An appreciation for fine tailoring is in Duncan Quinn‘s blood. The bespoke suit designer — whose clients range from Green Day to Christian Louboutin — grew up watching his father wearing well-made suits he picked up on London’s Savile Row in the 1960s. Inspired to start his own collection, Quinn opened his first store in New York in 2003. A Los Angeles location, Dallas boutique and pop-up shop in Miami followed thereafter. Life + Times caught up with Quinn to discuss his pieces, ZZ-Top and which Victoria’s Secret models he’d want wearing one of his suits.
Life + TImes: There’s a very dangerous aspect to your clothing. Where does this come from?
Duncan Quinn: I suspect the edge lies in the underlying inspirations for everything I do…Michael Caine’s great and iconic movies from the 1960′s, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, The Who, The Clash, The Jam, The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols, but probably also having grown up with a father who hails from post-war Glasgow and was in the Flying Squad at Scotland Yard, as well as a guy in France who taught me about wine, food and life and who left home several days a week in the small hours with two loaded .45 automatics.
L+T: Who are your top three — living, dead or fictional — style icons?
DQ: Jack Carter: How could you not love the man who said, “You’re a big man, but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself.” He was hard as nails and dressed to kill. Literally. Steve McQueen: He was just a real man’s man. Cars, bikes, booze and cigarettes all wrapped up in clothing that fitted his aura so well it created an icon. Enzo Ferrari: He was probably responsible for the largest number of iconic and beautifully crafted motor vehicles since the creation of the internal combustion engine. His creations have already stood the test of time and are influential on anyone and everyone who loves beautiful feats of engineering today. Try putting a 250 GTO in a room and keeping people away from it.
L+T: If you could give one tip to the stylistically challenged, what would It be?
DQ: Find your style, which is that which you feel comfortable with, not someone else’s. Then turn the volume up a little on the things that make you “you,” whether it is yellow socks or bright green oversize glasses. Then you’ll have your own style. And no matter what you rock you’ll feel confident and thus look amazing.
L+T: Do you believe ZZ-Top was correct when they sang, “Every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed man?”
DQ: Absolutely without a question of a doubt. Which is why we always joke that our suits come with a “get laid guarantee.” It has never failed.
L+T: What does Duncan Quinn do when he is not designing?
DQ: This is a difficult one to answer as everything I come up with is a constantly evolving process. It is life as perceived through my filter and documented by the garments, accessories and experiences I curate. So in a way, I am always ‘designing’ even when I am enjoying a glass of burgundy, riding a motorcycle, practicing muay thai, or taking a photo of something I find interesting. It is an all consuming passion. As a wise man once said: “Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day of your life.”
L+T: Who would you most like to outfit?
DQ: I’d be lying if I didn’t say James Bond. Every guy wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him. The Ian Fleming version, though. Think Dr No, not Quantum of Solace. With that said, Christian Bale and Daniel Day Lewis come in a very close second. They are simply two of the most talented and committed actors of their time and men I respect a lot for their craft and skill.
L+T: Can you give us an idea of where the Duncan Quinn label is headed?
DQ: Its headed wherever life leads me. As it is simply a reflection of the things I love, what I perceive and what I enjoy doing. Sharing great times with great people. Wine, food, travel, speed, new experiences and above all, fun. Everything that is around me and everyone I have contact with in some way is reflected in the mix of things that comprise “Duncan Quinn.”
L+T: What was the moment when you became confident in your art?
DQ: When one of the very first guys I made a suit for back in 2003 sent me an e-mail that said, “Thanks for making me look like a f$#kin* rockstar on my wedding day! My only worry is that you made me look better than my wife!”
L+T: The woman that you’d consider designing a suit for?
DQ: I’ve already made a few. As the old joke on Savile Row goes, “I’ll make you a gold Rolls Royce if you pay me for it.” I like to think I’m a man with a view, not just a men’s bespoke suit guy and I have a pretty strong view on most stuff, so when I’m asked by an interesting and beautiful lady to oblige with my tape measure, the gentleman in me is bound to comply. Who would I love to have as a client? Just the usual [Victoria's Secret models] Adriana [Lima], Gisele [Bundchen], Bar [Refaeli], and anyone else with fluffy angel wings — provided they had some stories as well as fluff.
L+T: You have a core, loyal cult following. It almost seems like a club. Has there ever been anyone who walked into your shop and just didn’t get it?
DQ: It is a club. Sometimes I think we collect characters as we are fortunate to have truly amazing, hilarious, talented, unique and incredible individuals as clients and friends. One leads to another and he or she to the next. We don’t just make or sell our client’s clothes, but do everything we can to help them out with whatever we can, be it dinner reservations, introductions, plane tickets, cars or whatever else they need to know a man who knows a man for. And we do a lot of things outside the store that our friends and clients get involved in, whether it is wine tastings, dinners, car rallies or other shenanigans. Life is for living and the clothes are simply one part of living life. Has anyone ever come in who doesn’t get it? Sure, but we’d always love them to come back and have a second look. As my grandmother always used to say, “You should always try everything once. And if you don’t like it, try it again just to make sure.” (Duncan Quinn)