In the second of our series of conversations where we highlight some of the individuals in key positions within leading retailers, who play a key role in shaping the way many of us dress. Today we turn our focus to one of the best known British high Street retailers, certainly the one with the best heritage, Marks & Spencer.
And the person in question is their Head of Menswear Design, James Doidge. Doidge, like the brand he now works for, he too has quite the pedigree. Prior to his current position, James worked as Menswear Design Director at Calvin Klein for 11 years. Before that he worked at such luxury brands including Asprey, Versace and Paul Smith. With this experience, this has given him a wide range of reference points and inspiration that he brings to M&S.
If you could have invented anything what would it be?
The denim jean. It’s such a timeless and versatile piece of clothing, and it’s fascinating to see how it evolves and changes over the decades, reflecting each generation. It’s one of the few items of clothing that looks better as it gets older.
If you had one day to live what would be your biggest regret?
No regrets, every experience – good or bad – makes you a more rounded and stronger individual. You learn for your mistakes and are empowered by your successes.
If I had one day to live, I’d be hanging out with friends and eating food!
What inspires you?
Travelling, both with work and for holidays.
I’ve had the great fortune of working and living in Milan and New York as well as London. It gives you a great perspective and understanding of people and the world.
We travel a lot with work, visiting different cities for market research and inspiration as well as visiting our suppliers around the world. Tokyo is always inspiring on many levels: for style, culture and also the fantastic food.
One of my favourite holidays was surfing in El Salvador, which is an incredible country with fantastic people and nerve-wracking homemade fireworks!
What’s your favourite piece of clothing?
A black wool suit jacket that I bought from a charity shop when I was 16, I still wear it today! The cut around the chest and shoulder are what makes it fit so well.
Who is your style icon?
I don’t have one singular style icon that I look to – I love the dialogue between music and clothes and how each influence one another. ‘The Look’ by Paul Gorman is a great book that explores this subject.
Can you tie a bow tie? If yes, who taught you?
I usually only wear a bow tie when I’m wearing a tuxedo, and think that they sit and look much better when they are hand tied. My Uncle Barry first taught me to tie a bow tie, but there are lots of great guides online and on YouTube that can teach novices how to tie a bow tie!
What piece of style advise do you live by?
Mix and match, wear smart shoes – such as a pair of suede Oxfords – with denim, or a knitted polo shirt with a suit. Wool trousers with a t-shirt and trainers create a clean modern look.
What piece of clothing should everyman have in his wardrobe?
A classic white Oxford shirt. It looks great freshly ironed, or equally good creased and thrown on, and work with suits or jeans. I like to wear mine with a knitted tie, as it doesn’t look too formal with the button down collar.
Have you ever bought a piece of clothing and regretted it?
Absolutely, everyone has at some point, it’s all about learning what suits you and how best to express yourself through clothes. There was a Dior Homme suit that made me look like a Quality Street! There are also a few things I wish that I had bought and didn’t too, one being a Helmut Lang parka in 1999.
If you could give your teenage self advice, what would it be?
Keep on doing what you’re doing and maybe take a few more photos to remember your outfits and haircuts.
Best piece of advise you’ve ever been given and by whom?
“Buy quality not quantity” from my Grandma. Quality comes at all price points – the more expensive it is doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s best quality.
If you could collaborate with one brand, who would it be ?
Apple. It’s going to be very interesting to see what products they diversify into next – how tech becomes more wearable and starts to make decisions for us.