Welcome to MilanStyle, a FAULT Favourite for quality men’s fashion. Established by Alexander Bailey, the site caters primarily to men who ‘know what they like’ but refute fashion snobbery for its own sake. In addition to bringing together a wide selection of heavyweight fashion houses, MilanStyle provides a complete online shopping experience for the discerning man. With its wide range of editorial detailing the history, ethos and output of all the major menswear brands, its commitment to finding the best in an eclectic range of styles in a wide variety of sizes and its truly international scope, MilanStyle is everything that is right about fashion e-commerce in a society which often forces you to choose between quality and pretension on the one hand and simplistic high street trends on the other. As a welcome break from the majority of e-commerce websites, MilanStyle retains the quality and accompanies it with a remarkable attention to detail and an emphasis on uncovering their customers personal style – a winning combination for us at FAULT.
We were fortunate enough to have a chance to speak to Alexander before he set off on his tour of the European fashion weeks. We noted that his own personal style is as elegant and composed in his interview statements as it is in his sartorial ones, so we shall let him tell his own story…
“I thought of the MilanStyle.co.uk concept purely from a consumer perspective. On a personal level, I have very good knowledge of menswear tailoring as I have an uncle who is a bespoke tailor so have been immersed in quality and craftsmanship in menswear from an early age. It’s given me an understanding of clothes and their construction that most people don’t have.”
FAULT: What are the main advantages of shopping at Milanstyle.co.uk ?
A.B: One of the frustrations I always had in shopping on the high street was that many a time, I could not find my size in the product I liked, even though the designer may actually make that particular size. I wanted to draw all of the stockists of any given brand featured into ONE place and allow gents who are serious about their labels to easily browse and find not only the style they are after, but hopefully the size they need too, without fruitlessly googling for hours.
Plus we provide editorial to inform purchase decisions in a way that a part-time store assistant just can’t or doesn’t care enough about nowadays on the high-street. We want you to understand why the brand you are about to buy into is special.
In some ways, I hope we are making it easier for men to shop for their favourite designer in one place. As an example, Rick Owens is actually huge for us at the moment, but it was always difficult to find his stuff online previously – his own website is quite ‘artistic’ shall we say and not exactly easy to find stocking and product information for. Similarly with the Ann Demeulemeester menswear line – you just couldn’t find the stuff anywhere, or if you did, it was bits and pieces sporadically spread over the web. We’ve brought it all together.
How do you distinguish yourself from other shopping websites? What do you think makes you different?
We have a unique vision for MilanStyle.co.uk – yes, everything is high-end and luxurious but there’s also an eclecticism there too. I want our visitors to buy into looks and brands they like on their own terms and work into their existing wardrobes – not go on the whims of fashion for each passing season. If you want to be preppy, be preppy, we have the designers to cater to your taste. But if you want to be over-the-top and ostentatious, there’s room for that too on MilanStyle.co.uk.
We also ensure that everything featured ships internationally. I came to the concept first and foremost as someone who has shopped online for 10+ years now, and about 50% of the time, that’s internationally. If there’s something I want, I’ll get it Fedexed to me, no matter where it is in the world. I wanted to bring that sensibility to MilanStyle.co.uk – and this has been reflected in our visitor stats – the site is huge anywhere where there is a male population interested in dressing their best – as far afield as Japan, Australia, South Korea and increasingly Russia and China.
Describe your ideal customer.
Well, I would say our typical shopper has a very high disposable income, or at least sees his wardrobe as an investment and is prepared to spend heavily to get the next piece for his wardrobe. The MilanStyle man is incredibly brand loyal and fairly knowledgeable about the brands he likes – but like most men, he tends to become geeky about the ‘thing’ he is into, whether that be clothes or cars or trainspotting. So, we try to focus on that in the editorial on the blog and in our Style Guides and give us much information as possible in an informative way. We strenuously avoid the attitude of some fashion sites that try to exclude newcomers.
There is a list that includes all your different designers for me to pick from. How do I know which one is right for me?
