In the final installment of my Brooks Brothers interviews, I speak with a Frenchman in London, Alexandre Molimard. I first spoke with the talented eyewear professional in 2012 at London Fashion Week to discuss all things hirsute, and now 3 years on I've delved deeper to discuss style, culture and his daily routine. Alex is wearing a Brooks Brothers plaid blazer.
Alexandre Molimard, Eyewear Developer
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in central France, Clermont-Ferrand. If you don't know it, the Volvic mineral water label will give you a clue. The heart of Auvergne is one of the most beautiful regions of France with ancient volcanoes, lakes and gorges. The general landscape is so diverse. It has so much to offer people who love nature. After 24 years I got itchy feet and felt the need to move onto somewhere new so I arrived in London. Since then, I’ve always split my life between London and Paris to get the best of both worlds. Living in two cities isn’t tough emotionally but it does take precision, both in your career and your personal life. It just requires an unusual commute.
How would you describe your job title?
A short summary could be : what, when, where, with whom. I provide vision, direction and leadership. Once you have a vision, you have to spread the word in your business. My job is part of building something new. It is about building & managing relationships between my teams, between clients & the brands I work with, between products themselves and their consumers - for all of which communication is the key. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with very influential names. The process, to me, is way more important than the product itself.
What's your star sign? I’m a true bearded bespectacled Leo.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a lot of things. For the longest time I wanted to grow up to be an artist. I did every kind of art when younger: drawing, painting, music. I also wanted to be an actor and a journalist.
Describe yourself in 5 words? I am a creative, real, passionate, generous gentleman. And a dreamer. I think that's a reasonable summary.
How did you get ino eyewear? At 14 when I've had to wear a pair of glasses all the time. Without them, quite literally, everything looks hazy and indistinct.
Can a pair of frames change your life? It certainly improves your life quality and the way you see things. Then, the right frames can change your entire face. They can make a statement of beauty and sophistication. The superior craftsmanship and high quality will change your life in ways you never even dreamed possible, challenge your perceptions and even empower you to be yourself. Your glasses shouldn't hold you back from expressing the person you are. A pair of glasses or sunglasses is the single best accessory that you will ever own. Adding a pair to your wardrobe is the beginning of a whole new you.
As a dual-city resident, what are the 3 biggest differences between the two? Paris has more beautiful buildings in general, it is more 'quaint' and I think even long-time Parisians continue to notice and appreciate this in their daily lives. London is quaint too, in its own way: with its greenery, low-rise buildings and multi-centered character, it often looks like a village but doesn't feel like one, whereas you could say Paris is the opposite. London often feels a bit bland, 'corporate' to me, as if all the variety of cultures present in London had just been reduced to their lowest common denominator. All the chain stores contribute to this bland atmosphere too. Parisians are, well, Parisians, whereas true Londoners are nowhere to be seen in London! Paris is fairly multi-cultural, but not nearly as cosmopolitan as London, because most of the non-French communities in Paris come from France's former colonies in North and Sub-Saharan Africa. They are largely French-speaking with cultures that are already strongly French-influenced.
London as a whole seems to be kept going by a form of raw energy. Paris is a bit more relaxed. It remains the Sleeping Beauty. And after all, to misquote Samuel Johnson, “When a man is tired of London, he can always go and have a three-star meal in Paris.”
As a Frenchman what does 'British style' mean to you? Sophisticated, traditional and practical, it is a synonym for eternal elegance and romantic classicism. British style offers a point of view aimed at utility and imagines a wardrobe in which to enter and then going straight to the point. A wardrobe without dogmatisms, a way of reconciling old fashioned and modern expectations of manliness. It embodies a new kind of modern masculinity based on timeless and iconic pieces. It’s a rediscovery rather than an innovation, a look at the modern world through the steamed up monocle of a more refined age. It is dedicated to all things sartorially British like well tailored suits from Savile Row, handmade brogues as well as bowler and top hats. I am a devotee of traditional British style, but I bring my own modern twist. I always bring in fun and interesting textures, prints, patterns, and indulgent flourishes of colour, be it through knitwear, ties, gloves, an umbrella or hats. As for "Made in England", I still believe in it. I really believe. I like things that are all built to last. My Grenson brogues were bought in the late 1990s and I wear them at least once a week. I polish them regularly and see no reason they won't outlive me.
