The runway met the street when we spent a day in London with musician and fashion frontman Bluey Robinson. Much like his music and the city he calls home, Bluey’s style is offbeat, modern and eclectic. From South London by way of Sweden, he defies expectations and you’re as likely to find him in the local café recording melodies on his laptop as you are in London’s most exclusive clubs. In the same month as London Fashion Week Men’s, we took a tour of the West End with Bluey wearing the new season’s most wanted pieces to celebrate the unique style of the man and his city. From retro revival to contemporary streetwear by Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Valentino, this is London style according to Bluey Robinson.
The first thing you notice when you meet Bluey Robinson is that he can move. The second is that he can sing. His soulful voice was the soundtrack to our shoot – and we didn’t have a speaker. A born performer, at the age of 14 he started making music with a bunch of friends but got kicked out of the group for being, in his own words, ‘bossy’. Which seems weird when you consider how chilled he is, but not when you understand his passion for music. He clearly has vision but is reluctant when pressed to describe his sound. “I guess I’m a soul singer in a sense but that lends itself to mad different genres. If I can make myself the sound and my voice the distinct factor in the music then that’s what I want to do. I can do a rock or house song and you’ll feel the soul in it.”
He admits that he’s not keen on authority. “I’ve got a bit of a problem with people telling me what to do” he says with a roguish smile and a sheepish tone in his voice. But it’s the defiant eclecticism that makes Bluey a real representation of London style – rebellious, inclusive and diverse. “I don’t want to limit myself to a style . . . although it’s not the best way to market yourself in a scene that requires you to be in a genre so they can package you. I’ve never really been one for being packaged and put in a box.” He’s actively rejected a commercial approach to music that might have made mainstream success much easier. He’s carving his own path.
Bluey wears: T-shirt Valentino
Bluey’s reluctance to conform may explain some of the pretty savage ups and downs he’s faced over the years. A high profile but turbulent solo career saw him sign with Sony, work with Labyrinth and tour with Justin Bieber and Tinie Tempah, but he was eventually dropped from the label and decided to take a break. He’s been back in the game for a few years now, channelling his energy into more collaborative projects. “It’s kind of nice to release music that’s me on someone else’s sound and vibe. It means there’s less pressure to define my style. I like to be free.” And he’s proven that a free spirit and flexibility pay off – they’ve led to some very cool chance encounters that have had impressive results. Case in point: a story that starts with a flight cancellation and a house rave in Amsterdam ends with a video shoot in LA for a song he signed with house legend Kerri Chandler at the aforementioned rave. The song is soon to be released. Not your average day in the office.
Unorthodoxy is a defining characteristic of a musical career that escapes definition. He’s now a member of The Fedz, a collective that describes itself as “an anathema to the divisions in the world, sticking up a middle finger to the status quo.” Made up of musical talent from all races and backgrounds across the UK and US, Bluey’s distinct vocals carry their new single ‘The Traveller’. It’s a plaintive, soul-infused pop song the group has released in support of RCK, a homeless charity whose mission it is to ‘feed people without judgement.’
Bluey wears: Shirt Dolce & Gabbana, Sunglasses Givenchy, Jeans Dolce & Gabbana, Belt Dolce & Gabbana
It takes real talent to be as mercurial as Bluey and still stay true to your sound and yourself, but he does it. He talks about his mum and sisters a lot, and whilst he backs himself pretty hard (which is key to survival in an industry as brutal as his), they are the people that have shaped him. “I grew up with a single mum who was a bit of a hippy and a bit rebellious. She was born in Sweden and moved to London when she was 16.” His childhood was set to a soundtrack of his mum’s reggae music, but like most kids, Bluey’s taste differed to hers. His voice was tuned by an atypical (for a 12 year old boy) but fiery love of Motown. He cites the old school singers as his biggest influences. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, ‘singers that you can feel in your soul’ as he describes them.
