My Modern Working Wardrobe: The Screenwriter
Serial smart dresser and London-based screenwriter Benji Walters talks to us about why putting on a suit these days is a decisive act, the enduring influence of his mentor Luca Guadagnino and how he sees style as a language.
Benji Walters would like nothing better than to dress to the nines every day. As someone who schooled himself in his craft by pouring over the works of Evelyn Waugh and Paul Bowles, from the age of 16 he considered himself a dandy-in-training. A recent career change, however, has made that option a bit tricky. “Film and TV are very casual industries; a difficult thing for an inveterate over-dresser like me to accept!” he explains. Previously a writer and contributor to consummately stylish magazines like Man About Town and Wonderland, now he’s pivoted to the world of screenwriting, he’s had to hang up his suits – at least when he’s at his desk – in favour of something a little more casual.
“The reality of my working life is a great deal of sitting in front of a keyboard or escaping the confines of my flat to nearby cafes,” he says. “So, my workaday look is usually dark denim, loafers and a white T-shirt – tracksuits may well be tempting, but can feel a little too comfortable for getting down to proper work in.”
My workaday look is usually dark denim, loafers and a white T-shirt – tracksuits may well be tempting, but can feel a little too comfortable for getting down to proper work in."
Modern Working Wardrobe
I think style is about an understanding of the language of clothes… Some demonstrate that fluency unconsciously, for others it’s meticulously studied – either way, you always recognise it when you see it.”
It’s that reasoning that makes Paul Smith’s Modern Working Wardrobe a perfect fit for Benji. His own definition of the collection – “clothes that are by necessity comfortable, multi-purpose and presentable” – is about as apt as we could surmise. Take, for example, the seersucker jacket he wore when we visited him at his London home (and office). “It’s relaxed and comfortable, but the tailored cut of the jacket keeps things smart,” Benji says. “With the collar buttoned up the piece echoes vintage workwear; unbuttoned it has the face-framing shape of a lapel. I love that kind of elevated versatility.”
It was a “two-year cinematic bootcamp” with none other than director and auteur Luca Guadagnino (yes, that Luca Guadagnino, of Call Me By Your Name fame) that set Benji on his current path. “[He] generously brought me on, untested, to adapt a much-loved literary classic with him,” he explains. Even though, he concedes, that project won’t see the light of day, he still counts it as invaluable experience. “It’ll be a hard project to top anytime soon!”
And much like his mentor – whose movies are renowned for their considerate, contemplative use of clothes to elucidate character, setting and period – he sees parallels between screenwriting and style. “I think style is about an understanding of the language of clothes, and what that language can say, or obscure, about the wearer. Some demonstrate that fluency unconsciously, for others it’s meticulously studied – either way, you always recognise it when you see it.”
Now that suits are rarely required, putting one on feels like a decisive act.
It's perhaps why the allure of tailoring remains powerful for him. “Now that suits are rarely required, putting one on feels like a decisive act,” Benji says. “Well-cut tailoring has always been flattering and empowering, but today it’s fast becoming one of the most potent expressions of individual style you can make. As long as you’re in the mood to be noticed, there’s nothing quite like it.”
Modern Working Wardrobe
Our new Modern Working Wardrobe campaign and edit is fronted by a global group of professionals - all with very different nine-to-fives, as well as Paul himself.
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