Get Rich or Die Trying
Richard Biedul on masculinity, sustainability and great British tailoring. A champion of British clothing, one of the world’s best dressed men and never one to shirk a meaningful conversation, it’s no wonder Richard Biedul is a model in demand. We sat down with the former lawyer turned international menswear icon to chat masculinity, giving back to the industry and why you need to be watching Friends for fashion inspiration this season
“Eyebrow gel? What’re you wearing that for you f**cking quilt?” Unfortunately, the tape isn’t running when Richard Biedul does an impression of his (and everyone else’s) dad when confronted with the thought of male grooming, but it sets the tone early for Richie’s ability to discuss important topics with a spot of charismatic humour. In this instance it’s the inevitable and needlessly macho response to a tidier brow.
If you don’t recognize Richard Biedul by name you will recognize him by face. A mainstay on the international menswear scene, with a penchant for British brands, Biedul has modeled for a host of fashion world heavyweights including Armani, Richard James, Canali and Paul Smith. Formerly a lawyer in the city of London, the big break came five years into his law career when he was scouted at after work drinks. Within a week he was closing Oliver Spencer’s show at London Fashion week and six months later he was in New York, living the dream.
Eyebrow gel aside, talk quickly turns to masculinity when we begin chatting. Although this is the cover shoot for the summer of sport issue and despite Richie currently laying in a hotel bathtub full of extremely pungent tennis balls (they’re not Babolat, put it that way), Richard Biedul doesn’t care for sport. Partly because he’s too busy, but also because of the negative associations that come with it.
“I used to swim, that was my thing. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve fallen out of love with things like football because of the negative connotations that come with it. It’s so ostentatiously macho to the point where it’s almost toxic. Masculinity has become such a negative thing, why are we forced to be ‘men’ and be strong, and put value in things that’re to our own detriment? Not speaking out about things, women in the kitchen, the pub with the lads. That breeds mental illness. You don’t want that in your life.”
It’s an impassioned and surprisingly serious topic to immediately dive into, especially coming from a man that epitomizes such a classic and handsome vision of masculinity. But that’s what becomes apparent about Richie, he’s not just a bloke that’s been lucky enough to hit every branch of the handsome tree, he’s also a man that doesn’t shy away from important conversation. “Plus, I supported QPR. So there wasn’t that much football going on there anyway.” The charisma strikes again.
Seven years on from his fashion world debut, Biedul is in a reflective state of mind. When quizzed on the trips and adventures associated with his earlier years, he’s mature in his response.
“I don’t go away much anymore. It has been fazed out of my life because I’ve grown up. I’m not just a model anymore, enjoying the ride. I’m here to contribute to the industry. With my production agency I want to curate things that people are going to love. Create clothes that people are going to wear and if you’re fucking around like an 18-year-old model, not that I’m saying all 18-year-old models fuck around, you haven’t got focus or energy to achieve anything.”
One of Biedul’s well-documented interests is British manufacturing and design. Savile Row aside, his appreciation of the best of British has taken him all over the UK, from Yorkshire woolen mills to Welsh denim producers, meeting craftspeople, championing brands and learning about the processes, materials and stories behind the nation’s clothing traditions. Style is always a motivation, but so is an awareness of his own ability to be doing more.
“People are fundamentally more interested in learning about responsible, sustainable British products now and it goes back to this idea of conscientious shopping. Should you be buying from high street giants that aren’t playing their part? Brands that don’t source their clothes responsibly or ethically and don’t pay their staff properly?”
The answer, as Richie points out, is no. We should be sourcing a little closer to home, paying a little bit more for something that lasts longer and appreciating the companies that are making an effort to do things properly. He’s not pie in the sky about it though. He’s aware of the main caveat people face.
“Nobody’s got that disposable income. We were saying the other day, some of us are generally obsessed with the way we shop, but if you can’t shop ethically or sustainably, you should look for the next best alternative. If you can’t afford the quality, at least look out for the responsible. If you can’t afford something that’s hand-crafted in Northampton, try and find someone on the high street that you know thinks about production and treats their staff to a high standard. Look for a manufacturer that makes their shoes in Portugal. The employees are under the EU working directive so they’re going to be paid a reasonable wage.”
