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Carl Magazine Interview

Posted on October 11 2016

The international journal championing authentic luxury, culture, fashion, travel, arts and design, features David Mason on the cover of the first British print edition.

 

Interview transcript:

What are you wearing now and what are your accessories?

I’m wearing an Anthony Sinclair bespoke Conduit Cut suit – the name is derived from the location of Sinclair’s premises in Conduit Street, Mayfair, during the 1960s. It’s a classic English, hourglass shape, with “roped” sleeves which creates a bold silhouette, but the construction is soft and extremely comfortable to wear.

My shirt has “cocktail cuffs”; a two-button turn-back style that Turnbull & Asser cutter Michael Fish designed for Sean Connery in the early Bond films. It’s the perfect partner for the Conduit Cut suits that Connery also wore in his role as 007. A plain knitted necktie is usually the default choice, but mine has hand-embroidered polka dots… and I’m never without a pocket square – usually plain, white, neatly folded linen.

I’ve always struggled to find spectacle frames that I like. These are my Persol 0714 folding sunglasses that have had the tinted lenses replaced with a prescription set. I am currently working on a collection of frames for a recently acquired brand, Curry & Paxton. The company began making ophthalmic instruments in the Victorian age before developing a chain of optician stores in the 1900s and famously providing Michael Caine with his eyewear for the Harry Palmer films and the Italian Job.

I don’t wear any jewellery other than a watch, which today is a vintage Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox, produced in the year of my birth – a very long time ago!

Photography by Alexander James - Chair

Photography by Alexander James

What is your favourite colour to wear?

I prefer a monochrome palette. All of my shirts are plain white, over which I wear black and grey in Autumn and Winter and blues in the Spring and Summer.

Do you have any morning rituals?

Tea. English Breakfast tea. It’s impossible to start my day properly without it. This is often a problem when I am traveling overseas - whether it is due to the tealeaves, water, milk, or altitude, it never quite tastes the same as it does in England.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I like to cook. I studied Chemistry at university, so I suppose the idea of combining different elements to create a reaction has always appealed to me. Although I’d been schooled in science, I was always passionate about the arts. I see cooking as both a science and an artform, so I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.

What's the best fashion secret you've learnt?

Don’t over-egg the pudding.

What does a gentleman wear when he wants to relax?

A cashmere shawl-collar cardigan. It’s part smoking jacket, part dressing gown, part throw-blanket. It can be worn at home in front of the fire, on the beach at sunset, and on a long haul flight when the AC is over-chilling the cabin.

Do you have any travel essentials?

A cashmere shawl-collar cardigan.

Photography by Alexander James - pictures close-up

Photography by Alexander James

If you were a school-teacher, what subject would you teach?

Chemistry.

Favourite drink?

Tea.

Best place to live in London?

I feel extremely privileged to live and work in the former home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Montagu Square, which is in the Marylebone district of London. Ringo Starr acquired the lease for the premises in 1965 and lived there with his fiancée Maureen Cox who was expecting their son, Zack. When the baby arrived, Ringo sub-let the flat to Paul McCartney – who used it as a demo studio for a year, before Jimi Hendrix moved in with his manager and their girlfriends. Jimi was eventually asked to leave after he had “redecorated” the place, and John and Yoko were then given the keys. Beatles pal Peter Sellers used to have a flat on the other side of the Square, and Ian Fleming lived diagonally opposite. You won’t be surprised to hear that I think it’s the best place to live in London.

Is there anything the fashion industry must get rid of?

Sweatshops. The dreadful tragedy of 1,100 garment workers losing their lives when their clothing factory collapsed in Bangladesh two years ago highlighted the poor working conditions suffered by countless numbers in the fashion industry. Although reforms have reportedly been made, I can only imagine that the members of some manufacturing communities continue to pay a high price for the incredibly low-cost merchandise that is found on the High Street.

Photography by Alexander James - Mannequin angle

Photography by Alexander James

Tell me three words that describe London.

Capital, capital, and, er… capital.

Best thing to do in London?

Walk, run or ride (a bicycle or a horse) around Hyde Park, preferably timed to coincide with the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment trotting out of their barracks on the southern perimeter of the park – it really is a sight to behold.

What is the best hidden secret in London?

The Wallace Collection, just a few minutes walk away from my studio in Marylebone. It is an art collection housed at Hertford House in Manchester Square, comprising works by Titian, Canaletto, Rembrandt and Gainsborough. There is also a courtyard restaurant in the house, which is a hidden gem in itself.

