During my last few trips to New York, I met with James Andrew, the man behind What is James Wearing and James Andrew Interior Design who is not only a gentleman, traveler and fine spirit but also educated, amusing and most entertaining. A few months ago, he showed me the 1stdibs gallery and afterwards I had the chance to visit his apartment. His space has been featured in Elle Décor magazine and other interior design publications. I wanted to portray him in his home because he has a unique style that is influenced by many classical elements, yet he interprets them in his very own way. I thought it was very important to cover him in our Gentlemen of Style series for several reasons: James stands out from the crowd due to his use of color and pattern in both in his interior designs and his wardrobe, and he is a great example to learn from.
In one of our early conversations, James explained that he approaches dressing and designing like a cinematographer who wants to create something beautiful that is more than just the sum of the individual objects. Personally, I like this approach very much because it interprets style and elegance as an symphony between your clothes, accessories, your haircut, language and your fingernails rather than focusing too much on any one element. True style is mastery of all of these components. Moreover, James is someone who wears what he likes and makes him feel good – it’s a form of self expressions. Of course, not everybody likes his sometimes flamboyant outfits, though at the same time, he is true to himself and confident about it. I think when people see him that’s part of what they admire about his personality and so it doesn’t really come as a surprise when his readers of his blog across the globe throw parties for him when he is in town. Overall, his philosophy is to be stylish as a whole, colorful and sometimes bold but always true to himself.
How it all started… The Career of James Andrew
Born to a Cuban mother and an English father, James had an anglophile influence from the very beginning, and that has clearly carried to the present in a very positive way. Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island he had a sense for fashion early on. At the age of 5, he as enamored with bell sleeve shirts by Tom Jones that had pink and mint green cuffs. As a teenager he neared obsession with the wasp / prep style and learned to appreciate the beauty of architecture and design. One day in 1977, he stumbled upon his mother’s Vogue in which interior designers Albert Hadley and his partner “Sister” Parish had decorated Ann & Gordon Getty‘s house. Right then and there he knew that he wanted to be in interior design one day.I find that quite interesting because unlike architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van der Rohe orLe Corbusier,few know famous interior designers by name, although we spend more time inside the house or building than admiring its architectural glory from the outside.
In the following years, his sister outed him and subsequently his mother, who had become a Jehovah’s witness, disinherited him because he was gay. Like so many people before him, James chose a secure career and went into banking and commodities trading rather than following his passion for interiors. Fortunately, he was unhappy with his decision and brave enough to quit. Subsequently, he started working for Ralph Lauren’s Home Collection and not only did he enjoy it, but he performed well. As fate would have it, in 1998, James was invited by his childhood idol Albert Hadley to join the legendary Parish-Hadley firm in New York. Just a year later the company dissolved and Hadley started a new venture aged almost 80. Not long after, James decided to start his own business and incorporated James Andrew Interior Design. Of course, he remained friends with Hadley until his death in 2012.
What is James Wearing?
Although James had always been interested in clothing, the idea for his aptly-named blog came to him through the observations of others about what he made a point to do daily – choosing to dress stylishly, even at the gym! Other men in his classes as well as his trainers would ask “Jimmy, what are you wearing today?” One day, James was wearing a black and white leather motorcycle jacket and his boxing trainer told him ” James, you have such great style you must start a blog!” Initially, he didn’t think too much of it, but it did seem like a fun idea. When the domain www.whatisjameswearing.com was available, he decided to start his very own blog on July 31, 2008, which is exactly 5 years ago. After just a short while, Elle Décor magazine in Britain picked it up and called James possibly their favorite blogger of all time. Subsequently, The Telegraph would compare him to English designer David Hicks and the Italian Corriere della Sera would follow with a feature titled Il Grande James.
His coverage is a mix of colorful outfits, interior design and travel reports, always with an eye for beauty and aesthetics. When on the road, his partner and artist Scott McBee composes the shots of James and sometimes people like Rose Callahan and magazine photographers snap shots of him as well.
