Ignatious Joseph has become a familiar face amongst those who frequent Pitti Uomo or follow the #menswear blogosphere - in part because of his foray into luxury shirtmaking, and in part because of his dashing style and intriguing personality, which has made him a darling amongst style photographers. As we learned when we met him during Pitti Uomo 91, Mr. Joseph has a penchant for classic shoes, and is a great fan of Austrian shoemaking in particular. Curious for more, we set up a short interview.
Ignatious Joseph describes his taste in shoes as 'English, with a bit of Italian touch. The English would not wear something like this, but probably the Italian would, and the French.'
Classic red shoes combined with red socks has become a recognizable signature style for you. How did you first come up with it?
You know, in the US they have an expression for the children of socialists: ‘red diaper babies’. I did not grow up wearing red. But I was raised in a Catholic family — in the waning years of Britain’s Asian empire, playing cricket and being drilled in Received Pronunciation at school in what was then called Ceylon. Many people do not know (or have forgotten) that blue was originally the colour for girls and red more common for boys. The point was that blue was the colour of the Holy Virgin and naturally every young Catholic girl was created (by her parents at least) in the image of Mary, in blue.
At the turn of the 20th century the colour assignment was reversed — I’ve forgotten exactly when and how. But since then one has learned to see blue as a boy’s colour. Now wearing a red suit would confuse many people — especially around Christmas. Hence I felt that expressing this manliness in the colour red would have to be more subdued. Hence I decided to order red shoes. Since then people notice that the Pitti Uomo is near no later than when they see my red shoes along the banks of the Arno.
@ign.joseph in his bold signature style: red shoes and socks paired with short, cuffed trousers. Ignatious Joseph describes his taste in shoes as "English, with a bit of Italian touch. The English would not wear something like this, but probably the Italian would, and the French." These particular shoes are made by an undisclosed Viennese maker. Ignatious holds the Austrian shoemaking tradition in high regard. "I salute the shoemakers in Austria!"
Any favourite brands of shoes and socks?
As a matter of principle I refrain from statements about brands other than my own. I am not paid to advertise for other companies. You won’t see labels on my clothes or ostentatious Swiss timepieces. I know there are firms in Germany, Italy, England and Portugal manufacturing high quality shoes and hose.
Who or/and what inspires you style wise?
I was inspired by my father’s generation — people who looked to England for style and had to adapt it to climates and conditions, which were anything but English. This is perhaps another reason I am drawn to Italy. The Italians captivated the European menswear markets by showing that the virtually idolised ‘English’ way of dressing could be converted into something light and elegant just by following a different fabric philosophy.
I confess I cannot explain the pre-eminence of a certain era of English sartorial habits. In Sri Lanka or the other former colonies it seems natural but not in countries that were never British colonies — it is a bit odd to see tweed, but one does — lots of it. I guess one has to say I was inspired by England in Sri Lanka and now I am inspired by translations of the English idiom.
Do you have any favourite item(s) of clothing?
Obviously shoes interest me. You know I do not understand why so many men seem to care so little about their feet. They spend more on tyres for their cars — although one can get a new car, new feet are somewhat more difficult to procure.
What is your favourite city or place in regards of style?
Repeatedly I have had to say that it is very difficult to find poorly dressed men in Italy — despite the overall decline of educated taste in Europe. Amidst the herds of followers at the twice-annual Pitti Uomo, there is always an opportunity for stylistic inspiration. Florence draws enough people together that styles emerges despite attempts to mainstream them.
Any thoughts about the future of classic menswear and artisanal clothing?
I have to believe that there is a future although it is often hard to maintain that optimism. Clothing culture is increasingly set by film, TV and music celebrities. While this has been true since film became a mass medium, the fact is that even the big-ticket nostalgia films have done nothing to edify those who have yet to find their own style.
Ignatious Joseph is the founder and owner of luxury shirt brand Ign. Joseph.
Mass entertainment is more interested in promoting high-tech — and violence — than in cultivation of gentlemen and women. For example civilian men’s clothing used to be adapted to military use, now much of men’s fashion is the conversion of military equipment into civilian attire. Classic menswear and artisanal clothing are connected intimately with the enhancement of a man’s cultivated appearance, not creating android warriors indistinguishable from the cars they drive.
There are always unexpected changes in the direction of human society and as long as there are people who dare to dress other than the way they are told, there will be a demand for people who can make the clothing those individuals demand.
Which hobbies do you enjoy?
In the subcontinent of Europe, one has to follow football. In the subcontinent of India, and the island nation of Sri Lanka — where I was born — cricket is the focus of attention. I enjoyed playing cricket but I have no time for active sports anymore. When I travel — whether on business or for rest and recreation, I walk everywhere and what I enjoy most is seeing the infinite variety of things people around the world do with their time.
What can we expect from you and Ignatious Joseph shirts in the near future?
'Classic menswear and artisanal clothing are connected intimately with the enhancement of a man's cultivated appearance, not creating android warriors indistinguishable from the cars they drive.'