Graham Addinall wears more hats than most. The menswear designer turned stylist and writer splits his time being the Fashion Editor at Dossier magazine, Features Director at Dansk magazine as well as copywriting for various design-led brands. The common denominator for his days is that they are mostly spent in the setting of his favorite neighborhood in and around Kødbyen at Vesterbro. After moving to Copenhagen with his husband, Richard, 15 years ago, Addinall has adopted the city’s way of life. Although the English man in him still never misses an episode of his favorite British soap opera or goes a day without his (imported) English Breakfast tea.
Tell me about your neighborhood...
I’ve been in Copenhagen for 15 years now, and because Richard and I didn’t know the city at all, the first years we lived in the center, which got a bit boring at night so 13 years ago we moved here. Initially we just rented the place but were super lucky the guy we rented it from decided to sell, and it was at the time when they were during the metro and it looked like hell outside so we got it for a very good price. We live right at the edge of Kødbyen, so we’re really in ground zero of Vesterbro.
What do you love about the area?
I love the food scene. It's amazing. And that makes it a little dangerous because it’s far too easy to just go out for something to eat or drink. I also like the architecture. It's very Copenhagen and very attractive. But most of all I love the people and the vibe. You see all human life and I love that. Just going to Superbrugsen in the queue there will be a hooker, a rockstar, someone screaming, and a family, and I love that mixture. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
It must have been a completely different area 13 years ago?
It's been really fascinating to watch it grow. We moved here before the whole Kødbyen started. When we moved here there was Paté Paté, Fiskebaren and a couple of other places. Halmtorvet was still kind of a car park and very edgy. But then of course, I’m from England so Copenhagen-edgy isn’t that edgy. But you definitely see the rising quality of the places and restaurants opening.
You mentioned that you moved to Copenhagen about 15 years ago, what made you move here initially?
Well, initially I was a psychologist but then made a sideways move into menswear design working for nearly 20 years at Paul Smith. I ended up as the Head of Design and I was super happy there but I got headhunted by Day Birger et Mikkelsen to be their Head of Men’s Design. And to be honest, it was a three year contract, and I thought I would do two years and then it would be a life-long experience and we’d move back to England. But I really fell in love with the city. It was absolutely the best thing we ever did. Seriously. I don’t think post-Brexit that I’m going back to Britain. We’re here for the time being.
Do you feel like moving to Denmark has in any way reinforced your British identity?
It’s weird, I have never felt particularly British, I have always thought of myself as being European. But there is something you’re right about. It makes you recognize the Englishness because I will never like coffee. I still think Danish Christmas dinner is kind of weird. I still have to watch my favorite English soap opera all the time, I never miss an episode of that. There are some things I miss about England. Not much. But a few things.
What do you miss?
On a silly note, it’s really hard to get good tea here. And I’m obsessional. It’s good to get fancy tea, but I like really strong English Breakfast tea so I have to have that flown in. It’s a bit ridiculous. I also miss the multiculturalism of Britain quite a lot actually. But then I much prefer the Danish attitude towards things. Generally, Denmark has a much more caring and society-based feeling, which still astonishes me. When people ask me, what are the things you really notice here? One of them is that men walk prams. In England men never push prams, it's a woman’s job whereas here it’s always the men. There’s also a myth propagated by Danes that Danes are unfriendly, and it’s such rubbish. All of our friends are Danish. We have mixed really well with people from the minute we got here. People will talk to you in a bar or a supermarket, which doesn’t happen in Britain, so I think you need to get over that as a nation. You are quite friendly.
So would you say you feel like a local?
Yes, for sure. Of course if I could speak better Danish I would be more but certainly in terms of day-to-day life and friendships and integration into the city, I feel completely part of Vesterbro and Copenhagen. And I know it better than I know anywhere I’ve lived. I think
moving somewhere you embrace it more. Even after 15 years it’s still exciting to be here so we do stuff which in England you would just think: we do that next week.
Could you take me through what a typical day in your life looks like?
