The flamboyant dandy from Kandy, shares his tips on how to travel like a true gentleman
Gentlemen who cut a dash like Ignatius Joseph are sadly few and far between nowadays. Raised in Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was known back then during the British-occupied colonial period, he emigrated to Europe in his early twenties to study economics before settling in the German city of Düsseldorf. He spent several years working in the hospitality business before founding his eponymous shirting brand, Ign. Joseph, in 1997. In doing so he made a conscious decision only to use sewn instead of fused collars – it’s all in the detail as they say. They can only be handmade, but the upside results in softer, supple, flexible collars and cuffs.
Known and respected on the menswear circuit for his perennially immaculate attire – his trademark pork pie hat, blue blazer, cropped grey trousers (‘People have always asked, “Mr Joseph, why do you wear your trousers so short?” I used to joke and say it’s because I’m from a poor country. I’m saving 2 inches because that’s two pounds!’) and not forgetting his iconic brightly polished red lace-up Oxford shoes.
He says his penchant for style grew out of two fundamental factors: his early years were influenced by the British sartorial tradition: ‘The British left behind a clothing culture,’ he says, as evidenced by his father and grandfather’s linen suits crafted from imported English cloth – as well as dressing appropriately in a tropical climate.
‘The cricket ground was another place where I took my inspiration’ – Joseph was a passionate cricketer back in the day. ‘All the players after the game would be wearing navy blazers, Panama hats, sunglasses and sipping on scotch whisky. This was the way I was brought up. Unfortunately, today it’s a finished glory.’
What are the five things you always pack for travel?
A good shirt – not only because they have been my trade for so many years but because with a proper shirt one is always courteously dressed, in virtually any part of the world. Good shoes are essential – we still move on our feet! Those two things I mention because the fellow travellers I have seen seem to miss those points. A toothbrush and a bar of natural soap (to wash anything on the hoof) make sense. However, all those things can be bought. The most important asset when travelling is a parcel including courtesy, patience and respect for the people and cultures you meet on the way or at your destination. You cannot buy it anywhere. It has to be made by one’s own soul and experience.
You’re a seasoned traveller, but where is your dream destination?
I have lived most of my life in the western peninsula of Eurasia, aka Europe. Although I was born and raised in Ceylon-Sri Lanka, there is always some part of South Asia to discover. I am always dreaming of new discoveries.
Talk us through your airport routine (tips to make the experience as smooth and stress-free as possible).
This is a tough question. People of my generation can still recall boarding a plane at the last minute, hot-footing it from the late-running cab with bag, passport and ticket in hand, directly to the steward and the seat. Just in the past 20 years airport rules have changed and continue to change almost daily. The best I can say is fly only first or business class and stay at the most exclusive hotel you can find. Pay a small fortune for a stress-free transfer.
What’s your secret tip for anyone who has to travel for work constantly?
Get to know your routes and accommodation so well that you become a regular. Sometimes it was not the closest to my destination. However, homes away from home are priceless, especially if the actual day has not been as successful as one might have imagined.
What is your one travel luxury?
The best places I can dine.
What has been your most memorable hotel stay so far?
The most memorable and most recent was the Pera Palace in Istanbul. It was during the worst part of the pandemic restrictions starting in March 2020. Everything about this hotel, built by the Wagons-Lits company as the terminal of the famous Orient Express, is discrete and remarkable.
What suitcase and hand luggage do you always travel with/swear by?
Please forgive me for only saying hand luggage, my own.
Interview by Lee Osborne.Portraits by Orion Dahlmann
You can follow Ignatius’s style journey on Instagram:@ign.joseph
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