Thursday, 20 October 2016
Monday, 17 October 2016
Sunday, 16 October 2016
Saturday, 15 October 2016
Friday, 14 October 2016
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Stamp collecting may have been a far easier route but, at 12 years old, La Touche decided to buck the trend and start a collection of hats. Within 5 years he had collected over 200 and became known amongst friends as Mr Hat. Now over a decade since buying that first one, he has turned that passion into a career, educating himself on the details of millinery and working with some of London's best hat makers.
Everytime I've bumped into Mr Hat out and about, he always has an interesting story to tell. Keen to join all these tales together, I invited him to shoot in North London where we chatted about his Grandfather's influence, his life in music and why he's writing a children's book. Mr Hat is wearing items from his own wardrobe, alongside pieces from Boden's menswear collection.
His Hat About Town project, where he photographs the weird and wonderful headwear he finds on his travels can be seen at HatAboutTown.com.
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Positive, Encouraging, Friendly, Committed, Consistent.
What qualities do you admire most in other?
Loyalty, Consistency and Effort.
Where in the world are you drawn to outside London?
I have many friends and family in the United States and it's kept me coming back year after year. New York for me is London with the volume turn up. I have a sentimental bond with that city. It feels like home and despite the hustle and bustle I still find peace whenever I’m there.
Let's get it out of the way first. Why the hat?
It all started with my Grandfather. He’s the reason why I love hats and why I am never seen without one. Growing up, I always saw my Grandfather wearing hats. It became part of his personality and it transformed him into a superhero in my eyes. I used to put them on as a child and he would always take them back, telling me "when you're older I'll give you one." That day came just before he passed when I was around 19, when he gave me his black rabbit fur felt trilby from the early 1940s. It fitted me like a glove. His hat is the closest thing I have to remind me of him so it's pretty special. For me it’s not about fashion, there's a more personal symbolic attachment for me. As long as I’m wearing a hat, part of him is with me.
What was the first hat you bought for yourself?
It was a black and orange New Era cap that I got from the New Era store near Soho. I was 12 and loved my experience so much that it then became a monthly trip. By the time I was 18 I had well over 200 caps. This hat collecting bug is still with me, I always feel like I’m in competition with myself and for some strange reason I never feel like I can have enough hats. Hat collecting has become my thing I just love it. Each hat have their own story.
What does the Mr Hat title mean to you?
Coming up with the idea Mr.Hat has been a gradual build. I was working on launching HatAboutTown in 2011 and around that time people started calling me Mr Hat as a joke. It wasn't until a trip to NYC in late 2013 when my friends Ricky and Jamel of House of Alt told me to just run with it. As I came back to London I hit the ground running, changed all my social handles, and started to commit to this character.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to live up to the name?
My aim is to know as much as I can about hats, from the history to construction. I now know more about the millinery aspect of headwear which I have a love for as well. It was never enough for me to just be a hat enthusiast I wanted to know my stuff and learn the craft that is often forgotten and unappreciated. I never lose sight of my purpose to get people wearing hats again.
What's your favourite type of hat?
My favourite style of hat will always be the Homburg. The smooth rabbit felt with a kettle curled brim, trimmed with grosgrain ribbon with a gutter crown finished with a band and bow. It has one of the best shapes for hats and I love the height of the crown. For me the Homburg still feels like an alien but I love that about it. It feels very exclusive as not many people wear Homburg's. When you look back at history there's still a bit of uncertainty as to who invented the hat and where it came from but one thing everyone can agree on is that both Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill contributed to putting the Homburg on the map. This hat has such an elegance that warrants authority. For me it is the Rolls-Royce of hats. I was over the moon when my grandmother found one of my grandfather’s old Homburgs. My all-time favourite is fawn coloured from Lock and Co Hatters.
Do you have a piece of advice for someone wanting to buy their first hat?
Firstly know your hat size, get your head measured. A lot of the time people go into hat shops and just try on the first couple of hats they see and give up when the first two hats don't fit them. That leads to many people thinking hats aren't for them. Once you've got your hat size decide on your budget. I'd recommend keeping to under £100 for your very first hat. I'd normally recommend starting with a smaller size brim for your first hat, as wide brims can be quite intimidating. I usually say to try focusing on a hat that can be worn both casually and formally. That way you'll get two hats.
Best tip for caring for headwear?
A hat's best friend is steam. Some milliners still use kettles to steam their hats which does work but be careful as it does get a bit dangerous. I'd say pick up a hat brush and a hat box too. Those three things are my go-to tips for keeping your hats looking brand new.
