This interview has been originally published in Spanish on Santa Eulalia’s blog. If you read Spanish, you can find the original piece here : Entrevista a Hugo Jacomet This is the english transcription of this interview, given this fall by Hugo to Santa Eulalia, one of PG’s favorite place in Spain.
Interview with Hugo Jacomet
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and how you decided to create Parisian Gentleman.
My name is Hugo Jacomet. I’m the founder and editor of Parisian Gentleman which has become today one of the most acclaimed men’s style online journals in the world. My grand father Maxime Jacomet was a boot-maker and cordwainer and my mother Janick Jacomet was a dress-maker. I have created Parisian Gentleman during a sleepless night of January 2009. At that time I was running a film production company and my life, as a producer-director, was insanely busy… and boring. I was already a bespoke customer for my suits (at Cifonelli) but I found it very difficult, at that time, to find any inspiration or relevant information about bespoke tailoring and boot-making. It was, back in the mid 2000, quite a desert on the subject, with very few, if any, publications on men’s classical style. This is probably why I decided to create PG early 2009 with no clue of what was going to happen. The first day, I had 17 readers for my first article. Today, less than five years later, we are about to break the 7 millions visitors bar since the creation. But if I still ask myself how all this happened, I’m sure that the main reason for our worldwide success has to do with education. Gentlemen come to read PG because they want first of all to educate themselves about style and personal elegance but also about craftsmanship and etiquette. Thus, the movement that emerged around PG and a few other leading blogs goes much further than simply studying how to dress well. It’s more about the quest for personal excellence.
What has it change for you in terms of implication the evolution that Parisian Gentleman, being at the beginning a sort of diary and later to become a world wide phenomenon?
The first three years have been quite difficult to manage because it quickly became a sort of a “double-life” for me, with a lot of activities going on around PG which was still, at the moment, a personal blog : articles and quotes in the national newspapers and magazines, radio-shows, events in Paris, London, Tokyo… And then, when I realized that the success was real, international and sustainable and that PG had become for real a prominent “voice” in the great sartorial debate, I decided to change all my life in order to focus exclusively on Parisian Gentleman and all the activities around my work on men’s style. Today, I’m running PG with my wife and my son, and my life is even more busy than before : I’m writing two important books on French and Italian men’s style for the great English publisher Thames and Hudson (to be released in 2014 and 2015), I’ve just finished the shooting of a pilote for a TV show on men’s elegance, I give lectures on men’s elegance renaissance all around the world, I direct master-classes on bespoke tailoring and I make a lot of contributions in world-class magazines such as The Rake.
What is your definition of gentleman and what does it take to be considered a gentleman in today’s culture?
Being male is a matter of luck, being a man is a matter of age, but being a gentleman is a matter of choice. It’s about a global attitude and not only about cloth.
What is elegance for you in a man? What are your influences that define your concept of elegance?
True elegance is, by definition, understated and discrete. There’s an old saying on Savile Row stating that of if someone compliments your new bespoke suit, it means that your tailor has failed… It’s important to remember that the purpose of dressing with style is to attract the correct amount of attention on yourself and not on your outfit. And that’s the main difference between the huge new generation of elegant Gentlemen and the “regular” fashion victims… Fashion addicts are always looking to shine; Gentlemen are simply looking to be dressed discreetly and harmoniously. This difference shows when one compares the way in which ones “deals” with a new garment. The fashion victim, who wishes to show off his new t-shirt or jacket, will do everything to put it to the forefront of his outfit; a classic style lover does exactly the opposite – he will always look for harmony between his new tie or his new shirt, for example, and the existing garments in his wardrobe. Shiny versus harmony, that’s the heart of the matter; fashionistas do everything for the moment (an evening, a season, a collection), elegant men go for long term (several years,) as experience shows them what clothes suits them best.
And for those who talk about so-called “freedom”, it is worth pointing out that fashion is a collective thing, mass-market even, whereas elegance is something much more personal. This, you will admit, casts doubt on the idea that the fashion victims are more free and less uptight than us…they are uptight because they can only follow the latest fad or designer, when in fact we don’t jump at the latest craze and prefer to take inspiration from the past (particularly the 1930s and 1950s). Fashion followers go for a “look”, style lovers look for a natural elegance. They work in the present, the moment even; we work in the future.
In your opinion, is modernity synonymous of breaking or evolution?
“Being modern is capturing the eternal from the transitory.” Charles Baudelaire.
Can bespoke tailoring be appreciated by younger generations or is it just a field reserved for a more mature client?
Bespoke tailoring is more and more appreciated by younger generations and you would be amazed to see some very young PG readers mastering the subject in depth. But, of course, the price of bespoke tailoring reserves it, de facto, to more mature (and established) clients. However, the figures we have from the most distinguished bespoke houses around the world show clearly that the client base is significantly growing and renewing itself with some younger (and more educated) bespoke enthusiasts. A house like Cifonelli for example, was producing 500 suits with 100 clients six years ago. It now crafts (by hand) 900 suits but with more than 250 clients.
We’ve heard that your favourite tailor in Paris is Cifonelli, could you tell us why?
Cifonelli represents for me the perfect fusion of the British rigor (Arturo Cifonelli was trained in London and measurements at Cifonelli are still made in inches), the Italian nonchalance and the French “Haute Couture” spirit and unique finishing handwork. This house produces among the finest men’s garments in the world and is acclaimed for its highly contemporary yet strictly traditional approach of Bespoke, with, for example, a stunning collection of sport jackets prototypes that is created for the sole purpose of providing inspiration and guidance to the customer.
What does Paris mean for you? Is it an inspiration for you, in which way?
Paris is, of course, a unique place in the world, specifically for its prominent role in the luxury industry. But when the international media speak about Paris luxury industry, they mostly speak about women’s haute couture or jewelery, and very rarely about men’s style. And this is an injustice I’m about to reverse with my next book “The Parisian Gentleman”, to be published next year at Thames & Hudson and which will focus only on men’s style iconic houses.
Which experiences can you tell us about that depict your motto “first learn the rules, than break them”?
This motto is very important for us because it tells in one sentence what PG is all about. In other words, if you want to build your personal style, and find your personal way to dress, you are more than invited to break some rules. But you have to know and master them first. And believe me, it’s worth the effort because a good sartorial education can actually change your life.
Interview given by e-mail, September 2013.