which I don’t love, but there are elements that I’m happy to introduce into my look. It’s very faddish but I don’t feel that people will be wearing this next year. It’s very fleeting.”
What’s your style philosophy?
“If you buy good quality clothes that suit you, you’ll never really tire of them. As a man especially, you’ll go back to your tailor or you’ll go back to the store that you normally shop in and you’ll want to buy the same thing over and over again. I always invest in classic pieces that are cut to fit my physique. When you find what suits you, you realise that there is a formula – menswear is, to some degree, formulaic and as long as you stick to that formula, on a whole, you’ll always look great. “
Who is your favourite British designer and why?
“Alexander McQueen was a genius, he had an incredible flair. He really knew how to look back at the 17th and 18th century and take a great deal of inspiration from the cuts and the madness of the epoch and make it relevant and modern and really fun. His clothing was beautifully tailored but also fun and carefree and art. I believe that fashion should be art, because the moment it stops being art it becomes disposable and then it’s not really fashion, it’s just really sad clothing.”
What are your collection highlights?
“I’ve always loved white trousers; since I was two years old I have not been able to spend a summer without a pair of white trousers. They look clean and fresh and very chic – whether you’re wearing a shirt or a blazer you always look good, especially if you’re on the Riviera; they’re a must in any suitcase.
The perfect navy blazer- I think we’ve really achieved the perfect cut in the most beautiful fabric. I don’t think any man’s wardrobe is complete without the perfectly cut navy blazer because it goes with everything, from jeans to suit trouser to white trousers.
I absolutely love our bespoke herringbone-inspired print which is featured on the pocket squares and the knitted tie. It’s a beautiful print that is very diverse – it comes in four different colours and it can be worn with almost any shirt or any jacket or suit. The accessories are fantastic and they’re handstitched, 100% silk and made in Italy – you couldn’t ask for more.”