How has your self image evolved over time?
I didn't like dressing smart when I was younger. My aunt says she's the one that got me wearing ties. As I started getting more into fashion, I wanted to experiment. I went wacky and colourful from my cap to wearing two watches, then I started wearing more tailored pieces and smart shoes. With that I felt I had to wear trousers, shirt and blazer and that became my look. I would wear my trousers shorter so you could see my socks. It's kind of stuck.
You're a drummer, how has music influenced your life?
My father got me into music from a young age, sitting me on the floor amongst a sea of old records. These records were a mixture of jazz, soul, R&B, old school Gospel and 70s disco from years of collecting. I remember him going through each record telling me who the artist was, the era and style of genre. This early education made me fall in love with great music so much so that till this I'm still listening to his records. My dad was a bassist, so when I was a child he would always be practicing and I would just come in and just sit there watching him. His passion influenced me to learn a musical instrument. I started with piano, which I hated, and jumped on the drums at the age of 12 or 13. It taught me a great deal of discipline and developed my self-confidence. Although I was taught to read, I tend to naturally play by ear.
Has music influenced you in other ways?
It has definitely contributed to my style over the years. Jazz musicians have the best hats as they're so personalised, it becames part of them. I believe music also made me more sociable. You meet many other musicians when gigging and at times it can be a little intimidating when you play with other musicians who are better than you but my dad always told me: play with confidence and simply enjoy yourself. I still live by this today.
Do you have a song which has defined you to date?
I have to give it to Paul Desmond's 'Take Five' performed by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. I remember hearing this when I was young and I said to myself, if I ever have my own show I would love for this to be my theme tune. It always takes me on a journey and Joe Morello's drum solo will forever be up there on my list of favourite drum solos. He was way ahead of his time, his style of playing painted a picture.
You're working on a children's book, how did this come about?
I'm currently working on 'The Adventures of Mr. Hat.' I'm a big kid at heart and obsessed with cartoons. Growing up I struggled with reading and writing, but I was in my element when I had a picture book. If it weren't for the Biff Chip and Kipper books I'd still be struggling today. As I got older and my reading and writing improved I vowed that I would write my own book. I would visualise myself reading at my old primary school and encouraging children to read with the hope I could inspire a child that struggled like I did when I was their age. One day I met Grey Keyte and we got talking about books and she encouraged me to write. Within a few weeks we'd written our first story. I wanted to make sure that I kept everything consistent with my message of encouraging people to love hats. I thought that it'd make sense to start with children showing them how great hat's can be.
How did you become interested in hats?
The foundation of why I love hats is my grandfather. I'm from a Caribbean background and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather always dressed up. Most older Caribbean men like to dress up - even to go to the park. He always wore a hat and I think from the age of 5 I started to see where he kept his hats. Some were in boxes, some were stored on top on his wardrobe. I remember a few times I would pinch one and pretend to be him. He promised me that when I was older he would give me one. I remember when he was in hospital he had his hat by his bed. On the sweatband he always wrote his full name and address, in case he ever lost it. I was 18 when I lost my grandfather. He gave me his hat and it was the same one that I tried on as a child and it fitted me like a glove. Not only was it something to remember him by but it was also the fact that it fitted perfectly. It was something I had to embody and become, a person who loves hats as much as he did. it wasn't just for fashion, it is now something that reminds me of him. That started the love for hats.
The collecting/passionate side of hats came from when I was 12 and there was a cool guy in school called Andre McTaggart. He came in wearing a black baseball cap one day and everyone was fascinated by him and this hat. I wanted what he had. I wanted the hat and the attention. After weeks of saving, I went to Walthamstow Market and I bought one for £15, only to find out at school that it was a fake. Andre gave me a card for a shop in Central London where I could buy the real hat. After a month of asking my brother, he took me into Central London, to New Era. I was blown away – the caps, colours, patterns, logos. I was fascinated. The thing I enjoyed the most was the attention to detail to customer service. From the bespoke fitting to experiencing the history of the brand.
When did your taste mature?
I wore caps for so long but I felt self-conscious and insecure wearing my grandfather's hat. I would take it off in Enfield and hold it in my hand until I got to Oxford Circus. I thought it was more acceptable there. It wasn't until I was 19 or 20 that I confidently wore wide-brimmed hats. I went to the Bronx in New York in my 20s and it was there that I got my confidence. I was travelling to the Lincoln Center for fashion week and I decided to keep my hat on for the train journey. I was getting nods and compliments as I walked to the station. The more compliments I got, the more confident I got. I came back to London with that confidence. I then experimented from there.