Giving back is a recurring theme in Richard Biedul’s conversation. There’s a yearning to do more and a thankfulness for where he is today. The words “I’m so lucky man” ring around the hotel suite more than once as he runs around getting changed. Ask him about the people that have championed him and he’ll reel them off with unbridled enthusiasm, Oliver Spencer topping the list.
“I still walk for Oliver Spencer. He’s my friend now. I love him as a per-son, I love his brand, I love working with him. He is the reason I am where I am and I look forward to walking for him in June. I think it will be season 14.”
“The amount of people that have supported me over the years. All those years ago when I had that big long beard and long hair, there was nobody that looked like me. People took a risk on me as a person. I wasn’t a model, I was a lawyer, some scruffy bloke that looked good in a suit.Then you’re working for Armani, Canali, Etro and Paul Smith. Slowly breaking down boundaries and people’s perceptions of what beauty is. Traditionally, beauty was Alexander Lundqvist, Tyson Beckford and Marc Vanderloo. Then all of a sudden you didn’t have to be big, you just had to look good in clothes. You didn’t have to be carved by Michelangelo, you just needed to be relatable. Then you had to have a voice and people valued having a voice over everything else and I loved that.”
Richard Biedul isn’t afraid of being outspoken. As we touch upon topics ranging from the fashion industry as a whole, to improving the accessibility of heritage brands, he’s not afraid to politely make a statement. The elitist atmosphere of Savile Row for instance is something Richie, a champion of British tailoring, would like to see change.
“I’m a real fan of how Richard James and Hardy Amies do their business, they’ve reduced the price point, they’re making contemporary clothing for young men. Hardy Amies has got a £370 off the peg offer now. It’s because they don’t want people going to the high street. They want people coming into Hardy Amies and having a Savile Row experience.Not everyone can afford to start on Savile Row wearing made to measure or bespoke. So you start with your L plates on at Hardy Amies and you get a nice experience, then you go to somewhere else and as you go on, you end up buying your six grand bespoke.”
He’s not a fan of jeans either.
“The reason I don’t wear denim is because I’m not a kid and I’m not a man having a mid-life crisis. I like to wear smart, structured clothing that makes me feel good about myself and almost flatters my body shape and structured tailoring does that for a man of my size, does that for a man of any size really.”
Biedul’s outspoken views on denim soon caught the eye of King & Tuckfield, a British contemporary menswear and womenswear brand inspired by founder Stacey Wood’s memories of her grandparents. The brand’s knack for applying tailoring principles and constructions to denim garments provided Biedul with a whole new appreciation of the material and he’s now heavily involved with the brand on a creative level. A role he’s clearly reveling in. Their AW18 capsule launches for pre-orders online on 8 June, whilst their SS19 gets LFW showroom launch.
As we wrap up the shoot, Richard Biedul’s ‘giving back’ senses are still tingling. Looking out of the window over Hyde Park, he spots Battersea Power Station and suggests Battersea Dogs Home as a welcome destination for the six hundred tennis balls piled up in the bathtub. He takes one home for his Dachshund too, before revealing a surprising inspiration on his way out.
“Recently I’ve been re-watching Friends and I’ve been really inspired by Chandler Bing in season four and five. Over-sized, boxy suits, high-waisted pleated trousers and sportswear, like caps. Then he’s got a load of like oversized office shirts that he wears undone with a vest under. It’s quite embarrassing because the first time you watch it, you think Chandler’s a nerd, but watching it again you realise that actually he’s a sartorial don.”
You heard it here first. Richard Biedul, the gift that keeps on giving. EJ
A special thank you to The Royal Lancaster Hotel in Lancaster Gate and their fantastic concierge; thanks to Hackett too for providing the garments and David M Robinson and Patek Phillipe for providing the watch worn in the shoot. You can donate to Battersea Dogs and Cats home at battersea.org.uk; all ten series of Friends are currently available to watch on Netflix
Words by Davey Brett
Images: Luca Perrin