For the latest in our Q&A series we caught up with David Keyte, founder of Universal Works.
An early career in the English midlands as a sign writer, then in the local coal mine, perfected David’s understanding of and need for real work wear. Fourteen years at Paul Smith and a further five years at Maharishi furthered his education in all things sartorial.
Universal Works was born in late 2008, with the debut collection launching in the Autumn/Winter of the following year. The brand aims to mix Britain’s great clothing heritage with a modern, more international feel.
“As the founder and designer I want it to be universal in its appeal and easy enough to work for men in everyday settings at work and play,” he says of the aesthetic, “clothes that will reflect the personality of the wearer; real honest menswear that defies the trends and whims of fashion. The ideas come from a humble blue-collar background but one that knows how to dress well and live well.”
1. When did fashion/a sense of personal style first become important to you?
Aged about 12 I stopped my mum buying me clothes and asked her to give me the money so I could buy my own, and started doing Saturday jobs to earn more money to buy better kit. I think I was born wanting to look good, sad but true.
2. Who is your style icon (living or dead)?
Too many. Maybe Bowie in his Young American days, maybe Joe Strummer, but my love of 50’s might have to make it Gary Cooper. Now that was one well-dressed man.
3. How would you describe London style?
Eclectic. London is a true world city, a city state really, and its style reflects that for sure.
4. If you could live anywhere else in the world where would it be (and why)?
Auckland – the best coffee, best laid-back lifestyle, big skies and big ocean and I don’t have to learn another language. It that lazy of me?
5. Limited to just a suitcase, which items from your wardrobe would you have to take with you?
A pair of simple sneakers, tapered cotton pants a few pocket tees, an angler waistcoat and unstructured jacket, and a wool knot work jacket if I am going somewhere colder. Oh, and I would try to fit in my running shoes, too!
6. What are your most used grooming/beauty products?
Tooth paste and shower gel. I sometimes use them twice a day.
7. When and where did you look your best?
Well this morning of course, after the toothpaste and the shower gel (and getting dressed).
8. Which is your favourite season of the year (and why)?
Winter – lots of layers to wear, the colours in the park are fantastic and the football season gets into full swing.
9. Who in your own family most influenced your sense of style?
My uncle Bill, he had a Vespa.
10. If life was a movie, which film would you most like to live in?
11. Which grooming or fashion mistakes most irk you in others?
Blokes in super skinny jeans, unless of course you are actually one of the Ramones.
12. Cat or dog?
13. What lesson would you pass on to younger people following in your shoes?
Work hard and then work harder, but enjoy it.
14. What motivates you in your career?
Making things I am proud of, and knowing I have to pay the gas bill at the end of the month.
15. If you could trade looks with anyone who would that person be?
The sculptor Bancussi.
16. What category of clothing are you most drawn to/are most likely to overspend on?
HATS. I have far too many of them.
17.Which is your most treasured sense?
18.Name three elements of a perfect holiday
No phone, no wifi and good weather.
19. If you could change a single aspect of your appearance what would it be?
Then I would not be me! I will stay with the lot I got thanks.
20. Your ideal lunch venue and guest
St. John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields with Stephanie (my partner).
37 Lamb’s Conduit St
020 3632 2115