How do you stay present in the moment?
It requires my full attention so I tend to live each day as they come putting all my time and energy into what I feel is a priority during that day. I try to spend as little time online as possible and more time offline interacting and engaging with people, allowing myself to fully enjoy the experience which makes me feel in control. I get the same feeling from being active. I love running. It’s very therapeutic and really helps to clear my mind. I believe making time for yourself and for loved ones always results in being present in the moment. When I'm in company of friends and family I keep my phone on silent and turn it upside down on its face making sure that they have my full attention.
When you’re feeling down, how do you move forward?
I'm aware that it is important to acknowledge and experience your feelings when you’re feeling down, just as long as you don't stay there. I have a few techniques that I use to help me move forward. At my dad’s, I always play his old records. He would jam out to the songs on his bass guitar and I would sit there in awe of his talent. Even if he's not there I find comfort listening to music from his records. Music is a sure fire way to pick up my mood, laying down listening to music is so soothing.
For me happiness, success and general positivity is like playing keepy-uppy with a balloon. You just have to keep the balloon afloat. Keeping that balloon up is sometimes a challenge but the excitement is in not giving up and remembering that you're choosing to keep that balloon up, you're in control of your happiness.
Do you have a belief system? How do you use it in life?
I believe in myself and that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to do. I know that God is watching over me, my faith in Him keeps me going especially in my darkest moments. Whatever you believe in I think it's important to have faith in something greater than yourself where you're able to offload all your burdens which will allow you to achieve the impossible. I spend less time stressing and more time living. I find being thankful daily really helps to put my mind at peace and keeps me focus on achieving the unexpected. When you really reflect on what you have and how far you've come you'll see just how blessed you are.
What will be your legacy?
The legacy my grandfather left behind made me want to leave a legacy for my children, not only his love for hats and his beautiful black rabbit fur felt trilby, but for coming to England from Jamaica with so little and being able to make a life for himself and his family. He came over from another country and achieved great success and was able to impact the lives of many he came into contact with. Despite being physically disabled from the neck down, unable to use his hands or feet, he was still just thankful to God that he was still alive and able to talk. Proving to me that nothing is impossible and you can always find something to be thankful for, that you can still inspire others and that things could always be worst. My grandfather taught me that he may not be able to run or stand but he could speak boldly with authority and encourage others. I really enjoy working with children especially teenagers and I want to continue to mentor young people encouraging them to aim high, giving them hope. I struggled with my reading and writing when I was younger which affected my confidence but I worked hard and managed to overcome it. It would make me happy to know that my legacy gave hope, inspired and encouraged young people to go onto to achieve what isn't expected of them.
How did your grandfather passing affect your outlook on life?
My grandfather's passing forced me to grow up and get serious about what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Death effects everyone differently, it can make or break you. I channelled the energy from my pain and experience into my work pushing boundaries and achieving the impossible. I guess his death made me fearless I was reminded just how short life is and how you only get one life so just live and enjoy every moment of living. Death shows you who and what really matters in your life, I am now a lot more adventurous and open to new opportunities I find pleasure in overcoming my fears his passing as made me believe that there isn't nothing I can't do.
Advice to your 18-year-old self?
Save your money.
Leave us with your words of wisdom .
Wake up everyday like it's your birthday. You feel happy, special and motivated. Why should that outlook not last an entire lifetime?
Friday, 23 September 2016
In 1961 James Baldwin wrote "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." This sentiment springs to mind for me when talking to another James, the London based tailor Mr Turner.
An incredible man to emulate with a sense of responsibility and pride, he spoke of his new role as a father with excitement, maturity and consideration. From an outside perspective I can see that if his little boy grows up to be anything like him, he's bound to end up a gentleman, and with that sense of style he may just follow in his footsteps as a tailor also.
James Turner is a rare breed. He's a born and bred Londoner, so to take advantage of this insider knowledge I photographed him around Bethnal Green, the area he grew up. On set we talked about the city's ever changing landscape, life as a tailor and how having a son has changed his life.
James is wearing Boden clothes throughout alongside his own custom pieces to celebrate the brand's 25th birthday, styled by Mr Kieron Watts. See our favourite pieces from the new collection below.
