Getting a measure of men’s fashion
Andrew Brookes stretches out on a brown leather Chesterfield sofa, a coffee maker and drinks trolley adding to the home-from-home furnishings that give his studio and offices the feel of a modest New Town apartment.
He offers a dram of Macallan while we chat, a continuous loop of soothing music providing a suitably relaxing soundtrack for the interview.
Brookes is a man raised on the finer things in life, the son of a Falkirk outfitter who has adopted the family’s appreciation of quality and style to build his own place in the tailoring world.
As a young boy he worked after school in his father’s shop, running errands and learning a few tricks of the trade. It was a valuable grounding for what was to come. These days he dresses wealthy businessmen, TV personalities and sports stars who have crossed the threshold of his modest fitting rooms above a shop in Edinburgh’s fashionable George Street.
“My father gave me a real eye for quality cloth, knowing what is good, where it comes from, how it can be best used,” he says. “He also taught me to understand the personal aspects of tailoring.”
That personal touch has been key to building his own label and attracting clients who include the musician and TV celebrity Dougie Vipond and the games developer Chris van der Kuyl.
“They can come in here, make themselves comfortable, have a drink. We get to know them, learn something about their lifestyle and personality,” he says, explaining that it all goes into the style of suit, jacket, tie, waistcoat, shoes and coat. He has five manufacturers, three in the UK and two in Asia.
Brookes promotes a mix-and-match approach, forgoing the traditional suited look for an assembly of clothes: a woollen jacket over chinos, a navy cardigan with linen trousers.
“That’s what the well-dressed businessman is wearing these days. I can put something together that will make a man look 10 times more dressed than a man in a traditional suit.”
Yet in spite of these trends – and a wall covered in photos of the options available – he bemoans men’s general lack of interest in how they look and how they prefer to spend their money on other things rather than themselves.
“We have to teach them about quality. The last couple of generations know nothing about it. You have to be at least 80 to have first hand knowledge of the sort of quality I’m talking about.”
He had seen his father’s business decline as fashions changed and his own career only really took off after meeting a senior figure at Scottish Development International in a New York nightclub after he had produced a collection for Tartan Week in 2012.
“He gave me a bollocking for not knowing how good I was and asking me when I was going to do something about it.”
Brookes had been selling formal wear through his Kiltpin business and after selling it he set about establishing his own brand and raised significant investment from a client. With his wife Mel now now on board as managing director and himself as creative director, thoughts are turning to expansion.
“We are planning to do this in Glasgow and we have an eye on Manchester. I’m also looking to acquire a whole townhouse in Edinburgh where customers can get the full experience – a drink, a meal, meeting rooms, a couple of ensuite rooms where they can stay, somewhere to park the car, grooming facilities…”
He’s seeing it as part gentleman’s club, part retail emporium where visitors can also be sized up for an outfit, buy their luggage or maybe some sportswear. It’s a long-term vision, probably three years away, but he’s already casting an eye for premises somewhere central.
“I want to make men’s lives better,” he says. “It’s the reason I open the door each day.”
Occupation: Tailor, creative director
Your favourite designers?
Ralph Lauren, Virgil Abloh and Brunello Cucinelli
What annoys or irritates you?
I have to say, I find it hard to stand and watch someone doing a task I could do five times quicker and not take over! Watching a television presenter wearing ill-fitting garments or a horrendous shirt and tie with their suits.
How do you relax?
We have recently moved from the central belt down to the Borders. I love to be outside in the country enjoying the elements. So taking the dogs for a walk and feeling the wind, sun or rain on my face and walking through the trees or along the river is good for the soul.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Cold chocolate from the fridge and a good bottle of white Burgundy whilst watching a Mission Impossible type of film with the family in the cinema room!
If you could invite three people, past or present, to dinner, who would you choose and why?
My father who past away over 20 years ago. I would dearly love to catch up and chat through life and business with him.
Billy Connolly for his wit and storytelling
Anthony Robbins for his view of life and how to get the best out of it!