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He may be known at Thread HQ as the guy with the world-class sneaker collection, which might as well make him a celebrity in our office. But Brian Collins has a host of other equally impressive bragging rights: he’s a dad of two, man with infectious laugh, and the stylist responsible for overseeing the outfit ideas you scroll through on your feed. He’s also been known to drive several hours from his home in South Wales just to pay us a visit in our east London offices.
We spoke to Brian about his favourite trainers from his personal collection, which album covers inspire his personal style, and why the Wu-Tang Clan is responsible for his career.
How did you initially get into styling?
Not many would say this, but it was the Wu tang clan. Let me elaborate. In 1993, I discovered Wu-Tang, who were instrumental to my style journey. Not only was the music insane, but the clothing they wore blew my mind. Ralphy Snow beach jackets, loose fit pants, amazing trainers, and Clarks wallabees. Fast forward 15 years, along the way building a strong history of fashion retail behind me. I meet a handsome woman in a club wearing headphones, and guess what she was listening too? Wu-Tang clan. What a winner!. That fabulous woman happend to be a great stylist, who fuelled my love of clothing further. A few years, a few fashion weeks and a baby later, she introduces me to the Thread team and the rest is history.
Tell us a little about your experience before Thread?
Some would say I have an obsession; I like to call it a dirty habit – either way, I love trainers. I have been collecting for over 20 years, so the majority of my previous experience, as you may have guessed, was within footwear. I worked for size? for six years starting as a store manager and then moving my way up to being in charge of Training & Development for the UK & E.U.
In my spare time, I also ran a trainer event (with a good friend) in Cardiff called Laced; we would bring sellers from all over the country together and showcase local musicians and graffiti artists. It was a great excuse to wallow in our obsessions, listen to great music and meet fellow collectors.
What are some of your favourite sneakers?
You can read all about my favourite trainers on Thread in this article. But let’s get into the nitty gritty – out of my collection I would go with:
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is constantly being refined through discovery, but it will always be a strong reflection of my key influences, hip hop, and Japanese streetwear.
What is your favourite season when it comes to style?
Big coat season – winter. As with trainers, I don’t need much of an excuse to treat myself to a new coat, even though it may sometimes get me into a little trouble, but honestly I really did need the coat at the time. I am also a massive lover of layering; which those crisp, sunny, winter days are perfect for. Layering allows you to add so much exciting depth to your look, and you can wear all your favourite pieces at once. Plus I just love breathing out and seeing my breath, simple pleasures.
What’s the most sentimental piece in your wardrobe?
In my prime, I did a little modelling, and I was lucky enough to meet and model for one of my favourite designers Jeff Griffin. I would always have the best time getting battered by the British weather trying to look cool hanging off Cliffs in Devon. At the end of my first shoot, Jeff took me into his archive storage and told me to pick a piece. I was gobsmacked – it was tough and emotional, but I chose a floor-length, reversible digi camo parka, with a fur-trimmed hood. It’s a real statement piece. I once wore it to Paris, and bumped into another inspiration of mine, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), we nodded at each other, smiled and he said ‘nice coat!’. It was so awesome.
Where do you turn to for style inspiration?
Old album covers and music videos are a great source of inspiration; they really echo visually what was creatively inspiring the artist at the time and capture a pure style snapshot. I also love flicking through books and magazines that document subcultures or style movements.
Which decade do you think had the best style?
Without any doubt the ‘90s. From the loose-fitting clothing of hip hop to grungy cardigans and home made do it yourself tees of Nirvana to the relaxed experimental rock style of radio head and designers such as Alexander McQueen, all created attitudes and styles inspirations that still dominate today.
Any style lessons you’ve learned so far this year?
The looser the better. It’s all about those relaxed fits!
What are three pieces you think everyone should have in their wardrobe?
1. Utility jacket
The utility jacket has become my go to staple – it’s versatile, not too heavy, so it will work perfectly as an extra all season item either as a layer over a tee on chilly summer nights or under a coat on crisp winter days. Plus, they are available in a wide range of colours and styles; it’s hard not to find one that will suit you, and because they workwear, they are built to last.
2. Patterned short-sleeve shirt
A patterned short-sleeve shirt is the ideal way to make a summer statement. It’s a standout piece that may push your style boundaries, but you can easily balance out the dynamic pattern by opting for a simple chino to pair with or layering under a lightweight jacket so that the pattern subtly pokes out.
3. Chinos (any width, just don’t go skinny)
Where would we be without the chino? Probably in jeans but anyway. Chinos are not just for Christmas, and make ideal investment pieces that won’t break the bank, but I promise you will notice the quality difference in both the quality of cotton and stitching – plus they'll keep their shape wash after wash. With an endless amount of options, I’d start with good staples such a neutral or khaki pair, as they will work with a wide range of colours and pieces that you probably already have in your wardrobe.
Tell us about one of your favourite brands featured on Thread?
Story Mfg. is a brand that lives and breathes its ideology of sustainability. And it doesn’t trade off at any point of the process when creating their product, from sourcing material to the amazingly talented people that embellish and hand print on each piece, every part created is considered and has an authenticity that reflects in the awesome finished product.
What’s one style or trend you’d like to see go out of style?
Battered trainers – I’ve seen it grow over the years with Margiela doing an ageing trainer with yellow, cracked midsoles, and now Balenciaga have gone fully ‘Mugatu Derelicte” and released a totally destroyed trainer for mega bucks. I’m not sure who would wear them but as a collector it breaks my heart to see such a thing.
What do you like to do outside of styling?
I really enjoy slipping into some lycra and riding my bike over the wonderful hills of Wales. I also spend a lot of time discovering new and old music and watching Anime. Fun fact: my favourite film of all time is “Akira” (followed closely by “Star Wars”).
Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Matt Joy
Styling: Brian Collins
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