James Turner, Tailor
Sum yourself up in five words. Shaven, meticulous, driven, generous and humble.
What’s your star sign? I’m a Virgo. Apparently, that means I’m a perfectionist and very practical and hands on.
Where did you grow up? I was born in the east end of London in Mile End Hospital. I've lived in Poplar, Bethnal Green and then Hackney. Bethnal Green was probably the most memorable as we coincidentally lived in the same house as the Kray twins! There were always tourists outside.
What does it feel like to be a true Londoner? I feel as a Londoner, you know the values of hard work and respecting other cultures. In my primary school, I was in the minority as it was 80% Bengali. I'm open to all types of people and feel to live in London you have to have broad horizons.
What’s your first memory of London? Walking through Poplar market with my Grandad. I remember the smells and sounds, the fruit sellers shouting, stallholders chatting and the vibrancy of it all. I just knew this was the city for me. It's funny we're shooting very near the Museum of Childhood and I loved visiting there. It was such a regular occurance for me, heading down the Toy Museum as we called it. I didn't go for many years as I grew up and then went on a date there a few years back. It has the exact same exhibts it had 20 years ago, I felt like I was stepping back in time.
Favourite London street? Henrietta Street near Covent Garden. I've loved it for years but now with the menswear stores popping up and the brilliant restaurants I love it even more.
Favourite place for a night cap? My poison is always an Old Fashioned. Off Broadway near Broadway Market certainly do the best. I’m there a lot if anyone wants to buy me one.
Favourite Gallery? The Photographer’s Gallery off Oxford Street. There's something special about photography that I get drawn into. I saw the Saul Leiter exhibition there recently which was outstanding.
What’s your favourite movie? On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando. Hollywood pre-50s was all about high society types whereas when the mid-century kicked, as the McCarthy Era was in full swing, it was time for the working classes to shine. This movie showed true working class Americans. Brando won an Oscar for it too.
What’s your favourite book? ‘Naked Lunch’ by William S Burroughs. I love the way he writes so vividly.
We shot with Boden today, what was your favourite piece? I really liked the crew collar sweatshirt. It's soft, fit well and had a real Gene Kelly feel to it when I paired it with my bespoke linen pants.
Tell us about your inspirations. I’m not really a follower of fashion. I take a lot of inspiration from classic Hollywood. I love the way the men from that era could blend masculinity and elegance. Their grooming added to the power and strength they had on film. There's a confidence in knowing and looking after yourself.
What sort of clients do you see most often? Is it stylish guys who want a custom wardrobe or men who need a little help? The trend is often fairly generic – a straight and narrow fit. I try and encourage people to go a little wider and to play with shape. A lot of people don’t know how to dress for their shape so I try and help with that. There's been a focus on skin tight clothing over the past few years and I feel it's definitely time to move away from that.
I travel often and really feel like London is quite distinct in the way people dress. What do you think is ‘London' style? It’s fair to say that London is the most stylish city in the world. It’s traditional, there are military influences, it’s structured. Mostly, it’s timeless. That said, my style is a little more ‘classic American.’ I love denim, particularly how it transitioned from workwear in the 1950s into a casual staple through James Dean and Marlon Brando. The Brits created the sihouette of menswear as we know it today, but the Americans added a practical flair. I love how raw their style was and also how their outfits had longevity. The fabrication and construction needed to last.
You're in the lucky position of being a new father, how does that feel? Were you prepared for everything that would throw up? It’s the best feeling in the world! It’s definitely a huge responsibility. There are two to think about now, in everything you do. It's been such a pleasure to share that headspace and live a less selfish life. I come from a big east-end family and there were always children around so children has always been part of my life plan. my mind. It’s amazing to have a little one of my own.
How has being a father changed the way you look at yourself and the world? Being a father definitely makes me look at myself as more of an adult. I suppose with a lot of guys whether they like to admit it or not, you are stuck in a perpetually child like state of mind but becoming a father most certainly makes you grow the hell up. I now see almost everything as a potential experience that I could share with my son. Whether it's watching a West Ham match, going to see a movie or just walking down a street in The East End. It all feels like something I can one day do with him too.
Do you have aspirations for him or is it too early to say? All I want is for him to be happy and to be well-mannered. Have those and the rest will come. Manners do maketh the man.
What advice would you give your 18 year old self? Don’t smoke!
Any words of wisdom? A man isn’t a man unless he’s a gentleman.
