Friday, 1 May 2015

Savage Beauty: GarconJon meets Tom Brodie-Browne

After American Express invited me to visit the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A last month, I was inspired to create my own perception of "Savage Beauty". For me, it's McQueen's Scottish influence that shines through in his work - particularly his Highland Rape collection from 1996 - so I really wanted to capture this in my next shoot. Despite living in Scotland for nearly two decades, I had never actually ventured further north than Oban, so this was a trip of discovery as much as anything else.

In the true spirit of McQueen I worked with fresh talent to feature in the shoot. Tom Brodie-Browne, the Scottish artist is at the start of an exciting career in illustration and made a striking model too. Exploring new art was always a priority for McQueen and so championing Mr Brodie-Browne seems absolutely right. We drove north together with plenty of time to talk art, life and Scottish roots.

Nearly all clothes on the shoot were made in the UK, in tribute to my new personal project, 'Manufacturing Menswear’, celebrating craft and skill on our small island. In tribute to this, I'm currently working with American Express to find the next generation of British talent from all industries who have been inspired by McQueen’s trailblazing ethos. If you know someone who deserves recognition, tweet me @GarconJon so we can look at their work.

Tom Brodie-Browne, Artist

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I lived in Kent until I was 6 and then my family moved to Ayrshire.

What's your star sign? I am a Virgo.

Describle yourself in 5 words. Ok but I want you to know I'm not awfully fond of describing myself. I guess one word would be indecisive; ironically one of the few things I'm absolutely sure about in myself. Another word would be introspective. Reserved comes to mind. Passionate, regardless of how contradictory that may be against reserved. Lastly I'd say independent? I don't know, these answers will without a doubt change later upon reflection.

When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up? Honestly, I watched "My Girl" and wanted to run a funeral parlour. Preferably in the basement of a huge house just like in the film.

When did you realise you had a knack for art? Was there a eureka moment? Art has been an interest of mine since I was young. The idea of creating something on a blank page still excites me. When I have an interest in something I generally tend to go all out, read all the books, gain as much knowledge as I can and put that to some use. I find with art and music, it is the process and techniques that achieve that end goal of imagery or sound that thrill me even more so than the imagery and sound itself. I'm probably too technical minded to be considered a creative.

There's always a temptation for creatives across the UK to move to London, why have you chosen to stay in Scotland? If an opportunity came around to go live somewhere else for a while then I would take it. I would still call Scotland home though.

The idea behind the shoot comes from 'Savage Beauty' in nature, what inspires you about the Scottish landscape? As cliche as it sounds, it's nearly always the great outdoors that I find simply refreshing. It moves at its own pace, much like myself.

You've released a range of children's books. That's quite an interesting story, can you tell me about it? It started as a high school project actually. We created a book which simplified Tam O'Shanter for young children and we based the story around our own character who was a haggis. The whole thing screamed Scotland. We had quite a bit of success running the business during free periods and after school. We sold around 3,500 copies and won the regional Young Enterprise award.
Once school finished, we continued to run the company while at university and college, producing more books based around our Haggis Character and Robert Burns.

Later, some of us took the business in a slightly new direction publishing some of the first illustrated children's eBooks on Kindle, Kobo and even topped the charts on Apples iBooks store. By this point we had moved on from Robert Burns and we were producing 15 minute reads simplifying classics such as Machbeth, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, Dracula, Jekyll and get the idea. Alongside these eBooks we created educational material for the classroom and our own electronic whiteboard software. We published everything in English and Gaelic too as there are still lots of Gaelic speaking families across Scotland. As well as being a founding director, my primary job throughout was illustration. We were young when it all started and I don't know how we dealt with the pressures of running a company on top of school and university but we did.

How did you get into illustration? I think it was just a skill I had which was useful. Looking back, I was really quite awful. Since leaving that behind, I've been able to focus on illustration for my own pleasure and in doing so, my ability has advanced far more than it ever could have while working to the requests of others. I don't think illustration or any creative ability is ever something that you can say "right, I know how to do that now". Tastes and trends change constantly and that's what keeps it interesting. I feel like I'm still getting into illustration really. Always pushing myself a little further with it.

Who or what has inspired your work most? Through social media I've discovered loads artist who blow my mind on a regular basis. Their work is a constant inspiration. Much like myself, a lot of them work a regular day job which is comforting to know. What's really nice is when I get messages saying that I have inspired someone. I think passing that passion on is what it's all about.

