My Life In Style: Philip Start

My Life In Style: Philip Start


When he launched Mr Start in east London more than a decade ago, Philip Start put a modern spin on tailoring. Whether you’re looking for made to measure or ready to wear, his Shoreditch shop has become a destination for discerning men in search of sharp suiting. Here, he tells SLMan what he’s learnt from a distinguished life in style…

I opened Mr Start in 2008 to force myself to concentrate on one particular aspect of menswear. I’ve always thought tailoring was an essential part of menswear and have always loved it in all its many, varied forms. Back then, I wanted to pioneer the slim suit.

The brand has evolved partly because of social trends which have affected all of us, and partly to reflect my own changing views of fashion. The original concept was about those slim-fitting suits worn with a shiny tie and maybe a pair of plimsole-type shoes or a great brogue. This is still part of our DNA, but now it’s about more relaxed tailoring, such as a soft jacket worn with a t-shirt.

Made to measure is very important because you can really express your personality. It’s great to help customers choose the fabric, but also to interpret a style which might be difficult to express in words.

The biggest trend in suiting right now is a soft and unstructured fit. It fits into a modern lifestyle and is flexible as it can be worn either dressed up with a shirt and maybe a tie, or dressed down with knitwear like a roll neck. The other trend is double-breasting, which looks great but can be hard to wear – you need to be committed to the idea.

In style there are no hard nos because everyone should be free to have their own style. But if it’s something I just don’t believe in or I think won’t work, I will tell the customer. Hopefully I can help them rethink the idea.

It’s hard to pick the coolest design I’ve ever made. It could be just a great navy suit that looks achingly good on a particular customer. I have one customer who wears the most outrageous fabrics every single day. The last suit I made him was in a gold African fabric, and he’s got another one on its way.

I love creating wedding suits. I tell everyone the outfit or suit has to be something that, when he puts on, he can forget about because he knows he looks great. Feeling self-conscious can ruin the day. It’s a really big responsibility for me, though it should always be his choice – not a committee’s – because it’s his big day.

I have loved clothes since I was a teenager. I started buying great clothes when I was 13 or 14 and never stopped. I’m lucky because I’ve lived through all those style changes. My style is always evolving, and I never stop experimenting.

Everything looks better with tailoring. It might just be a beautiful pleated trouser with a plain t-shirt and a great belt, shoes and socks. Or, one of my go-to looks is a soft jacket with a polo-neck sweater underneath, and a pair of cotton trousers and trainers.

I think there are five things I couldn’t do without… A jacket that works with everything. A navy t-shirt. A pair of great cotton trousers. A navy suit that can be worn as separates. A white shirt. A short raincoat. That’s six – oh well.

When it comes to style essentials, you don’t need a lot. A roll-neck sweater, belts and great socks all count. At the moment, you can add turn-ups on trousers that are worn a bit short and narrow or wider and worn longer.

Great style is an art. You need confidence to have your own style, which needs to be developed. Then it can change or not, but body language is important. Most of the icons of style had ‘body style’.


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