'Billy Elliot' producer David Furnish's classic style
The flamboyant look is left to his partner, rock star Elton John. Furnish's favorites include Thom Browne suits and Lanvin evening jackets, and he loves to shop at Fred Segal and Maxfield.
REFINED: David Furnish leaves the flamboyant style to partner Elton John. (Justin Downing / Sky Arts)
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You've just opened "Billy Elliot" on Broadway. Do you have a good-luck piece that you wear when you have a big opening?
I have around my neck a little tiny locket and it has a lock of Elton's baby hair and a picture of him as a baby. I wear it for important occasions, when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and on airplanes. It's a talisman of sorts that makes me feel protected, like I have got him with me all the time.
What was your style like growing up in Toronto?
I was in a high school drama program with Eric McCormack, who actually approached me about accepting this award. We were the "Fame" generation running around school with leg warmers on, taking dance classes. We formed a little acting company, and we had a great drama teacher who said you can wait your whole life to teach a class like ours. He fed us so much, from Pinter to Shaw to classic musicals and Shakespeare.
As an adult, what was your first big splurge?
Just before I moved to London, I was working in advertising, and I discovered the British high street stores [in American parlance, cheap chic stores] -- Britain has a much more defined affordable fashion culture with TopShop and the like. I remember going to NEXT in the mid- to late-1980s, and I couldn't believe I could buy all these great shoes and suits for a fraction of what you pay elsewhere. They were so beautifully cut, detailed and so cheap.
Do you still shop the high street?
I do. It's fun, especially if you are looking for limited shelf life items to update your wardrobe.
You and Elton have very different looks, do you advise each other on clothes?
He asks me to help him get dressed, and pick out which ties and shirts match, but he has his own sense of style, which is much more exuberant than mine. He can pull it off because he has that larger-than-life personality. He has all of his suits custom-made by Yohji Yamamoto, because he can find traditional tailoring quite a restriction, and he gets very hot.
The Japanese work with light fabrics, and the way they cut them and weave them, he feels quite liberated wearing those. He has a stock element of Yohji shoes, Etro shirts, and he collects loads of neckties. He'll land on a color scheme and get the socks to match. And he travels with hundreds of eyeglass frames all lined up in cases -- the red, the blue. I don't know another man who can wear color like Elton does.
If he collects eyeglasses, what do you collect?
Tailored pieces, I suppose. I don't feel dressed unless I am in a suit. I find it an empowering thing to wear. Nothing makes you feel better or more presentable. Thom Browne's suits are beautifully cut; he pushes the envelope. He's been one of the most influential men's suit makers in the past decade, really ahead of the game. There's an irony and witticism to him.
Do you wear his short pants?
No, I stop at that. I don't wear the short pants or hem the trousers halfway up my calf like Thom does. I would look like a fashion victim. I like my trousers to skirt the top of the shoe.
You like a slimmer cut to your suits, right?
Yes, another designer who I really admire but who sadly is not working in fashion anymore is Hedi Slimane. He changed the line of suits, and he's been a friend for 10 or 11 years. I started wearing his suits when he did his first collection at YSL. And that was back when YSL menswear was associated with duty-free shops, and boringly classic. I was in Charivari in New York, and the buyer had bought Hedi's first collection for YSL. I snapped up the whole collection. It was so modern in its cut and detailing. I went along and we have been friends ever since. I still wear those pieces.