From the looks of things you've started to get into photography. I loved that you brought your film cameras and enjoyed shooting the landscape as much as I did - how did you get into shooting? Yes! Through modelling and spending so much time with photographers, I've found a new respect for the art of photography. I'm a sucker for anything with manual moving parts so I took my parents old film camera, a Minolta SRT-201, off their hands years ago. I never used it, I just wanted to know how it worked. I don't know if that's just a boy thing? As a kid I took apart countless TV remotes, clocks, computers, anything I could take a screw driver to really. I've always been curious in that way.

I finally got some film for my Minolta a couple of months back. After speaking with some photographers who still work with film, I got some pointers and took it for a spin. I've now delved quite far into the whole thing, as I do. I've just started doing C41 processing at home and bought a new film camera, a Minolta X-700, with a selection of lenses from 18mm up to 210mm. I've read up on dark room printing and I'm in the process of making myself an enlarger. I wish I got into this years ago, I'm really having so much fun with it! Again, it's the creating something on a blank page thrill that's getting me.

I also have a Kodak Tourist II which I brought along on our shoot and a Kodak Brownie box camera. I think it's super important to work with something so basic in order to truly understand how it all works. I don't know if I'll ever take this new hobby as far as to move onto digital photography. The process of developing the negatives and soon printing is exciting to me. Film is unpredictable, and I think I need that. I aim for perfection too much. I would drive myself crazy with a digital camera. Not to mention going home with 3 or 4 hundred photos; that would take me weeks to sort through and pick my shot.

What do you enjoy about photography vs illustration? How is your process different? Honestly the two go so hand in hand, I don't know why I didn't see it sooner. There definitely are differences to my approach though. Photography is so new to me but I guess so far I've noticed it can be a bit of a waiting game to get the shot you want. There's a lot of changing elements to take into account and therefore getting that shot can feel really rewarding. Getting that shot and then successful developing the film is even more rewarding! I'm fairly relaxed with it. For me it's about going outside, exploring and really taking in your surroundings.

With illustration I'm actually quite up-tight. I'm aiming to achieve the best I can. I want to surprise myself every time I sit down to draw. I work from photos mainly and draw a lot of portraits. If it's not instantly recognisable then I'm not going to be happy with it. I should probably loosen up but any time I draw I work it and work it until I've achieved some level of realism.

Finish these sentences....

Art is... everything.
Savage Beauty is... raw, intimidating, unparalleled excellence.
Scotland is... my home.
I am.... the walrus.

Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom...Oh man I've not lived enough to be wise yet. I'll tell you when I get there, though I'm in no rush.

See the full shoot below.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

GarconJon meets Mr Natty for Brooks Brothers

Out of the five gents I photographed for the Brooks Brothers campaign, Mr Natty has got to be the most memorable. Never before has a nickname so perfectly summed up one person before with his quirky traditional style, peppy personality and wicked sense of humour, he is out-and-out Natty. Shooting in his old house boat, we got through too many cups of tea and had a proper chat about hair, London and taking your own road in life.

Matt Raine aka Mr Natty, Gentlemans Barber

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in South London and now living between Kent and New York. I'm making the move to NYC full time this year.

What's your star sign? Gemini – I'm a complete Gemini. I had my sign done by a professional, a real hippy. She said she'd never met anyone like me. Someone so perfectly Gemini in the rising sign, moon, all that stuff. That means I'm very happy, really up. I'm a busy boy. I love to talk and be interested in life.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a farmer. I spent my summers working on a friend's dairy farm. It was a traditional mixed farm in Devon. I went to agricultural college when left school and everything.

Describe yourself in 5 words? I'm not sure what I'd say for that. I asked my wife and even she didn't know. What do you think?

I'd say something like "curious, interested, people-person, energtetic...and you make a good cuppa tea". That's way beyond five but fits you well. 

That'll do me nicely!

Where did your passion for grooming begin? Do you have a great first memory of a grandfather shaving or anything like that? I was really fascinated with cutting hair. I used to cut my friends' hair when at school as everyone wanted a flat top. At the time I thought 'that doesn't look too difficult' so bought some clippers and started to make some extra pennys. I used to go up to London when I was much younger and walk around Jermyn Street and stare through the store windows, utterly intrigued by the world that was there.

