I always used to describe my style as how the Italians wear English clothes. Talking to Michael Drake recently though, (whose taste and sense of colour I respect immensely) I think the French might be a better reference point. The Italians are more obvious, because the dress is more consistent, but they also sometimes lack personality for that reason. Or personality is expressed through odd/trendy things like leather bracelets.
In reality, most of western men dress in English clothes. From the French revolution until the 1970s, English business and country dress dominated, with each country taking its own slightly different slant on the lounge suit and the hacking coat, the colours of city and country.
The Americans, as in many things, remained more English than the English. The Latin countries remained very conservative, but stylish nonetheless. The French, it could be argued, found the best combination of this conservatism and English eccentricity.
So to Michael Drake. “I think the French are often a little more understated and a little more chic than the Italians. Italians dress more like sheep; they all look the same. The French tend to be more individual.
“The French like that old English, school look. Even the Hermès jackets are very soft-shouldered, intentionally look very worn very quickly. The Italians, apart from Naples of course, are much more fitted, more self-conscious and deliberately sharper.
“You see men in Paris wearing a tweed jacket with an Hermès tie: it looks like an old schoolboy look but sophisticated with it.
“With colour as well, the Italians tend to be all navy and grey, or if the fashion is pink then they all wear pink. In France it is more varied, and consistently so. Look at the Hermès sweater collection – there are 25 colours or so in there, everything from lime green to orange. The Italians don’t, they’re too trend-driven. French are individual, perhaps even a little eccentric.
“I think my style could be considered English style as worn by the French. But then again, its success was always due to the fact that it was bought by French, Italians and Americans, by the classic and the trendy. Our two first customers were Old England and Agnès B in France – the classic and the trendy. That says it all really.”