Words by Mr Benjamin Seidler
Mr Matthew Murphy, creative director, B Store
Sitting in his shop in the heart of London's bustling West End, B Store's creative director Mr Matthew Murphy, 41, is a living advert for his label. Wearing loose-fitting, washed fabrics and soft leather Derby shoes, Mr Murphy's clothes allow him to move with ease and a constant smile on his face - he seems at once comfortable, colourful and confident in his creations.
Along with designer and co-owner Mr Kirk Beattie, 34, Mr Murphy founded B Store in London's rarefied Mayfair area in 2001. When they later set up shop on a then-staid Savile Row, they were a sartorial breath of fresh air, introducing a bolder, modern aesthetic in what was once a street of fusty tailors.
Initially the B Store collection featured only soft, minimally detailed shoes that toed the line between smart and casual. The line's success saw them expand into menswear and womenswear, artist collaborations and even a magazine, all of which emphasise the brand's ethos of "classic style with a modern edge that is individual, confident and defines its own unique aesthetic that transcends trends".
Relaxed but sharply shaped clothing, bold prints and blocks of colour are B Store's emphasis. It's straightforward without being simplistic, and here Mr Murphy explains how that aesthetic came about.
How do you start designing each season?
We're influenced by artists' looks more than their art. So we look at literal references, not abstract ones. Images of David Bowie and Le Corbusier are pinned to our mood boards and then we update styles and change details and fabrications (we design our own prints and do our own dying) based on what we like. We always work from the same foundations.
Are you a very hands-on designer?
Yes, I love creating images. Sketching prints and shapes and researching moods is what inspires me to create new collections each season.
What inspired you to start B Store?
I was a creative and sales manager for an Italian brand in the UK, and I was uninspired by many of the stores in London. I felt there was a gap for a new brand that would try new things, but that would still be accessible and wearable. When we started B Store, we began with shoes, and then built a brand around it that had a strong concept, but one that was easy to refresh and felt relevant to men's lives. We still have the same foundations as when we started so we still try to support and nurture young artists and brands by collaborating with them.
What did you feel was missing that B Store brought to the table?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, fashion was either very conceptual or very conservative. Menswear was also neglected. So we came up with a mid-market brand that took basics and staples, acknowledging the limitations of menswear, and created something new with them. We wanted to create an identity and signature that men could relate to, and most men are creatures of habit. If I find an aesthetic I like, I pretty much stick to it. I'll buy variations of it, but the general style will always be constant. Once we found the signature for the brand, we continued to stick to a single look and work trends within that handwriting.
Do you consider the brand British?
I think because Kirk and I are British, and we grew up here, we looked at elements of Savile Row but made it softer and more casual. But we also looked at Japanese designers. There are a lot of different influences mixed into our brand, but we're considered English because we've always been based in London. The choice of our fabrics is utilitarian, and it's been that way since quite early on, and that's not necessarily a British aesthetic.
What would you say are the five key pieces for the B Store man?
I think chinos would be one of them, if they were worn in a different way - rolled up or cropped. Our soft Derby shoe is a signature for the brand - it's got a thin sole, with an almost dance shoe-like feel to it. Then a sweatshirt worn under our cropped blazer, which is referenced from a 1960s shape. Finally, loose pleated trousers, which show Japanese influence. We've not stuck to skinny silhouettes, and we don't do skinny jeans - so the categories we don't do show that we're into a look that isn't necessarily always trendy, but is also not like everything else out there already.
Is B Store more of a casual than an officewear brand?
Yes, although workplaces are so variable nowadays, with people working from home and internationally in different climates. It's not tailored enough for a job in a bank, but a lot of architects and media men shop with us, and we do offer clothes that can be dressed up for a meeting. We work a lot with washes so that everything is soft. That means that even if your style is sartorial, it can be worn casually.
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