Dunhill Creative Director Simon Holloway Presents his First Collection

Alfred Dunhill founded a company to sell a lifestyle; today its new creative director is doing the same

Style 19 Jun 2024

Cavendish jacket, £1,750, shirt, £460, neckerchief, £295 and pocket square, £155

Cavendish jacket, £1,750, shirt, £460, neckerchief, £295 and pocket square, £155

There’s a scene in Netflix’s Ripley, the latest version of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, set in 1960 and shot in black and white, which Simon Holloway is particularly taken with. ‘Dickie Greenleaf is sitting on the terrace dressed in casual, elegant clothing, and he has a cigarette and an ashtray and a lighter on the table,’ he describes. ‘Everything is just so. That lighter is an important part of the plot, and as Ripley approaches him the camera pulls focus on the lighter and you see that it is by Dunhill. It makes you realise that Dunhill has long been part of a luxury world for those who know about these things.’

Holloway became the creative director of Dunhill around a year ago and he is now presenting his first collection, which will be in stores this month. He is British, born in Newcastle, and has an impressive CV with stints designing at Richard Tyler, Narciso Rodriguez and Jimmy Choo. But it is arguably the time he spent in America working for Ralph Lauren that makes him such a good fit for Dunhill. Lauren clearly sees fashion as part of a wider story and has talked of how he thinks cinematically about his work, like a screenwriter and director, designing for characters in imaginary movies. And this, it would seem, is how Holloway sees his role at Dunhill.

‘When I got here, I discovered not only a great history of clothing, but an entire world, stretching back to Alfred Dunhill’s early days when his motto was “Everything but the Motor”,’ Holloway recalls. ‘His father had started a business kitting out carriages in the 19th century, and at 25 Alfred bet the house on the new invention of the motorcar, converting the business to one supplying kit for the early motorists. Lamps, luggage, horns, you name it. And then clothes, particularly car coats.’

Shirt, £460, chinos, £460, neckerchief, £325 and Audley penny loafers, £625. All Dunhill
Shirt, £460, chinos, £460, neckerchief, £325 and Audley penny loafers, £625. All Dunhill

The point he makes is that this was dressing and supplying pieces for a lifestyle. Following motorists, Dunhill reached out to aviators, and then extended into other goods – including lighters and watches and pens and all manner of things that a sophisticated man about town like Dickie Greenleaf would have had in and around his wardrobe.

This thinking is evident in his first collection, which was influenced by archive pieces he found at Dunhill and others he bought back from collectors. He even shows me a tux worn by Frank Sinatra, and something like the holy grail of eveningwear, the tux that Truman Capote wore to the famous Black and White Ball he hosted at New York’s Plaza Hotel in 1966.

There is a beautiful blue wool-silk seersucker single-breasted suit that can be split and worn as a blazer, or as double-pleated trousers to match with a linen-silk navy blue short-sleeved polo without buttons. Linen, of course, is key: there’s an ivory jacket and trousers, along with a selection of button-down shirts in different colours, including a pinstripe, all in the cool, quintessential summer fabric.

The look may be pure “elegant Englishman abroad” in a traditional leading-man kind of way, but make no mistake, this is no straightforward heritage collection. Though its roots are firmly tied to the classics, Holloway is too smart to simply roll out the garments of yesteryear. The contemporary touches are everywhere, from lightweight stone-coloured cotton joggers to a reversible linen hopsack gilet with a water-resistant nylon lining and wool-silk zip-up navy blouson. And among the innovative pieces coming this autumn/winter, we can look forward to a wool-jersey double breasted navy chalk stripe suit and dark grey wool-cotton-cashmere denim jeans. There’s also a luxury athletic collection on the cards that makes you look like you’re about to play a few sets of stylish tennis or pick up your golf bag – or croquet mallet.

‘The fabrics I’m using may look familiarly classic, but they are made from lighter-weight, luxurious yarns and blends to make them really comfortable,’ explains Holloway. ‘I’m dressing today’s man for today’s lifestyle, just as Alfred Dunhill was dressing his customers for theirs. So even if a suit or jacket has a suggestion of a shoulder, which is a nod to the British style of tailoring, it’s actually incredibly soft and easy to wear.’

Along with the clothes come the accessories: silver tie pins and cufflinks, of course, but also a chess set with geometric silver pieces, a silver pen shaped like a tall cylindrical pyramid, and a Russian nesting doll in stainless steel, where the final container houses – what else – a lighter.