Fashion: The Scottish force behind Duchamp

Duchamp Menswear Autumn/Winter 2013
Duchamp Menswear Autumn/Winter 2013
Have your say

The Scottish creative driving force behind gentlemen’s luxury brand Duchamp have one eye on heritage and another on the future of fashion

THE name is unashamedly French. Its founder (a “mad professor” antiques dealer) happened across a vintage cache of cufflinks in a Paris flea market in 1987 and began a business in gentlemen’s luxury accessories that this year celebrates its 24th anniversary.

Duchamp Menswear Autumn/Winter 2013

Duchamp Menswear Autumn/Winter 2013

As he happened to be reading a book about Dadaism at the time, he decided to name the new company after the French surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp.

Give the company its full Sunday name, however – Duchamp London – and you are transported to classic British tailoring territory; all Jermyn Street postcode, red braces and colourful silk pocket squares.

So try not to do a double take when its owners, Marc and Alison Psarolis, and head of design Gianni Colarossi, speak with an accent that is more west end of Glasgow than left bank of Paris.

Husband and wife team Marc and Alison hail from Ayr, while master tailor Colarossi, who has trained under the best tailors in Italy, is from Edinburgh and went to school at Loretto.

Duchamp Menswear Autumn/Winter 2013

Duchamp Menswear Autumn/Winter 2013

“I joined Duchamp in 2002, after 12 years at Mulberry,” says Marc. “I’d started on the shop floor, working my way up into buying, designing menswear, running men’s accessories and clothing. I’d learned the A to Z of menswear, so when the owner of Duchamp called up, the timing was right.

“It was a call out the blue and we got on like a house on fire. He gave me a chance to join as sales director and travel all over the world, so for the next three or four years that’s what we did.”

In his time there he added shirting to the ties and cufflinks range, and that has since grown arms and legs – literally. Duchamp now produces everything from socks and scarves to tailoring, leather goods, swimwear and underwear.

In 2006 the founder retired and Marc led a management buyout. “It’s been really hard work,” he says, “and now, when I go to the United States or Canada, people think we’re a huge business but, really, we’re still a small, family business punching way above our weight. We sell in Bloomingdales, Barney’s, David Jones in Australia. Last year we sold to 100 countries online.”

“The same guy we use today for cufflinks is the guy we used when Duchamp first started,” says Alison. “We make all our scarves with Begg in Ayr and source our fabrics from the Borders. There’s Harris Tweed of course, Hawick Cashmere, and we make all our ties in Suffolk, in one of the oldest tie makers in the UK.”

Heritage is key to the brand, but it is also looking forward, and in October last year it launched a collaboration with students at Edinburgh College of Art based on The Modern Dandy, with the remit: Keep it sharp, keep it lively.

“We briefed them last October,” says Alison, “and they had until February to come up with a concept to present to our design team, who went on to choose the winners and push the button and got it into stores. The standard was really high, particularly in print – it was really challenging to choose a winner.”

The prize was £250, plus the offer of an internship at Duchamp in London, as well as, of course, seeing their designs become flesh, sold alongside the likes of Paul Smith and Armani in stores such as Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh.

“We’d love to do more projects like this,” says Alison. “It’s really good to support the students and give them an opportunity to shine because I know how hard it is to break into this industry. A lot of the time you have to do internships for free, and you can’t afford to come down to London to do those. It’s really competitive so if there’s anything we can do to raise the profile of talented students then we’re happy to do that.”

Twitter: @Ruth_Lesley

• Collection available from Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh and online