I have decided to add an ongoing feature focusing on inspirational individuals in fields concerning the modern gentleman. Starting off this series, I was lucky enough to sit down with a gentleman who has over three decades of experience in menswear to get a look at his new tailoring brand ‘Kit Blake’ and what he hopes to achieve through it. So let me start by briefly introducing the man behind the the Brand, Christopher Modoo.
Modoo has been a part of many household names in menswear over his career, including becoming a well known name on Savile Row working for such brands as Eve & Ravenscroft and Chester Barrie. Now, alongside his new endeavour, he is an independent style & brand consultant. As well as being well known in the sartorial community for his writing, consistently featured within the pages of influential periodicals such as ‘The Rake’ and ‘The Jackal’.
In person, Modoo is extremely relaxed and personable. Wearing a combination of his new (quite possibly soon iconic) pleated trousers paired elegantly with a relaxed Uniqlo pullover,providing credence to his claims that a pair of classic wool trousers are uniquely suited to adding variety and flexibility to a modern gentleman’s wardrobe, easily being dressed up or down. So sitting down before the official launch of his new capsule collection, we chatted about the his new brand.
GofO: Where did the concept of Kit Blake come from?
CM: When I moved on from Chester Barrie in the summer of 2017, my lifestyle changed. I looked at my wardrobe and I realised it needed to change along with it. I was rather top heavy in my wardrobe; I had loads of sports jackets and never enough pairs of trousers. I had too many clothes and nothing to wear: it’s a cliche, I know. I was thinking: I love Savile Row taste, and I love the classic looks. With that in mind I began to think about the place to start rebuilding my wardrobe. So, after speaking to a friend of mine, we started Kit Blake together. The name’s origin came from a fake name I used on Savile row; as ‘Kit’ is Christopher, and I happened to live down Blakes Lane. It was just a little fake name I used to put on Orders; I never planned to make Kit Blake into a label. We tried other names but ‘Kit Blake’ just seemed to fit. So I discussed the name with my business partner, he showed it to some friends, and his feedback was that everybody loved it. So it grew from there and we started making trousers. From that point we thought about how gentlemen want to dress nowadays. I’ve got a huge wardrobe after being in the trade thirty years, but the key foundations have to be a great pair of trousers, a great blazer, and a great overcoat. Then you style and grow your wardrobe from there. Many people mix some really nice sportswear with tailoring and it just looks so fresh. People may look at it as dressing down, but I see it as dressing up. The alternative is bad jeans, bad trainers, and pure street and sportswear. But, by mixing in tailoring: tailoring will survive.
GofO: In your mission statement, you state you want to see a return to how men used to wear suits. Do you think suits are thought about differently by the current generation compared to previous generations?
CM: I think the difference is that the suit as we know it, a matching two piece, used to be the default setting. If in the 1950’s I went into a pub on a Saturday wearing a suit, no one would question it. Nowadays it’s, why are you wearing a suit? A suit is formal wear. So we’ve kind of replaced that and now no one would question if I went to a pub dressed like a teenager in a polo shirt, jeans and trainers. Which is, in my view, traditionally children’s wear. A suit is a more masculine, grown-up way of dressing which is comfortable. Retro dressing but contemporary.
People needn’t be afraid to wear a little bit of tailoring and not to be scared of trousers. There is a real fear of trousers, and even in my world people say ‘Oh, your not wearing jeans on the weekend?’. To be honest I’m not the biggest fan of jeans, I don’t find them comfortable. I normally wear trousers everyday. Different pleats, different pleat depths, I’ve been trying a lot of tailoring on them in the last year. I will wear jeans now and again, when I know I will likely get dirty. The great thing I love about jeans is that they are machine washable. So if I’m emptying the warehouse or running errands around the house, jeans are fantastic. So don’t think I’m Anti-Jean, I just think they have their allotted role. It’s a shame that men think they cannot look beyond jeans when it comes to trousers. What I have found from doing Kit Blake is that men like to be shown their options. That they can pair well made trousers, a sweater, a nice coat and some modern sneakers to create a sophisticated look.
GofO: How did Kit Blake come together with Gownsmith and Fear Watches for your one day capsule collection launch?
CM: I’ve known Gownsmith beforehand. I knew of the brand and I knew Tom from his shoe business. He told me about his plans for a six week pop-up store in the heart of London and I thought it was a great idea. Pop-up stores are fantastic because it’s an occasion. I also loved the products of the other two brands at the store; Gownsmith with their bespoke dressing gowns and Fear watches. It’s a great collaboration. With these two brands here for the six weeks they said why not join them for one day and its worked out amazingly. It’s a great environment where we’re all learning from each other. We are all small businesses and we can pool our knowledge and experience. I would never of had that help if it hadn’t had this place, and I love being on the shop floor again. I was on the shop floor from 1992 to 2002 working in retail, and then retail management. After that I subsequently moved into office based roles where I realised I was more comfortable on the shop floor; meeting customers, watching people sell and handling the products. Where better to learn your styles? Coming here, being on the shop floor and actually selling: I absolutely love it. I love meeting people, seeing my product on people’s backs, and getting direct feedback.
GofO: What ideas do you hope people will take away from your collection?
CM: That they can wear trousers more often. Own a couple of pairs of trousers that will transform their wardrobe and break it up a bit. If you have to wear suits for work and then you have to dress down. Rather than just doing jeans and cotton trousers, a pair of wool trousers and a sweater is so easy, versatile and comfortable. You will find you will get compliments from people just because you have trousers on. So a pair of trousers will breath new life into your wardrobe. You can wear suit jackets with them, knitwear, denim jackets, sneakers. The idea of separate pieces, fewer clothes of a higher quality that you get more wear out of, is a concept we want to promote.
GofO: To finish off this interview I wanted to know the truth behind the rumour I’ve heard that you just hate short socks. Why?
CM: I absolutely hate short socks. They don’t stay up and when you cross your legs you show your ankle. It’s just one of those things for me that is indicative of a guy who just doesn’t care about how he dresses. In my career in menswear I’ve met some amazingly dressed people from different classes, from different backgrounds, from all over the world, some real connoisseurs in clothing. The one thing they probably all have in common is that they all wear proper over the calf socks. It’s like the secret code of the Gentleman. It’s just one of those little details I just can’t stress enough.
Many thanks to Christopher Modoo for giving up his time. Sadly the pop-up is no longer in the Piccadilly Arcade, but the collection is available for you to purchase it exclusively through, The Rake.
This is an unsponsored post.