My Dad used to take me to a barbers in Elephant and Castle. It was really busy, buzzing with blokes all day long. They used to have dirty men's magazines - 'blue mags' - in reception, and it just felt like a grown up world. It was men's business and I liked it. The smell was contained within the space. You'd never smell that other than there. The clippers, the men with with combs in their top pockets. It was mad and I thought 'I want in on this'.

Living on a canal boat has got to be an adventure. There's something quite “London” about that image in my head – how did it shape you? Oh I have so many fantastic stories from my boat days. Some of those memories are for me only, but there are a few I can share. I remember one day I was going down the canal and looked down the back of the boat where, to my surprise, I saw a guy hanging on. He was a local homeless man, a drunk dude, basicallly grabbing onto the boat as he was dragged with only pants on and a can of beer in his hand. It was a feat of balance. There have been so many chuckles over the years from cyclists flying off the edge and straight into the canal.

As a born and bred Londoner you'll be more than qualified to give some insider knowledge. Where's the best place for...

a haircut? Me of course. Contact me through ONE Represents or my website. I don't cost an arm and a leg, I like to think I'm there for the working man. My barber shops tends to be in Albam, Spittalfields so you can also find me there. Although I have been known to set up shop in a canal boat, down the a pub...really wherever there are people.
a coffee? In bed with the Missus. She makes the best coffee. It's alchemy. I don't know what she does but it is unbeliebale. Sunday morning, her coffee.
a walk? I like around Smithfield Market as it's still real. And you can't beat the walk through Greenwich Park.
a drink? I love the Coach and Horses in Soho but really The Phoenix Artist Club, off Charing Cross Road is superb. It's only £16 to be a member and you find it filled with out of work thespians doing drag.
music? The Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, New York. Sorry London, my sights set Stateside already.

Speaking of which, you're planning a move across the pond to New York this year, what attracts you to the Big Apple? I'm a country boy at heart but the energy is electric. It feeds me. Everyone there seems excited or at least they pretend to be and that becomes infectous. London people are doing things but they don't like to talk about it. You can't feed off that. It's difficult here because everyone wants to go to Uni instead of doing an apprentiship. People should get a proper trade so they don't have to depend on working for a conglomarate. It's like you, you're not a photographer, you see that there's more to what you do and you've seen the trend. You've turned your interest into a paying job. Having a passion that you can make money out of. If you're in work but you want to make tent pegs out of wood then do it. Follow your passion. Use your hands, create! There are people who are doers. My children know they want to create and are able to think "how can we make money out of this." That's quite an American attitude I think and something I love.

See the full post by clicking below.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Rooftop Elevation: Original Penguin, Nettle House, London

For the launch of the new collection from Original Penguin, I worked alongside my friend and fellow Sartorial 7 member Chris Benns to shoot some imagery to reflect the British sensibilities within the brand. Mr Benns, who is also the talented Mens Fashion Editor of Hunger Magazine, has an incredible eye for detail, realising the designs in a whole new way. Surprisingly, this is the first time we've worked together, so I sat down to ask him a few questions about how we got to the end result. See what we created on the rooftop of Netil House in Hackney on an overcast London day below.

After much discussion on concept, we landed on a London skyline as the backdrop. Can you remember how we got to this point?

The London Skyline was the perfect back drop for this project. Not only do we have some of Europe's most iconic buildings on the distance but the city itself is an inspiration for so many. I'm very fortunate to have grown up here but so many others long to live in the Capital. It's the centre of so many creative industries and not only attracts people from the rest of the UK but also from around the world. With this in mind, when we discussed the shoot we thought that having the skyline as the secondary subject was perfect to show how this Original Penguin collection integrates seamlessly into London life.

I totally agree and what I loved was how the styling took us to a very British urban place also. Your layering was spot on to feel contemporary yet real. Can you explain more how you manipulated that element of the shoot reflect the collection?

It was important for me that the shoot itself stood out as a clear reflection of the designs. Obviously it's an American brand but many of the items fit with the British aesthetic by fusing staple men's pieces such as the polo that we all rely on daily. Some designs may appear classic in form at first glance then reveal details such as the reflective button placket that you showed really well in the final imagery. They are multifunctional - can be used for evening and day, and it was this that we picked up on, wanting to capture the idea of translation or movement. I loved your resulting images which included movement within them. In some this is very literal and you see the clothing reacting to this where technical elements really shine. In others you have the ability to really take in some of the finer details where the movement is more subtle.

