Britain's leading male model talks about his passion for style and cars, and how he helped to get Jaguar's Norman Dewis into a Savile Row suit
Tell me a bit about how today came about.
At the F-PACE launch, we talked about Norman doing Top Gear. I said it would be great to get him into one of the finest suits he'll ever have. Henry Poole - one of the oldest and best tailors on Savile Row - had created a Jaguar lining, and I thought it would be really apt for Norman. I called Simon Cundey at Henry Poole, and he kindly agreed to do it. It's a great link with Jaguar, keeping that British style and quality.
Balancing heritage with modern design feels like a very British thing right now. What's the secret to that?
Heritage can be a huge advantage. The whole world wants our history. But it can also be a hindrance, as companies struggle to move with the times. In Britain, we've got Savile Row, where men have always aspired to get the best suits, but we've also got the likes of Carnaby Street and Vivienne Westwood. That blend of tradition and innovation is exactly what Jaguar is doing. Look at the Lightweight E-type. What other brand would do that with their heritage? Mercedes and Audi could, but they haven't. It's having respect for your past, but moving it forward. At Stratstone, you've got the Lightweight E-type, which is wonderfully faithful to the original. Upstairs you've got the F-TYPE R, which sets the pace for design, and has some of the best technology on the road. You can see the progress, but also the similarities.
Have you always been a car nut?
Ever since I can remember I've had a car magazine in my hand, but it wasn't a family thing. My mum and dad weren't particularly interested in cars. My grandfather was mechanically talented, and could take parts of a car apart and put them back together, but he didn't care what sort of car it was. I'm not sure where it came from. Fashion is my job, but cars are my passion, so it's great to be able to drive and write about them.
In a list of your favourite cars for Vogue, you name-checked the Jaguar XKSS and XJ6, but the E-type was an interesting omission.
I might have to change that after seeing the Lightweight E-type. You can't deny the E-type is stunning - when Enzo Ferrari calls it the most beautiful car in the world, there's no argument. But when something is as popular and iconic as the E-type, it's nice to think differently. I don't fit in the E-type, which is perhaps why I'm a little bitter. For me, the XKSS - and the C-type and D-type that preceded it - have a unique style. The XJ was about remembering family holidays - being chucked in the back and travelling around Europe. It's strange how my family has been Jaguar through and through - how a brand stays with you. My Dad grew up with Jags, and my parents now own a Land Rover Discovery and a Jaguar. It's all still in the family.
You've done the Mille Miglia in a classic Jaguar. How did you find that?
People think it's a lovely trip through Tuscany for a few hours, but it's tough. Classic cars, although fast and wonderful to drive, don't have the comfort or safety of modern cars. You're on public roads in the mountains, with 400m drops. The weather can sometimes be horrendous, and you're driving 12-14 hours a day. You get something to eat, a few hours sleep, then you're back in the car at 6am the next day. If you have a passion for driving, though, there's nothing better. I'd never call it a holiday, but it's an amazing experience. If my holidays were like that every year, I'd be a happy man.
How hard is it to imagine people like Norman Dewis racing there in the 1950s?
The Mille Miglia is one of a few occasions where you really can imagine how it was, back in the day. At 60mph, it feels three times as fast, but Sir Stirling Moss averaged 100mph to do the Mille Miglia in 10 hours. I can't even fathom that in my head.
Have you thought about doing any circuit racing?
I would, if I had time. I must admit I'm not the best track racer. I've done road rallying and hillclimbs, but it's a different mentality doing lap after lap and slowly improving your speed. People say you do a good lap time, but I'll have no idea of what I did differently. Then I'll be two seconds a lap slower.
You own a Mercedes-Benz 190 SL restored by Hilton & Moss. Do you prefer driving classic cars or modern cars?
There are advantages to both. Every moment with a classic car is an experience, and keeping them running for the next generation is important. Sometimes, you look at the money and time you've spent restoring your car, the fact you've spent 10 minutes getting it started. But, on a gorgeous road, on a sunny day, it brings a smile to everyone's face. That's the appeal. Then you drive around London for three hours. Your arms ache, you're dying of car fumes. You get in a modern car, and everything seems so easy. Equally, some modern cars can feel a bit like driving a computer. I'm not a fan of autonomous technology, so it's lovely to have cars with that connection with the road through the wheel, that feeling through the seat of your pants. Jaguar is probably one of the few manufacturers still maintaining that old-school feeling.