Tyler Brûlé

The man who knows that Kelly green is the new black, that the new Beetle is over-designed, and that toilet paper has its place. In short, he is Wallpaper*, the magazine composed of 'the stuff that surrounds you'. He has also been shot by Deborah Ross
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The Independent Online

So, off to meet Tyler Brûlé, the "most fashionable man in the country", as it is often said, and founder of Wallpaper*. This, for those of you who are still stuck at the rather pitiful, un-asterisked Inspirations For Your Home end of the spectrum (which, by the way, comes with a free stamping kit this month) is a wildly successful interiors/ architecture/ design/ travel magazine so spectacularly glossy and chic and cool and beautiful that there are no people in any of the photographs of the vast, sparse concrete-floored rooms because, I presume, they rather clutter things up. Yes, of course, I am nervous about this encounter. I mean, I don't want to come across as the sort of person whose last interiors' buy was a bath mat with fish on it from Bhs, do I?

So, off to meet Tyler Brûlé, the "most fashionable man in the country", as it is often said, and founder of Wallpaper*. This, for those of you who are still stuck at the rather pitiful, un-asterisked Inspirations For Your Home end of the spectrum (which, by the way, comes with a free stamping kit this month) is a wildly successful interiors/ architecture/ design/ travel magazine so spectacularly glossy and chic and cool and beautiful that there are no people in any of the photographs of the vast, sparse concrete-floored rooms because, I presume, they rather clutter things up. Yes, of course, I am nervous about this encounter. I mean, I don't want to come across as the sort of person whose last interiors' buy was a bath mat with fish on it from Bhs, do I?

Do I, Tyler, come across as the sort of person whose last interiors' buy was a bath mat with fish on it from Bhs? "No, no, no," he says. Can a bath mat with fish on it from Bhs ever be stylish, if you were the sort of person who went in for that kind of thing? "Um... ha!... Yes. Yes. Why not?" Complete rubbish, of course, but I do feel better. "Champagne?" he asks. I might even be putty in his hands.

We meet at his rented London flat, just off the Marylebone Road, which is where he lives when he isn't travelling the world for his readers or staying, of course, on his own, private Swedish island accessible only by speed boat. Actually, he is about to move. He's just bought somewhere in Belsize Park. At present, he gets to the offices of Wallpaper* (cover price £3.60, and no free stamping kit, which seems a bit rich) on his "beautifully engineered" Kronen bike from Sweden, but he might now have to get a car. A Golf, he thinks.

"What about the new Beetle?" I suggest. "It's so cute and curvy and cuddly and..."

"No. It's too over-designed," he says.

"... if only it wasn't so over-designed, that is. What about the Smart car. It's so cute and cuddly and curvy... "

"No way. I don't want to say it's a death-trap, but it is worrying."

"... if only it didn't appear so unsafe, that is. I do wish you'd let me finish what I'm saying, Tyler!"

The flat is frighteningly gorgeous. Indeed, I think that even if your last interiors' buy was not a bath mat with fish on it from Bhs, you might be made to feel like it was. Here, it is white candles burning in the fireplace, cream sofas by Florence Knoll ("That's K-n-o-l-l", he points out helpfully, and in case, I guess, I spell it "D-F-S") a hand-built, minimal kitchen with steel surfaces, lots of divinely framed, modern, non-figurative art, and a totally white shower/ toilet room with no bath mat whatsoever and, he explains, the toilet paper is kept in a cupboard "because, if it was out... egghh". "Yes, egghh," I confirm, shudderingly, while trying not to think about my toilet at home with its loo-roll holder so dazzlingly on top of things that it's quite hard not to knock yourself unconscious on it on the way down.

The thing about Tyler Brûlé, as you've probably already gathered, is that he is Wallpaper* - go on, give us a seahorse stencilling kit one month, at least, you stingy bastard! - which, happily, fits my theory that successful publications are edited by those who are their publications. Think Nicholas Coleridge at Condé Nast, Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, Alexandra Schulman at Vogue, James Brown at Loaded (but not GQ). You can't play at this kind of thing. You have to believe in it totally. And Tyler believes in it totally. It is, he says, "hard to know where Wallpaper* ends and my life begins". Wallpaper* now has a circulation of 132,000. How, I ask, does that compare with World of Interiors, for example?

"Blows them out of the water," he says. Even his name is perfect, isn't it? Tyler Brûlé! Couldn't be better, although Tyler Bathroom would possibly get close. Yes, it is his real name. he insists. Well, kind of. "It's actually Jason Tyler Brûlé."

"No!"

"Yes. And it's Jason with a 'y'."

"Jayson?"

"Yes.

"Egghh."

"I know. Egghh. But people have always called me Tyler."

He is lovely looking, and wearing a Richard James striped shirt, Prada storm-trooper boots, and beige cords by Next. Only kidding. "They're by F-i-l-l-i-p-a K, a Swedish label." He adds: "I love these beige cords. I have two pairs in beige, three pairs in brown, although I should have bought four pairs in beige." I'd read that he spends £7,000 to £10,000 per season on clothes, and has 25 swimsuits. True? "Yes, although I have more swimsuits now." Which are your favourite? "A really great military-green pair by Nike." Are there any current fashion trends you hate? "The Buffalo trainer."

