My Style: Alex Sumner

Portrait of fashion designer Alexander Sumner

Photo: Courtesy of Alex Sumner

Do you believe in role models?

We never formulate our sense of anything in a vacuum. Whether you want to admit it or not there will always be those who inspire us in friendship, service to God or country, and who help to inspire us or direct us in establishing a sense of style. It's egotistical and a fantasy to think that we "have our own sense of style." Funny how often I hear people try to propagate that myth!

Please describe your style in three words.

Simple, sublime, contradictory.

What is the biggest mistake one can make when getting dressed?

Forgetting to remember not WHAT you're wearing but WHY you're wearing your ensemble — dress smart!

What are your favourite fabrics?

Seersucker because it denotes summer time (though I hate linen) and denim because of its warmth and familiarity. Finally rip-stop camo because of its utilitarian nature.

Are there any style combinations that you object to?

Dressing up in black during the day; black dress shoes and black blazer or suit. In the sun the contrast is too great and the hues of colours and textures of fabrics are not readily evident at night so stick with black when the sun goes down.

Which city has the best-dressed men?

From what I gather it is Milan.

Would you say that you are conservative or bold?

Conservatively bold; avoid garishness at all costs!

What are the rules, if any, in the way you dress?

In taking risks, or being bold, there is a direct correlation between the love you get and the criticism you'll engender, so my rule is "be prepared to turn heads and enjoy the accolades but let the criticism roll off you"… it goes with the territory. Every Yin has its Yang which is the only rule of absolute certainty!

Celebrities and style...

Is an oxymoron because so many celebrities are talking heads/dressed dummies who have other people ("stylists") handle their sartorial business for them.

One garment/accessory that you can never have enough of?

Fresh flowers for my lapel/boutonniere.

A man should always look like...

He is dynamic, versatile and resourceful enough to exude style in whatever he is doing or wherever he is going, remembering that it is the clothes that the man wears and not vice versa. Dress to frame yourself so people can ultimately view and appreciate who it is that has chosen to wear what you've put on. If people can't see beyond what we've adorned ourselves in then the clothes wear us and we have missed a great opportunity.

Who taught you what you know about style?

My father deserves a tremendous amount of credit as he had the biggest set of nuts and owned colour and texture so I gleaned so very much from him. My mother instilled in me a sense of resourcefulness that has paid off, handsomely!

How do you select your clothing every morning?

According to the colour of the flowers I have available.

What is your biggest regret?

Having chopped my hair off ten years ago (after not having cut it in thirteen years).

The three essential things a man should know about style are...

It’s not effortless. It’s not static, and finally, and most importantly, there is nothing new under the sun!

Do you have any shopping rituals?

Not in the slightest!

We will never see you wearing...

Something you would say was 'expected'.

The most stylish person you have ever seen...

My father, unquestionably.

What is the first thing you notice on a man?

His visage; style must denote lightness of being and joie de vivre. If a man is not showing that vibrancy there is no art; only artifice.

The one image that defined your approach to style...

That of a flower; bountiful in colour, linear beauty and emitting an odour that is auspicious and adds something to the room.

Which new designers do you follow and why?

None.

The only article of clothing that a man needs to pay close attention to is...

His socks. Make sure there is comfort and colour coordination.

What are the most treasured items in your wardrobe?

My glasses, for functionality and blend of aesthetic beauty.

Is comfort an enemy of style?

It is inextricably linked to style in the same way that taxes are linked to society.

Which designer never fails to impress you?

Mother Nature reigns supreme.

The best words of advice you have ever heard?

Thomas Merton, the theologian and activist shared, “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for”.

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