The second part of DressLikeA series “People behind the Industry” is about Michael Hill, the Creative Director of Drake’s London - one of most well-known and probably my favorite maker of men’s accessories. I had the pleasure to meet Michael at Pitti Uomo last January and recently he was kind enough to take his time to answer few questions to help you figure out who is this man at the moment running the traditional brand of Drake’s.
1) “Who are you”?
Michael Hill, Creative Director for Drake's. I went to the London College of Fashion, which is where I got my formal academic training. Before that, however, I worked at a few silk mills in Italy and at Drumohr, all of which gave me some very valuable work experience. While I was at the London College of Fashion, I started working at Richard James on the weekends and holidays. After I graduated, I stayed with Richard and ran his wholesale business for the next 6 years. I then joined Michael Drake at Drake’s and am now in my tenth year here. Having grown up with Hill & Drake in my father’s tie factory I always wanted to return to ties and mens accessories and joining Drake’s felt like coming home.
2) What would be the “corner stones” of your style?
Although we produce a new tie collection every season within that there is a degree of continuity - we certainly consider it evolution as opposed to revolution and I suppose that is reflected in my own style. I will wear a simple madder neat or navy grenadine tie on a consistent basis, interspersed from time to time with ties that might have my favourite yarn developments for the season or colour combinations which we’ve been working on. I dress seasonally but mix up the fabrics and textures. I love the Winter, not least I confess because of the great cloth one can wear in those months but even then I love to wear a great tweed with a linen shirt for example. I spend the working day in a factory setting so there is a degree of practically to how I dress, a working uniform if you like, smart comfortable.
3) What inspires you / How do you find inspiration?
A good place to start is in our Archive Room. We'll take prints from there and freshen them up using different colour combinations or reinterpret them in an unusual way for today's market. I see Drake's sitting within the classic menswear sphere but not being fusty or standing still. We genuinely have a sense of excitement about what we do. Within the business, the export side of things has allowed us to work with many varied markets where we’ve been able to developing different fabrics, different prints, and now different products. I’m sure much of my inspiration comes from growing up around a tie factory and seeing how my father, my grandfather and then Michael Drake operated in that arena, and while not wanting to necessarily copy it I’m sure some of it has seeped in. They all looked great but they certainly weren’t taking they’re own personal style as seriously as they were taking the business and the craftsmanship of what they were doing and I feel it’s important for myself and the current team to maintain this perspective.
4) Drake’s has recently come up with full range collection instead of concentrating just accessories, what’s “the story behind that”?
Since the day the company began we never considered ties in isolation. We knew how we wanted those ties to be worn and we had certain look in mind but it wasn’t until we opened our own store were we able to physically demonstrate that. We didn't want to open a store that sold suits (the area we are in just off of Savile Row sells great suits and we’re very happy to leave that to them). We feel that we're not just randomly bolting on products to the brand because we might be able to sell them and we're certainly not compromising on our sourcing so that we can wholesale these other products. Rather we’re working with artisans that have a similar philosophy to our own. We genuinely feel that were showing something that is a little different to what we see out there; showing English style with a European consideration has always been part of the Drake's handwriting.
5) How would you describe Drake’s style? What makes the difference between you and other houses?
Drake's offers British style as seen through the eyes of the French or Italians. When compared with our contemporaries, hopefully Drake's offers a slightly more relaxed, insouciant style within a formal context.
6) Your one and most important style advice for men?
Take you’re time to develop your style and don't try too hard at it. Try to enjoy it, they’re only clothes after all - as is often said it’s not the clothes the clothes that make the man, it’s the manners do that, so have fun with it.
You’ll find the post I wrote about Drake’s F/W ´13 collection from here @Editors’ Notes.
Really looking forward to see Drake’s booth and the new collection at Pitti in a month. Stay tuned.
pics via drakes-london.tumblr.com