When it comes to craftsmanship, you don’t often need to look any further than New Balance. Known for using the premium materials across their offering. Their attention to detail is key. When we heard Tokyo Design Studio were teaming up with New Balance for their take on the 574, we knew the levels of detail were going to be down to the finest touch.
With this in mind and being based so close to the famous Saville Row. We took this opportunity to sit down with Jiu Jitsu aficionado and tailoring expert Ben Phillips.
Having spent many years working on the prestigious Saville Row. Ben has acquired a wealth of knowledge and interests that have helped him shape his career the way he’s wanted to. So if you want to learn something new I suggest you read this exclusive feature here at Footpatrol.
Footpatrol: I want to jump straight into the questions if that’s okay with you. Let’s kick things off with an introduction to yourself.
Ben Phillips: My names Ben Phillips and I am the general manager at the Roger Gracie Academy in Hammersmith and a personal stylist.
FP: Based on what I have read about you. You seem to be a popular face in the London tailoring world! Where did this love for tailoring begin to emerge?
BP: So my interest in tailoring kind of came from 2 places. One of which was Nick Cave the musician. I was a big fan of his, I love his aesthetic. The other introduction was from the film Goodfellas. I always loved that gangster look and the fact that they were always so well dressed.
FP: Did you find a lot of films that influenced your style then?
BP: Yeah definitely! Scorsese always gets the clothes right. Goodfella as I said was a big influence, Casino was another, clothing from the Godfather. To this day I am still looking for the cloth that Luka Brasi’s suit was made of when he gets killed in the film. It’s an amazing cloth but I can’t find it!
FP: What is it about it that makes it so special?
BP: It has a beautiful texture! I think that’s the most important thing for me, especially in tailoring. Texture. I don’t like that classic almost city boy shiny suit. A suit that’s got some feel to it that makes you want to touch it. That’s really important to me.
FP: I feel like being Footpatrol we need to ask you a question that’s shoe related. But I want to keep it in line with tailoring of course. When picking a dress shoe or any smart shoe is there a certain style or design that you feel is the best silhouette to work with within the tailoring world or is it as open as the trainer world?
BP: To me there are 2 dress shoes that you should own. Firstly, the Alden Cordovan Plain Toe Butcher. It’s a beautiful shape, color 8 Cordovan leather is the highest quality leather you can get and has a beautiful dark burgundy feel to it that gets darker as you wear it. It goes with any suit and works great with denim. The other recommendation would be the J.M. Western 180 Loafer. It is the easiest thing to wear, gos with any bit of tailoring, chinos and denim. It’s just an easy peasy thing to wear.
FP: Another thing we spoke about earlier is your love for Japanese fashion and craftsmanship. What drew you towards it?
BP: It didn’t really start there for me. The first brand I really got into was Ben Davis, the workwear brand. That was only because I was a big dude. I used to hang out with punks and skateboarders and couldn’t really find those clothes in my size but Ben Davis has the aesthetic I wanted and the sizes. That got me more interested in workwear in general, looking at brands such as Hercules, vintage Levis stuff like that. The Japanese took a lot of that influencer from America and continued it and pushed it. That was when my connection to Japan first started.
The first brand I actually got into from Japan growing up was A Bathing Ape. Back when it was a bit more preppy, it was almost like plays on Ralph Lauren. I used to have a sweatshirt rather than a polo player. It had the ape with the rifle from Planet of the Apes and then I had the button down shirts that had just the Ape head on it. The early stuff I still live by!
FP: Prior to finding yourself involved in tailoring, you were the owner of a tattoo shop, have you ever found that the attention to detail aspect from tattooing has ever merged with what you did as a tailor?
BP: So what I took away from it was the idea of aesthetic rather than attention to detail. By getting heavily tattooed you adorning yourself and commit to a really big life choice. I don’t think there is actually a huge difference between, working in a tattoo shop and guiding the decisions on what to get and working in tailoring guiding their decisions on that. A full body of tattoos is called a body suit. Although it may seem like a completely different thing, it’s not. It’s the same thing, just a little bit more permanent.
FP: The norms in the past with tailors have always been quite strict on looks and aesthetics. With your clear passion for tattooing, did you find any challenges facing you when trying to make your way into the industry?
