Q&A with Robin Clementson

I’ve always been very keen to talk to people from all aspects of menswear, not just the designers themselves but the people behind the scenes; the graphic designers, the photographers, the agencies – people who play an important role but can sometimes be overlooked in a brand’s success. Someone who ticks this box is friend of the blog, Robin Clementson, the man behind new agency, Start-Me-Up, who currently works with menswear giants such as Universal Works and 7L. Here is Robin’s story…

Talk us through your different roles within menswear currently?

Well I’m a journalist by trade, so I work a lot with brands with regards to their copy-writing and presentation of stories – whether about the business, the people or the product – and then help deliver that material to the right and relevant media or opinion former.

I still write for magazines and I’m the associate editor for SSEAMS, which is a new magazine created by people from within the industry with specialist skills across sectors such as product design, fabrics, interiors and of course communications and branding.

The day-to-day… I’m a brand consultant for my stable of brands helping to create relationships and coverage with longevity.

Talk us through your background, how did you get where you are today?

I started out in journalism at a young age. I’m a close friend of football/sports journalist Daniel Taylor and I used to do a bit of work experience with him before going on to do the NCTJ (National Certificate for the Training of Journalists) in Brighton. I then went into news and sports reporting on the London regionals before working for the Press Association in Leeds and then back to London where I ended up working as a writer and sub editor across sport, music and fashion/style. From there, I was introduced to PR through a journalist friend as at that time the industry was changing and a lot of ‘journalists’ were making the move because of the skill set we had.

I’ve worked for lots of big brands as well as start-ups and also in-house with LVMH over the past few years and this eventually led to me launching my own business.

What does an average day look like for you?

It’s different now because off the pandemic, but prior to Covid I was travelling a lot with work as I look after clients in Sweden, France and Switzerland as well as visiting trade shows to meet clients and possible new ones. It sounds like a lot of fun and it can be, but it’s also tiring, especially with having a family at home and missing them.

Today, I have an office set up at home and I’m spending a lot of time on Zoom calls. It has been hard, mainly because my work centres around working with people face-to-face and communicating the old fashion way.

My day is spent liaising with journalists, writing and editing copy for brands and then planning, strategising and behind the scenes bits for clients. I do make sure I go running most days to get some fresh air and clear the mind, which is integral.

Onto fashion outside of work, who are your favourite brands and why?

I have quite a few arguments with myself about this because I like quite a varied mix. Fundamentally I’m still into the same music and style that I was when I was younger which is derived from bands, football terraces and then workwear too – all mashed up into one, but I can appreciate and like other pieces as well from tailoring through to leather goods and accessories.

I’m from Nottingham, so I was brought up around the name Paul Smith and going to his original shop (not that I could afford it), then the city had a lot of independents and growing labels. At that time everything was about the Limeys store and the likes of Stone Island, Ralph Lauren and CP. But I also remember Scotts, Hope and Glory and the arrival of Cruise Flannels. Me and my mates would swap clothes around to keep things lively.

I like old school brands. I love both Clarks and Adidas Originals. I wear a lot of Universal Works because I really like the workwear style and vibe of the brand. My jeans are mainly TWC or UW and as a typical north Midlander, I love shoes and coats. I literally have loads.

How would you define your style?

Mashed up. My wife would say I dress like a Northerner. I have plenty of barnet left too. Truthfully, I like different styles and it can cause me some headaches, the one I will settle on is the more relaxed workwear look. I loved Liam Gallagher’s look at the start of OASIS fame in the Nineties and admire Richard Ashcroft’s style too, but equally, as well as that baggy Manchester look, I like Paul Weller’s casual style and the slimmer MOD silhouettes.

You use to be a music journalist – what was that like?

Really good. Really hard work too. I had young children by then so I was giving a lot of my gig tickets away, mainly to my brother, but you meet some of your heroes and that can throw you. I mean, I was part of a team that launched Top Gear Live three years on the trot, but as I wasn’t a Jeremy Clarkson fan, so it didn’t phase me. Then I’m in a dressing room with Zak Starkey and it’s game over…

What are your top 3 albums and why?

I won’t be able to answer this because I’ll just keep adding more into the mix, but quick fire…

The Stone Roses – 1989 – one of the first albums I bought and it literally sums up the start of my teen years and the love of a band I still love today.

The La’s – 1990 – Underrated band, but they weren’t around doing enough to solidify their sound. It’s a very different sound, almost tinny. Their live tracks from the album are raw and just sound immense.

Unknown Pleasures – I picked this because I have an ongoing obsession with Ian Curtis. I love the back-story and his unique personality, plus I love the way, via, New Order and Electronic that Bernard Sumner and co. have helped to shape the Manchester music scene. If you’ve never seen the film Control, you must, it’s a great depiction of that time.

But to be honest, I could on and on and on here…

Who are you listening to at the minute?

Funnily enough, I was hoping to get a band started with a mate of mine doing old covers (we’ve been chatting about this for 16 years so that’s how serious we are) but I’ve been listening to Charlatans again who I still love and then other stuff from my era and before including a bit of Paul Weller, Primal Scream, Ride as well as The Stones, Bob Dylan, Bowie. I also like soul music.

Who do I like today, honestly not a lot out there for my tastes but your recent interview with Sleaford Mods would be a good shout – I like them and I also saw a post you made on Twisted Wheel. I interviewed and did a shoot with them about 11 years ago for a gig they did with Weller at Silverstone.

My eldest son and daughter are into music and fire a few new things my way. I like some of it. My Eldest son is into 21 Pilots if that helps?

Are you into football?

Yes mate. You know I am – ha ha ha. I was born in Nottingham and been a Forest fan since childhood. I was a Junior Red and then would stand in the old Colwick Road end behind the goal with my dad. I remember Wednesday night matches were my favourite. Forest were decent then of course and we had about four or five players in the England side with Nigel Clough, Des Walker, Stuart Pearce, Neil Webb.

I played at the City Ground once in the Schoolboy final but we were beaten 4-3 I think. A couple of my best friends when I was young became footballers.

Pre Covid did you get down too many games?

I live in Surrey now so literally get to no Forest games. My two sons play on a Saturday morning and I’m bang into that and then we we go to watch Crawley Town play as it’s easy to get to and a decent standard – if you don’t love to watch football at this level, you might as well call it a day. We will start to go to bigger games, my eldest son supports Manchester United and we’ve been to Old Trafford, so we will go again when we can.

What’s the best match you’ve ever been too and why?

SIMOD Cup Final Forest v Everton at Wembley in 1989. I went on the bus with my dad and my brother and it was amazing being so little and being in that stadium – for some reason I can picture Graeme Sharp on the pitch in my head – ha ha ha – Forest won of course 4-3.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get a career within fashion and marketing?

I think you have to have a genuine passion for brands or branding. So many people say and do the same things, but it’s about knowing brands inside out and reflecting that character. The art of interaction and accessibility is becoming more and more important. You need to have and understand the reason for doing something. It needs to be considered and if you work with consultants or you are a consultant, you should remember you are being hired or hiring for their expertise, so listening is important.

Finally, describe the Start Me Up Brand Consultancy in only 3 words…

Experienced; Passionate; Storyteller

Images sourced from Robin and his portfolio of clients

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