Friday, 30 January 2009

Style Salvage Speaks to... Charlie Porter


Charlie Porter is a man that we both greatly admire here at Style Salvage. As our obsession with men's style has evolved over the years Charlie Porter's insight has been our constant companion; his scribblings for GQ, the Guardian and, more recently, i-D and Fantastic Man have always been a pleasure to read. He is one of the few fashion journalists that discusses men's style with a heady mix of intelligence, knowledge, understanding and humour. We wish there were more commentators on men's style and fashion in his mould.

We could gush all day and night about him (especially Steve) but we (more like Steve) would only end up embarrassing ourselves (himself). That said, we have no problem admitting that we squealed like school girls when we realised that he was following us via Twitter... in fact we have Twitter to thank for securing us the opportunity to interview him. A quick google search doesn't bring up any other interviews with him, so this could be some kind of first and exclusive for us. Hurrah! We are excited so we hope you enjoy...


Style Salvage: How did you get into the men's fashion business? What excites you about men's fashion?
Charlie Porter: I began concentrating on menswear because I was offered a job. I had been deputy fashion editor at The Guardian, but newspapers are mainly focused on womenswear. Nick Sullivan was leaving British GQ for US Esquire, had met me at the men’s shows the season before, and so recommended me to Dylan Jones. And so I switched over. I quit GQ in June last year for Fantastic Man, which is an utter joy for me. I’ve never worked on an independent title before, and presumed I never would because they are mostly for the young. But I now work on a magazine made for men, and done with an independent spirit and drive, and it’s an honour to be a part of it.

SS: What do you really think about the aw 09 shows so far? What were your favourite moments and did you have any moments that you'd like to erase from your memory?
CP: There was so much fashion around, which I found so exciting – often menswear is just pieces or small steps, but so many shows had big bold moves. Yves Saint Laurent was a total standout for me, and was what I’ve been hoping Stefano Pilati would do for ages: clothing that was uncompromised and advanced in its thinking, made with the same spirit in which he does his womens shows. Raf Simons was amazing – I kind of embarrassed myself afterwards by going up to him and, rather than asking an intelligent question, I just said “I love a bolero”. I love the way that Comme des Garcons is almost being cheeky now with its obsession with skirts – Rei Kawakubo is getting some oomph with the challenge she’s making with them. And the studded coat at Prada was totally superb.Favourite moments tend to be the ones you don’t expect: we had a lovely few minutes reading our horoscopes on Sunday; there was one particularly enjoyable sing-a-long to Listen by Beyonce when I got a lift in the Love car; I was trying to make my friend laugh when she was right in the line of the catwalk photographers – it’s that sort of stuff that keeps you going.

SS: How do these shows compare to previous seasons? In your experience has there ever been such a resounding influence on the collections as the r...the rec...(oh you know what we mean - we just can't bare saying it anymore) has had on this season so far?
CP: I was getting quotes for a piece from David Walker Smith, the head of menswear buying at Selfridges, and he was saying how a few years ago we’d have been complaining about the shows being so boring, where as this time round they’ve been really exciting. So I think fashion design follows an opposite path to economic boom and bust –i actually think it’s boring when there’s too much money sloshing around. I think you should say the R word loud and proud – I think it’s the most exciting thing to happen in fashion for ages. It’s simple: the dull world of luxury has blunted the excitement of fashion this past decade because it’s more about logo and profit growth rather than fashion for the sake of it. Luxury has suddenly lost its confidence and is shying into the background, meaning that actual fashion designers – people who make clothes with a purpose rather than just to revive a brand – now have the floor clear. I think it’s something we’ve seen in menswear at these shows just gone and will hopefully happen in womenswear too. Obviously complaining about the recession is the most boring thing in the world, but look at its actual effects and it’s actually a cause for optimism (as long as I don’t lose my flat/job/life etc).

SS: Which shows are you most excited about seeing in London?
CP: Really really really hopeful that the new menswear day will work. It’s AMAZING that the men's shows have been given more of a shot, but it’s a shame that the day comes after the official shows are over – some womenswear editors will have left for Milan already. I personally think it’s an outrage that newspaper editors completely ignore men’s shows. They should do both. Fashion is fashion.

