This past summer, after several seasons of designing his menswear label, Grahame Fowler opened his first U.S store. The classic, slightly disheveled suits and shirting are all handmade in New York, with relaxed silhouettes and impeccable fit. They're displayed amid vintage scooters and photos at Fowler's West Village shop, which he converted from an old dry cleaner, where the décor perfectly blends casual and luxurious style. The store's good looks are no coincidence: Before launching his label, Fowler was one half of a premier London design team, Timney Fowler, that worked with numerous fashion houses on fabrics, wallpapers, and interiors. We chatted with the British designer about the look of next spring's suits, his love of street style, and the best accessories for both genders.
What is the look of the clothes you design?
It's a mix of tailored/working/military/function-at-the-junction mélange.
What is the inspiration for your latest collection?
Spring/summer 2010 is all about acid-color shirts, sharp, crisp cotton twill suits, and tropical-wool pants. This is all fused with oversized plaid shirts and high-break double-breasted jackets that are unlined. Sharp Kool suits for the "Man about the Village."
What is your favorite piece in the store right now?
A washed moleskin suit in navy, green, gray, and brown. It has a great fit — a well-cut, finished garment at a great price that is made here in NYC.
Tell me about the extra, special details on your pieces.
I include functional details, like straps to hold your newspaper inside the inside pocket of jackets, for example. Lots of these details come in response to years of traveling and having to utilize extra pockets for storage and secretion.
What type of man shops at the store?
A nice one ...
What was the first designer item you bought or wore?
Not a designer item, but a pair of Levi's 501 button-fly jeans. I had to travel all the way to London to buy them from the only shop that stocked them there.
Who were some of your favorite designers growing up? What about now?
My visual vocabulary was really referenced by other youth cultures and how they wore, or appropriated, street styles — mods, rockers, teddy boys, skinheads, suede heads, etc. Now I like small stores or designers who are left of center and doing their own gig, creating a look rather than dictating a look.
Who are your style icons?
Footballers like George Best, bands like the Who, the Kinks, the Small Faces, and obscure American soul bands like Voices of East Harlem. All those cats that made it happen.
Tell me about your personal style. What pieces or labels do you wear most?
On a daily basis I wear jeans, my T-shirts, and my shirts and jackets plus some vintage like favorite motorcycle jackets. In the evening, a hand-tailored suit and bench-made English shoes.
Where do you shop most for fashion items (other than your own store)?
Vintage stores, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, 45 RPM, military stores, and Costco for white tees.
Is there a fashion item you are currently coveting for yourself?
A Patek Philippe 5971P chronograph watch.
What trends are you into this season?
Being nice to all of my customers and trying to provide value for money.
Any trends you wish would just disappear?
No, I love them all; it's what makes New York New York. Diversity is my university.
What's something every man should have in his closet?
A really beautiful watch and a beautiful woman.
A drop-dead gorgeous diamond ring and a cool guy.
Finish this sentence: I never leave the house without ...
The keys to my 1969 Lambretta scooter. Otherwise I can't ride to work.