In conversation: Colin McDowell and Gordon Richardson

Fashion commentator Colin McDowell interviews Creative Director at Topman, Gordon Richardson

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Colin McDowell describes Gordon Richardson as an “exceptional person” and “a man who wields an enormous amount of power in London’s men’s fashion”. The Creative Director at Topman is widely credited with making the UK men’s fashion retailer a well-regarded fashion brand, now with more than 250 stores in the UK and a further 150 stores internationally.

In this interview, Richardson shares his story of how he got into fashion, his vision for menswear, and lets us into the secret of what he thinks he would have chosen as a career if he hadn’t become a fashion designer.

An exceptional person

“I started off with a general interest in fashion when I was a young kid, my parents always dressed incredibly well, and I guess that just was something that was inherent in everything I saw and did,” Richardson says.

However, he surprisingly started off studying – not fashion design – but graphic design. He was attending Portsmouth Art College, when one day…

“We had these two amazing people come down from London who did this fashion extravaganza project and I thought ‘this is the world I want to belong in, these are the craziest people I’ve ever seen’ and it sort of ignited a spark in me. I thought ‘this is the world that I want to inhabit’ and I didn’t know what it would entail or how I would do it but I just knew I had to be part of it.”

After a lot of hard work he was accepted to study fashion at the Royal College of Art in London. He describes receiving the acceptance letter as a pivotal moment for him: “It was one of the best moments of my life – that I managed to get into something that I thought was unattainable.”

After graduating in 1976 with a Master’s degree in menswear, he set up his own menswear label which went on to be stocked at Harrods, Joseph and Fiorucci.

“Menswear was just beginning to move – it was exciting times and I loved every bit of it,” he says.” Everything was on the horizon, but nobody knew what that horizon was at the time.”

Gordon Richardson
Gordon Richardson

Fast forward nearly 40 years and he says he still has the enthusiasm for menswear and enjoys the challenge: “I love what I do and I want to keep doing what I do.”

Indeed he says now is one of the most exciting moments in men’s fashion, “I think men are becoming consumed by how they look and clothes in general.”

Richardson’s vision for menswear is “something pioneering but very wearable” and wool fits into modern fashion like it always has.

“We’ve been launching a succession of premium end ranges within Topman – a lot of it contains wool and wool mixes. You can make the most perfect jacket out of wool. Wool is fabulous.”

Richardson loves working as part of a team at Topman and having trust in his team. He also loves nurturing younger designers – a sentiment that is shared by The Woolmark Company which runs the prestigious International Woolmark Prize.

“We need to have these competitions – we need to nurture young talent. Life is about encouragement. Young people bring energy, enthusiasm and fundamentally new ideas – and those new ideas drive fashion forward.”

And what does he think he would have become if not a fashion designer? Watch the video and see.

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