BP: I have to be honest. I think I have been really lucky. Especially whilst working for a brand like Drakes where people are really into patterns. The brand makes amazing ties and scarves with these nice designs. People just saw what I had as an extension to that, I never encountered any negativity from people within the industry for it. That being said, I don’t really think you do these days. We have in the past, maybe 15 years ago. These days people are open to talk about your tattoos. There was a time where people wouldn’t even sit next to you on the tube or the bus which, I wish would come back hahaha!
FP: Have you ever tried to incorporate the two together?
BP: No, not really. I have a very dear friend called Thomas Hooper who does amazing tattoos as well as patterns. I always thought some pocket squares with some of his designs would be really cool or even scarfs. He is one of the most talented people I have ever met, he is mindblowing. He is the type of person you would message at 8am and he would have been up since 5am producing 2 cover artworks for bands, tattoo all day and then come back to painting. He is pretty close to a genius.
FP: What about now in your new career path at the Roger Gracie Academy. Were there any transferable skills you took across?
BP: I think the main thing is customer service and looking after people. Obviously at a Jiu Jitsu academy it’s a very different place to retail and my role there is different. The main thing for me is to make sure that everyone is treated right and looked after to the best of our capabilities.
FP: Just before we started the interview you mentioned about design. Have you had much input into any of the designs at the academy?
BP: At the moment the merch is predominantly academy based. We are working with some people at the moment to create a separate Roger Gracie line. For those who don’t know who Roger is, he is the greatest Jiu Jitsu practitioner of all time and 10 time world champion. He is considered the GOAT in sport by everyone. I want to create a line that people would wear in the same way they would a Mohammed Ali t-shirt or Pele t-shirt. Roger is of the same status but of course in a much more niche sport. At the moment we are working on that with the guys from Bedwin & the Heartbreakers. Hopefully that will all come out into fruition over the next 3-6 months.
FP: Let’s move onto your musical influences. Was there anything that helped you from that?
BP: Being involved in the Hardcore and DIY Hardcore scene. That taught everything I know about hard work. If you’re into say The Weekend, the chances are eventually those people will come and play in your town because 10,000 people minimum want to come and see them. If you’re into the Cro-Mags or Converge it will probably only be around 70-100 people that want to go to that show. No big producers will back that. So what you did was; I want to see that band, so I will put on the show. You’re then taught that if you want something you have to get it yourself.
FP: Just as a couple of added quick ones we wanted to throw in. For anyone that’s planning to go out for weddings, events etc….
What would be your Top 3 suit choices and where would you get them from?
BP: I think I may approach this question slightly differently. Rather than giving you my top 3 I will go for 3 different price points and where to get them.
- I would really recommend Drakes. I don’t work there anymore, but the style of their tailoring is fantastic and doesn’t feel too boxy or uncomfortable. It’s very unstructured and cool. That would be my first choice for you. That’s a bit more towards the higher end of the spectrum.
- For a cheaper option, there is Suit Supply. It’s a bit more of an introductory price, the quality of what they make is good for the price and they also have an in-store alterations guy to get it tailored.
- Lastly, if you’re on a real budget. Marks & Spencers. Head down there, get yourself a suit and find a decent alterations guy. The quality of the suits for the price is unbelievable.
FP: What about your most prestigious suit you own?
BP: That’s a tough one as I own a lot of suits! I would say my favourite suit is a diamond weave solero suit. It’s a summer fabric that depending on the light either green or red. It sounds horrible and it’s a real fabric that people either love or hate. This one though was made with a diamond weave so it’s almost the same shape as a diamond in the fabric. That is definitely one of my favourite suits and it was made to measure.
FP: Is it almost shiny?
BP: No! It’s so weird man, I should have brought it today! They say it’s a summer fabric but it’s really not it’s wool. They used to wear it in colonial times because they thought it reflected the sun… It doesn’t, it really really doesn’t. It’s a great looking suit.
FP: Ben, thank you so much for spending time with us this weekend and talking to us about your passion. Before we let you go is there anything you would like to share with the Footpatrol readers and followers?
BP: Come and visit us at Roger Gracie Academy! You can have a free introductory session and Jiu Jitsu will change your life! It has done for me.