Monday, 19 September 2016
Culturally the Brits have never been known for their impeccible taste in food but for more than a decade a quiet revolution has been changing these perceptions. At the forefront of this is Mr Johnnie Collins, a chef and creator for The Store in London and Berlin. I first tasted his crisp, clean and simple food a year ago at London Fashion Week and unbeknownst to me got chatting with him later that day outside the venue. It wasn't just his passion for food that charmed me but also his superb personal style which adds one part of relaxed Berliner to a base of English irreverance.
To celebrate Boden's 25th birthday, Johnnie tried on some of their classic menswear for our shoot. This is the second part of our collaboration with Boden, where Mr Kieron Watts styled him in a mixture of Boden's eight essential items and his own clothing.
London Fashion Week attendees will be treated to Johnnie's the delectable creations at the BFC Showspace in Soho, Brewer Street Car Park. Last year when I first met Johnnie it was undoubtedly the best food I've ever had at a press office
The Store Kitchen is now open as part of the Infinite Mix show with The Vinyl Factory and Hayward Gallery at The Store 180 The Strand. There are additional plans underway for a permanent site below the Brewer Street Car Park and any visitors to Berlin will find Johnnie’s food on the ground floor of The Soho House building in Berlin, you don’t have to be a member to visit The Store.
You can follow him on Instagram @JohnnieCollins.
Mac with copper zip, white cotton tee and navy chinos, all from Boden.
Johnnie Collins, Chef at The Store Kitchen
Do you have any early memories of food in your house? Growing up in the countryside I was lucky enough to live in a household very much focused on food. My Dad is a wine merchant and my Mum is a garden designer and a great cook and we grew up in an open house - people were always dropping in for lunch or dinner, or to stay, and we always ate as a family at the table. I don't think we ever had a takeaways. The vegetables and herbs were from the garden and wine from Dad, so those sorts of values were instilled from a young age. Food was always important and that's definitely stuck with me.
Do you have a time when you realised you had a talent for developing meals yourself? The first ‘cooking’ I did was with my brothers when we started making our own sandwiches. I have one older and one younger brother so this ended up turning into daily, highly competitive sandwich making contests. I got to see that if you spend half an hour creating a sandwich and give it a lot of love, it’s going to taste much better than if you made it in 30 seconds. This is where we became interested in process, seasoning, marinating food and understanding that nice ingredients made great meals.
So you're a boy stuck between two siblings, do you middle child syndrome? Yes I suffer very badly from that! I’m the forgotten one so I have to act out for attention and as a result was a lot more naughty than my brothers growing up.
What was the worst thing you did when you were younger? I got suspended from school from being rude to teachers. Not out of malice but just to keep things interesting. I wasn’t that bad but I once flooded my girlfriend’s house by falling asleep with the bath on. It wasn’t intentional!
The British aren't known for it's excellent food but there's definitely been a revolution around consumption in the past decade. What's your opinion? Right now I think the English culture of food is returning to its traditional values. The average person is much more focused in seeing where their food comes from and where it is made. Whether it’s just being sold by words like ‘organic, natural and fresh’ that we see on packaging I don’t know, but there’s certainly a turn away from packaged and processed food which is how we could have defined British food culture for the past 30 or 40 years.
What do you think about the idea of love being intrinsically linked to food? Feeding someone is a primal thing to do because cooking for someone is caring for someone. The idea of making an amazing meal for people you love and seeing how much they appreciate it is a beneficial experience in a world where we’re going towards less interaction and more looking at screens. I’ve always enjoyed the pleasure element to food. Even when I worked front of house, I loved serving people to make sure they had a nice dinner even when I wasn’t cooking it. Making sure they had a nice time was a big part of the love of food.
Thinking back to sandwiches, certainly a very British snack, do you still enjoy them? Yeah, absolutely! I think my death row meal would include a sandwich course! I’ve just been in Sicily and the food so perfect for me because it's simplicity done superbly that I appreciate. Sandwiches have British roots but putting ingredients on bread can be seen in almost every culture. Bread is a life giver even though there’s a bit of a fear of gluten at the moment!
What is your favourite type of bread? You want different types of breads for different sandwiches. If you’re just eating bread and butter you want something with good flavour and a crust but if you want a plain, easy sandwich anything from a great baguette to plain old sandwich white will do. it’s often more about how it is made and by who - the real issue is the processed loaves you see in the supermarkets. At the end of the day, bread and butter is the best snack - I love home made loves with whole grains that give texture and flavour. Sourdough is the ‘in’ bread right now - it is great chucked on a fire ads good because it’s naturally fermented and done well has great flavour.
