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Mr P. My Way: Mr Michael Salu

The Berlin-based Renaissance man on how your sense of style can also tell a story

In this portfolio-career, multi-hyphenate age, it can be difficult to find the words to concisely define ourselves. This is a problem that is especially acute for those who work in the “creative industries”. Take Mr Michael Salu, for instance. Though we describe him in the video above as a writer, we do so only for the sake of brevity. That’s just one of his many hats. Indeed, when MR PORTER puts to him that cringe-worthy dinner party question – “So, tell me, what is it exactly that you do?” – he offers no less than four separate answers.

“I’m a creative director and creative producer, as well as a writer,” he says. “But I also operate as an artist.” Google his name and you might also find this 39-year-old Berlin resident described as an editor, an art critic, a brand strategist and an illustrator. It’s what he describes as a “Renaissance approach” to creative output, after those great thinkers and polymaths of the Italian Renaissance, who would draw on a variety of disciplines, from philosophy to anatomy, in their pursuit of higher knowledge.

This desire to create meaningful new forms and explore new ideas is, he says, inspired by a childhood love of literature. “I remember being about seven, eight years of age and finding myself being able to go to a library on my own and discover all of these books and experience the huge worlds that have been created within them. I think that was a trigger for me in terms of how, later, I chose to determine my own way of looking at the world.” Working across multiple creative disciplines is his way of getting literature “out there”, he says, and of “making it a more current form of storytelling.”

Born in London to Nigerian parents, Mr Salu lived in both countries as a child. “That multicultural upbringing certainly shaped my identity,” he says. “There’s an interesting cultural clash. Nigerian culture tends to be outward, gregarious and expressive, whereas British culture has a tendency to be slightly more reserved. So my own culture is a strange amalgam, an idiomatic clash between the two.” This manifests itself in how he dresses, too: he describes his style as being rooted in British tailoring, but with a flamboyant streak that’s born of his West African heritage.

A man of many talents, who appears as at home in Berlin or Amsterdam as he is in London, Mr Salu evades easy categorisation. Which is to say that he’s as close to an archetype of modern, multicultural European man as you’re likely to get. We sat down with him at Saint George’s Bookshop in Berlin to discover how his style has changed over the years.

Beyond the obvious practicalities, what do you think it is that people look for in clothes?

I’d say that it ultimately boils down to how we want to be perceived. That’s what style is, for me. It all boils down to representation. Of course, there are conflicts that lie within that. There may be certain things we want to show, and others we want to hide.

What do you look for?

I tend now to go for restraint, for clothes that are elegant. Something that’s going to flatter my silhouette.

Were you less restrained in the past?

When I was younger, I do think I wanted to stand out more. I liked the idea of dressing in formal attire, but keeping a certain looseness in my aesthetic. You can still see that now with my piercings or the way I keep my hair. I like not being too clean cut. I think it says something about my personality.

What do you think when you look back at the way you used to dress?

I used to think that I could get away with anything because I was 6ft 3in and quite athletic. But then I bought a proper designer suit and I realised that I’d been wasting my time with so many of the things that I’d bought. I suddenly appreciated the difference that a good fit could make – not just to the way you look, but to the way you feel.

How do you explain this change?

I think it’s to do with getting a little older and becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve got less of a desire to be seen now, and more to be heard.