Your sizable bookshelf has been featured on It’s Nice That. How has reading shaped the way you write?
It has shaped the way I write in the most obvious and transparent way, and still does. I’m currently reading Words Without Music, the memoir of Philip Glass. The way he talks about his commitment to creativity, and the freedom he gets from it, is a total inspiration.
You once wrote an article for the FT on how books are a source of inspiration for designers. With print media struggling in a digital-first age, have rare timeworn books become valued collectibles and what does this mean for new independent publishers?
Yes, but what really matters is a designer’s own creativity. Someone can buy all the old books in the world and get short-term inspiration from them, but what matters is their own talent, and the seriousness with which they commit themselves to their work.
“CELEBRITY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH EITHER MY WORK, OR THE WAY I BUY CLOTHING.”
You have spoken about the significance of Instagram within the fashion community, citing Kim Kardashian’s account as more valuable to a brand than 100 words written by a critic in a luxury magazine. You have currently over 5000 followers on Instagram. What is your approach to the platform?
I love Instagram because it adds another layer of thought. I don’t have any strategy or plan with it; I just post what I find interesting. It’s semi-professional – I never post pictures of my friends or family, and don’t really engage in conversations online (I’m not fond of Twitter). I suppose what I like about it is the tone – it forces an informality into the message, but what you are saying is still sincere. I also love the speed of it – I wish I posted more on my site, but it takes so long to upload and format. With Instagram, I can say what I want in a couple of seconds.
You have also said: “It’s actually journalism. I find posting on Instagram a form of reportage. I love writing those twenty words and formulating those twenty words to explain what I’m doing. It doesn’t have to be a long piece to be fashion journalism.” Whether in self-interest or a professional capacity, how can writers/journalists capitalise on this visual platform?
“Capitalise” is the wrong word, because then it’s like you’re trying to exploit something, rather than just seeing where it goes. When I was starting out, I had to do research on microfiche. The Internet was not part of my life. The point is, don’t get caught up on the current format of journalism. Everything will probably change all over again. What matters is your writing, and the way you process thought.
You published a fascinating article on your website called “WHAT MEN WEAR: a scientific study into the clothing choices of the next 100 men on Tinder”. You concluded: “Most men on Tinder present themselves in a T-shirt. Barely anyone shows themselves in a tie. In the blur of subjective decisions, normality is actually a nice thing for the eye to see.” What is the relationship between sexuality, sexual attraction and clothing?
I love getting older, and seeing how things are different for a younger generation. When I was a teenager, fashion was about idealism for gay men, because there was no equality and AIDS was doing its hideous damage. If you look at the work of Buffalo, it’s all about an ideal world where men are buff, sculpted and can express themselves freely. As times have changed, that need for idealism has lessened. But of course we still all use clothing for attraction, or to send out a message to those around us. It’s one of the primary functions of what we wear.
“EVEN IF IN THE PRESENT THE MEANING OF CLOTHING MAY NOT BE APPARENT, IT BECOMES VERY CLEAR ONCE TIME HAS PASSED.”
You have written about the effect of Aids on the fashion industry: “I’m 41, and from the first generation of gay men who didn’t have to face the death of friends as a monthly reality. Personally, I wonder if the city ever recovered from the 1980s, when AIDS claimed the lives of name designers (including Perry Ellis and Willie Smith) and many other creative men in the fashion industry.” How has the Aids crisis in the 1980s impacted the industry today and why hasn’t its impact been discussed?
The conspiracy of silence around AIDS continues to this day. Perry Ellis and Willie Smith have pretty much been forgotten already. But it’s all the unknown creatives who died who should be remembered. Think about a young designer you admire in London. Then take away his support system: his assistant, his best friends who inspires him every day; the guy who does the hair at his shows; the buyer who gives him his first break; the customer who buys the clothes. Even if the designer himself survives, his world is decimated. Now multiply that by a whole industry, at every level, and you get an idea of the effect it has. I totally believe that there was no real menswear movement in London in the 90s/early 2000s because of the effect of AIDS. Everything that has happened since Lulu Kennedy and Topman introduced MAN in 2005 has been about allowing to happen what should always have been there.
Music is a big part of your life as well. What role does music play in your life?
I’ve always listened to it, always obsessed over it. I started playing records at a really pivotal point for me, when I was realising I wanted to move on from GQ and take a more independent route. Princess Julia asked me if I wanted to play records at the George and Dragon, and that led me to meeting Dan Beaumont, who I started Macho City with at the Joiners Arms. We now run Chapter 10 with our friend Morgan Clement, and I love to be involved in creating a community, allowing a party to happen, doing something uncompromising, having fun.
A lot has been said about the pace and corporatization of the fashion industry. In your opinion, what is fashion’s number 1 problem at the moment and do you have a solution for it?
Fashion’s biggest problem is the assumption that fashion = consumerism. It isn’tdoesn’t. Fashion is about the way that we as a society use clothing to express ourselves or our situation. Retail plays its part, but it is not everything. As a journalist, you are not there to encourage people to buy more stuff. As a journalist, I only ever write stories where I’d be allowed to say that the best thing someone could do would be to buy nothing.
Do you have any unrealized projects?
If you could turn back the clock, what advice would you give to Charlie Porter in his early twenties?
Don’t be scared, don’t be shy, be bold, believe in yourself.
For more of Charlie’s words, visit charlieporter.net.
Chapter 10’s next date is on 17th October at Corsica Studios. Get your tickets at chapter-ten.com.