What would your last meal be? Very tricky! Scrambled eggs are still my favourite thing to cook and eat so it would probably start with a bacon and eggs course, I love very thin, crispy pancetta as a substitute for thick English bacon. I love bitter salads so would probably follow this with some chicory, lots of fresh herbs, and a strong, punchy dressing with charred nuts. A cheeky sandwich of herbed prosciutto cotto, aged mountain Gruyere, homemade chilli jam, crisp lettuce and Dijon on white bread may well sneak in. You can’t beat a whole fish on the bone with great chips and lots of different veggies. And ice cream is my favourite pudding – one of the best in London is Gelupo in Soho, I had one yesterday.
How are you not a huge guy? We’re standing and running around most of the day! We work hard, it’s not a sit down job. There’s no real ‘project over’ being a chef either, you’re always prepping for the next day so there are always things to do. There’s barely any time off. I also go to the gym and am generally really active. I get up and go for a sunrise swim if I’m on holiday whilst my girlfriend is in bed. I’m always into active holidays, there’s no chilling at the beach!
Classic slim fit jeans, from Boden.
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Energetic, fun, cheeky, determined, sometimes-difficult.
I guess that’s a chef quality – you need to be head-strong! Yeah, I mean you have to stick to your guns. I can be quite argumentative but I think that comes from the competitiveness with my older brother. I’m very open to admitting I’m wrong and collaborating with others though. I think it leads to the best environment if you can work with people in that way.
Do you think moving to Berlin has changed you at all? Being in London for a long time was getting crazy. I moved for a new project with a positive energy and that was great. I love travelling, new people and new adventures and Berlin is great for that. The move came the perfect time and has had a lasting effect on me.
Is your girlfriend from Germany? She’s Hungarian but grew up in Vienna and has lived in Berlin for 6 years. She interviewed us for a fashion website and then came into the restaurant for lunch a few times. I was on the dance floor at Berghain and ended up dancing with her, waking up the next morning to a text from her asking to hang out. We’ve been together since Christmas.
On that note, if you were cooking for a first date, what dish would you make? Make it simple, but use nice ingredients. I would roast a piece of white fish with some fennel seeds and a bit of oil. It doesn’t need to cook for long and just needs greens with salt and pepper to accompany. It’s healthy and delicious yet special because fish is fairly expensive and not something you eat every day. If the person doesn’t like fish then, we’ll you’re screwed!
Crew neck tee and dark denim jeans, from Boden.
Tell me about your style. Are clothes important to you? I like nice, well made clothes. I’ve been in Berlin for two years so there are a lot of great styles here. I do tend to loose clothes easily but I love wearing nice materials like linen and cottons. I’m not really into synthetic materials so much, Nike trainers and Adidas tracksuits aside.
What was your favourite piece from the Boden shoot? The shoes were fantastic. They're British made, super sturdy and comfortable as soon as I put them on.
What advice would you give your 18 year old self? Don’t worry so much. Experiment with life, there’s plenty of time. Try all activities that interest you and find out what you’re into.
Did you worry a lot of a teenager? I did worry. The world is changing a lot and there’s an attitude that as a teenager you’re supposed to know what to do in life but I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was 28 and I still don’t quite know. I could have spent time travelling instead of being tied to jobs that wasted my time!
What sort of things have you done? I helped my friend set up his restaurant and then that’s when I thought I’d like to do it for myself. My Dad told me in that case I should go and learn how to run a business. I worked in a bank for 2 years which was good and I learned a lot but was a bit of a waste of time staring at 6 computer screens. Nonetheless, it was useful to know how to read a profit and loss sheet and how to set up a business. I did that whilst doing pop-up restaurants and supper clubs on the side. My skill set is definitely more on the creative side and in chatting to people rather than number-crunching so I need to find someone to do that!
Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom. Do and see as much as possible. Talk to as many people as possible, see the world, benefit from experience, even turn to the person next to you on the tube and chat to them. You never know who you may be sitting beside.
Monday, 12 September 2016
The creative strength of London is built on it's acceptance of all cultures from around the world. I like to believe we're unified by an appreciation of differences and it's this value that I see in Swedish musician Max Bergstrom. In his presence, his peaceful approach to life is palpable and as we shot around his neighbourhood, I saw a man who is settled and at home in East London.
