Suits you, sir
Laura Cartledge meets the man who gets hearts, and sewing machines, racing.
Designer Patrick Grant will be best known to many as half of The Great British Sewing Bee’s judging duo.
However, beneath the sharp suited exterior is a story you might not expect.
“I studied as an engineer,” he reveals. “I worked for eight years in a variety of engineering businesses – it was a rather different route but fashion is a strange thing.
“There are lots of people in fashion who have no fashion training. It is a question of having imagination and a sense of taste which is consistent.”
Patrick admits he probably takes after his dad, who went from managing rock bands – like Marmalade – to being an accountant.
Yet, while it may be unconventional, it seems Patrick’s background is helping, not hindering him.
“I like well engineered pieces of clothing,” he smiles. “My style is very simple actually. I am very happy wearing classic tailoring. Tailoring is there to make men look better.”
Patrick lists his proudest moment to date as being awarded Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards in 2010, admitting that “beating Paul Smith and Burberry was not expected.”
Before that, in 2005, Patrick took a leap into the unknown by becoming creative director of bespoke Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons – a firm famed for making sharply cut garments for ‘rugged and robust outdoorsmen’, clothing everyone from royalty to the young Winston Churchill.
“I found out it was for sale and sold everything I had,” he recalls. “It was not something I had planned.
“Today they still offer the best pieces of clothing you can buy – these are the things I love.”
Most recently he has become the first menswear designer to be signed by Debenhams in ten years and it is a role he is undertaking at full steam – so much so he has given the iconic department store more than it bargained for.
“They approached me ages ago, it must be two years now, to do a line of suits, shirts and ties,” he recalls. “I went back to them and said ‘I think there is a bigger gap in your menswear and I have planned out what the collection could look like’.”
While the pieces range from duffle coats to bow ties there is something distinctively ‘Patrick’ about them all.
“We take a lot of our cues from the well dressed men of the past – the likes of Noël Coward in those beautiful 40s and 50s images on the French Rivera,” he explains. “Back when things were pre-TOWIE, life was more elegant and things were simple.”
So what would Patrick say are the current menswear trends?
“I think it depends which part of the market you are looking at,” he replies. “Men like to dress in a way they understand, but there has been movement back to a more dressed up kind of menswear.
“I think it is a backlash against the really scruffy 1990s look which dominated for a long time,” he adds. “Men are taking more care and time in what they wear – look at musicians, far more are wearing suits again and, if you watch guests on talk shows, dressing is sharper.”
While Patrick and dashing outfits go together like handkerchiefs and breast pockets – he has a much more relaxed approach to dressing.
“I hate to give advice on what men should wear,” he confesses, “if you feel comfortable in a pair of jeans and a polo shirt that is great.
“I know the clothing ‘rules’, I think it is important knowing them, and some people want to stick to them,” he says. “Savile Row is the gate keeper for all that, but I think it is a question of setting your own agenda.
“At the end of the day colours are an expression of your personality. Everyone has a different idea on what looks good.
“Summer is more difficult as there are fewer pieces to play with. Menswear gets a lot of its oomph from the layers. But bright colours lift an outfit, like bright cobalt, bright greens.
“Most men’s wardrobes will end up combining a mix of pieces, with some edgy contemporary items which go right to the back of the wardrobe until 30 years later when it comes back in fashion again,” Patrick laughs. “Fashion is kind of commonsense. I am an advocate of buying a few good things.”
In fact Patrick admits that wanting to keep quality levels high was the reason he got involved with the Great British Sewing Bee.
“It is important for the business there are lots of keen sewers in the country,” he agrees. “If you want a career in tailoring, or making, it helps if you have a love of it.
“I think we have a future in the clothing industry at the most highest level – but my motives are more selfish, I want lots of good sewers so I can do my job properly.”
The success of the show means the second series is twice as long as the first.
“It is great as you get to know the people,” he says. “I think everyone involved was surprised [with how popular the show is]. I think it is partly because people are more interested in the things they wear and where they come from.”
The second series of The Great British Sewing Bee is currently on BBC2 on Tuesdays at 8pm.
Patrick Grant’s spring and summer Hammond & Co range is inspired by the iconic Brits of 40s and 50s Hollywood,
channelled through nautical stripes, vintage Americana printed shirts, roll up chino shorts and slim fit suiting. To find out more, visit www.debenhams.com
Hammond & Co. by Patrick Grant. Available at Debenhams www.debenhams.com