Style | The Aesthete

Alasdhair Willis talks personal style: Part Two

The furniture-world mover and shaker continues to reveal what floats his boat.

October 03 2009
Maria Shollenbarger

I have two style icons: Steve McQueen and Morrissey. McQueen, because he’s simply the daddy of style. I’ll watch The Thomas Crown Affair, and I want to be looking like that – that amazing, sharp-suit cool – every day of my life. Then I’ll watch The Great Escape and I want to be that guy, the one in the perfectly beaten-up bomber jacket and Hanes T-shirt, every day of my life. And Morrissey has this quite extraordinary ability to make straight guys love him a little bit; he’s that cool. No one has his stage presence. Even now he absolutely owns the room when he’s performing.

My most recent insider find is Nash Masood, creative director at Robert Emmett, for excellent made-to-measure shirts. I go to his third shop in Jermyn Street. Emmett, 112 Jermyn Street, London SW1 (020-7925 1299;; fittings from £125.

The site that most inspires me is the Pantheon in Rome. If there’s a single man-made structure that allows you to tangibly sense volume, it’s this one. If you’re lucky enough to be there when it rains, and you have this sheet of water coming down through the middle of this volume, it brings it alive. You can stand in much bigger spaces – the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, St Peter’s – but you don’t have that same sense of perfect space. I’m not a spiritual person, but when I visit the Pantheon what I feel is something I would characterise as close to spirituality.

An indulgence I’d never forego is bordeaux. Without question. When I first started genuinely to appreciate wine, they were the ones that were brought to my attention, and I immediately fell into a sort of love. It’s the taste, of course, but it’s also the act of choosing them, buying them, laying them down, creating a cellar. It’s also the glasses I drink out of, the time I spend with the wine when I drink, experiencing it. The process relates to lots of what I do. When at all possible, I go direct to the vineyards and lay down; but in London you can’t go far wrong with Berry Bros & Rudd in St James’s. 3 St James’s St, London SW1 (020-7396 9600;

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the last year is Versailles, to see the Jeff Koons installation (see image). It was fantastic to consider these great contemporary works in that space. The scale of boldness in that refined context was so dynamic.

My favourite room in my house is my study. Or rather, my study-to-be; we’ve just moved and I’ll now have a place that’s totally my own domain. It’s all the things that anyone who’s surrounded by people all the time and has three young children would fantasise about as an escape. It will allow me time and space to cultivate parts of my life that I’m not really known for. And – who knows? – perhaps pull out a few surprises.

If I weren’t doing what I do now, my alternative-life career would be as a gardener. My wife and I bought a place in the country where the gardens were derelict, and I fell totally in love with the notion of leaving a legacy behind. I’ve a particular passion for planting trees – it’s the idea of a simple gesture and what a lasting effect it can have on the planet. Also, on a personal stress level, it’s an incredible release from everything else in my life.