Bluey appreciates artists, be they old or new, in music or in fashion. Unsurprisingly, his style icons are as varied as his career has been. “Sometimes I do like to go a bit out of the box. I like to do things that people say you shouldn’t do. If people tell me not to wear white socks but I find an outfit and think they’d look great with it, I’ll wear them. Michael Jackson wore white socks!” And London gives him the freedom to wear exactly what he wants. In a city that prides itself on a style that is eccentric and diverse, Bluey fits right in. “London has a good balance, a good mix of culture and people, we’re quite open-minded and are used to different types of people. We’re accepting – you can walk around the street wearing whatever you want and no one bats an eyelid, people accept you for who you are.” He references Pharrell, André 3000 and Kanye West as style influences before segueing to the rock ’n’ roll aesthetic of Jimmy Hendrix and Axl Rose from Guns N’ Roses, before agreeing that ultimately “I dress to be comfortable and look cool” – something we all aspire to.
Bluey wears: Quilted Bomber Jacket Versace, Track Top Valentino, Track Pants Valentino, Sunglasses Dior Homme, Ring Versace
BLUEY'S GUIDE TO LONDON
The O2 is an iconic venue, it’s a dream of mine to do my own sold out arena show there, and I believe I’ll do it one day. I performed there on Justin Bieber’s tour and that was dope. Otherwise, head to The Jazz Café in Camden for food and good music. I went there recently and saw a full brass band doing a Biggie tribute – the whole place was singing Biggie songs and having a party.
THE CULTURE FIX
I like to learn and often go to London’s museums by myself. You can take in so much information there, learn about life, what it is to be human and to exist. I like the Natural History and Science Museums and recently went to the British Museum near Holborn. I took a friend to the Tate who was visiting from Amsterdam, we went to the viewing platform at the top of the Blavatnik Building, it’s got 360° views across London.
Bluey wears: Patterend Silk Shirt Versace, Sunglasses Gucci
LATE NIGHT VENUE
Tape London in Mayfair is pretty wild, a lot of industry people come through. Rhianna has been and will.i.am has performed there, Justin Bieber goes when he’s in London and Drake was there not long ago. I know the managers and the team and it’s cool because I used to record a lot of music in the Tape studio – it’s nice to go to places where you know people.
Box Park in Shoreditch is full of small independent street food stalls and cafes where you can try food from different countries and cultures. They do performances there too, so in the summer you can grab a chair, get some good food and listen to live music.
Bluey wears: Bowling Shirt Gucci, Bomber Jacket Gucci, Jogging Bottoms Valentino, Trainers Valentino, Sunglasses Gucci
The bars around Shoreditch and Camden are great for a few drinks. Go to Shoreditch House to chill out – there are different floors with different vibes and a pool on the roof. You can work there too. People often pop in and out so it’s a great place to hang out and meet people.
Go to Cirque le Soir just off Carnaby Street for a crazy night. They have performers hanging from the ceiling of the club, clowns and fire breathers. They do face painting and have a ball pool (all for adults). They once installed an indoor rainforest inside the club – if you went in you’d get wet.
Bluey wears: Shirt Dsquared2, Sunglasses Givenchy
IN THE SUN
When the sun is shining I go to South Bank on the river. It’s relaxing to be around water – walk on the south side from Blackfriars Bridge, past Waterloo and down to Westminster and beyond. There are great views of Big Ben and the London Eye, a skate park and different restaurants and bars to choose
THE GREAT ESCAPE
I’m part Swedish, so when I can I’ll escape to Sweden. My grandparents live on the outskirts of Stockholm and we used to spend a lot of summers in the countryside there. I learned to swim in a lake in the forest. I’m planning to go again sometime this year to see the Swedish side of my family.
Bluey wears: Jacket Dolce & Gabbana, Sunglasses Saint Laurent, Cargo Pants Dolce & Gabbana
Photography: Matthew Brann, Words: Florence Trott, With special thanks to: Sanderson Hotel London