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My Fashion Life: Michael Hill, creative director of Drake's

The creative director of British tie, shirt and accessories maker Drake’s on the best and worst parts of his job.

Michael Hill is the dapper 37-year-old creative director who is smartly updating classic British tie, shirts and accessories brand Drake’s for the modern sartorial shopper. Involved in every aspect of the brand from design to product development, he’s currently enforcing a one-in-one-out policy for his 50-strong tie collection.

How do you describe Drake’s?

Sartorial yet comfortable, not overly prescriptive and always firmly rooted in the finest materials and authentic processes, with our own factories at the core of that. It’s classic English discernment, updated and softened for today’s modern gentleman. We make ties by hand at 3 Haberdasher Street in Shoreditch and shirts in Somerset, retailing them along with other accessories and clothing at 3 Clifford Street in Mayfair. We also wholesale to around 200 stores around the world. 

What does your role as creative director entail?

I’m very involved in all product development and design and I enjoy that part of my role immensely. A fair bit of time is taken up with various management responsibilities, assisting with our retail and wholesale businesses as well as private-label customers. 

What do you love most about your job?

I get to work with the finest raw materials and I’m part of a team of great people, both inside and outside the company. It’s very exciting to see where this can take us. 

What one thing do you dislike about your job?

At times the amount of travelling that is required to ensure we are looking after customers properly can be tricky with a young family. Being away from them can be tough.

What is your favourite trade show?

Pitti Uomo in Florence, from both a commercial and social standpoint. 

What’s the most expensive item in your wardrobe?

Perhaps my morning suit that I had made for my wedding back in 2009. Fortunately, I’ve had lots of wear from it since; the tailor had the foresight to leave lots of excess cloth in the seams. 

What’s the most treasured item in your wardrobe?

Shirts and ties that my great grandfather, Leslie Brown, made and sold in his eponymous shop at 13 Burlington Arcade. 

Where is your favourite place to shop?

Not an original answer, but it would definitely have to be Tokyo. 

Who do you admire most in the fashion industry? 

First and foremost my father, Charles Hill, who designed and manufactured in London, just as we do now. And secondly [Drake’s founder] Michael Drake, who I was fortunate to work alongside for nearly 10 inspirational years.

Who do you think is the most stylish person in the industry?

[Owner of eponymous US store] Sid Mashburn has to be up there. 

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I may be skewed by the season we’re entering, but I’d go for Shetland tweed, grey flannel trousers, an Oxford shirt, an Ancient Madder tie and perhaps my Alden Norwegian split-toe shoes. 

How many ties do you own?

Around 50. It’s one in, one out. 

A selection of ties from Michael Hill's personal collection

A selection of ties from Michael Hill’s personal collection

What is your favourite tie?

 If you’d allow me two, I’d go for navy grenadine and an Ancient Madder print. 

What’s your favourite tie knot?

 Four-in-hand.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?

 Perhaps a dozen. 

Which do you prefer: casual trainers or smart shoes?

Smart shoes that are a bit casual, such as my Alden chukkas. 

Double- or single-breasted?

Double-breasted suits, single-breasted jackets. 

What one item would you never leave the house without?

My handkerchief. 

What would we find you doing at the weekend?

Spending time with my family in Devon, restoring our little old farmhouse. 

What was the last new brand you discovered?

Blue Blue Japan is a brand I came across a little while ago and I’m a huge fan. They pay homage to traditional Japanese craftsmanship focusing on indigo. 

One of Michael's favourite coats from Blue Blue Japan.

One of Michael’s favourite coats from Blue Blue Japan.

Which country is the most stylish?

I’d have to go with Japan. Not always original, but they have a great thirst for menswear and seem to put the best of London, Milan and Naples together and make it better. 

How would you describe your personal style?

Relatively classic, comfortable, mostly English; simple things made well from great cloth. 

What has been your career highlight to date?

I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to help guide two factories [Drake’s ties and shirts] into an exciting future. 

What’s the best business advice you were ever given?

Michael Drake instilled in me that it’s all about the next order. And that when that opportunity comes you’re starting again from zero. In other words you can never be satisfied! 

If you weren’t working in fashion, what would you be doing?

Perhaps music or acting, though I wasn’t remotely good enough at either, and frankly, having grown up in manufacturing it’s very hard for me to envisage something else. I made up my mind very early that this was what I wanted.

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