James Andrew’s Outfits
Inspired by the likes of Lapo Elkann, Gianni Agnelli, Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Yves Saint Laurent, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as well as Tom Ford, the outfits James wears are usually not shy in color, go beyond preppy chic and are utterly unique. After he started out as a prep teenager, he wore a lot of Ralph Lauren when he worked for the company. Afterwards, his style evolved towards a stylized Gucci look with influences from the 60’s mod look, but he soon realized it was too fashion forward. With Tom Ford being one of his favorite designers, he enjoys mixing color with patterns and textures, creating a classically inspired, sexy-young hip look. As you can imagine, some of his outfits are a bit outside of the realm of what we usually cover here at the Gentleman’s Gazette. While it is not my personal style either, I have great respect for his style and how he created it for himself. The underlying important message of his outfits is that you should dress the way you want and create your own look rather than just following the crowd.
When I met him last time, he wore a mid grey panama weave coat from Tom Ford with smoky gray mother of pearl buttons, a white shirt with double cuffs, aquamarine & diamond cufflinks, a Liberty of London printed silk tie, a pastel green pocket square, cuffed lavender herringbone trousers and black & white loafers. If this outfit would have been worn with dark blue trousers and black shoe it would be rather traditional, but with the addition of the lavender pants, the outfit gains its own character that is underlined by the harmonizing pocket square and tie combination.
During the colder months of the year, James chooses more subdued colors in grey, blue or brown, yet he never loses his interest in colors as evidenced by the green gloves and purple belt.
During the summer, his attention to style is not diminished by the heat; he likes to wear espadrilles and lightweight garments, and often expresses his positive mood through vivid color choices. Often, James is inspired by his surroundings and he doesn’t shy away from mixing traditional garments and patterns with his unique style.
The apartment of James Andrew
Once you enter James’ apartment, you know it was designed by someone who knows what he is talking about. Similarly to clothing, all the fine details influence the bigger picture. In order to create a more classic setup, James carved out a separate dining room area which has some white loop chairs by Frances Adler Elkins, accompanied by a steel wire table by Platner Knoll. One dining room wall has built-in bookshelves from floor to ceiling filled with heavy books about design, clothes, architecture… The other wall features aubergine lacquer by Timothy Brown, with the centerpiece being a 1970s mirror from Daniel Barney surrounded by landscape paintings. The floor is made of vintage looking, square wood panels while the living room floor is adorned with French accent rugs and tapestries. The living room walls are light blue with white trimmings, two white busts on pedestals and white Serge Roche plaster shell sconces from 1stdibs. The oatmeal colored couch has pillows in bottle green and brown velvet, above which hangs a hunting scene with two dogs by William Skilling. It’s hard to believe that James found it in a ‘junk store’ – evidence that you may still find treasures on the cheap.
The custom gilt-silver parsons coffee table features some neatly arranged silver boxes and is faced by an zebra-upholstered ottoman by A. Schneller & Sons. Underneath it stands a table from Wilkes Bashford. On top, you find all kinds of decorative elements such as a mercury ball, which belonged to Albert Hadley.
In his bedroom, you can find his closet with some of his jackets and suits. James wears orange, pink, green, and purple but also light blue, grey, brown and navy in classic patterns such as glencheck, stripes or velvet. If you take a close look you will see a lot of jackets with 5 cuff buttons from Tom Ford. When it comes to shoes, James obviously likes loafers in all shapes and forms, ranging from tasseled boxcalf leather to spectators and suede to brogues and sneakers. Overall, his choices are definitely more fashion forward than mine, but it suits the rest of his wardrobe very well.
Personally, I found his decorations rather inspirational and I will certainly look more closely for a few key pieces, such as alabaster busts. I will definitely get a floor-to-ceiling custom bookshelf for my men’s fashion archive.
What do you think of James Andrew’s style in clothes and interior design? Do you find him inspirational? I think he would have been a perfect addition to the book I am Dandy.