© The Financial Times Ltd 2014 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
September 5, 2009 2:02 am
Despite covering the fashion industry as a journalist, where I was surrounded by many of the most stylish men and well-maintained male models in the world, I always stood apart.
I was a single, 29-year-old, 6ft 1in, 290lb man whose roly-poly girth had inspired one publication to nickname me the “fashion panda”. I hovered in the background but shunned photo opportunities and sample sales. Instead, I wore three-button high-cut jackets and wide-leg trousers for formal functions, and black Lacoste polo shirts and boot-cut jeans for informal occasions, all punctuated with accessories. Who cared if I was wearing an XXL size as long as I had the coolest Louis Vuitton bag, I told myself.
It turned out, I did care. By September 2008, at the end of New York Fashion Week, I was tired of being out of shape. It was time for me to cut the excess fat. Having made the decision to take some much needed time off from my job as editor of Fashion Week Daily (which, might I add, with its long work hours and late-night carb-rich dinners, had contributed significantly to my obesity), I decided to design my own fitness regime.
I met a trainer, who in our sole session told me bluntly my body fat percentage spoke for itself, and I decided enough was enough. I embarked on a self-imposed workout regime: I spent 2½ to 3 hours a day at the gym for most of the week, coupled with a strict no-carbs diet and a 6pm cut-off for meals (not to mention conscious, though never obsessive, calorie counting).
Nine months later I had shed 90lb. I felt lighter, not to mention more enlightened. One of the unexpected side-effects of the new me was that it finally allowed me to understand fashion from the inside – not only to write about and admire it but to actually wear it.
And having gone from a 42in waist to a 33in, I needed a new wardrobe. Fortunately (for my bank balance at least), by the time I was ready to shop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plummeted some 3,000 points and upscale boutiques and department stores were heavily discounting their designer merchandise. What’s more, I seemed to be the only person spending. The men’s designer floor at Barneys was eerily quiet, entire stores were deserted, and ordinary sales associates had become my own personal shoppers.
I introduced my new slimmer self to old designer friends, such as Ralph Lauren Black Label, Jil Sander, Prada, Lanvin, Bottega Veneta and Banana Republic. I now understood the implicit beauty in the construction of well-made garments because I had altered my body to fit the designs. In my former fatsuit, my comprehension came from outside – I never experienced the total package. In my new body, I learnt to be a discerning shopper. By taking armfuls of McQueen, Burberry Prorsum, and Dries van Noten into the fitting room, I was able to see what worked (and what didn’t).
I shook off the cringe-inducing memory of, during my heavier days, having worn brown Juicy Couture velour sweatpants to a Christian Lacroix couture show as I slipped into a Neil Barrett cashmere-and-wool suit at Bergdorf. Now that I was fine-tuning my sartorial choices, I paid attention to how much “dirt” was visible on the back of my jacket (slang, I learnt, for room to move your arms comfortably) and whether or not the back of my suit jacket “duck-tailed” or jutted out (ideally not at all). One-button jackets became the gold standard.
I realised my fantasy, having interviewed Stefano Pilati and written about his designs at Yves Saint Laurent for years, of being able to wear his work: a pair of wool/cashmere YSL trousers was the first purchase I made when I was my new, more svelte self.
Of course, while I was settling nicely into my new waistline, I also came to terms with the fact that I’ll always have football players’ legs (bigger calves, larger thighs), so some trousers, such as those by Rag & Bone, will always be out of bounds.
And just as overweight women tend to compensate for their size by buying expensive shoes and bags, I realised I had been doing the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always appreciate a pair of Pierre Hardy Neoprene shoes or a great Balenciaga weekender but I realised that a beautifully tailored shirt, jacket, or pair of trousers would serve me far better in the long run than the latest “It” anything.
Now, almost a year after seeing the light, I have found that being skinnier was not without its downfalls. At the Calvin Klein Collection store on Madison Avenue, where much of the fall runway pieces were arriving, I discovered that the beautifully constructed sports jackets and outerwear I coveted were either not available in my size (European 52), or the sole unit ordered in my size had already been spoken for. Being thin isn’t always so useful.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.