As an undergraduate studying architecture at Cambridge, I had no real sense of my own personal style. There were people I looked up to: Chipperfield, Heatherwick, Libeskind, but at that age I don’t really think I understood what it was to be a designer. Rather than interpreting those influences into something I could call my own, I merely regurgitated motifs and materials in an attempt to create some vague approximation of what I thought was “cool”. Don’t get me wrong, I did well. In my final year I produced designs which, if refined, could have been really quite beautiful, but I was still unsure of myself. I questioned every design choice, whether or not people would like it, what they would think and this held me back; I played it safe.
I think this was partly because I grew up in the countryside and had a fairly provincial outlook. Living and working in London I’ve been exposed to such a wonderful breadth and diversity of art and architecture that I now have a far better understanding of what makes good design. I once read that a person doesn’t really develop a true sense of style until their thirties and for me this was very much the case. I found an apartment and it gave me the opportunity to do more than merely paint walls and hang pictures. I trawled design blogs, books, magazines and in doing so I found that my taste shifted. I hate that we live in such a disposable society and I wanted to buy pieces that I was sure I would keep. Agonising over chairs, lights and fabric swatches really focused my mind on what it was that I wanted. I came to admire the work of designers such Pierre Yovanovitch, Vincent Van Duysen and Axel Vervoordt whose uncluttered, comfortable take on interiors can best be described as cosy minimalism. I found this filtered into the way I dress, the art I like and even, though perhaps to a lesser extent, the food I eat.
Increasingly society focuses on youth and I worry that this is to the detriment of experience and a level of sophistication that can only be achieved with age. A friend who works in marketing for a major British fashion house once told me they considered those in their thirties too old to work in PR. Whilst this might be true of the Hypebeast/Palace “streetwear” bracket (I’ll admit I don’t get up at 3am for the latest Gosha drop at Dover Street Market) when targeting high net-worth buyers, age really does have its advantages. Of course, some lucky people develop their sense of style early on and often, as a result, achieve a meteoric rise to success. All I would ask is that we look less at age, and more at what people are able to offer. I myself have only very recently realised my own sense of style.
by Ben Weaver (@the_london_list)
Left: Pierre Yovanovitch. Right: Axel Vervoordt