“For a style editor, I don’t have a huge wardrobe,” admits Benedict Browne, before quickly adding: “But everything is quite succinctly, mindfully put together.”
It certainly is. Today, in a manicured Mayfair hotel suite, Browne is up to his neck in a fine cashmere jumper, there’s hardly a scuff on his suede jacket and his legs are neatly crossed in grey pleated trousers. He looks every tailored inch the menswear writer, and that’s no coincidence — for Browne is one of the most in-demand fashion freelancers in London.
And, even though his wardrobe may not be as extensive as you’d expect, Browne’s carefully curated gamut of garments works because it all hinges on a select few pieces. These sartorial mainstays, he tells me, are how any good clothing collection should start. And, from vintage shops to new online personal styling service Stitch Fix, Browne finds these fashion linchpins in many different ways.
“I might wear my mid-grey flannel suit from Chester Barrie up to two or three times a week,” says Browne, pausing briefly to eulogise the recent passing of the Savile Row brand. “And, because I’m not particularly adventurous in terms of what I wear, I’d say that’s probably my favourite suit.
“But I also wear a lot of leather, and suede jackets,” he says, adding to his list of key pieces. “I have a suede A1 flight jacket from the Milanese brand Valstar. It’s a beautiful, beautiful jacket that I’ve had for a few years and wear it a lot through autumn and spring.”
Browne’s wardrobe also has a footwear focus; his enviable collection of mostly formal shoes coming from heritage Northampton-based shoemakers. Quality, he assures me, is key. But, while investing in these brand-new, well-made mainstays of your wardrobe is important, the fashion writer doesn’t draw the line there. In fact, Browne doesn’t believe that there’s one right way to buy your clothes.
Today, he is dressed in the choices of new online service Stitch Fix. The internet, Browne adds, has revolutionised fashion retail. Not only can you now virtually pop into shops from around the world, you can also access services that give you tips and help you dress better. Stitch Fix is one such online styling service, where a personal stylist picks out clothes for you after you’ve completed a brief, but comprehensive online style profile.
“I’ve been very impressed,” says Browne of the service. “I had explained that my interests in menswear are at the higher end of the spectrum — very Savile Row, with a focus on quality and craftsmanship. I also mentioned that I dress mainly in tonal shades — muted tones of grey, navy and brown. And they delivered exactly that.”
A pair of Scotch & Soda trousers here, a Selected Homme suede bomber there, Stitch Fix also broadened Browne’s horizons — no mean feat when dealing with a style editor. The favourite item he received in his delivery of five garments was a jumper from Danish brand Samsøe Samsøe.
“I was pleasantly surprised to get that,” he says, “as I’ve always kind of wanted a cable fisherman knit. And I wear rollnecks all the time, so it hit the right spot. I think the price points are all really accessible, too. I was amazed by five decent pieces for such a good price”.
So, aside from benefitting from personal styling, in which other ways does Browne find new fashions?
“I like boutique stores,” he says. “You know, Trunk Clothiers, Clutch Cafe, those sort of places. I like the way Drake’s is put together — a great selection of products presented in a way that really enhances them.”
Browne also cites Ralph Lauren as a key place of inspiration — a place where he can see new clothes, styles and trends in a dependably smart, uncomplicated way. Vintage shopping, too, has a special place is Browne’s heart — not to mention his wardrobe. After discovering John Simons, a vintage boutique on Chiltern Street last year, he has jumped headfirst into a new way of discovering retro clothes.
“There are a lot of vintage pieces in John Simons,” says Browne, “but also a lot of reproductions of vintage pieces and archive designs that have utilitarian or workwear influences — and some ivy league styles. I’ve also found a great vintage shop called Hornets in Kensington. They’ve got some Henry Poole dinner jackets from the 1950s for sale in there — amazing pieces, and a lot of already bespoke clothes you could get further altered for you. It’s a nice way of finding something completely handmade.”
Perhaps Browne’s best vintage acquisition is an OG-107 military fatigue shirt worn during the Vietnam War. While millions were made, he’s quick to point out that every individual shirt tells its own unique story — from its patches and badges to, like Browne’s, a couple of blood stains on the cuff. “I’ve tried to track the original owner down,” Browne starts, “but to no avail”.
He discovered the military shirt online, from Swedish vintage store Broadway & Sons. Browne calls the store an “awesome family business”, explaining that while the father has been in the business for decades, his sons are only now beginning to modernise the brand. They’re expanding online — selling clothes over the web that were first buttoned up, slipped on or stitched together long before the internet buzzed to life.
But quality, Browne says, is by far his most important consideration when he’s buying clothes — no matter where he gets them. For the fashion expert, it comes before even style. So, whether you’re discovering a new boutique and buying in person, or trying on clothes you’ve ordered over the internet, he tells us that there are several ways to immediately identify quality.
“You can look at buttonholes,” Browne advises. “You can look at inside stitching. If it’s trousers, you can look if they have bar tacks. With jackets, you can get your thumb and forefinger either side of a lapel and rub to see if it’s fused. I think that initial touch goes a long way. I think you can find out a lot about clothes from that initial touch.”
Discover something new with Stitch Fix, the online personal styling service. Simply sign up via their easy-to-use website, and an expert stylist will curate you 5 items of clothing and accessories from a selection of over 100 brands. You’ll receive them within days to try on and choose whether or not to buy. Styling costs just £10, you don’t have to subscribe, and delivery and returns are free. Get started here…