I first met Max in 2014 when I photographed him for a campaign and instantly knew I wanted to find out more about the songwriter. It may have taken 24 months and 10 inches of hair growth but we've finally been able to reconnect, talking about his writing process, love and of course Brexit.
In a collaboration with Boden, Max is dressed in a few of the brand's essential items styled by Mr Kieron Watts. 25 years ago Johnnie Boden sat at his kitchen table and founded the company with just eight pieces of menswear. To celebrate this birthday, they've gone back to the drawing board and re-created eight classic pieces to represent the timeless menswear that no man should be without today.
Find music from Max and his band Little White Things at LittleWhiteThings.com. Their latest single ‘Corner Of’ is soon to be released on Chess Club Records. See more from the Boden collection at Boden.co.uk.
Max Bergstrom, Musician
Describe yourself in five words. Ambitious, creative, hard-working, a little insecure but very loving.
What’s your star sign? Gemini.
Where are you from originally? I grew up in Kalmar, Sweden. Just outside actually, in a village with less than 2000 people. It a lovely place as a child as everyone knows everyone. I moved away when I was 16 to play football and to study and by that point I was ready to leave and explore the world.
I didn't know you were a sportsman, as well as a musician. How did that transition come about? I got accepted to a youth academy where we practised almost every day alongside our studies and got to travel to Barcelona to play against different teams. After the 3 year commitment I realised that it wasn’t really for me. Music has always been my main passion and so moved to Oslo when I was 20, worked there and then went travelling around south east Asia. On return, I met a guy named John, started playing music together and decided to build a studio. We formed a band called Walking with Elephants with a pianist called Jacob and started to play mostly folky-pop. We started to get a bit of attention and decided to move to London as bands like Mumford & Sons were taking off at the time so it was the place to be. Just as we were about to sign a record deal, our singer got cold feet and decided to move back home but Jacob and I decided to stay.
Are you happy with that decision? I couldn’t be happier. I decided to delve into music more and applied to study at Goldsmiths University, pulling together a portfolio of lyrics and creative writing. Thankfully, I was accepted and I loved it! I’ve had to take a year out as we’ve been signed with the band and things are a little crazy at the moment. I’d love to go back and finish the course.
What do you like about London? I love the diversity of it and openness here – people are interested in other people. It’s a music Mecca, too. It feels like the heart of Europe.
How did Brexit make you feel? It must be a very strange time to be living in the UK. I've got to say I did get the feeling of being unwanted or like an outsider. That's the first time I've ever felt this in the UK. I know that in London the general feeling is of positivity towards European migrants, but for the majority it seems to not be the case. As an outsider, I can look and the situation and understand that there's a lot of frustration and angry towards the political system currently in place but to me, that was misdirected at the EU. Unfortunately it's happening all across Europe it would seem.
How would you describe your style? Understated Scandi.
We shot you in a few pieces from Boden, do you have a favourite? I loved the grey cashmere jumper, it was super comfortable and easy to wear. The jeans were great, too. It's hard to get a great fit with denim and I thought it instantly fit really well.
Do you have a favourite instrument to play? I’ve always loved guitar. My Dad gave me my first one when I was 12. It only had five strings and it took me a year to realise that guitars should have six. When I did it opened up a whole new musical world to me. I started to learn piano while I was at Goldsmiths and that is such a pleasure to practice. Guitar will always be number one, though.
How did it feel getting into the writing process? I keep a journal and often think it must be such a vulnerable position to expose those thoughts in a song. I’ve always been writing poems which is why a creative writing course at Goldsmiths felt like the right thing to do. It was great to work in other forms outside of lyrics and melodies. I do agree though, it can be a very vulnerable position to be in.
What do you do to let go? Do you get drunk? Look back at old diary entries? Writing in a studio with other people you completely trust is so invaluable. I've been writing with the band for while now and I think we've reached a point where we're really able to let ourselves be true to the song. When you’re all within the same four walls working on something collaborative and you’re reaching your end result – that’s all I need.
The songs that stick with me longest are one's with words that speak to my experience. There's so much subject matter that we can all relate to like heartbreak but it's putting it in a context that feels so personal. Do you have a lyric from another artist which really resonates with you? When I was 16, I was engaged to a girl for four years. Young, I know. I’ve always loved Bob Dylan and the song Don’t Think Twice always reminds of me of that time, so I got the lyric Don’t think twice It’s alright on my ribcage. If you asked me now I probably wouldn't get a quote tattooed on my ribs but at the same time I’m very happy I’ve got it there. It’s my favourite song.
