Fresh style insights, tips and commentary by Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee and Carrie Leilam Love.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fancy Picnic/Wayward Sailor: The Wonderful World of Tyler Doran

Tyler Doran is the visionary owner behind Providence-based Heir Antiques and he is a genius. I mean, really. It's a word with inherent integrity and I do not wish to defile it but spend about five minutes on his shop's website and you'll see what I mean. The aesthetic range he occupies is somehow both sweeping and precise--a French paper mache carnival horse costume is an elegantly eccentric compliment to the other wares: a framed set of 20's-era dog show ribbons, a gorgeous straw boater, StrongArm Society chains and a huge crocodile leather cuff.

For example:



If his curatorial eye weren't enough, Tyler (a dear friend and an impossibly handsome man) is a fantastic interior designer and an exceptionally stylish dresser. When we first started Ironing Board Collective, I couldn't wait to schedule a time to interview him about hand-tied bowties, steamship vacations and strongmen portraits. Here is the result.

IBC:  You describe Heir Antiques on its site as a "well-edited collection of antiques, art and uncommon home and personal accessories." How do you find (and choose) the pieces you sell?

Heir Antiques

TD: I travel all over looking for interesting pieces to bring into the shop. It all boils down to form, surface, color and if it tells a story or a history that excites me. Simple or seemingly mundane things can be elevated into amazing objects by changing the context that they're normally presented in.

I try and give every object a subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) twist to make you look at it in a new way. When you do this the possibilities are endless and every different context reveals interesting layers. I try to curate an overall atmosphere more than just a specific collection of any one time period or category.

IBC: I'm particularly a fan of your thematic interest in strong men, elegant Victorian eccentricity, equestrian gear and old fashioned nautical travel, which seems to extend beyond your store to your personal style and even to the way you decorate your home. What do you see as the relationship between what you buy for your store, your home and your body?

The house Tyler shares with his husband in Rhode Island

TD: I love discovering long forgotten eccentricities and pairing them with classic style. Uncovering mannerisms and histories and bringing them into the way you carry yourself is the greatest expression of personal style.

I approach everything as if I'm living history--or creating a specific moment in time. I don't necessarily mean an overly important moment in time with some great purpose, just a snapshot of what I want to image my world to be at that moment.

I hate the word fantasy but I do like to create a complete world in which I function and that extends to the shop, what I wear and how I view myself.

IBC: You have worn bow ties for the ten years I have known you. Are you pleased by their resurgence?

TD: Yes and no. I love they way people are introducing bowties into daily--almost casual--wear, but they must be self tied. Pre-tied American Apparel bow ties do not count. A gentleman should know how to tie his own bow tie.

It's a classic style, but it is not a look all its own. You can't just throw on a bow tie and call yourself stylish. It has to make sense.I used to strictly wear them as an Anglophile accessory, but I've taken to wearing them in a more dressed down sense recently, with shorts and a sweater or under a ratty jacket. Tough and sweet.

IBC: I really appreciate that your style is unique while always remaining appropriately tailored to the social situation/event/environment. You celebrate and embrace an aesthetic experience with decorum and a pitch-perfect sense of social grace. I think of this as a gentleman's approach to fashion. Do you have a style philosophy?

TD: I'm comfortable in costume and I feel like anything I wear--be it jeans and a t-shirt or a 1920's wool men's bathing suit--is telling a story or expressing where I'm at in that moment. I get dressed and imagine where I might be going or doing in such an look. Fancy Picnic and Wayward Sailor are two of my go-to looks currently.

(continued) Life can be drab and I enjoy creating imaginary scenarios and dressing the part. A gentleman always appears comfortable and if I feel like I'm trying too hard or forcing a look, I abandon it. I'd like to be able to say I can pull off anything, but there are looks I just can't make work. I think understanding what works for you and what doesn't is very valuable.

IBC: Who are your style heroes?

Peter Beard. Jude Law in the Talented Mr. Ripley. Dries Van Noten. Classic and refined but off-beat.

IBC: I love the warmth and consistency of your color palette. The browns, yellows, greens and blues look like fall in a coastal town to me. Does setting or season influence your design/style?

TD: I don't wear a lot of bright colors mostly because I don't feel myself in them. I like a subtle touch--a brightness here and there--similar to the effect on a grey day when colors can seem brighter because of the contrast.

I feel like a have a pretty concrete view of what my own personal style is, so the season just affects my level of nakedness during the summer, not the overall approach. Waspy, pre 1940's gentleman in various states of undress is the look.

As far as the shop goes, the aesthetic is that of a young traveler amassing a collection that is personal and engaging, a bit odd and always tells the story of an interesting past. So, I might be more like my shop than I had originally imagined.

IBC: If I had a million dollars and wanted to buy you the world's best birthday present, what would it be and what would you be wearing to experience it?

TD: Easy. A leisurely picnic on a beautiful old wooden boat.

(continued) This one, Aphrodite, was used to usher presidents up and down the Hudson River in the 30's and 40's. It's pretty hard to look bad on a shinny wooden speed boat; I'd be wearing my white Birdie Beach Britches, Clubmasters and a smile as we speed up the coast.

I'm the best at enjoying things. 


  1. Awesome interview! That's my boy!

  2. Our blogs were like psychically connected this week. I wish I could go to your friends store. And on the million $ boat ride with you guys!