I’ve always been obsessed with fashion magazines. I’ve been buying L’Uomo Vogue since I was 14, when I used to see it on trips to see family. It’s still the only Italian I read. When I was at school in London in the 1980s, The Face and i-D offered an insight into a totally different planet. They showed things that were so different from the polyester uniform I was wearing to class. The imagery was magical: Barry Kamen, Marc Lebon and Buffalo. Today people just go and buy clothes, but back then it was about people making them. I went to Jean Paul Gaultier to look at the materials and to see how the clothes were made – it felt important. When you went to Kensington Market it was a voyage of discovery. I remember when I started going to clubs and buying outrageous things from Fiona Cartledge who had her store Sign of the Times there. That space was tiny but had such a community spirit, and so many people started out in it – Jeremy Deller and a lot of others. Kensington Market was what inspired Dover Street Market.
I loved Chanel No.5, because my grandmother wore it
I remember collecting fragrance samples. It felt like they described other people’s lives and a different way of living. I loved Chanel No.5, because my grandmother wore it, and she was the most glamorous member of my family. Then there was Obsession by Calvin Klein, which I thought was incredible. Today it smells sickly and sweet, and the notes are out of fashion, but it really takes me back. Polo by Ralph Lauren, too.
Fashion became more casual in the 1990s. I worked at Duffer for a long time, and I was wearing a lot of their clothes as well as early YMC. What Eddie Prendergast and Marco Cairns were doing at Duffer was incredible – at the end of the day it was just a clothes shop, but it was also a club that you were either in or out of. It was so influential.
One of the labels I like most today is Paul Harnden. I buy it at L’Eclaireur in Paris – they have the biggest range of it. His work has a level of artisanship and craftsmanship that undermines itself by being a little bit “off”: it’s never a primly cut tailored suit. I aspire to all those qualities in my own work. One of my favourite films of all time is Serpico, where Al Pacino’s character purposely looks like a bum, and there’s a similar hobo aspect to Harnden’s clothes that I like. The first thing I bought was a blue wool jacket, single-breasted with peaked lapels. I felt immediately that it was crafted for a human being, not made by machines. I like fashion that is worn, not idolized, and with Harnden you can feel the hand of the maker in each piece. It’s also a codified language, and in a world where everything is so blatant, it’s good when things are a little covert.
Chris Nemeth’s work has that feeling as well – it feels like it should fit your body, you aren’t just fitting into a shape that has been engineered. I love the Nemeth bags in particular, because they’re really big, although since Kim Jones used the print for Louis Vuitton, people think I’m carrying a Vuitton bag, which is annoying. That was an example of the purist world meeting the luxury mainstream – but also a respectful homage. Nemeth was a peripheral character but so important, influencing Comme and so many others. I have a cropped black jacket, with darts in it, and it feels so good that sometimes I put it on just to wear around the house. It’s a bit like some Yohji Yamamoto pieces – you feel compelled to put them on, because of how they make you feel.
Nemeth died in 2010, but I knew him a bit via my friend Bayode, who co-runs the London tailors Pokit with his wife Claire – they were very close. Whenever I am in Tokyo I always go to the shop to visit the Nemeth family, who are doing what needs to be done to keep it all going. Again, the work is craft and the creativity spills over into everything surrounding the label.
I love second-hand places. I have been going to the Retro Clothing Exchange in Notting Hill for years, and still spent a lot of time there. I like the idea of recycling, and the whole notion of shopping being pot luck – it’s more satisfying than going into a big shop and just buying something. I have found some amazing Comme des Garçons pieces in branches of Rag Tag in Tokyo and that’s a great joy.
Recently I’ve been looking at the hardcore second-hand vintage stores in Japan, especially their denim – I love Iron Heart, and J’antiques is a vintage store in Meguro that blows me away. They really research everything. Last time I was there, they had examples of a certain camouflage designed for people fighting on the ridges of mountains with the light behind them at sunset. They were about £4,000 a piece, but the staff knew the whole history of the design. It’s a world of clothing that influences everyone. All the designers go there – last time I went, the RRL crew had been in and cleared the whole place out.
There is a mentality I like about fashion in Japan – you see the Comme kids in Japan, rocking it out, shouting it from the rooftops, and they have such a great look. I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, but I am obsessed with Rei Kawakubo. I always print out interviews with her when I find when, and read anything I can about her work.
Sometimes I buy a piece not to wear, just because I want it. I bought a policeman’s coat, styled like a poncho, because I liked the look. Then there was an Hermès Mackintosh coat which I went bonkers for on eBay. I’ll never wear it, but it’s the most incredible piece – the styling of Hermès, but as a Mackintosh, in a sandy rusty brown with baby blue and Hermès button. The way it fits together is so different from a normal Macintosh. I don’t know the history of it, but I knew I had to have it. If the house was on fire, I’d grab my Iron Heart denim, my Paul Harnden, and that Hermès Macintosh. C