In conversation with

Nick Carvell

Men's style writer, Contributing Fashion Editor GQ

nick carvell portrait home

Introduction

Introduction

It’s an interesting time to be in the business of men’s fashion as Nick Carvell, freelance writer and GQ Contributing Editor, well knows. The industry has always engaged in discussions of masculinity, but in recent years a wider cultural shift around perceptions of gender has leant conversations more weight. As Nick says: “in life, politics and fashion gender is being blurred, and journalists are asking more questions about why we wear the clothes we wear”. We sat down with Nick to talk fashion, including Donald Trump’s Brioni suits and a chic magazine dedicated to dogs. 

Question and Answer

What magazines made you want to be a journalist and why?

The first publication that really got me interested in journalism as a kid was The Funday Times (RIP), which I read obsessively every weekend. After that it was Top of the Pops and Smash Hits that made me really want to get into journalism, because initially I wanted to write all about music and movies. While I had always been interested in clothes as a child, I think it was when I went to London for university that I really began to immerse myself in the world of menswear – Bedford, where I grew up, is a lovely town, but it doesn’t have a huge fashion scene. The first magazine I bought when I got to London in 2004 was the debut issue of GQ Style, which I still have today along with every other issue to date. That was my tipping point into becoming a men’s magazine fanatic.

You’ve recently moved from being staff at GQ to a freelance role. What were your motivations for doing so and what have you learned in the process?

Having been at GQ for five years and recently turned 31, I felt it was a “now or never” moment to try being my own man. I felt I had achieved a lot in my career so far, but I wanted to do so much more – some of which will hopefully be coming to fruition in the next couple of months! The great thing about my situation now is that, as a Contributing Fashion Editor for the title, I am still in the family and still getting to write for the publication I love, but I am free to try other things too. In the process, I guess I have learned to rely on my own instincts more – and have had to quickly learn how to say “no” to things (which is frankly quite liberating).

gq zayn malik cover

What makes a really great fashion story?

I have always said that the best fashion stories are the ones that are rooted in the wider world. Sometimes it seems that fashion exists within its own little bubble, but it doesn’t – it’s something all of us, bar none, communicate with and participate in every single day (even a nudist is making a statement about clothing by rebelling against it). I feel interesting fashion stories are those that tell us something about how we are all living. For example I once wrote a piece about why it mattered that Donald Trump, while running for president using an America First platform, was wearing Brioni suits on the campaign trail. That ended up getting picked up by The New York Times – one of my proudest moments, and a great clapback to those who feel fashion journalism is all fluff.

“Sometimes it seems that fashion exists within its own little bubble, but it doesn’t - it’s something all of us, bar none, communicate with and participate in every single day”

What are some other publications which you really enjoy contributing to and why?

I have written for some great publications. Conde Nast Brides is always really fun as is John Lewis Edition (I seriously think that seeing my work in the Milton Keynes branch of John Lewis is the proudest my mum has ever been of me!). I am currently working on my first piece for Dog, which I love. It’s not like any other dog magazine I have ever come across: really beautiful photography, cool creative writing and interesting stories about the breeds, as well as people who own dogs – a bit like if Kinfolk produced a magazine about canines.

"A bit like if Kinfolk produced a magazine about canines"

GQ has helped to open up a dialogue around masculinity. How have you seen fashion writing change over the past few years in response to this?

I think it has broadened people’s minds. Only a few years ago, fashion was seen as something inherently “girly” which real men didn’t really discuss openly, and the first wave of #menswear blogging was really about saying that, as a man, it was cool to care about clothes. Of course, that was done by reinforcing other areas of men’s masculinity – hence why the trends for clothing and grooming we saw in the late 00s and early 10s looked back to that very masculine Mad Men era of the 1960s: suits, formal shoes, ties, braces, moustaches. Now that’s being rebelled against in life, politics and fashion: gender is being blurred, and journalists are asking more questions about why we wear the clothes we wear.

nick carvell books

Who are some writers or publications that really challenge the traditional notions of ‘masculinity’?

I think Phillip Picardi has done a wonderful job at Teen Vogue, and now with Them, at breaking down the constraints of our traditional conceptions of gender. I also love the fact that Jack Guinness has set up Queer Bible as a compendium of queer icons, all of whom challenge our idea of masculinity or femininity in some way. However, there are plenty of green shoots of this in more mainstream publications too: for example, I was thrilled when American GQ profiled one of my favourite drag queens, Trixie Mattel

hillary clinton teen vogue cover

How do you approach creating content for brands versus editorial?

I don’t think there’s a huge difference in creating content for brands as there is for creating content for editorial – they key is just remembering what your customer will be looking for in the same way as your reader would for a media brand. Good content is good content, pure and simple.

Who are the top three male fashion influencers that you really respect and why?

There are many, many male fashion influencers I admire (and I believe the UK has some of the best), but if you’re forcing me to choose, here are my top three – each of whom I’ve chosen because I think they bring something totally different to my feed as well as having a great sense of personal style, First, I’d say Tom Farrelly (@tomfarrellytalks), an Australian model who not only posts the kind of enviable, sun-drenched style a Brit like myself can only dream of wearing regularly, but also because he posts a lot of thought provoking content about mental health. Jim Chapman (@jimchapman) is not only a great guy with insane style, but also has an amazingly down-to-earth approachability and honesty in his feed (and goes on some amazing adventures). Finally, Jordan Bunker (@jordanbunker) who wears a beanie hat and shades better than any other man on the planet, and has a feed that’s visually stunning and always inventive.

take ivy style book
captain corelli book

If you could give your 13-year-old self a novel/article to read what would it be?

I would probably give myself a copy of my favourite book, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Not only is it a wonderfully written story, but, as a young gay teen at an all-boys school who was frankly terrified of his sexuality, the character of Carlo – a passionate, loving, confident gay soldier who accepted and understood who he was – would have really helped me to come to terms with myself. I would also give myself a copy of Teruyoshi Hayashida’s incomparable photobook documenting preppy style in Sixties American university campuses Take Ivy. Pretty sure it would have helped me to avoid the baggy combat trousers and velcro trainers that I still can’t quite believe I loved in my youth…

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