Egyptian hieroglyph wallpaper frames Robert Ettinger’s maroon armchair, as he sips his coffee, at home at his salubrious Portman Square club. We are here to talk style, and the neat, blue-eyed gentleman before me is brimming with ideas.
‘I wear a suit every day, which is unusual these days,’ admits Ettinger. ‘But it pulls me together; it gets me into business-mode. And, of course, you never know who is going to turn up so you must always be dressed for the occasion.’
The dapper businessman admits to owning 20 tailored suits. ‘I love a double-breasted cut, perhaps a Prince of Wales cut with large lapels,’ he says. ‘I think double-breasted suits, if they are cut well, are one of the smartest ways of dressing.'
‘I have a number of tailors I use in London and Hong Kong. This is a Kilgour,’ he says, pointing to his navy suit. ‘They are an old, established Savile Row tailor. And they use beautiful cloth – English cloth.’
Ettinger is clearly excited by the talk of tailors and, perched on the edge of his seat, he runs through today’s look.
He wears a soft navy suit, a powder blue shirt with a flash of cobalt check on the collar, an inky blue belt, navy socks and elegant indigo suede loafers. The Ettinger chief is clearly a fan of a blue hue. And his active lifestyle leads his other sartorial choices. ‘I run around a lot; I’m a bit of a jack-in-the-box, so I wear suede shoes because they are so much more comfortable.’ Even stylish CEOs make practical footwear choices.
And what is Ettinger’s favourite piece from his collection?
‘Well, I like to get my hands on the first samples of each product, even if they aren’t quite customer ready. They are still wonderful pieces! I wear sample cufflinks and my bridle hide billfold wallet and key case are also the first examples of those products. I haven’t changed my wallet in 14 years, and it’s still a beauty,’ he says.
‘But my favourite item has to be our Portfolio Case.’ He passes me a sleek black case with a solid brass clasp. ‘It’s the most practical thing I’ve ever found to use for business. It has retractable handles. It’s sleek but there’s room for an iPad, a phone, a few papers and even a small umbrella. It’s just very slim and elegant.’
Although very much the tech-savvy businessman, Ettinger still adores the classic pieces – particularly his attaché case. He flicks open an aged but impeccable tan leather briefcase. ‘This actual model was made in the Thirties and used by my grandfather and then my father,’ he says. ‘I don’t use it every day, but when I travel on business, I take it. It’s a showstopper – people always want to know all about it.’
Heirlooms aside, Ettinger is clearly nostalgic about his father’s style. The third-generation businessman tells how his father wore a bowler hat and suit and always carried a big umbrella – even though ‘bowler hats were quite out of fashion at this point’.
And the eccentricity seems to run in the family, if Ettinger’s jape on a recent visit to Tokyo is anything to go by. ‘I walked around the streets with my bowler hat, jacket and umbrella and they went crazy for the classic English look. It was so funny – my father would have been proud.’
But Ettinger’s South East Asian stunt is a little more serious than it seems: ‘Men’s fashion is increasingly harking back to former generations. What goes around comes around – nothing’s really new,’ he surmises. And on that note, he says his goodbyes before hurrying off to a meeting with influential fashion blogger, Simon Crompton of Permanent Style.