Something was recently described to me as Modern British.
The phrase got me thinking, what is Modern British?
A pea foam and vinegar gel with fish & chips or perhaps deconstructed steak and kidney pudding?
Or perhaps Shakespeare reimagined in Peckham wine bars and New Cross coffee shops.
Some would have you believe it is what we see on the news night after night.
Actually, it’s none of that.
Mats Klingberg and his Trunk Clothier’s empire from its Marylebone headquarters, new outpost in Zurich and Asian partnerships with Lane Crawford, is Modern British.
Progressive, outward looking, but understanding of tradition. A global offering filtered through a London prism. This is a British Business of the future, right here in the now.
Mats, through Trunk, has for nearly a decade now been a champion of London independent retail.
Intelligently catering for those looking for something outside of the norm, eschewing large brands, instead focusing upon brands from across the world dedicated to quality and refined design.
Arguably changing the way many men dress for work and play. Certainly shaping the dress up or down concept. A more modern way of approaching a season-less wardrobe.
And undoubtedly helping to change Marylebone as an area. No longer an attractive diversion, Chiltern Street is one of London’s premier shopping streets. Oh and it has ‘that’ bar across the road which is still one of the few ‘hype’ destinations to really deserve the praise, a perfect place to while away an evening whatever the weather.
So last Wednesday, when the sun was teasing us with a glimpse of a summer yet to come, Mats and I took in some vitamin D and discussed life, from his past life in banking and marketing, the early years of Trunk, through to today and what is ahead.
As we talked and walked round the store, what struck me was the consistency that is inherent in everything Mats and his team do. From product selection and customer service through to shop fit.
Trunk launched just post the financial crisis headlines, when recession was really starting to bite. Just post a period of big, expensive custom shop fits, interiors which looked dated 3 months after opening and were millstones round necks of independent traders.
It was a time of creative and resourceful retailing, when individuals (speaking from vast personal experience), whose name and reputation were above the door and on the line, had to act smarter, think quicker and learn how to do everything. And I mean everything. Egos left glamorously at door on the way in.
I have a feeling that this period of resourcefulness was the very making of Mats as a retailer. That the intelligent and artful shop fit, a mix of simple fixtures and well chosen art, is one of Trunk’s continuing strengths. A store which reflected the homes of those who shopped there.
A store which hasn’t needed to be changed much since. Clever.
Particularly smart when you consider how independent retail is changing in London and the UK. ‘Indies’ now have to be sharper. Their product offering must be different to flourish and the core traditional strength of independent retail, the local shop where everyone knows your name, collar size and football team, must be echoed across all platforms.
Now Mats is a man of whom, his business is created in his image. He looks like the ultimate Trunk customer. Hallelujah, people who don’t wear their brand is a pet hate. Urbane, sophisticated, elegant, informed and understanding.
The understanding is key, selling clothes to men is an art form. I’ve said previously that the relationship a man has with his barber, tailor and barkeep is sacrosanct. It’s the same with the stores that you return to. Yes, you return because of the product offering, although google searches have made that a slightly less key point, most men return time and again to certain businesses because the experience soothes.
In the best, most personal shops, you express yourself in a way you never would with friends. Good retail is therapy. Not through melting plastic, but through a helpful easing of whatever burdens, an understanding that hey, we don’t all love ourselves 24/7 and sometimes it’s good to know how to dress ones ‘faults’. A chance to be who we want to be, not who we think the world tells us we are.
It’s important, and makes all of us feel good. That feeling you get when you pop a favourite jumper on, that well loved shirt and a great piece of tailoring.
Mats’ eyes danced and smiled as he told me how much pride and pleasure he took from watching people on the street wear the garments he’d chosen and with the new in house brand worked on with his team.
‘Trunk’ the label is interesting, simply, it allows you to buy I guess what we should call staples all year round. Shetlands in May – it was freezing last week – and simple shirting in August. I say simple, but that’s the trick, Mats makes everything look simple, but it isn’t, there is a lot of elegant design work in each piece, on the whole it’s canny and the future.
Each item is imbued with Mats’ sense of style, his world and local view, clothes to go to work in, garments to have fun in, items to live life.
They have that worldly softness that comes from being a man of the world. From early life in Sweden, working across the world and now home here in Great Britain. From understanding that none of this stuff is that important, the important things are family and friends and living life well. Clothes, shoes, books and ephemera, well they are but the canvas upon which we project our dreams.
As ever, our people questions. I particularly enjoyed Mats. A good insight into the man. We share a love of London’s Royal Parks, Eton mess & the glasswork of Michael Ruh.
A day filled with all three is a very good day indeed. Although you may need that beautiful Mackintosh, a coat which is the perfect British symbol, an item truly fit for purpose.
If you haven’t checked out Michael’s work, I implore you to do so. The vase photographed below is one of mine at home, a one off interpretation of Ancient Roman pottery found in London. To produce work of this complexity whilst keeping a fluid shape in glass is an extraordinary gift. Michael is also the man behind Perfumer H’s wonderful hand-blown glass bottles, which well, are the perfect tactile introduction into the sensory pleasures which lie inside.
Why do you do what you do?
I love travelling and discovering new things and meeting new people and want to inspire others to do the same. While looking and feeling good at the same time.
Marylebone in London and Seefeld in Zurich.
What do you collect?
Memories and cookbooks.
My friend Kamal Mouzawak.
Skye Gyngell’s beef with slow-cooked courgettes.
Beit Douma, Lebanon.
Human to human interaction.
While Trunk started out as a multi-brand store our very own in-house brand is growing steadily, so looking forward to trips to Scotland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and beyond.
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