"Sorry?"

"The absurd platform trainers Japanese students in London wear. They're lawsuits waiting to happen. And leggings aren't a very good idea."

"What's the new black?"

"Kelly green."

"Like your trunks?"

"No, that's olive green. Kelly green is mint green, only stronger."

"Do you ever get up in the morning and think, stuff it, I don't care what I look like today."

"No," he says.

I must say I like him a lot. I shouldn't, really, because he's rich (he sold Wallpaper* to Time Magazine in 1997 for $1.63 million yet retained a 15 per cent stake and was kept on as editorial director) and still only 31, and it's almost a principle with me to hate rich, self-made 31-year-olds, but in this instance I will make an exception. The champagne helps considerably, of course, but he's also bright, rather unlikely - he came up with the idea for Wallpaper* after having been shot in Afghanistan! - and doesn't mind being teased. About being Canadian. (How come, Tyler, that when you mention Canada people's eyes glaze over so?) Or about being gay. Indeed, I tell him I'm dying for my own son to turn out gay because, as far as I can see, gay men are brilliant at looking after their mothers and are also good at gardening, which would be helpful on the weeding front. He says he is very good to his mother, but doesn't know about the gardening. "Probably because I haven't had a garden until now. But the place in Belsize Park has a terrace..."

His father isn't happy, though. His father, Paul, a one-time Canadian football star, isn't speaking to Tyler, because Tyler's gay. This is sad, yes. Perhaps, one day, Paul's garden will be taken over by Japanese knotweed. That'll show him.

What is Jayson's (tee-hee) earliest memory? "My first birthday. I was wearing a navy blazer and white turtleneck, and I can remember sitting in my high chair and my grandmother bringing on this huge fruit cake." A navy blazer? And white turtleneck? At one? Far out! He was educated at more than ten different schools as his father changed teams. This was a pain. "At every new school the PE teacher would read out the register and say: 'Tyler Brûlé? Are you the son of Paul Brûlé? I bet you'll be signing up for the football team,' and I'd have to say, 'nope'." He has never liked football, but he's not a total ponce. He loves ice hockey, tennis, swimming and skiing. Indeed, his latest venture is a biannual sports title, Line, which, if nothing else, will help you track down Gucci flippers (for stockists, call 020 7235 6707).

I ask him when he first realised that he was gay. "I probably knew at seven, eight." How did you know? "The male body seemed more interesting than the female body somehow. Then, at 13, 14, I thought yes, I am probably gay, but might get over it. I then realised I wouldn't." His parents, now separated, both had a problem with it initially, he says, but his mother, a painter who "can also throw a room together", is now fine.

And what's Dad's problem? He says his father didn't realise until a couple of years back, when he read about it in an interview Tyler had given to an English newspaper. "And now we're not on speaking terms, because he blames my mother." He thinks hiding his sexuality was, for a long time, part of his motivation. "I've always been really ambitious and worked hard and tried to excel, perhaps because I knew I was never going to walk though the door with a leggy blonde girlfriend. I went to London, to the BBC - did lots of diversionary things that would give me things to talk to them about."

After attending journalism school in Canada, he worked for the yoof TV programme Reportage in Manchester, then came to London as a freelance. Here, he sold the idea of doing a feature on Medicine Sans Frontiere's work in Afghanistan to a German magazine and the Emap-owned Sky, and off he went. He was shot in an ambush, with 36 bullets being fired at the car he was travelling in. "Two bullets went in me (into his left arm) and out through the car again."

"What comes first," I ask, "Feeling the pain or seeing the blood?"

"Seeing the splatter of blood. There's no pain at first because the shock is so massive."

"Were you frightened?"

"Only before it happened. As soon as it happened, I knew it was over. The interpreter next to me got it in the head."

"Did you think that you were going to die?"

"It was a beautiful day, the sun was kicking off the mountains. I thought death doesn't look like this. Corny, but true."

He was flown back to London for treatment, and it was in 1994 while recovering that he first got the idea for Wallpaper*. "I read loads of mags, and thought they were all a load of old rubbish." I say getting shot and coming up with an idea for a publication aimed at "the ultimate, sophisticated, brand-savvy, well-heeled 21st century consumer" isn't a connection most would make. He says: "People do think I should have devoted the rest of my life to the Red Cross." But, what? You decided the Red Cross was too eighties? "No. I just knew I wanted to go into business for myself, that I didn't want to work for an arsehole publishing company that didn't look after its freelances." This, I think, is a swipe at Emap who, while he was in hospital, "sent me a hamper from Fortnum & Mason, thinking it would buy me off."

Anyway, he has to get back to the office now. He has a lot of energy and, I think, may one day take over the world, Terence Conran-style. Certainly, he'd like his own airline. "I'd do something about the lighting. Lighting on planes is so unflattering." But, hang on Tyler, before you go, one last question: "What is the asterisk in Wallpaper* about? I mean..."

"It's to draw your attention to the tagline beneath: *The stuff that surrounds you."

"... I just don't get it, unless, of course, it's to cleverly draw your attention to the tagline beneath. Tyler, I do wish you'd let me finish!"

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