Dunhill once felt exclusively the realm of classic British tailoring. Then, a bold new energy arrived to the heritage automotive brand in the form of Mark Weston. Known for his ingeniously engineered garments, he is fast becoming a master in ultra-elegance and cult designs, joining the wave occupied by the likes of Daniel Lee at Bottega and Kim Jones at Dior Men. Just three years into Weston’s tenure at the brand, its clear that Dunhill has got its groove back – a welcome return for one of Britain’s most prized menswear jewels.
Weston’s AW20 show was a sleek spectacle, one that affirmed the brand’s standing in menswear’s new era. His vision for men is clear: a projection of confidence, and a deep understanding of clothing.
“It’s about dressing up in a new way, a new expression of how to wear clothes,” says Weston. “Tailoring and elegance doesn’t have to be presented in a traditional way, with a certain shoe and classic suit. How to mix it up into a modern wardrobe is what gives it the relevance.”
“I keep coming back to a sense of appreciating beauty, obsessing over detail and function. It’s very personal to me.”
At a time when we’ve seen fashion go through (often necessary) change brought on by the global pandemic, Weston is ready to buckle down and embrace what comes next.
When you design for Dunhill, who is the man that you have in mind?
It’s more of an attitude and a sensibility of a character. When I joined the brand three years ago, I felt strongly about saying very clearly what was in my head and where I felt the brand should go on an aesthetic level. It was important to have a strong sense of what that is, in terms of the designs and what we stand for.
It is about a discreet attitude – about a behaviour where there’s self-confidence but there’s also self-assurance, not being a show-off or being loud. It’s about being sophisticated and respectful. They are all behaviours I try to embody myself, but it’s also what I believe modern masculinity is, and what that is in a luxury sense as well.
What changes have you seen in the way men are dressing? Is a return to elegance is coming?
It’s reflecting the times. There was a huge shift in menswear, partly because of the rapid rise in sportswear and streetwear, which called for a time of comfort and ease – and a certain attitude.
I feel like it is shifting back to sophistication and elegance. It’s all about how things in the world change, how attitudes progress, how trends come and go, that create the shift in style. It’s part attitude, part experimentation, and an openness to individuality. It’s the idea that you don’t have to conform to one thing.
Under your direction, Dunhill feels relevant in a whole new way. How do you steer towards a more youthful market while maintaining a heritage brand’s DNA?
For me and the brand, it’s important to be disruptive. That can mean different things to different people, but I find design is the way that we can push a new message at Dunhill. It has been very significant for me.
I introduced the kimono wrap jackets, and the uptake in interest that we have had in those is pretty incredible. I keep coming back to a sense of appreciating beauty, obsessing over detail and function. It’s very personal to me.
Leather has always been a part of the house codes. You are applying leather and exotic skins in a way that we haven’t seen in a while.
When I joined the brand, it was important to understand the codes of the house that already existed. The biggest ones that spoke to me were tailoring and leather. I might show leather in a hyper-traditional way with a twist. In other times, it might be cut like other fabrics – like sportswear – to defy the material or the expectation of it.
The AW20 lock bag is becoming wildly covetable. What was the design process behind it?
You can feel the tradition and you can feel the contemporary element to it. It makes it desirable right now. The inspiration came from one of the catalogues that I found in the archives, I think it’s from the early 1980s – it was actually the inspiration for SS20.
It was an attaché briefcase that was beautifully made in a very traditional way… [The new design] was a simple shift in orientation that created a whole new silhouette. I wanted to push it even further. I looked at size and proportion while keeping the lock as the identity. From a design sensibility, you’ve got this classicism and tradition: with handmade finishing in calf leather on the exterior and hardware, and padded nylon inside. The outside is structured and quite protective, and the inside has this kind of cushion protection as well. It’s the combination of hard and soft which I love. It embodies a lot of what Dunhill means today.
How do you think the role of the Designer or Creative Director has changed? Has it?
It’s more about how you adapt in this moment. There’s been a lot of assessment on how to make designs visible to the consumer, to make sure customers can really look at what we do and engage with it in a whole different format – a film or digital format. Personally, I love it.
To do it properly you need time to look at it, you need to understand how to do it. One benefit that came out of the current situation is things slowing down. It’s something I have been cognisant of. The time to actually consider something, to question it, is incredibly valuable.
This conversation has been edited and condensed