Worldwise: Fashion Designer Nigel Curtiss’ Favorite Things

British fashion designer
Nigel Curtiss
has mastered the art of slow fashion.

In a time where fast fashion is dominating e-commerce sales, Curtiss shows us what sustainable chic looks like in his flagship boutique in New York.

“We want to make small quantities of the very best clothes,” Curtiss says. “We want everything that is made to be worn and loved and kept and passed on to the next generation. This is not fast fashion; it’s arduous, passionate, and beloved fashion.”

Curtiss has been a fashion designer for over 30 years. He started out as a textile designer in London, selling fabrics to
Vivienne Westwood
and
Paul Smith.
In the 1980s, he designed menswear for Comme des Garçons, working alongside designer
Rei Kawakubo,
and further honed his skills working inside the fashion houses of Yves Saint Laurent and Kenzo. Curtiss created custom clothing for
Mick Jagger
and
Arnold Schwarzenegger,
which led him to creating his own eponymous brand.

Curtiss’ trademark is thoughtful fashion. He is known for crafting cozy items from luxury cashmere, silk sourced from eco-friendly farms, and denim dyed with a natural, plant-based indigo created in solar-powered factories. In short, all products are manufactured in small quantities, and the team makes an effort to work with local factories, organic fabrics, recycled yarns, and eco-friendly packaging.

His latest line is a variety of clothing inspired by the punk ethos of London in the 1970s—using loud patterns, dramatic shapes and bold colors—which is met with an upscale elegance. “It’s tongue and cheek, the spirit of the 1980s,” Curtiss says.

“Our biggest success is our silk pajamas, which you can wear out to a restaurant,” he explains. “It’s multi-functional pajamas, they’re for men and women—everyone is used to wearing baggy, loose clothes, it looks cool and has a retro vibe, strong prints with an elegant element to it.”

Last November, he expanded into ready to wear garments alongside his business partner and wife,
Monica Mitro,
a former executive from Victoria Secret. Some of the talents he has dressed include Friends star
David Schwimmer,
Duran Duran’s
Simon LeBon,
supermodel
Lily Aldridge,
and actor
Mickey Rourke.

Curtiss recently shared some of his favorite things with Penta.

Curtiss is known for crafting cozy items from luxury cashmere, silk sourced from eco-friendly farms, and denim dyed with a natural, plant-based indigo created in solar-powered factories.


Image courtesy of Nigel Curtiss

My favorite thing about London is… I’m from Brighton, I couldn’t wait to get out. In London, I love the Connaught Hotel, which is in Mayfair and absolutely exquisite, and just around the corner from it, Scott’s, the seafood restaurant.  

My 1980s fashion icons include…
David Bowie,
Versace,
George Michael
is fun,
Holly Johnson
from Frankie Goes To Hollywood,
Simon Le Bon
from
Duran Duran,
the new romantics look.
Steve Strange,
the co-founder of the Blitz club in London, too.

My favorite neighborhood in Tokyo is… well, I spent 13 years living in Tokyo, and I still can’t get enough of it. For me, I love the quieter part of Roppongi.

My dream vacation is… Ischia, an island close to Capri, off the Gulf of Naples in Italy. I like staying at the Mezzatorre Hotel & Spa, they have incredible treatments. It doesn’t have the number of tourists that Capri has, it’s quiet and there’s no cruise ships.

My favorite place to grab a drink in New York is…
Casa Cipriani,
a member’s club on South Street in the Financial District of Manhattan. It feels like you’re on a cruise ship from the 1930s, and the views are stellar. They have a fantastic jazz club there. You get to mix with the people you want to mix with, it’s a place to meet your friends.

My favorite art museum is… the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In my art collection, I have… art by unknown artists. I would love a piece by Banksy, and its strong political messaging. I derive a lot of my inspiration from fabric archives. For my current collection, I went to Lake Como and visited the factories that created silkscreen prints that have been in business for hundreds of years. For me, it’s like being inside an art gallery. If you can find a hundred-year-old paisley print and I can get 100 yards of it, that’s my kind of art.

My favorite item I own is… I have a hundred-year-old Japanese screen on my wall in my flagship boutique in the Meatpacking District. It’s from Thomsen Gallery, which is on the Upper East Side. It’s my favorite New York art gallery, which to me, is a best kept secret.

The most luxurious thing about fashion is… clothes that feel as if they were made just for them—from the fit to the fabric and the style. Whether you’re buying ready-to-wear or tailoring for a special occasion, choosing clothing should feel like a personal conversation between the customer and the brand, and that’s what we are excited to deliver with my brand.

The best advice I ever got was… ‘don’t give up,’ especially when you work in a creative field. So many people come to me and say, “I want to be a fashion designer,” and I say, there’s so much rejection. It’s such hard work. It’s tough, but if you’ve got it and you keep trying, you’ll get there in the end. It’s so worthwhile, it’s such a fun industry to be in.

A passion of mine that few people know about is… biking. I absolutely love riding my bike through the Hamptons in the summer.

If I could have a drink with anyone in the world, it would be…
Keith Richards.

My favorite arrondissement to walk through in Paris is… the Marais in the 4th arrondissement. There’s so many little boutiques and shops there, it’s an eclectic slice of charming Parisian culture. Such great energy, so much to do. It’s my favorite in Europe, by far the most beautiful one but I wouldn’t want to live there.

The thing that gets me up in the morning is… my dog Max, he comes right up and rolls into my face and wakes me up. He’s a rescue mutt. He doesn’t do it to my wife, though. Only me. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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