Digital Editor of The Rake
Interview: Ben St George
The only thing that stops Aleks Cvetkovic from looking like a man out of time is the fact that he’s louchely reclining in a leather armchair in The Groucho Club in London’s Soho drinking a whiskey sour.
It’s hard not to notice how the 23-year old differs from most of his peers in matters of taste (cigars), dress sense (classic tailoring), music (jazz greats) and, most notably, occupation (The Rake’s online editor, and primary craft and tailoring writer). Here, however, he’s truly in his element, a man very much in both time and place - impeccably dressed, eloquent in conversation and charming to the last.
Cvetkovic took a somewhat circuitous route to his current station. Growing up in Hertfordshire (“leafy” Cvetkovic says of his hometown, “nice, but quite boring”), he followed in his father’s footsteps and was accepted Oxford University for English Literature. “It’s a barking place” he says of alma mater, “but I loved it. Loved the eccentricity of it and having a generally surreal three years”. It was during this time Cvetkovic’s distinct sense of style, influenced heavily by his love of jazz, started to crystallise, and he began to feel that his true calling lay closer to Savile Row. “So I thought, well how the hell am I going to do it? How does one enter such a closed community when they’re studying something that isn’t tailoring?”
Cvetkovic’s answer was to start a blog, The Student Tailor, which eventually got him on the radar of some of the Row’s notables, including Chester Barrie’s Chris Modoo, who one day forced him into a rather abrupt introduction with The Rake’s editor-in-chief, Wei Koh. “He dragged me over and literally dumped me in front of him. I, of course, was utterly terrified” Cvetkovic says of their first encounter. “I babbled at him for about a minute, and then Wei just stopped me, took his business card out, said ‘Aleks, send me an email’ and moved on. I left absolutely cock-a-hoop. I emailed him three days later and got one line back, in true Rakish style. ‘Would you like an internship.’ And that’s how it started.” Since then he’s become a regular fixture on the Row, a patron and champion of traditional tailoring and a distinctive voice within the trade.
The Rake’s move towards online, and Cvetkovic’s role in that, comes at an interesting time for luxury tailoring, with e-commerce and the reach of online drastically affecting the fortunes of the tailoring houses - both for better and for worse. “It’s a double-edged sword, like all things, isn’t it?” Cvetkovic says of the digital age’s effect on the industry. “On one level it gives craftsmen who are willing the opportunity to connect with a new audience - which I personally think is a really healthy thing. But for whatever reason some sartorial brands seem a little bit reticent, which I think is a shame - and it can even be dangerous” he says. “It’s wrong for sartorial brands not to market themselves in this day and age, and I have no issue putting that on record. I think it’s a huge mistake not to market your brand - or to think of yourself as a brand. Communicating doesn’t cheapen what you do”.
Cvetkovic’s forward-facing approach to online is tempered with a healthy skepticism, however, pointing to the ease with which the lack of personal touch can mask a firm’s shortcomings. “I am very, very wary of a lot of these new, young heritage-poor brands that are popping up, that allow you all of a sudden to create a three-piece suit via an app. Perhaps it’s a snobbish thing to say, but I’ve yet to see a really good suit or shirt that’s been created digitally. I’m not convinced by it.” His answer to the encroachment of such outfits is, again, is one of communication. “The key is for brands that really do create things of quality to leverage this opportunity that the digital world brings; to take ownership of bespoke and made-to-measure” he says, “so that there is less space in the market for imposters to do the same”.
It’s not the only challenge he sees the industry facing, another major one being that of identity. “I think traditional luxury has to find a way of remaining relevant and engaging without cheapening itself”. If that’s so who, I ask, is getting the balance right? “Drake’s I think. They’re doing as good a job as anyone of really actually taking ownership of their space and preventing any room for imposters or for poor product. There are certain, quite hard-hitting designer brands, where you sort of look at the product and know that it’s made to a price - and yet somehow, because they have the brand right, they win that battle. That needs to be reversed”.
That’s really the crux of what he hopes to achieve with his work and with The Rake - to champion things of craft, elegance and real worth -things that equate to luxury, rather than luxury itself for it’s own sake. “I think when you write on luxury there is always a danger that you’re seen as spoilt, over-privileged, irrelevant or a bit ephemeral. That isn’t what The Rake’s about; it’s about a genuine connection to something that’s beautiful, whatever that might be. Something that’s worthwhile.” I ask him what he likes most about writing about these beautiful things. “Well, I really like telling stories that need to be told, and I hope that comes across”.