Favorite Things | The matchy-matchy dandy

Philippe Charriol on loving prune and being chic.

INTERVIEW  JOSEPH L. GARCIA

The word “suit” comes from the French “suite” as in “following.” The parts of a suit, meant to be seen as one, follow one another, coming from the same cloth and ideally, should follow the same style. Philippe Charriol, founder and CEO of fine jewelry brand Charriol, is keenly aware of this. His sartorial decision making resembles the cogs and gears in the watches made by his company: precise and logical.

While he confesses the complexity of his clothes, Mr. Charriol has also mastered sprezzatura: a concept from the Italian Renaissance that means “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.”

Why do you like purple? 

When the year 2000 arrived, I decided to change everything about my brand. My brand used to be called Philippe Charriol: I cut Philippe; I kept Charriol. I changed the corporate color from gray to prune because it’s a very difficult color to use. I decided that it would be my color. Since then, all my packaging, everything that surrounds me is very often prune, prune, prune.

Who makes your suits?

My suits are made by my tailor in Bologna. Sometimes, I buy from famous stores in France.

How do your bespoke suits compare with your store-bought suits?

It’s very simple. If I am dressed up with a suit from my tailor, I look perfect. It fits like a glove. It moves well around you. Any other suit will always have some defect. They won’t fit perfectly.

What do you look for when you choose your accessories?

Alors, my pocket hanky. I recently went to an arts-and-crafts store in Hong Kong, where I looked at silk fabrics, which I then transformed into a hanky for the pocket. They have many colors and they are very beautiful. You can use both sides. They normally have four, five colors, so you can have different suits to go with them.

Choosing a tie? I would say mood. It’s like you pass in front of a flower shop, and you say, ‘Oh, that’s a nice bouquet.’ Same thing. Colors, maybe. I need a tie for such and such suit. I buy ties anywhere, whenever I encounter the right color. I live in six different places. And I have six different garderobes. When I travel, I travel with zero luggage.

When you put on your clothes, what do you think of?

First, I love to dress for myself. I feel good if I’m well-dressed. If I feel that I made a nice assortment. I always like to mention a phrase from a famous French dandy. Somebody told him, ‘Ah, Monsieur, you are extremely well-dressed today.’ He replied, ‘If you noticed that I am well-dressed, it’s that I am not.’ Because to be extremely well-dressed should not be visible.

Now with me, the thing is, I don’t like black. I only have colors. I have all kinds of colors of suits, of shirts, of jackets, of coats — from red, to blue, to prune, white — and so on. You look sad in a black suit. I reckon it’s easy. Two black suits, you can go around. Same for the girls. The minute you go for color, then you have a big headache: matching the shoes, the socks. If you mix up everything, it’s terrible.

If you have a dark suit, you put on a white shirt, black shoes —  and you’re done for the day. But color? Very complicated. Being chic requires a lot of thought. Socks are very complicated things. You need socks of all colors.

If it takes a lot of thought, why does it make you happy to dress like that?

Because I like it. I think it’s nice. I can do it, I love it, it’s part of my personality. I don’t mind being a dandy.

Is the way the brand looks influenced by the way you look at style?

I think I’m quite a stylish person, so everything I do influences my business, my friends, my car, my house — because it’s my style.

How did growing up in Marseille influence the way you dress? What was your first brush with style?

When I was young — 16, 17 — I was wearing gloves, I had a cane, I had a suit. I was very preppy. I was wearing a hat, trying to be like an English guy. I had style. It was not as sophisticated as today, but it was different. When I look at the photos of my colleagues at the school at that time, I was really standing apart. All the others were very casual, and me, I was the chic guy in the group.

How did you know that you wanted to dress like this?

It was just me. Nobody influenced me. My father was not a dandy.

Elegance is harmony, and elegance is something which is very important in life. If everything around you is harmonious, it’s nice for your eyes; you feel good. Most of the time, it isn’t the case. A part is elegant, and the rest is terrible, so it’s not pleasant. It’s not automatically a matter of price, but you have to have a home which is nicely set up, you need to have elegant cars. In fact, it requires effort to dress up with gloves that go with your coat. It’s a very complicated issue. But it makes a difference, which I like. I exaggerate the case, but if you are an elegant and good-looking man, you cannot have an ugly woman with you. It doesn’t match — you understand what I mean? Everything has to match, more or less.