Sit back and take the weight off your feet for this is a page of rest. Our first relaxee is Ian Maclean, MD of John Smedley
[I still think this back-page Q&A idea about relaxation has legs – take it! It’s yours! I invented it! I tried it on my British Ideas Corporation idea and when that went for a Burton, I dusted it down for MAN London… I’ve just googled MAN London and it still seems to have an online presence. I worked my socks off for the launch issue and as an habitual John Smedley-in-the-sales purchaser, I was delighted to speak to its MD in this light-hearted interview. I take a Large!]
MAN London, 2015
This is a Q&A about rest and relaxation, but for rest, you need to have been busy in the first place. How hectic is your job?
It’s pretty hectic, but luckily I have a good team to share the hectic-ness with. Our business has many different facets, from design through manufacturing to distributing internationally, so the challenges are diverse and complex. I feel like I am often drawn in many different directions at once, which is intellectually invigorating but also tiring. I get into work very early, but also make sure I can spend time with my family in the evening, when I am not travelling.
What can we expect at John Smedley’s London Collections: Men presentation?
Drama, excitement and some pretty fine knitwear! Hats off to our design team – they come up with great ideas every season and to see the ideas take physical form as knitwear is always very special after a long period of development. We will be showcasing new textures and tone on tone pattern this season in several new silhouettes designed to make the most of our famed John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton. In addition, you’ll see some directional intarsia knits created from original factory site maps and Twenties factory photography.
Was London Collections: Men just what the male fashion industry needed in the UK?
Yes – you can see every season since the start that there is huge commitment coming from the brands, designers and the media to make the event a noticeable success. It looks like the BFC [British Fashion Council] have done just the right thing in bringing us all together to show off the best in British menswear. Long may it continue and I’m sure the event will only get better.
How do you prefer to relax – is there a place you particularly like?
Last week I fulfilled a long-held ambition to visit an onsen [hot springs] resort in Japan and relax in hot pools, heated by volcanic activity. Our long-standing business partners, Mashimo, booked me into a traditional Japanese inn, the Gora Kadan, at the Hakone onsen resort, an hour from Tokyo. When I reached Japan, the first newspaper article I read said that seismic activity in the area of Hakone was at record levels – which was a bit of concern – but the joke going around the office was that they were just making sure the water was going to be hot enough for me! The whole experience was very special, and I can’t wait to go back.
Do you find much time to read?
I feel bereft without a book to read, and two very different series of novels have kept me riveted for some time: The first is Game Of Thrones by George RR Martin. What a blast those books are! As complete a fantasy world as can be imagined, and then some. I hardly ever read fantasy, but I was gripped from the first page to the last. Funnily, I then went on to try and watch the TV series but gave up after the first episode as it didn’t match up to the books. Almost at the opposite end of the spectrum, I have also hugely enjoyed the entire series of Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. I first heard about him by listening to an interview on Radio 4’s Book Club. Lee Child is a Brit, which makes his writing about a US army veteran all the more remarkable, and his voice very distinct. Goodness knows why they cast a midget like Tom Cruise in the film role – in the books, Jack Reacher is 6’5” tall!
Are you a tea or coffee person?
Very, very tough choice. If I have to choose, I would say that the complexity of the flavours in good coffee win out. I brew my coffee at home using a Bodum PEBO coffee maker – the gravity defying process is as enjoyable to watch as the coffee is to drink.
Is there a biscuit of choice in the Maclean household or the John Smedley office?
OK, big confession to make here… My wife can taste the difference between biscuits made with palm oil or butter and she will only have the latter in the house. She chooses the biscuits, which most often are shortbread, and I am very happy to concur. Take it from me, settling the biscuit question is the path to a long and happy marriage.
What about in the evening – do you unwind with a glass of wine or maybe a glass of whisky?
Sweet tooth. Hate whisky. Love Reisling.
Do you take naps?
Ode to joy. The nap – correctly taken – can lift the spirits and be deeply refreshing. Best to keep the office door closed, though.
Do you watch much television or are you a box-set watcher?
Serious television watching ended when the children arrived. Like a lot of stuff, they don’t tell you this beforehand. I’m not the kind of person who thinks that a TV-per-household-occupant is the solution, so there is a lot of scrapping for the remote in our household. If I can grab the remote for long enough, I get a fair amount of F1 or Match Of The Day in between bouts of My Little Pony. It all blends together a bit after a while: Pinkie Pie – Lewis Hamilton – Rainbow Dash – Lewis Hamilton – Twilight Sparkle – Lewis Hamilton…
Where is your favourite hotel – and why is it so good?
I just found my favourite hotel, and they are going to knock it down in September! The Okura in Tokyo was built in the Sixties and contains the coolest Mad Men-era modernist-design interiors you will see anywhere. It’s a true gem, and potentially a big loss if none of the current design aesthetic is retained when the hotel is renovated.
How important is sleep – and do you get enough?
I hate existing in the sort of semi-comatose state that lack of sleep brings on, so I would say that sleep is important to me. I find that I sleep better if both our profits are going up and I am getting enough exercise. This profits-exercise axis is super hard to balance – I am having to run faster than ever just at the moment!