City boy or country boy?
Two Jobs and Fifty Suit Man Andy Preston is set to enjoy the best of both worlds. Suffolk born and bred, and now aged 40, city slicker Andy Preston is poised to join the great City exodus and come home.
City boy or country boy? Two Jobs and Fifty Suit Man Andy Preston is set to enjoy the best of both worlds
Suffolk born and bred, and now aged 40, city slicker Andy Preston is poised to join the great City exodus and come home. When he left the county for university a couple of decades back he'd hoped to become a doctor but the world of finance lured him instead and having now worked across the globe, and acquired a wife and three children - the lure of the East Anglian coutryside is drawing him back.
However, when the family move, Andy doesn't plan to leave either of his two jobs in London, he'll commute instead. He earns his daily crust as a managing director with a huge American investment bank in Canary Wharf which means being at his desk at 6.30 in the morning and when he's there he'll invariably be immaculately turned out in one of his 50 or so suits.
And when you say 'his' suits, that's the key to his other business - Andy Preston Tailoring (or APT) - a venture that began life as a passion for tailored clothing and suiting; which eventually led to him setting up his own bespoke company.
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APT now has a studio and office in the City and two people on the payroll and is the kind of upmarket operation where the price of a suit starts at £777 and they'll come to you for the order and measuring.
Andy and his wife Ottilie, who is a fabric, wallpaper and children's bed linen designer - and their brood, Luca, five, Beau, three and one-year-old Eden, are presently Islington-based but as often as they can the family Preston decamp to Earl Soham to their weekend cottage just outside Framlingham. That's now on the market as they are poised to complete the sale on a proper family home in the vicinity and move back to the county on a permanent basis.
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It's a lifestyle move, mostly concerned with a better quality of and pace life and educating the children. “It's such a great part of the world,” he said, adding that in the same street he lives in London there are half a dozen other people who have weekend homes in Suffolk, which rather proves his point.
As soon as they move up here Ottilie is going to 'do' their new house up from top to bottom - their London home has already been featured in several glossy mags - and she wants to use it as a stepping stone to re-launch her fabric/wallpaper and interior design business post kids.
Andy went to Thomas Mills school in Framlingham, which he still has links with today being a trustee of the Michael Sims Memorial Fund, which was set up after a fellow schoolmate was murdered while hitchhiking in the States after they left school.
His 'day job' CV is impressive - he's done the lot from banking in an off-shore paradise in the British Virgin Islands, and onto the Middle East and Wall Street - otherwise he is ruled by his passions, which are family life, APT and occasionally gigging with his new band, aptly called Pinstripe Hype.
“When I was a kid I was in a band at school. I formed Pinstripe Hype to do this charity gig in Islington in April because whenever I can I will try and do something for Cancer Bacup. My mother died of cancer when I was 15, then we had a guy at work who had it and I wanted to raise some money. We played to 800 people and raised a total £31K, which included ticket sales of £8,000, £2,000 from tee-shirts as well as another 20K from donations which will pay for two nurses for a year.
“In fact, here's a bit of news for you, we want to do an unplugged version of the Islington gig at Thomas Mills School soon.”
Meeting in London at the uber-cool private members club Soho House in Greek Street, he's slightly on the drag. He turns up looking immaculate, of course, in one of his “own” suits, having just arrived on his old Vespa (the quickest way to travel in London, he says) apologising for having been held up.
Over lunch of eggs Benedict he mostly wants to talk about his bespoke tailoring company, for which he's the perfect walking advertisement.
Today he's got on a dark grey with a big blue check, sexy contrasting lining and signature double buttonholes, an APT shirt (they retail at around £130) which is similarly bespoke with signature detailing, such as a different cloth - a check again - lining inside the cuffs and the collar - and a beautiful silk tie (they cost at £52) - he has them made in Sudbury. The ties have “keepers” stitched inside to keep the bottom bit straight. It's all crème de la crème type stuff.
The waiters and staff at Soho House are his billboards too - they wear APT uniforms, black with purple silk, and the signature of two buttons and buttonholes.
“I am really a stockbroker though,” he said, “and I have had a whole load of meetings all day with that.” Initially he was going to become a doctor. He went to Reading university but, he said: “It was the heady Eighties and everyone was getting into the City and earning big money so I changed track and went into accountancy.
“It was also back then that my passion for tailoring began. I always hankered to be able to make my own clothes made and when I finally started to earn some money that's when I started.”
Having qualified as an accountant he joined an off-shore finance company on Tortola in the British Virgin Isles and next came a stint in Abu Dhabi where he was involved in the liquidation of BCCI.
“Then enough of all that - I met Ottilie Stevenson, who used to be head of design at Osborne and Little.”
Potty about her, it was their relationship that brought him firmly back to UK again, where he got into stockbroking and back to designing and having suits made. Early true loved didn't run quite as smoothly as anticipated. “Basically I asked her to marry me three times and she said no, so in the end I said b***** this, I am going to live in New York, so we split up. There was no point in staying, so I said I am out of here and went to work on Wall Street.
“Then in 1998 totally out of the blue, she proposed to me, so I came back. By this time she had left Osborne and Little and set up her own label so she couldn't come to New York with me.”
So back he came. “And really the catalyst for setting up Andy Preston Tailoring was that people were always coming up to me and saying, wow, that's a great suit where did you get it from and I'd say I'd designed it myself and had it made.”
That led to him designing suits for close friends and having them made up at his tailors who used to make for a lot of established names in the industry. “They were delighted that I kept dropping in with all these extra orders. Then finding I was heading close to 40, I thought my real passion is creating, so why don't I just take some time out and set something up formally. So two years ago, I took three months off and took sideways step in my role, to facilitate more time for myself in evenings.”
He set to and honed the designs, sourced materials, buttons and linings etc., and APT was born. And if you thought a suit was just a suit, think again. “There's so much choice. All these different colours you can use for lining, have you seen under the collar. I use all different colours linings and different coloured stitching around the button holes.”
A national newspaper recently featured one of his beige cord suits - “And we got orders for two almost straight away from a couple of Harley Street doctors and I've now been in Esquire too! I've always wanted to be on cover with Liz Hurley (and she was on it in this issue). Well I didn't make the cover with her but at least I am inside.”
He is also talking to one of the leading London stores, who we'd best not mention by name, and hopes are high that his label could soon go mainstream at the top end of the market. “I am doing a whole suit range with them, I have just designed it and it is all being made.
“I have also done a range of cashmere knitwear, cords and jeans and I am having some belts made up by a really cool Suffolk-based leatherwear maker called Deborah Thomas, who lives in Kettleburgh, who has a company called Noisette. She makes absolutely beautiful stuff and supplies to people like Collen and Clare in Southwold.”
With plans in hand to launch a womenswear range soon, he says of his “other job”: “Doing the suits is purely passion but I'm quite proud, I've got two people on the payroll so I have to pay them and I haven't bought my own suits for a couple of years. That's about the only perk I do get.”
That explains the size of his wardrobe. So if you see a dapper chap, very likely wearing one of his fifty or so suits around the county soon, it could be Andy Preston.
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