In a Man’s World
Initially created as a male extension to the luxury womenswear retailer, Net-a-porter, Mr Porter has become a titan in its own right and in commemoration of its fifth year in business, we were invited to London to take part in the company’s anniversary party and sneak a peak at the changes underfoot.
It’s a cold crisp night in London and though it may not be raining at this instant, the streets still glisten with the remnants of an earlier shower. My destination is a party in Mayfair thrown by Mr Porter to celebrate its fifth birthday and as I arrive at the address, I’m swiftly ushered into what looks like an 18th century Victorian house by handsome men in waistcoats, bow ties, and bowler hats. With my skirt billowing in the wind I figure that this may be a man’s world but ‘it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl’, and I throw them a cheeky smile. The venue is a place called the Savile Club, located around the corner from Claridge’s. On a regular day it’s a swanky members-only establishment with an expanse of rich oak, warm chocolate-brown Chesterfields, dim lights, soft carpeting and a high profile list of patrons (or Sivilians, as they’re colloquially known) including John le Carré, Stephen Fry and Sir Peter Ustinov among others. But tonight is no regular night. The place has been transformed into a maze of rooms demarcated by doorways inspired by C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, with tailored jackets blocking passageways. At the centre of it all is the club’s ‘Sandpit’ room where portraits dominate walls and killer dance moves govern the dance floor. Off from this is the intoxicating martini bar, while an almost limitless supply of cigars, caviar and vodka are to be found on the terrace garden. It’s a suitable location for the stylish men (and women) who have come out to celebrate with the 116-strong team from this giant e-tailer (now considered the online fashion authority for men with distribution in 80 per cent of the countries in the world). As you might expect at such a party, the men shine. Sporting smart dinner jackets, crisp, tie-less shirts and designer jeans or trousers, they exemplify the understated style that Mr Porter has become known for: classic without being old school and sophisticated without being showy or stiff. And even if I’m an outsider tonight, I can easily see myself getting used to the company of so many handsomely dressed, well-mannered men. A particular personal highlight was being flanked by two of the most important members of Porter’s team – Jeremy Langmead and Toby Bateman (Mr Porter’s Brand & Content Director and Managing Director, respectively), whom, as it turns out, are both clever raconteurs. Bateman, who used to work at House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols and then Selfridges before he joined Mr Porter, explains how inspiring clothes are and takes the company’s collaboration with BMW as an example. “When I was thinking of how to design a car for Mr Porter, the image of the navy velvet tux I had hanging behind my desk in the office, with a cream silk shirt and black bow tie simply struck me,” he says of Mr Porter’s limited edition i3 car, which features a Tuxedo Blue exterior with a Capparis White pinstripe running along the shoulder line, and an interior of deep brown leather and dark oak wood in a range of tones and grains. It is being sold for 56,000 USD and for this tidy sum you’ll also get a bunch of goodies from Mr Porter, including a BMW leather holdall bag, a Leica C camera, a Lock & Co. bowler hat, Cutler & Gross sunglasses, a black-and-white London Undercover umbrella and a custom-made edition of Phaidon’s city guides. “At Mr Porter we love good-looking clothes,” Langmead steps in, revealing that he’s wearing Saint Laurent from head to toe tonight. Bateman, on the other hand is dressed in Kingsman, Mr Porter’s own brand, which they launched with a 63-piece collection of Savile Row-style tailored suits (and accessories) originally made for the film by the same name. “Fashion is what a boy wears; style is something a man has. Men really only discover their own style in their 20s but become more confident about sartorial decisions later in their 30s. Then there are different types of men – the suit man, the jeans and jacket man, the chinos and sneakers man,” Bateman continues, though looking around the room, those lines are seemingly blurring. Both Langmead and Bateman were