“It all started with a few brooches,” said Simon Carter, after I inquired about how, exactly, he had ended up here, in this beautifully-appointed swank Mayfair store in London. Hooked, I listened intently to his story of success, and felt so inspired that I’d like to share it with you.
It’s a warm October evening and I’m crammed into a hot tube train, at peak commuter time on London’s Jubilee line. I avoid eye contact, absorbed in attempts to retain at least a vestige of personal space. Sweaty business men, in poorly fitting suits and bad shoes, nudge and jostle me for space. I’ve made my way west from Liverpool Street Station, paralleling the Thames, to the upmarket, very swish Mayfair, a district of fancy shops and bars that serve some of the finest ladies and gentlemen in London.
Free of the cramped, hostile tube environment, I breathed in a deep lungful of clean, autumnal air. The invite slipped from my waistcoat pocket, and I rechecked the printed address. Turning down a pretty little lane, I was greeted by Simon Carter’s flagship store, lit like a beacon in the quickly fading light, drawing me in with promises of fine fabrics, quality design, and other sartorial pleasures. No sooner had I placed a well-polished brogue over the threshold than I was greeted by a perfectly groomed, widely-smiling young man who welcomed me into the store. Seconds later, I was shaking hands with Simon Carter himself, and being offered a much-needed drink.
Simon Carter is an extremely successful man. But you’d be mistaken in assuming that he would exude an air of antipathy, a slight arrogance, or a whiff of superiority. But he doesn’t. In fact he is absolutely charming, warm, friendly, both interesting and interested. After introducing myself, I asked about his journey from trainee Doctor to leading menswear designer.
How It All Began
It’s 1985, drainpipe jeans and flat top hair cuts are all the rage and Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” is riding high in the UK charts. Simon Carter is busy making brooches. In true British entrepreneurial style, he takes to the King’s Road, a two mile stretch of asphalt in Chelsea, to ply his wares. At the end of a wet day, without selling a thing, despondent, damp, and bedraggled, Simon tries his luck at a jeweler’s shop on the street corner. What you must understand is that Simon Carter is a natural salesman, a natural salesman selling great products. The jeweler snapped the brooches up, and requested more. Spurred on by this success, Carter made more and sold more. A short time later, it was time to diversify, and Simon moved on to lapel pins, watch design, and ties. The rest, as they say, is history.
Best known for his gentleman’s jewelery, in particular cufflinks and the famed pewter spitfire lapel pin, Simon has now expanded in to other areas of menswear. As a matter of fact, the spitfire pin has lately been reproduced, and comes free with every one of his stunning tweed jackets.
The Mayfair Store
The Mayfair store has shelves upon shelves of beautifully tailored shirts in some of the most unique fabrics I’ve ever seen. In particular, their signature purple paisley and the Truly Scrumptious shirts pictured here are not for the shy and retiring gentleman. More for the man who isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd. They scream confidence, but also shout of humor and personality, of a man who doesn’t always take himself too seriously, like Simon himself. So, grab a few items and take them in to the quirkily decorated changing room, where the walls are plastered with covers from vintage comic books. What more could a man want? A beautiful store, with amazing menswear and great service, and comic books! Splendid!
As I sipped on a much-needed Mexican lemonade and listened to Simon, it was hard not to become enthused and inspired by the obvious passion that he has for what he does. Talking of Liberty prints and fine British Tweed, Simon took the opportunity to show me around his store. His biggest seller this year is the Tweed Sports coat; I’m not surprised! The Simon Carter sports coat is made from a beautiful, high-quality British tweed and elegantly styled with quirky, sophisticated twists and flecks of color. The jacket is extremely versatile and could be worn to the office or a weekend away, just as they describe on their website. The second biggest seller, and something of a trademark for them, is their floral and printed shirts, which are flying off the racks.
With elegant watches, belts, knitted silk ties, jewelry, and stunning leather bags in store, there’s something here to delight every sartorial gent. But what’s next? What delights has Simon got planned for the coming months?
Next in Simon’s line for the dapper gent is a range of underwear which will be exclusive to his stores. He’s working on these right now and hopes to launch the range very soon. In addition, Simon is launching his own fragrance, and was quite specific in the instructions he gave to his perfumer: “Imagine that I’ve pulled up outside your office in my classic car on a warm summer’s day, I open the door to get out and with me comes that distinctive smell of well-healed leather and engine oil, I want that smell.” Driving a classic car myself, I know that smell. It has a distinct, masculine depth, that’s missing from the shelves of department stores these days, where floral and citrus smells are dominant. The, as yet unnamed, fragrance (more on this soon) is still in testing, but Simon has chosen his favorite experimental version, and was wearing it in store that evening. I’m already a fan of its woody base note and hint of lemon.
With so much going on, this would be a silly time to open a new store, right? Wrong! Simon is continuing to expand the business, which really goes to show the strength of his brand and his customers’ loyalty. In the current economic climate, some fashion houses are just keeping their heads above water, at best. While Simon was busy meeting his customers and admirers, workmen were busy at a new store in London’s Blackheath, which is due to open its doors on November 16th. Simon is very excited.
Competition – Your Chance To Win
Every fragrance needs a name. Right now, while it has a great personality, Simon’s is nameless. His initial thought was ‘Paisley,’ as it fits in with the signature elements of his brand but, for various reasons, he wasn’t able to call it that. That’s where you come in! Simon needs a name for his first fragrance, and is soon to run a competition where you get the opportunity to name it. So, follow his Instagram page @Simoncarterltd for details. The competition will go live mid-November (2013), and you could receive a year’s supply of the fragrance, so it’s a great chance to smell sweet for months! Details of the competition will also be noted on their Facebook page and on Simon’s Twitter account. Good Luck!!
Now that I’ve whet your appetite, and your wardrobe feels incomplete without at least 1 Simon Carter piece, where do you buy his range?
Where To Buy Simon Carter
Like any good brand, Simon has a stylish, easy-to-use website from which you can order. He also sells through both House of Frazer and Liberty, British stores with whom he’s had a strong relationship for a number of years.
You can buy online, in store, or at any one of the many other outlets that stock his range. You’ll also find Simon Carter at Selfridges, John Lewis, ASOS and Harvey Nichols. A full list of stockists is available on their website. While Simon sells at selected outlets, he does like to keep a few things exclusive to his own stores, such as the new underwear range which will be launched soon, so if you needed an excuse (which you don’t) get yourself to one of his stores.