Is your writing style influenced by the artists you're drawn to? Definitely. I think you always follow in the footsteps who you like. I haven’t quite figured out what my voice and my style is yet but what I like at a specific time definitely influences what I produce.
How many times have you been in love? I feel like I fall in love every day! I love being in love. I guess I’ve only properly been in love three times, once when I was too young to know what love was, once with one who didn’t love me back and now, with my girlfriend Krystyna.
What does love feel like to you? Love for me is this warm, comforting and reassuring feeling that sort of diminishes all other feelings and puts everything in perspective — all problems or doubts that you may have had before seems so small. If you’ve got someone you love and who loves you you’ll be fine.
How do you find peace? Ever since I was little I’ve been fascinated by the stars. I love looking up at the night sky and think about the universe. I find it so relaxing and it always brings back so many great memories. When you go to Scandinavia and look up it’s like someone turned on the switch. When I was younger I always tried to count the stars. Without success unfortunately. Another quick escape for me has for a long time been the music. I sit down with my guitar, or the piano, I start playing some notes and forget about what’s around me for a while. The only way that has changed lately is that I now feel the pressure to create something when I pick up an instrument, it’s not as relaxing anymore. Perhaps you feel the same way with your photography?
If you were to give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be? Work less on things you don’t like. I feel like I've spent too much on my energy working in jobs I don't enjoy and don't contribute to my end goal.
Leave us with some words of wisdom. Don’t worry too much. There’s no point. All things must pass.
Sunday, 11 September 2016
Over the past few years I've started interviewing some of the interesting men I meet in my travels. This blog started with a focus on street photography, showing the people I came across who had a way of dressing that inspired me. Of course, doing the same thing repeatedly can get boring and it was often the conversations I was having on the street that was the best part, not their outfit.
Recently I've started to question why I do GarconJon.com. I have more than enough client work to keep me busy, so what is my driver? Why am I only focusing only on men? Why am I interviewing them at all, if this is just about someone with great style?
The conclusion I'm slowly reaching is two fold. Firstly, as mentioned above, for me a man's style has so much more to do with his philosophy and approach to life than just the clothes he has bought. Secondly, I feel there's a lack of healthy, positive conversation amongst men on what it means to be a man in todays world.
I often ask myself what it means to be a man in 2016? I began to question this increasingly four years ago when I started my 100 Beards project. Other than an obvious trend, a dialogue behind facial hair emerged around reclaiming masculinity and taking control of personal image. I heard countless stories from men with low self-esteem who transformed when they grew facial hair and many others from men who were intentionally breaking the rules of what they were told was acceptable in their work and life.
Pushing a little further, I began to ask subjects about their belief systems, their emotions or spiritual connection. Nearly always this results in a nervous laugh. It’s seen as emasculating to talk about feelings in a genuine, honest way. I know I often feel that way about myself. I'm lucky enough to have some close female friends and I know that not only do many of them have a much healthier outlook on communication but also support systems to turn to in their personal life and a number of resources in print and online that discuss mental wellbeing. I'm so excited to be in a time where feminism is celebrated like it is today and it's encouraged that women should look out for one another. This doesn't seem to be the case for men.
In schools, boys are underperforming against girls at the highest rate in over 10 years. Men are 22 times more likely to be imprisoned than women. One in six men will suffer domestic abuse and suicide is 3 times more likely in men than women. The suicide rate is also the highest it's been since 2001.
Clearly there's an issue. We have a disconnect. I'm under no illusions that my photography is changing the world. This isn't hard hitting journalism or reportage photograph from the front line. On a base level what I do is about aesthetics but I'm hoping that going forward my interviews will be providing a platform for men who don't just inspire with their style but also their state of mind. People who are healthy, grounded and present in their lives.
I'm not going to drastically change the site's content, but I’ve asking more challenging questions and this will continue. It can be as simple as "words of wisdom" or asking them to talk about fatherhood in the 21st century. The main goal is to find a connection.
If you've managed to read all of this then you're the type of person who will probably enjoy my rambling conversations written out here. If you do, I'd love feedback. If you have any suggestions on what you’d like to hear from you subjects or the types of men you’d like me to photograph and talk to get in touch on social media @GarconJon or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, enjoy the latest interviews below and keep coming back as I’ll be changing the site design in the next few weeks to make old content easier to find and a more enjoyable experience overall.
Thank you, Jon.