Established in 1985, Mark Powell is one of London’s most iconic and influential bespoke tailors.
Interview by Kate Moss
photographed by Zainea
His desired bespoke pieces are inspired with a nostalgically and classically tailoring, combined with creative and bold cuts and styling, he was one of the first bespoke tailors to successfully bring a perfect combination between contemporary street style and traditional classy and elegant signs.
Q: It’s been more than 33 years now since you’ve opened your first shop in 1984 , Powell & Co, in Soho’s Archer Street so I would like us to go back to those moments for now because I was curious to hear about kind of what motivated a the young man to decide that starting a fashion business would the right path for you and how did you started your business ?
A: Well, honestly it wasn’t something really master planned how I did start this business up. I was really passionate in clothing, particularly in tailoring and I had some friends around the West-end subarea in the 80’s… Obviously not the normal topic going towards the industry and I love to shop in the West-end and it’s funny how people where interested in doing like a Club Shopping, and I just told to myself, well I just want to sell so, that’s mainly how all begun. It was nothing like a big plan it just came like an idea. I took NMDA and we started with a few client and just started to go everything up, it started all really instantly because NMDA is one of the most and had many stores around Soho and it was actually sex shops and a few bars but I suppose it was the beginning of the transition of that new trendies in Soho at that time and a few shops started to open in that area and it was great you know, NMDA it’s great and we had a shop and it was a really low rent and we’ve had and after months til the opening we’ve been doing clothes for films and some big names where linked. In the 80’s it was Prince, David Bowie which came to the store and we were focused in bespoke and ready-to-wear which was the most wanted on that time for Gentleman outfits.
At the end of the day, what I love most to do is to receive a client at my shop and start working directly with him or her, to do my thing for the client.
Q: Back in 1984 when you started, the fashion industry wasn’t as crowded or as global as it is today, but one thing has endured during that entire 33 years witch is the kind of DNA of your brand witch remained quite persistent, How you describe the DNA or the key elements of the Mark Powell brand ?
A: In terms of describing or defining the DNA of the brand, I would say that it’s all about the fact that my time while developing it, has been building a distinctive statement. I have always made different cuts and textures that some of the time, they have a slight blink to the gangster style. I have always get inspired by the pieces from the 20`s and 30`s, sometimes i mixed them up with 50’s and 60’s as well… The thing is to update always the look but keeping it contemporary. On the last years, also my tailoring designs work for women as well convincing also this same inspiration. At the end of the day, what I love most to do is to receive a client at my shop and start working directly with him or her, to do my thing for the client.
Q: Tell us about your wardrobe. What is your current favorite piece?
A: I have quite a big collection of different styles and pieces i must admit. I have two different sides: one of them is with all my suits and the other one is for all the coats and this heavy and volume pieces from winter.
Many of the suits i buy them and sometimes I never wear them but I have them all there just in case I decide to wear them… me or my son, who sometimes come in to have a look at them.
Q. If you didn’t work in fashion what would you be doing?
A: If I think about it I must admit I would probably be acting. Maybe it’s like an extension about myself and I have never thought about it anymore but, if I have a look at some actors/actress that have done pretty well roles I go back to the idea… but anyway, I ended up as I am now so I have been pretty happy and enjoying what I do since the start til today. Maybe sometime I take this thought back and become a passionate actor who knows! The thing about doing something in life is basic as being happy while doing it.
Q:What is your next focus ?
A. It’s being a long, long time over 33 years now. Nowadays it’s becoming a bit hard to be an independent shop in the area. Right now I am open to do collaborations. As Soho is part of the identity of Mark Powell brand, you have to keep your identity where you are and mine belongs with all my heart to Soho area and I would never think about moving from here. I am really determined in promoting the bespoke as a classy and always fashionable and wearable option to the young public as well as they are now the ace of PR industry so we need to take this in our favor as well to keep on doing what we do: bespoke tailoring, also for the youngest and coolest ones.
Q: Can devil wear Mark Powell and sneak inside a soul ?
A: Of course nowadays there are many high level and good designers that come up with an idea and they are really good doing what they do. The thing about being different or distinctive is too adjust your own style and adept it to modern tailoring. All that I have done through the years just become fashionable, hats, chains… These are details
Q: What about the importance of education in the Fashion industry nowadays. Would you say it is important to have it in such a crowded and high competitive business?
A: I think today is really hard for young designers. They all come up wandering to fit in high statements such as John Galliano or Alexander McQueen, and they are keen to encourage this tailoring culture.
In my case I have been always self-taught and I become the drive of my own brand while learning and developing my ideas, my style and my journey. Many times I receive visits from students who are now studying Fashion in London as they are curious to see how I do and how I did it through the years. They sit on the floor here at the shop while they listen to my talks with my experience in this business.
The main problem for the young ones who want to become independent bespoke designers is that they need an investor behind while entering in the competitive fashion industry.
Q: What is your vision about the new trends and collections for 2019 ?
A: You know, I never look to anybody else so I do not take into account any kind of trends, honestly. I just do my own thing and keep my instinct by doing always the opposite down of what should be wearable, trendy or not. For example, I am not kinda interested really in assisting to any Fashion week as back from the 80’s and 90’s it has completely changed the drive from the fashion industry. From that years it has all become about marketing, you just need to see that it’s all about the front rows guest people who are watching the show and sometimes we loose the attraction of the main event which is seeing the collection. Since that 80’s and 90’s area I have lost all my interest to be part of them.
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