Words & Portraits Kirk Truman
“…I didn’t consider myself to have any distinctive features. I was a normal bloke.”
Its early on a May morning when Richard Biedul and I meet at Fitzrovia’s Mandrake, one of London’s newest and most distinctive boutique hotels. We’re looking through a selection of his favourite personal wardrobe pieces, including a two-piece suit from Jack Davison Bespoke and a military-green matching shirt and trousers from Savile Row tailored essentials label Basic Rights. Biedul is a British style icon, a figurehead of fashion whose story as a model is as fascinating as the brands he works with. In the Mandrake’s blood-red private dining room, we meet to talk modelling, menswear and just what it means to be a Londoner.
Born into a working-class family, Richard is a north west Londoner with a Polish heritage. His mother and father met in London, where they settled and raised Richard and his two brothers. “We had everything we ever wanted. It was the perfect upbringing,” he says. “My mother was a lawyer before she became a teacher. She had an influence on me, which led me to take on a law career. I suppose I never truly understood the value of education at that time. I hung out with the cool kids and tried my best to keep out of trouble… which wasn’t always the case.” Richard took a law degree, which led to him becoming a fully qualified solicitor at a leading London law firm. From an early age, while dividing his time between north west London and Soho, Richard was fascinated by the look and feel of men’s clothing. “Clothes are important to you in a working-class upbringing, you know? I guess you could say it started when I worked in a clothing store as a teenager, which grew into an adult fascination with tailoring and style,” he says. “One evening after work, about seven years back, I was standing outside a pub in Hoxton where I had a strange encounter with a model scout. I didn’t think much of it really; in fact, I neither took it seriously nor believed it at all.”
This was the beginning of a transition from office to runway for Richard, who after being signed by the agency Select and moving on to Elite, found himself booked by some of the world’s leading brands within weeks. “All within six months, I had begun walking in Paris, Milan and all over the world, and moved to New York. How else can I describe it? It was crazy; just that. There’s nothing in life which can prepare you for such a change. I didn’t look at myself to be what I perceived as a model. A model to me while I was growing up was someone who almost looked like they had been carved from stone, and that wasn’t me. It wasn’t the 27-year-old, average build man that I am. I didn’t consider myself to have any distinctive features. I was a normal bloke. You know, if I think back, I remember my first fashion week, where I closed Oliver Spencer’s show in London, then rushed to Milan to work with Brioni and to Paris to do Berluti. I thought I must be on to something. Really how can you top that now? It became a thing where if one big client wanted you, so would another.”
Richard came to prominence at a time in the early 2010s when the British fashion industry was gravitating away from sculpted perfection and towards normal, relatable individuals to model clothing. After all, customers are more likely to desire clothes when the person wearing them on the runway is someone they can recognise as being like them.
Currently, Richard splits his time between his London life, working with fashion labels worldwide and a new personal project. Given his long-term experience in the industry, he has taken the opportunity to produce his first capsule collection. “Sustainability in clothing, especially in British brands, is something which has always been central to my interest in clothing and always will be,“ he explains. “This industry has given me an education in style and clothing. I love to learn, and in learning I have contributed further to my level of involvement with brands. It’s become more of a partnership, and now I want to take some part of that and give something back.”
Richard has set up a production company, working with brands such as Hackett, and will launch his first capsule collection this summer in collaboration with contemporary London based label King & Tuckfield. Founded by Stacey Wood, the men’s and women’s brand takes inspiration from the style of the 1940s and 50s paired with modern elegance and meticulous workmanship. “Designed here in London, King & Tuckfield is driven by its focus on British craftsmanship and sustainability,” says Richard. “My collection is inspired by mid-century fabric and design; it’s modern workwear with a sartorial twist. The first collection will be released this summer, followed by another later this year.” I ask Richard whether in the coming years, given his experience in the industry, he may look to move away from the runway and towards a design career. “Although this would be the dream, I’m far off that. At the moment I am somewhere between an art director and a model. I feel like I’d need to go back to ground zero and learn the business from the bottom up,” he says. Perhaps he’s being too modest. As Richard talks me through each of the outfits, his inspirations and aspirations, I suspect that his knowledge and eye could definitely lead him to create further collections in the coming years.
Today, Richard is represented by IMG, based close to Soho, where he has spent much of his time – both work and social life – over the years. “The heritage of London is there in the spirit of the neighbourhood. The streets of Soho have been and always will be for everybody and anybody. Its rich wash of colour embraces style, race, sexuality and community. It has stood the test of time. Everywhere I go, and in everything I do, I like to be engaged, and in Soho anybody can find themselves,” he says. “The music, the people and the clothes; it was central to my youth and upbringing, and to me as a person. It was new, it was mind-blowing, and I fell in love with it.” Keep a close eye out for Richard on the runway and with his King & Tuckfield collection this summer: this proud Londoner and figurehead of British style is ready to make his mark.