Who is your favourite author?

P.G. Wodehouse.

The best thing about Britain?

Her Majesty the Queen.

Favourite band?

The Beatles, of course.

What in your opinion is the most British thing ever?

Tea.

Photography by Alexander James - Chandelier and wall pictures

Photography by Alexander James

What is your favourite fashion trend? 

Leaving buttons unfastened in a nonchalant manner. From early soldiers loosening the top button of their tunics (accidentally creating lapels) to Edward VII releasing the bottom button of his vest around his burgeoning waist (inadvertently defining a sartorial rule) from Gianni Agnelli omitting to fasten the buttons of his button-down collar to my customers who unfasten a sleeve button on their bespoke blazers. Leaving shirts open to the waist is the exception to this list.

Your biggest learning experience in life?

It is likely to take a lifetime to become an overnight success… particularly in the fashion business. Patience and persistence pay.

What would you never wear?

Platform shoes... I am 6'2".

Who's is the most fashionable gentleman of all time and his contemporary?

Beau Brummel and Nicky Haslam.

How important is social media and technology for Mason & Sons?

Vital. Social Media allows a two-way communication between the company and the market. Whenever we share ideas with our community of followers, we can guarantee an immediate (and honest) response. Understanding and reacting to the opinions of clients and potential customers is essential to the success of this and any other business. E-commerce has allowed Mason & Sons to grow rapidly and serve an International clientele. Marrying ancient crafts and traditional values to modern technology remains a key strategy for the company.

What is your all-time favourite Bond movie?

Goldfinger. It is the most stylish of all the Bond films. The cars, the girls… and, of course, the tailoring!

What can we expect from Mason & Sons in 2016?

We are looking for a permanent location in the US – probably in New York. I’m not sure that we’d be able to follow suit and secure John & Yoko’s former apartment in the Dakota building… but it’s a nice idea.

Photography by Alexander James - lamp and table

Photography by Alexander James

What is your favourite item in your studio?

The Ladderax modular shelving and storage system. I acquired the Ladderax trademark a number of years ago, and this is the final pre-production prototype, ahead of the brand’s relaunch in 2016. The original system was created by British designer Robert Heal in 1964. It is a classic example of Mid-Century Modern design.

Your latest brand revival is the iconic Mr Fish, what can we expect to see?

Following his early career as a designer at the historic shirtmakers Turnbull & Asser, Michael Fish opened his eponymous Mayfair boutique in 1966. Given that this year is the Golden Anniversary of the Mr Fish brand, the timing couldn’t be more appropriate for the launch. We are starting at the beginning, with bespoke shirtmaking, and a collaboration with Anthony Sinclair to commemorate the classic shirts that he produced for the Bond films. However, Mr Fish became notoriously well known for inventing the Kipper Tie and making man-dresses for Mick Jagger and David Bowie, so there will be a more fashion-led approach to the development of the label.

How do you rediscover brands that have vanished from the market?

I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by the origin of products and brands, and spend an enormous amount of time researching them. The 1960s was a golden age for British popular culture, and London was a hotbed of creativity at the time. It is a period of particular interest for me, and I often find that when investigating one brand I stumble across another.

Photography by Alexander James - chandelier

Photography by Alexander James

What are the criteria for reviving a brand and what is the most important thing to respect?

The most important element of a brand is the product. Without an excellent product that is relevant to a contemporary market, it is unlikely that a brand revival would be successful. A compelling story is also an essential ingredient – this helps to stimulate interest and desire for the brand and also encourage word-of-mouth promotion. The most important thing to respect is the philosophy of the founder – after all, this is what made the brand a success the first time around.

How did you learn to dress, and what is right for you?

My grandfather was always a great inspiration. He was from the most humble background, but he always dressed, and behaved, like a gentleman. I recall visiting him in hospital when he was seriously ill. He was sitting by his bed in a collar and tie awaiting his visitors – a typical example of his self-respect and his respect for others. I suppose my own rule is to dress “appropriately” for the occasion, but I favour formality.

What are the most essential British virtues that should never be lost, and how can we preserve them for younger generations?

Honour, Humility and, most importantly, Humour. I think these qualities are imbued by the spirit of a nation, which subsequently forms it’s identity. I passionately believe that it is important to celebrate the people, products and places that have contributed to this spirit... it’s become a fulltime job!

 

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