Mr Start, one of the most pioneering and enduring London menswear destinations, is closing its doors, with iconic founder Philip Start diverting his time and attention to new projects and passions. The much-loved menswear store at 40 Rivington Street has been the epicentre of menswear and tailoring in East London for decades, while Philip himself has enjoyed a hugely successful career spanning five decades. From the Carnaby Street of the 60s to the Kings Road of the 70s, Philip’s influence on London’s menswear retail scene has been immense, helping to inspire one of the most vibrant and diverse menswear industries in the world.
Philip is a lifelong entrepreneur, getting his first taste of retail at 16 years old when he went to work at Garrard, the Crown Jewellers. It wasn’t long before he discovered Carnaby Street and in particular, John Stephen, the eponymous menswear store founded by the “King of Carnaby Streetstore, that seeded his love for fashion. Two years later, Philip emigrated to Canada with a group of friends in search of new experiences, helping his friend run a fashion boutique.
On returning to the UK, Philip joined the Squire Shop on the Kings Road as a shirts salesman. Squire was part of The Village Gate group started by the legendary duo John Simons and Jeff Kwintner, and became something of a training ground for some of the most pivotal players in menswear from the 1970s onwards, including Neil Prosser of Flannels and Mitchell Jacobs of Duchamp. Philip immersed himself in the business, eventually becoming the company’s General Manager and Director. After seven years, he decided to strike out on his own path, opening Woodhouse in 1975, at “the wrong end of Oxford Street!” It would go on to become a small chain of eight shops spread across London and one in Manchester, enjoying great success over a 15-year period. In many ways, Woodhouse completely shook up the menswear retail scene, being one of the first to stock high-end Italian brands.
“Some were famous, but some I just found by travelling extensively in Italy. Nobody was surfacing these brands at the time as most fashion shops were all own label.”
It was partly Philip’s vision for creating engaging retail spaces that fed his success. High-street retailer Next used his Kensington High Street shop as a blueprint for the group’s first store in South Molton Street, and later, his shop design in Rivington Street would be largely replicated by Dover Street Market.
It was Rivington Street that Philip would eventually call home. When he first opened a jeans store called Start in 2002, Rivington Street was completely bereft of retail stores. The small, unassuming backstreet has since become one of East London’s busiest destinations. Start was perfectly timed, being at the forefront of the denim boom. A recognisable fixture in Shoreditch, Philip opened Mr. Start in 2012, one of the first stores to specialise in the new trend for slim fit suits with narrow lapels, worn with sneakers. Always learning, Philip taught himself made-to-measure tailoring in 2016, adding it to an already impressive bio of designer, stylist, and most importantly, a retailer.