I actually don’t have a typical day. The joy of being freelance is that I have four different hats. My main one is being the Fashion Editor of Dossier, but then I’m also the Features Director for Dansk Magazine, where I organize interviews and such, and then I do a lot of copywriting for mainly design-led brands, and I also teach design in a university in Barcelona. So I do not have a typical day. I can be sitting all day on my balcony typing website descriptions of jewelry one day, then I can be organising a photoshoot with Lars Von Trier the next day, then I can be – usually – on a plane somewhere.
What or who inspires you?
I’ve said it a hundred times before but on a personal level Paul Smith inspires me completely. He is my second father and someone I can always turn to. We’re still in touch a lot. He has been a huge influence for me both in my career and in terms of how to treat people. Otherwise, I love modern art, contemporary dance, opera and classical music. I can’t dance at all and I really can’t sing or draw, but if I have any influence from a cultural perspective it comes from those fields. On a broader scope, I like anyone who surprises me. Anyone who’s a little left-field, dances to their own tunes, and constantly surprises me.
Would you describe yourself as a little left-field?
Weirdly, I think I’m very classic. One thing that Paul Smith taught me was: you should absorb everything around you. So that could be from Picasso to Love Island. It should be very high and very low because everything is relevant and everything affects you because that’s the world your customer lives in. Some of them will go to the opera, some of them will watch soap operas. And because of that I’m quite a sponge for information and I’ve got a very broad area of interest. But I’m certainly not an expert in any of it. I’m an observer more than a participant. But I like to learn. And you can always learn better from other people than you can ever learn from yourself.
Originally you studied psychology, went into menswear design, and have also added stylist and writer to your CV. What would you say your best career decision has been so far?
I guess the best thing I ever did was randomly applying for a job to help out in the design department at Paul Smith because that got me onto the road of what everything else has sprung from. I literally used to make coffee and whatever they needed doing. But it was working with Paul and the head designer, and they saw something in me and that became my training for the next 20 years. And if I hadn’t done that, I would never have come here. On the other hand, fashion is sadly one of the few industries where you’re not rewarded for age and experience. You get to a certain point and then you start getting looked over, so I always needed a sideways exit strategy. I was very lucky to be friends with Frederik Andersen, who was at Euroman. He got me to do quite a few things, which then led to doing more styling, which led to Dossier. But I felt I also needed something that used a different part of my brain, and – looking right back to the Paul Smith years – I’d always written. I used to do press releases and an in-company magazine just because I could string a sentence together. But if you ask me in five years time, I may have moved out of fashion entirely and I might be only writing or I might have moved on from both of those, I could be a prostitute or a bar mogul or God knows. I’m quite instinctive and I know when it’s time to shift a bit.
How do you maintain a balance between life and work?
Actually, I’m pretty good at that. I’m very structured, I like routine and I find comfort in repetition so I find it very easy to structure my day. I get up around the same time everyday, I always sit at my desk for the first couple of hours regardless of what I have on my to-do list. I’m very good at setting myself rules. When Richard comes home from work at 5.30 that’s my rule to stop. We worked together at Paul Smith and at Day Birger et Mikkelsen, so I’ve worked with my partner a lot of years, and you really have to set yourself rules then because our social life revolved around work – particularly in England. We used to allow 15 minutes when we were driving from the office to home. That was when we could talk about work and when we got home we didn’t talk about it. So I’m quite good at segregating. In the same way, every Saturday – the pandemi fucked it up a bit – but almost every Saturday of our time together we’ve gone out for dinner together and we don’t take our phones. And that’s again setting yourself a rule that I do not work on a Saturday night. I don’t answer emails. I don’t answer messages. My compartmentalized mind works well for that. And of course Danes are famously experts at work/life balance so I guess I came to the right place.
Fashion plays a big role in your professional life – what role does it play in your personal life?
I’m not obsessed with it in my personal life. I like to make conscious choices about what I wear. I like to look good. I’m vain. It’s a constant battle but I do my best. I’ve been lucky enough to work in the luxury end of the market so with discounts I could afford to buy nicer items, but I’ve always been a big fan of buying good things that last rather than fast fashion. But I don’t particularly follow fashion or change massively what I wear. Things come out every year, but my sense of style hasn’t changed a great deal. If I have one at all. Again that’s where the English man comes into me, I do love a tweed jacket and proper shoes. And because my training was with Paul Smith there is always that ‘classic with a twist’ in the back of my head.