Can you describe how we landed on Lew as the model for this shoot?

As you know, casting is really crucial for strong images. We wanted to find someone that truly embodied my perception of the Original Penguin consumer: young, athletic and handsome. Someone aspirational but relatable. Lew seems to fit that role perfectly.

After numerous occasions to being in front the camera together with the Sartorial 7, it was the first time we were both behind. How did you find our first time working together in a professional capacity?

It was great fun! Of course, I've been an admirer of your work for some time so I was great to finally get on set and collaborate creatively. It's always nice go work with who understands and respects what you want to do and also brings concepts to the table. The result is a true mix of creativity that has worked out beautifully.

Angelo Flaccavento: Porte de Saint Cloud, Paris

Saturday, 25 April 2015

GarconJon meets Simon Kuzmickas

I first spotted Simon K, Established model, outside the Topman Design show in January at London Collections: Men. He instantly caught my eye with his skin tight jeans, 60s hair cut and Mick Jagger pout. It became apparent that he's more than just a pretty face though, having moved to London to study photography and inventing his own genre of music he calls "fuzzy jazz". We caught up on a sunny Spring afternoon in South London to shoot film together and chew the fat.

Simon wears his own clothing and Timex Weekender watches throughout.

Simonas Kuzmickas, Agent of Thought

Describe yourself in 5 words

I'm happy to be glad.

What's your star sign?

I am a Virgo, but I don't really believe in that stuff anyway.

When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a banker. When my dad broke the news that I would have to wear a suit everyday and it suddenly lost it's appeal. I quickly changed my mind.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Vilnius Lithuania and straight after finishing school I moved to London. I currently reside in Fulham, just up the road from river Thames.

What's great about Fulham?

Its just a nice area, there are lots of cool pubs, bars, shops etc. I have been living in a lot of very sketchy places in London so it just feels good to finally settle down somewhere nice. Also it is quite central and its easy to get around town on my bike, it takes roughly five minutes for me to get to Kings Road and then from there everything is pretty close.

You moved here to study photography, why did you chose London?

Well I tell people that I came to London to study, but in reality I think I just wanted to have a bit of an adventure, and London seemed like a good place, since I speak the language and also I knew some people who lived here already and it was just like: "why not, lets do this". Plus the music scene here is amazing which always attracted me.

What do you miss most about Lithuania ?

Definitely my family and my mates. Well the weather is nice too there.

You told me you play fuzzy jazz - what do you mean by that?

Well I think contrast is one of the best tools of expression, so mixing mellow jazz melodies with sort of over driven fuzz tones result in very interesting sounds. Also its because I have sort of a vintage guitar amplifier, and once you crank it up the signal starts getting distorted and you get sort of a fuzzy sound. I also enjoy playing around with different effects units/pedals.

Who do you respect most in music?

Its very hard for me to pick favorites. I don't really have a favorite record but I enjoy listening to early electric blues records like: Elmore James, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker. All of this sounds particularly good on vinyl. In terms of more contemporary music one of my favorites are the Libertines album "Up the Bracket".

The watches you're wearing are taken from the "Weekender" collections, how do you spend your weekends?

It's always different. I guess I am a spontaneous person. I just do things, whatever comes to mind. If the weather is nice I go out and see what kind of trouble I can get myself into.

Leave us some words of wisdom...

Mind is like a parachute, it only works when its open!

To see the full shoot, click below. The complete Timex Weekender collection is availale to view at

Thursday, 23 April 2015

GarconJon meets Mark Hunter for Brooks Brothers

There are very few times in life where I've felt starstruck but holding the gold medal of Olympic Rower Mark Hunter has got to come close to that feeling. He may have achieved greatness but his humility and charm is powerful with his attention now turned to motivational speaking and his work as Programme Director of London Youth Rowing. I travelled to Henley on Thames to shoot him at his rowing club, photographed as part of a series of profiles for Brooks Brothers on iconic American menswear. Mark is the second of the series, keep checking for more and see the rest online at

Mark Hunter MBE, Retired Olympic Gold & Silver Medallist in Rowing

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? My younger years were spent is the East End of London before moving out to Essex when I was a teenager. I became interested in rowing and the sport then took me to Henley-on-Thames for over 20 years which was quite a change. I'm back living in London now so I've gone full circle!