See the full interview below.
You’re wearing Brooks Brothers which is a classic American menswear brand, how do you think that fits into your wardrobe? I try to have an essential wardrobe, with some must-have garments representing the contemporary excellence. My favourite fabrics are tartan and seersucker, but not necessarily together. The blazer is therefore a key part of my closet. I have developed a sort of uniform for myself - blazer, vest and tailored pants are the core of it - which makes the process quite easy: the fewer elements you have at your disposal, the more you’re forced to act imaginatively. I do not like “packaged” clothes. I like to work on clothes, rearrange them. Blazers softly tailored, single-pleat trousers a tad too short and a bit too wide, with a turn up, and massive brogues are my staples. I always say that we could do shopping in your closets for years. It’s not about being edgy, but it’s about having something well made and well designed, and it’s more about style than just fashion. This is the kind of fashion I love.
Who are your style influencers? It began very early for me because I was exposed to clothing with my grandmother who was involved in fashion as a couturiere. I was a very curious child and I was very interested in creative expression through clothing. I’ve always been very attentive to finishes, fabrics, the feelings that the items send me to the touch, their naturalness. I also understood that it is impossible to define style in a single way. It depends so much on a person’s way of being, not just on clothes. It's not only about tailoring but something that comes from within. You can buy fashion, but you can't buy style. I am adamant in saying that style is about clothing just as much as the way one carries himself, walks, talks, writes, eats, behaves. My grandfather came from a background and era that didn't allow for a lot of money to be spent on clothes, but that didn't stop him having pride in his appearance. I remember his shoes were always polished immaculately, his ties always in perfect half windsor. He was subtle and understated, yet he stood out from the crowd because he had presence. You just knew there was something special about him. Just because clothes suited Steve Mc Queen or Marcello Mastroianni, doesn't mean they're going to suit you. Elegance must be whispered, never shouted.
In the end, I’m a sucker for just a well-turned out stranger on the street. Angelo Flaccavento is the perfect expression of what I’d call elegance: effortless dedication to composed manliness.
What blogs are you currently reading? Poetically Punk is a great sequence of verbal and visual suggestions for you to flip through. Otherwise, I just Google whatever I am interested in. I do rarely shop online—for me buying clothes is a physical experience. I’m mad for dusty old shops. I see shopping as treasure hunting.
What’s an average day like for you? 7.30: wake up, black coffee and shower. I rarely eat breakfast. I have to admit once I’m up, I’m ready to get busy. Most days I start work, which involves work emails, phone calls, meetings. I am on the phone a lot. I had 50 emails before I made it into the office and had 6 meetings today. 3 were scheduled for the same time and I went to them all. I also spend a lot of time throughout the day working on current designs and creating new ones. And then more phone calls, making sure that schedules will be met and asking a lot “what can I do for you, is there anything you need".
I have a really engaging job and I love the fact that I am presented with a myriad of responsibilities and tasks to perform most days. The days of me coming into the office and dealing all day on one project are long gone - I juggle 5 or 6 most days now. The rest of the day, from 8pm to sleep, I engage in music or reading or spend time with my friends and their kids. I live. I mostly enjoy myself. I generally go to sleep at 1:00am.
Give me a quote that will stay with you eternally. “It’s not where you take things from, but where you take them to “- Jean-Luc Godard.
What's on your horizon?
Go out and expand my horizons! A trip to Antwerp then Milan.
Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom... “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity” - Coco Chanel.