SS: You must have seen so much over the course of your career, what is your favourite fashion moment?
CP: The spring/summer 2002 shows were particularly tough, because they happened in September 2001. We were in New York on September 11th, so after London I skipped Milan to get over it all. I joined the shows back in Paris, where one of the first I saw there was Junya Watanabe, who’s one of my favourites anyway. The show started, and it was beautiful – that denim collection with skirts made of patchwork panels that curved as they went down. And the music was “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago, and and as it got to the bit where it goes “ooh-oooh-oooooh-oooh-oooh baby please don’t go”, all the catwalk photographers started singing, and it was just lovely. I went to do a re-see of the collection a few days later, and they’d redubbed the video – don’t think singing photographers would help sell clothes.

SS: If you could go back in time and experience any fashion moment, what would it be?
CP: I’d have loved to have seen relatively recent stuff, like Comme des Garcons first collections, early Vivienne Westwood, and also Bodymap stuff that I’d have read about when I was a kid but not seen. Even only going back a few seasons from when I started to see Alexander McQueen’s first couple of shows would be enough for me.

SS: Have you got any recommendation that you'd like to share with our readers? (shops, hairdressers, designers, websites, bars)
CP: Shops: Fabulous Fanny’s on E9th Street in NYC between 1st and 2nd – the most extraordinary spectacles shop in the world – it’s where I got my specs from, remakes of an old pair.
Hairdresser: The Turkish barbers on Broadway Market, London E8
Designers: Old Town! The most amazing versions of British workwear clothing that you can only get by mail-order or by visiting their store in Norfolk
Bars: well I’m totally in love with the Joiners Arms on the Hackney Road, where I co-host a weekly party on Thursdays called MACHO CITY, we also do a weekly mailout called the WEEK IN MACHO on Wednesday, which you can get by mailing machocity@googlemail.com

SS: Aside from the ones you contribute to, what are you your favourite magazines?
CP: World of Interiors, The Garden (which you get when you are a member of the Royal Horticultural Society), American Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker

SS: We have been writing about men's style on the blog for eighteen months or so now and in that time we have seen a number of other men's style blogs come and go...do you read blogs and if so, which are on your blogroll?
CP: I think the exciting thing about the way blogs are expanding is that they can become more and more personal and involved. I think so many made the mistake of thinking they can just replicate a magazine online, or that it would be interesting just to reprint whats in press releases. The thing that The Sartorialist does so well is completely link to fashion without ever referring to the fashion industry itself. It’s very clever, and it’s the sort of natural link to something that makes sense which every blog has got to find for themselves.

SS: What is inspiring your own personal style at the moment? Do you have any style icons (long or short term)?
CP: I’ve just gone freelance, so I’m interested in how my clothing is changed from being at home and not going into the city so much – there’s been a definite weeding out of looks, and everything I’m wearing is definitely much more “me” – it’s a really good process. I’ve never had a style icon in my life, I just like wearing clothes that amuse me or that are enjoyable to wear.

SS: Is there anything that you'd never wear?
CP: Anything too revealing – I’m a total prude – very English.

SS: What item of clothing (if any) do you wish men wore more?
CP: I just wish men thought more about what it is they’re actually wearing than conforming to what they think they should wear. So many men are scared of rules that don’t exist, or think they should have a certain look or convey a preconceived message. I just think of clothing in terms of what it feels like to wear, both in terms of the fabric and cut, and then what it looks like to wear, and then go on from there. I think it’s a much more satisfying way of dressing than being linear about it.

SS: What piece of style advice would you pass on to your (theoretical) sons?
CP: I couldn’t imagine anything worse than telling (theoretical) offspring how to dress! It would cause immediate hatred in (theoretical) offspring!

SS: And finally, our quick google search didn't uncover any other interviews with you online... this is your chance to ask yourself and answer the one question you wish you had been asked but have never had the opportunity to do so.
CP: Yes I do think it’s a crying shame that Hedi Slimane, Helmut Lang and Jil Sander aren’t designing right now.

7 comments:

James said...

Great interview guys. Charlie Porter is such an interesting chap.

TheSundayBest said...

I think this is fairly obvious, Steve - get a job at Fantastic Man.

Cillian said...

Amazing interview. What a coup!

/Male Mode.

Mark said...

I've only just found out about your blog through this interview. AMAZING!

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JuiceMajor said...

The best is the last part...Hedi Slimane, Helmut Land and Jil Sander. Is like music to my ears.

Of course Jil is doing great with Uniqlo. Just wish the other 2 just quit f***-ing around and start designing again! Helmut especially!

J'adore Monsieur Lang

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