Fashion

House Call: Menswear Designer Simon Spurr on Anna Wintour, Tommy Hilfiger, and the Competition

Fashion

House Call: Menswear Designer Simon Spurr on Anna Wintour, Tommy Hilfiger, and the Competition

Only a year has passed since we featured New York–based English menswear designer Simon Spurr in BULLETT’s Premiere Issue. He’d only six months earlier split his brand into two distinct collections—Spurr, a contemporary denim-based line, and Simon Spurr, an elegant mix of tailored suits and avant outerwear—and the future of his endeavor was very much a question mark. “I still don’t feel that I have made it,” he said last winter.

An energetic, supremely confident Simon Spurr greets me at the entrance to his Chelsea showroom on a breezy morning in late November. Since BULLETT last sat down with the affable sartorialist, he’s been hired on as a creative consultant for the European branch of Tommy Hilfiger; he’s been nominated for Menswear Designer of the Year by the CFDA; and he’s watched his suits trample all manner of red carpets on everyone from Ryan Gosling to Chuck Bass. A few days before Thanksgiving we caught up with Spurr to discuss Anna Wintour, barroom banter, and the competition.

BULLETT: So many amazing things have happened to you this past year. What stands out as a personal high?

SIMON SPURR: The main thing is that my brand, Simon Spurr, has hit its stride, so to speak. I think it’s really starting to resonate with the public. It’s always done well inside the world of fashion, but I think that the exceptional number of celebrity dressing we’ve done over the past year has really helped spread the word. There’s a whole new wave of American actors who are finding a new wave of American designers, and I happen to be one of them who does red carpet suiting quite well. It seems to work.

Daniel Radcliffe, who’ll be on one of our upcoming covers, is often seen wearing your clothes at events.

He’s such a nice guy. I met Dan, actually, after I dressed him. We made a custom suit for him for the London premiere of the final Harry Potter, which was, you know, the biggest one. [Laughs.] Justin Timberlake has also been a huge supporter this year by not only wearing, but also mentioning us on the red carpet.

Which certainly contributes to a smaller brand becoming a more household name.

Definitely. In the beginning I was probably, I don’t know if you’d call it naive, but I didn’t necessarily understand why a brand should have to embrace celebrity. But when you are operating at the level that Simon Spurr operates at, and you are competing against the Diors and Jil Sanders of the world—brands that have, unlike us, multimillion dollar advertising budgets—then stars become windows to expose my brand to the public. The whole world looks to American celebrities in admiration, so, naturally, what they’re wearing becomes part of that. It’s equally flattering, if not more flattering, when I see someone on the street wearing my clothes.

I read in a recent profile that you had plans to open up a retail store. How far along is it?

It’s the natural next step, although I’m not quite sure when we’ll do it. There’s no concrete plan yet, no anticipated opening date, but there’s definitely a long checklist and a plan in my brain. I’m trying to position the brand as next generation. What Ralph [Lauren] and Calvin [Klein] have achieved is huge, and I don’t know if it’s possible to achieve that again, but I think that there are a few brands in New York right now that are being earmarked or tipped toward possibly becoming the Next Big Brand. And Simon Spurr is in there.

Who else is in there?

Well, I think Alexander Wang and Thom Browne—Thom’s done so much for American menswear.

He’s someone who has made that transition from being a real force within the fashion world, but exclusively, to then becoming more of a mainstream name.

In some ways, because of the collaborations he has done with Black Fleece [a Brooks Brothers collection designed by Browne] and Moncler. I think the brands that will do well are the ones that will stand out in the same way that Calvin and Ralph did. They were at the right place at the right time and had financial backing, of course, but they were also extremely talented. Without naming names, there are a lot of brands that are very similar in their aesthetic, and but it’s the ones that have a more defined and refined aesthetic, those that stand out more, that will probably rise to the top and become the next iconic names.

Have you given any thought to expanding your brand by doing a diffusion line?

I think it’s too early for me to do that. I guess my collaboration, if you want to call it that, with Tommy Hilfiger was a way of associating my name with a brand that was big in Europe to help grow my wings. To be honest, Tommy Hilfiger is an iconic American men’s brand that has had a great history, and that needed to be taken forward into the next generation. To be a part of a small team that’s doing that is pretty big.

You must have been so excited when you were offered the job.

It all started backstage at my show, when Anna [Wintour] came up to me and asked how busy I was. I said, I’m always busy, and then she said, “I have you in mind for something. We’ll speak.” It all snowballed from there.

“We’ll speak”? That was all she said?

[Laughs.] She’s the definitive voice of American fashion. I think a lot of people were asked, from editors to stylists to Anna, who they would recommend for the position—it certainly wasn’t a one-horse race.

Do you remember the first time you two met?

It was at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards in 2009, and it was a very natural encounter. I obviously respect her greatly, but I’ve never put her up on a pedestal. I just spoke to her as a human being. I think she appreciates that sometimes. I didn’t place that year, and she was like, “Hmm, interesting.” The following season, I was up for the CFDA Swarovski Award for Menswear, and then this year, the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award. I think Anna’s a little perplexed, like, “What will it take for Simon to get one of these awards?” On the flip side, we’ve spoken about the fact that being a part of the experience is the experience itself. My time will come. I’m at the beginning of my career. There’s plenty of time to win awards.

What’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever received for your work?

Being at a pub and having someone say, “Are you Simon Spurr? I really love what you do,” is an amazing thing, but then so is having Anna sitting front row at your show.

You gave her a front-row seat?

[Laughs.] Good one. After the last Hilfiger show, Tommy Hilfiger sent me a note that said he’s been really happy that I’ve been working with him—it’s nice that he thinks I’m talented—but he also said he thinks that I am a nice person. Coming from a man of his stature, that felt pretty profound. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

Is there someone you’d love to dress above all else?

An obvious one is Barack, although it’s not about politics. I’m more interested in what an individual he is. I think he has amazing integrity, and to dress someone like that… even if he were a Republican, I’d feel the same way.

How can we get your designs in front of him?

I actually might have an opportunity to meet him soon. I probably shouldn’t say this, but he’s doing a fundraiser in New York in February to which I’ve been invited.

Be sure to tell him about your new collection.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to bend his ear about that.