There’s the million dollar question! Well, the blog is a great place to start if you are looking for inspiration or just to learn a bit more about what’s going on in menswear at the moment. We try to write everything so that it will be interesting to both someone who is completely new to that brand and to the person who has bought something from every collection that designer has ever done. But as always, sometimes its best ‘to get lost’ and just see what takes your fancy as you browse through the different collections and read the different brand histories that we’ve carefully written for you.
Who updates the editorial on your site? How much research goes into picking pieces for the site and discussing various styles on the blog?
It’s a team effort. Phil, one of my team members, has an obsession with fine British heritage brands, whereas I like to focus on high-end Italian and European brands – the stuff I always wanted when I was a teenager but couldn’t afford at the time; Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana etc – now these Italian brands come to us with stories and editorial they want us to feature, so it’s come full circle for me, which is nice. We also have an on-going editorial collaboration with OKI-NI, one of our partners who update the blog regularly too, focussing on the more ‘avante-garde’ side of fashion.
What I felt was missing in a lot of other websites and even magazines was the opportunity to focus on these brands in a non-fashion kind of way. I appreciate all different types of designer aesthetics, but I have never wanted the site to be about fashion for its own sake: I want it to be about style that’s personal to YOU, whether that be flashy Italian, sharp British or the understated Belgian designer look.
One of our most popular series on the blog is our ‘Unlikely Style Icons’ series where we take an irreverent look at famous men who were never seen as stylish in their day but actually are in our eyes. I got so sick of the ‘get the look of your favourite footballer / actor / popstar ‘ features that have pervaded fashion and I wanted to completely avoid that with MilanStyle.co.uk. We never mention celebrities in the current eye. I find that approach to defining your own personal style baffling – why would you copy a famous person’s outfit head to toe? We all have different skin tones, personalities, physiques – let’s bring this out by figuring out what you like and suits YOU, not someone else.
The designers you represent are all established brands. Will you ever venture into featuring new and upcoming designers?
Yes, I hope so. I really want to do this this year, but we have to work with designers who have dipped their toe into the ecommerce arena if we are to integrate their products onto our website. We are always happy to give new designers editorial space on the blog, but it has to be right for MilanStyle, and we have to have physically seen the clothes in person, otherwise, we could not confidently recommend them to our readers who trust our judgement. We are big on quality of workmanship and materials. Personally, I want to champion anything made in England this year, so if you are a new designer doing this and you feel your aesthetic would fit with us, please get in touch.
Your office base is in Liverpool. Despite Liverpool being a major cultural centre, it does not have the same reputation as London or other European cities when it comes to fashion. Do you think location acts as a hindrance to getting the most cutting edge designs?
Good question. I feared this too when the site started but it just hasn’t been the case fortunately. We’ve been invited to all of the big shows in Milan and Paris for example, and we’ll be at the menswear day for London Fashion Week next month and we have some really big brands reaching out to us all of the time. London Euston is only 2 hours away from us, and it’s nothing to travel there for business. In some ways it’s nice to be outside of the bubble – I feel I can look at a brand objectively and say ‘is this right for a wider audience, or just a few people in one of the world’s fashion capitals?’. Having said that, in terms of Britain, our website gets the most visits from ‘Poplar’ which I have now learned is the City of London and after that, The Royal Borough of Kensington, so I guess our site is very appealing to Londoners!
Who or what are your fashion inspirations?
At the moment, I would say my favourite designers are probably Dolce & Gabbana (the more tailored, less theatrical stuff) and Christopher Bailey at Burberry / Burberry Prorsum – this was a house everyone had written off but he changed that. The menswear is incredible. Every time I go the Bond Street store, I want a new jacket, which I pretty much already have. He changed a button on it, and I need it. I really hope to visit the Burberry studio this year to spend some time with the designers and write about it on our blog. I can’t fail to also mention TOM FORD of course – again, we really want to visit his London studio. Tom, if you are reading this get in touch.
What’s your personal favourite brand and/or individual item on the site?
Tough one! I should probably take a cue from our shoppers here. The Givenchy men’s collection by Ricardo Tisci is so popular on our site. At first I would have said it wasn’t right for me, but I still appreciated the artistry behind it, however, the more I look at the stuff and see it worn, the more I like it. Can’t beat a classic pair of Dior Homme jeans either. Phil is desperate for a pair of £600 John Lobb shoes, so that would be his.