How We Met: Marcus Wainwright & David Neville
'We saw a lot of each other at this awful nightclub on a ferry on the Tyne with 50p vodka shots'
Sunday 15 March 2009
Marcus Wainwright, 34, founded the denim and clothing brand Rag & Bone in 2002, and is now co-owner and co-creative director with David Neville. The company has won two awards for emerging design: the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award in 2005 and the Swarovski Council of Fashion Design award in 2007. Celebrities who wear its designs include Cameron Diaz, Kate Moss and Jude Law. Wainwright lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and son
David and I met at boarding school in Berkshire. I was in the year above him, so although we knew each other, we didn't become really close friends until during my gap year in Portugal. I was working in a bar and he came out for a holiday, then ended up working there too. We were just bumming around on the beach enjoying ourselves before university; it was a lot of fun.
The following year he went to Durham to study something weird like molecular biology and I went to Newcastle, but we still saw a lot of each other – mainly on Monday nights at The Boat, this awful nightclub on a ferry on the Tyne with a revolving dance-floor and 50p vodka shots. David had always been a bit of a golden boy at school, so I think he was enjoying his new-found freedom and liked to live it up a bit.
We never dreamt we'd end up doing what we are now. We didn't even think we'd end up doing the same thing – he went into investment banking and I set up my own telecoms company. After a couple of years I couldn't handle London weather any more and went to Mexico, where I met my wife. I moved to New York to be with her and that was when I set up Rag & Bone.
David came on board to handle the money side of the business and initially he worked from England, but it didn't take much persuasion to get him to come to live in New York and work full-time in fashion. I think he might also have been trying to escape a young lady in London at the time.
David's always been more into fashion than me. He's a bit of a dandy. I just like drawing and making things, whereas he is interested in creating a whole brand. We had no training at all and didn't really have a clue what we were doing – all I had originally wanted to do was to make a nice pair of dark denim jeans for myself. But suddenly, there we were visiting factories in Kentucky, staying in motels, drinking moonshine and talking about jeans. It was a steep learning curve but a lot of fun.
David and I make such a good team because we want the same thing, but do different things to achieve it. David is much more positive than me. He always sees the bright side, whereas I can see the pitfalls. We balance each other out.
Unless you have been to a boarding school it's hard to explain, but you go through a lot together and make incredibly close friends. I think it's fair to say that neither of us has made friends as good as those we made at school. It's nice to have someone who I go back that far with in New York; it's like having a bit of home here.
David Neville, 32, joined Rag & Bone in 2002. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, the celebrity make-up artist Gucci Westman, and son
I must have been about 13 when I first met Marcus at boarding school. He was a bit older than me, so we weren't close at that stage, but I remember him as a confident, likeable guy who I smoked the occasional cigarette with on rooftops or in bushes.
Our friendship was galvanised by a few months spent together working in a nightclub in Portugal. We slept on cushions on the dance-floor after work and traded free drinks for sun-beds on the beach and meals at local restaurants. We were young and frivolous and I have very good memories of that time.
Our lives since have developed strangely in tandem – we both went to university in the north, then moved to London for work and finally to New York, where we teamed up to create the business. We even had our sons a week apart. It's quite amazing when I reflect on how far we have come together.
I jumped at the chance to get involved when Marcus asked me, as I have always enjoyed clothes: what I wear, what my mother and girlfriends have worn. That said, I am a heterosexual guy, which is worth pointing out in this industry – Marcus and I did a shoot with Mario Testino a while ago and he was trying to persuade us we should be a couple.
We now have about 50 people working in our office in the Meatpacking District, and it's important to us that we set the right atmosphere with our own relationship. We worked though a lot of the stress early in our partnership, so we know how far we can push each other. We very rarely argue.
Now we both have young children we don't hang out as much as we did when we first arrived in New York – not so much playing pool in bars. What's cool, though, is that we can incorporate a bit of fun into our work – if we have an event to go to, such as the Met Ball or something, we can go and have a pint in our black tie beforehand and laugh at the fact we're about to take some Russian model as our "date".
It's reassuring to have each other here as support. Our lives resemble each other's very closely – we share the same schedule, the same family situation, we do the same things at the weekends. It's unusual to have a friend with whom you have almost every experience in common, so we can compare notes on it all. We're very lucky in that respect.
For more information: www.rag-bone.com
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