Dunhill’s Creative Director Mark Weston on Contrast and Contradiction

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Self-portrait by Mark Weston

Speaking in AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2021, Mark Weston discusses Britishness and what got him into fashion

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine. To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are making the issue free and available digitally for a limited time only to all our readers wherever you are in the world. Sign up here.

“I discovered a picture a couple of years ago of Langan’s Brasserie in Mayfair, taken in about 1976, when Michael Caine co-owned it. It’s a brilliant picture, taken looking out towards the street, and at one circular table you’ve got the Sex Pistols and at the table next to it there’s Caine in these great, chunky Seventies glasses, chatting to somebody. When I think about my sense of Britishness, my take on masculinity, it’s that contrast and contradiction I find exciting – the high and the low, the mixing of classes as part of British history and those moments when you get that clash of the old guard and the avant-garde. Britishness is impossible to define in a word, but I think that image taken at Langan’s says so much. There’s an attitude, a sense of pushing back in British culture, and also this strange borrowing. Whether it was the skinheads or the mods borrowing their dads’ coats – borrowing things you shouldn’t be borrowing – or terrace casuals, kids from Manchester adopting the Sloaney dressing of the country set. It was about showing you knew the signifiers but turning those codes on their head.

“I’m a bit of an observer and I love digging deeper into the social dynamics of fashion – I’m fascinated by what makes people gravitate towards different style cultures or tribes. Any big style movement has had a very clear uniform, but also a soundtrack as well. My upbringing was not a stereotypical fashion journey of working with clothes when I was younger – I got into fashion through music. My tutor on art foundation opened my eyes to the connections between those two cultures, and my love of music has steered my course.

“I’m also obsessed with engineering, with how things are made. I’m forever looking at the construction of clothes, and how to rip the guts out of something. For Spring/Summer 2021, I thought the idea of starting with something as iconic as a suit was interesting – the suit is all about craft, time, expertise, and it can be very sculptural, so the idea of showing the process involved was, I think, really important when we work to the level we do at Dunhill. We took apart bespoke jackets and talked about the construction methods and the materials themselves. When you look closely, there is something quite amazing about all these textures and tones that are completely hidden within the suit. I liked the idea of saying, ‘This is a beautiful fabric in its own right.’ The linen Holland around a pocket, for example – if you look at it in a larger format, it has this incredible papery sheen. It felt right at this moment to show the things we sometimes take for granted, to really appreciate what goes into craft, while also giving it a relevant, modern context. Again, it’s about this balance of modernity and tradition, this contrast and contradiction. That tension has re-emerged for me in this completely unusual time. Going through the challenges we’ve all faced, there’s a new sense of urgency, a feeling you have to think about things differently and act on the things that matter to you – what do you want to say? What do you stand for? You can’t be everything to everybody, you need to be unique and true to who you are.”

Dunhill’s creative director Mark Weston has brought a fresh and subtly subversive spirit to the quintessentially British brand, referencing mods, Blitz Kids and ravers, while honouring the craftsmanship synonymous with its impeccably tailored founder, Alfred Dunhill. The menswear label has attracted several musical pioneers during its 127-year history: Elvis was enamoured of its Rollagas lighter, Frank Sinatra of its suits, and today Kojey Radical and Mike Skinner sit in Dunhill’s front row, a heritage Weston appreciates. “My obsession with music culture got me into this,” he says. For Spring/Summer 2021, Weston turned his collection inside out, Centre Pompidou-style, with wrap jackets and boxy Eighties blazers that revealed their mechanics. “Showing the construction felt pertinent right now,” he says. “The idea of freezing time to appreciate the craft.”

This article originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Pre-order a copy here and sign up for free access to the issue here.