Describe yourself in 5 words? Easy-going, Determined, Driven, Passionate, Articulate

What's your star sign? Cancer

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a kid I dreamt of playing football for West Ham, but once I realised my skills weren't up to standard I decided I wanted to become a physiotherapist. It was only a matter of time before the Olympic Dream got my attention!

As a child who was chronically unfit, I always admired others who were naturally athletic. How did you first get into sport? I've always enjoyed participating in a variety of sports. My parents
were sporty and we enjoyed going to matches or tournaments together. Their support has been something very special. I'd just started rowing in 1992 when I had the privilege of meeting Sir
Steve Redgrave as a 14 year old and I got to hold his 3 gold medals. That's when I started to catch Olympic fever.

There always seems to be a defining memory for successful people - something that switched them on the right path. Was meeting Redgrave that for you?  I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics when I first watched it in 1992, watching TeamGB win 2 rowing gold medals and seeing them on the podium, hearing the national anthem and watching the Union Jack being raised. It really captured my imagination, and I knew what I wanted to achieve! When Lottery funding started in 1997 it made it possible for me and many others to become full time athletes, which was very motivating. I wasn't fully funded until 2001 but up until then I was working full time and training around work.

If you hadn't got the funding what was your career plan b? It was all about the Olympics! Luckily, it worked out.

See the full interview below.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

GarconJon meets Darren Kennedy for Brooks Brothers

With classic American brand Brooks Brothers owning one of the best menswear stores on Regents Street, it's understandable that some of Londons most stylish gents love the brand. This month Brooks Brothers asked me to document these men for a new series on and after a good chinwag on set, I couldn't resist but ask my own questions for GarconJon. In the first of the series, I caught up Darren Kennedy over a coffee at Hawksmoor Spitalfields to talk about life as a broadcaster in the digital age and the extended American family the Irishman has. A group which includes President Obama.

Darren Kennedy, Broadcaster and Writer

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I'm a true Dubliner, I was born and bred in the city. And despite the fact that I spend most of my time in London these days, Dublin will always be my home at heart.

You may be a Dubliner but I know you've travelled some in your time. In your opinion what's the best place to live and why? I've lived in Paris, London, Toronto and Bordeaux but in terms of quality of life I'd say Dublin really is up there with the best. It's actually a fabulous city to live in. I know I'm biased but it's the fact the city is a very manageable size with the sea, the mountains and the countryside are all within bicycle distance from the centre. When it comes to weather, Los Angeles offers a tempting combo of city, sun and beach.

Describe yourself in 5 words? Happy to laugh at myself!

What's your star sign? Capricorn and I've been told I'm typical - practical, loyal and determined once I set my mind to something.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Growing up I wanted to be a vet. I was fascinated with nature and wildlife. My favourite programmes to watch were David Attenborough documentaries and I used to image myself travelling to the Galapagos Islands. I've yet to make it but I will one day. As a result our house was like a menagerie with cats, dogs, birds, fish, turtles, frogs... you name it, I tried to keep it as a pet. I went through a stage of wanting a pet lamb, despite the fact we lived in the city! My veterinary dreams perished when I realised I'm actually very squeamish!

As a Scotsman, I always find people have a curious response to my nationality – particularly in the States. What do people say to you when you first open your mouth and find out you're Irish? I travel quite a lot to the States and so many people there have such a strong affinity with Ireland - even Obama has Irish roots for God's sake! Americans can be funny and on occasions one or two have tried to convince me that they're more Irish than I am - despite the fact they may never have set foot on Irish soil. I find it endearing to be honest. The funny thing is, no matter where I find myself in the world, I never seem to be far from an Irish connection. Over the decades my countrymen have travelled far and wide, so most people are very receptive when they hear the accent.

See the full interview by clicking below.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Studded Eagle: Le Marais, Paris

Leather motorcycle jacket on the streets of Paris, emblazoned with silver studs in the shape of an American eagle.

Devil in the Details: Le Marais, Paris

Blue work overshirt with navy bucket hat and polka necktie on the streets of Paris. See another look from this gent outside the Hotel Westin here.