The Aesthete: Patrick Johnson talks more personal taste

The menswear designer concludes his list of likes with Thistle Island, Prince’s early jazz funk sessions and antiques shopping in Clignancourt

Patrick Johnson at home in Sydney
Patrick Johnson at home in Sydney | Image: Hugh Stewart

My style icon has been Ralph Lauren for as long as I can remember. A kid from the Bronx who created American luxury; it’s genius. He captured the zeitgeist of late-1970s American aspiration, and then continued to do that successfully for decades. And his attention to detail, across such a huge range of aesthetics and styles – sailing, tennis, the urban stuff, the American West. It’s incredible what he’s done.

American designer Ralph Lauren
American designer Ralph Lauren | Image: Getty

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Thistle Island, a small island off the coast of South Australia. There are no hotels, just a dozen modest private homes. And incredible fishing: tuna, King George whiting – my favourite – abalone and more. It’s possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been.

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And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a set of beautiful cooking knives from a shop called Kama-Asa in Tokyo. It custom-makes them with your initials carved on the blade in Japanese. 2-24-1 Matsugaya, Tatio-ku, Tokyo 111-0036 (+813-3841 9357; kama-asa.co.jp).

Clignancourt is full of amazing outdoor flea markets, such as Paul Bert Serpette and Marché Biron
Clignancourt is full of amazing outdoor flea markets, such as Paul Bert Serpette and Marché Biron | Image: Alamy

A recent “find” is Mokonuts café in Paris. I sometimes struggle with the heaviness of the food in Paris – and don’t get me started on the lack of good breakfast options – but this is a little oasis of interesting, healthy, fresh food with a slight Middle Eastern bent. 5 Rue Saint-Bernard, 75001 Paris (+339-8081 8285).

The remote Thistle Island, located off the coast of South Australia, offers incredible fishing and breathtaking scenery
The remote Thistle Island, located off the coast of South Australia, offers incredible fishing and breathtaking scenery | Image: Alamy

The last music I bought was Prince’s Jazz Funk Sessions 1977 – I think it’s also sometimes called the Loring Park Sessions. Prince was 19 when he made it; he’s on keys, with André Cymone on bass and Bobby Z, who later joined his band, on drums. Basically, they went into the studio and just improvised eight tracks. To look back and understand how versatile Prince was – even at such a young age – is pretty cool.

Johnson’s custom-made cooking knives from Kama-Asa in Tokyo
Johnson’s custom-made cooking knives from Kama-Asa in Tokyo | Image: Hugh Stewart

In my fridge you’ll always find Ginjo sake, cheese – especially dauphinois, which I love; it’s like eating cream – and fresh coconuts.

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The site that inspires me is the ocean. I live above Tamarama Beach in Sydney, so I swim every morning before work.

My favourite room in my house is my office, which we’ve put in our garage – my wife [interior designer Tamsin Johnson] designed it for me. One of my neighbours describes it as the campest office in Tamarama; it’s got a chandelier, a Flemish tapestry and a classical bust. It’s not what you’d expect from a Sydney shed, but it’s a haven where I can escape to think – and it’s open to the street most of the time, so I can say hi to people as they go past.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is probably Lucio Fontana. He’s a great artist to live with: his work isn’t too overpowering. And while it appears to be quite simple, it is actually very complex. That said, I think art should be mostly on display to the public and accessible to everyone; that’s why Tamsin and I keep so much of ours in our showrooms. 

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Clignancourt in Paris. It’s always my first stop when we go to Europe. I’ll hit Ma Cocotte, Philippe Starck’s café; it makes amazing hot chocolate and always has freshly baked mini pains au chocolat. Then the outdoor stands at Paul Bert, where there are a lot of young dealers. It’s not your usual midcentury stuff – it’s a bit more premium and selective. Karine Szanto is one of the dealers; she does sculptural stone pieces and interesting furniture. And then there’s Jean-Luc Ferrand, which is like a curated antiques store. I love to just wander, too, because I always find such interesting stuff. Jean-Luc Ferrand Antiquités, Marché Biron, 85 Rue des Rosiers (+331-4945 0097; jeanlucferrand.com). Karine Szanto, +336-1934 6337; karineszanto.com and see Paul Bert Serpette. Ma Cocotte, 106 Rue des Rosiers (+331-4951 7000; macocotte-lespuces.com). Paul Bert Serpette, 110 Rue des Rosiers (paulbert-serpette.com).

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would probably be a garden designer. I love gardening. Fundamentally, it’s an optimistic pursuit, hoping that something will grow and thrive.

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