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Introducing The Row: Rarefied Menswear For The Modern Gent

Lord March wears the US brand’s first menswear collection at the family seat, Goodwood House

Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March and Kinrara, may have an ancient title but he keeps his feet firmly in the 21st century. The 23-year-old Londoner likes to think his aristocratic roots aren’t the only thing that define him. Indeed, during the week, his experience is no different from any other young professional in the city. It’s only when he pops home to see his parents – his parents being the 11th Duke and Duchess of Richmond, and his home, the 17th century Goodwood House in Sussex – that things start to get a little out of the ordinary.

“Growing up here, for the first few years, I didn’t realise I was living in such an amazing place,” Lord March tells MR PORTER, sat on a large sofa in the library of the private, family side of the house. “It’s only when I got older that I realised how insane it all was.”

It’s a clear day in late September when MR PORTER visits Goodwood. We’re here to shoot Lord March in the first menswear collection by US label The Row, and driving up through the grounds there are the first signs of autumn – the shooting season has just started, the sound of guns crackles in the distance, and the leaves on the trees, that eventually give way to the grand, three-parted facade of the house, are just beginning to turn.

Goodwood has been in the possession of the family since it was acquired by the first Duke of Richmond, the illegitimate son of Charles II, in 1697. Today, the estate is a picture of neatly tended pastoral calm, as if nothing has changed in the intervening three centuries, but it is a calm that belies the radical transformation Goodwood has gone through in the past 100 years, establishing a new tradition of entrepreneurialism that Lord March is already following.

“It all started really with my great-grandfather,” Lord March says. “He built the motor circuit here and worked as a car dealer in London – very down to earth compared to other aristocrats of the time. My grandfather continued in much the same vein – working, becoming a chartered accountant, and adopting my aunties, who are mixed race. It was an amazing thing to do – he was basically kicked out of ‘society’ for it.”

Charlie’s father, who became the 11th Duke of Richmond when his father died last year, modernised Goodwood further by founding the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1993. There has been horse racing on the estate for centuries and Glorious Goodwood, which takes place on the estate race course, is still an important part of the sporting pursuits offered, but it is with the Festival that Goodwood has become most well known – a celebration of all things automobile that draws visitors and high profile sponsors from around the world. “What Dad did, which was so clever, was to draw on the heritage of the estate to create a very modern and popular event,” Charlie says, proudly. “It’s a hard act to follow, but that’s what I’ve set out to do with a new generation. And what better way to engage young people than to throw insane parties.”

Lord March wants to focus on his career in artificial intelligence – “I don’t want to lose touch with the outside world!” – but he has already begun to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in his spare time. Passionate about music, he has organised two successful events with Rudimental and Route 94 at Goodwood, and something even bigger for Halloween. Having secured funding from an appropriate mix of the old and new – Coutts bank; Sky Cinema; VOXI, Vodafone’s network for under thirties and All Things Hair – the event showcased iconic 1990s electronic duo Groove Armada, and aims to go much further than these first few gigs.

During the shoot it becomes apparent that there is a curious parallel between The Row and the estate – both place a vital importance on achieving what Lord March describes as “that tension between heritage and authenticity, and modernity and modernisation,” but they go about it in very different ways. While Goodwood modernises in order to be able to maintain centuries-old traditions, The Row uses traditions of craftsmanship and heritage in order to create fashion that is innovative and contemporary.

Founded by former child stars Ms Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in 2006, The Row has quietly become an insider favourite and a mark of ultra-rarified taste. Now after 12 years, the twins are launching menswear with the same fastidious attention to detail, spending years scouring the globe for the best manufacturers. As a result, for the new collection, the shirts will be made made in France, the suits in Japan, knitwear in Italy and denim and T-shirts in the US. It’s a quest for perfection that has to be experienced to be truly understood.

“They are some of the most beautiful, tactile pieces,” Lord March says of the collection. “The fabrics, the way the products are made, is stunning.” Being able to recognise this quality and negotiate the complex world of style, is vital for Lord March, who has to dress according to the many different roles he finds himself in – black tie for dinners at Goodwood, tweed suits for the countryside, and city garb for meeting friends in London. “It really doesn’t feel like a contradiction to me to embrace all these different elements of fashion,” he explains. “I have two sides to my life, here and in London, and I try to dress in the best possible way in each situation.”

Healthily self-deprecating about his title (“a funny layover from history”), but aware of his privilege and responsibilities, he relishes the opportunity to follow his grandfather and father in sharing the estate with the outside world. “The way I feel about it, if you have a place like this, there’s nothing better than to invite people to enjoy it with you.”

Lord March hopes to use his experience in emerging technologies to create an innovation hub at Goodwood, building on the developments in the industry in nearby cities such as Brighton and Portsmouth. “It’s very easy to trick yourself into thinking you are somewhere that is stuck in the past at Goodwood,” he says as we part. “But if you scratch beneath the apparently archaic exterior, it is a very vibrant and exciting place.”

In Lord March, Goodwood has a talented and stylish heir, eager to continue modernising while staying true to centuries of history. In the meantime, the parties look set to become some of the hottest events in the English social calendar.