When we met Patrick Grant, the British Fashion Award–winning designer and the owner of Savile Row bespoke tailor Norton & Sons and the ready-to-wear line E. Tautz (relaunched in 2009 in collaboration with fellow British designers Kim Jones, Giles Deacon, Richard Nicoll, and Christopher Kane), the busy engineer turned fashion entrepreneur was relieved at having already completed his collection for the upcoming London shows. "We're very organized, and we start early," he said. "We don't have last-minute, up-all-night dramas."
How does a man who spent eight years working in engineering for blue-chip companies suddenly become a fashion designer at one of the U.K.'s oldest and most respected brands? Simple: He bought the company. "I came across an ad for Norton & Sons in the 'Businesses for Sale' section in the Financial Times, and there was this tiny little postage-stamp-sized advert, and I thought, 'Now that sounds interesting.'"
It's no surprise that Grant's style savvy is just as sharp as his business acumen. Here, his tips on pattern-on-pattern dressing, how to define your personal brand, and why he really doesn't care what people wear—as long as they're interesting.
1. Try not to worry about pleasing everybody. The important thing about a strong brand is that some people will really love it and it doesn't matter if some people absolutely hate it. It's no good creating something that everyone thinks is just kind of nice.
2. Buy products of genuine lasting value from brands that take their manufacturing seriously. I have things that are 75 years old, like the dinner suit of my grandfather's that was made in 1933 by a tailor in Edinburgh. Clothes develop stories. You can remember where you've been through clothing that you've worn. I want products that are going to endure. I hate that we buy things that are disposable. We need to buy products with integrity.
3. People are sometimes surprised to see me out of a suit. I want to tell them, I don't live in a bloody suit! But I have standards. I'm very fastidious about my dress. I feel better when I know the clothes I'm wearing fit right, but if people don't naturally think about clothes, I don't want them to worry about clothes. We spend too much time trying to create rules around these things. I'd just like people to wear good things. I don't want them wearing rubbish made in an awful way.
4. Here's the theory on pattern-on-pattern dressing. Men are likely to wear a pattern in their suit, shirt, tie, and handkerchief, and if all of those are of different scales—the check is a half centimeter, the stripe on the shirt is a centimeter, the stripe on your ties is two centimeters, et cetera—it all works. If the patterns are the same scale, it never works. Look at the Duke of Windsor, who was a great pattern wearer. He never wears the same scale of pattern.
5. I'll happily travel in a suit because I find it very comfortable. But more often than not, I'll wear a pair of vintage army pants I buy from a store in Brooklyn and light layers, like a navy cotton T-shirt, a navy long-sleeve cotton sweater, and a scarf, so I can de-layer as they crank up the AC.
6. I love my phone [Nokia Lumia 1020] because it has the most brilliant camera. I take a lot of photographs. I'm always snapping stuff, things on the street, signs, bits of flaking old paint, weird-looking carpet patterns, people wearing something interesting—it's like a visual notebook. I already have the spring collection mapped out in my head.
7. Between designing for E. Tautz and Savile Row, plus the other documentary-film projects we're working on, I'll work every day for five weeks. But when you're doing what you love, it doesn't matter. It all feels like fun. We keep our design process fun and immerse ourselves completely for about three weeks each season. I try and leave that time free from other stuff and delve really deeply into what we're working on.
8. I love cooking. I find it very de-stressing. It's a very lovely, tactile exercise, and there's something about the meticulous preparation that's therapeutic. It's a real treat to have people over and cook for them in your home.
9. I was very athletic and used to play rugby when I was younger, but I think I'm fitter now than I've ever been. I cycle everywhere, go to yoga, and do circuit training in Hyde Park once a week. This year I did a run, kayak, and cycle triathlon across Scotland, through the mountains. I did it with a friend, and we finished 69th out of 700 people. But as far as diet, I eat whatever I want.
10. I always carry books—physical books. I've never been an e-reader. I love Quentin Crisp's How to Have a Lifestyle, which espouses the idea that you should think about who you want to be and then take steps to become that person. It's what great people in fashion do, like Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld, or Tom Ford, who creates this whole world around himself that simplifies the process of engaging with him.
11. The tagline for E. Tautz is "The uniform for a life less ordinary." It's all about celebrating the lives of interesting men who are not constrained by the normal stuff. I'm not a snob about clothes. I'm typically Scottish and Episcopalian and cautious with money—neither a borrower nor a lender be. I actually don't care how people dress. I just want people to be interesting.
Thanks to Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey, who brought Grant over to our side of the pond to tout the Made for Gentleman Limited Edition Tin he designed for the brand, inspired by "the art of the bespoke suit."
—Perrin Drumm, associate Web editor at Details. Follow her on Instagram at @PerrinDrumm.