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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

GarconJon meets...Chris Millington - GQ x GAP

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This week the GQ New American Designers collection launches at GAP. Together, we selected 10 interesting gents in London and Glasgow to showcase the four independent designers' collections dropping in their two flagship stores - Oxford Street and Buchanan Street respectively.

The first to be photographed was Mr Chris Millington, a man who's beard has made him an internet sensation with over 50,000 Instagram followers. His online musings always intrigued me and as a beard aficionado (that's if photographing beards has made me some kind of expert) I couldn't resist photographing him around the streets of Glasgow.

Chris wears California surf brand Aviator Nation which gels perfectly with his laid back, sunny attitude. As he's a self-confessed 'thinker', it made interviewing him a dream. See his ponderings on wisdom, grooming and the arithmomania below.

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Chris Millington, 23, Model

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in Newmilns, a town 10 miles from Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. I'm currently living in Glasgow and definitely enjoying the contrast between country and city life. It's broadened my horizons in a lot of ways and I feel as if it's definitely given me a different outlook to a lot of the people I've met in the creative industry.

What's your star sign? I am an Aries!

What music are you listening to right now? Believe it or not, I've been listening to the Backstreet Boys quite a lot recently. I don't know if it's because I want to be 10 again or maybe they just wrote some timeless music. I'm not really sure!

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? From a very young age I have been a massive fan of Star Trek, I guess the mystery of "going where no man has gone before" always appealed to me, so many questions, so little answers. It's all extremely interesting, I love science.

My dream was to work for NASA. Physical cosmology, astronomical engineering or astrophysics were my dream subjects to pursue. There were a few things that happened and prevented me from pursuing those studies. NASA was always the goal.

You've got a huge following on Instagram – when and why did you first join? I don't actually remember when I joined or my reason for joining. I just remember things exploding all of a sudden after a few months. I thought having 1,000 followers was a fairly big milestone, I now have 50,000 and it's all a little overwhelming!

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I first became aware of you because of your beard – someone forwarded me your picture. Why did you decide to grow one? My friend Stew Bryden was going to live in New York for 3 months as he had obtained an internship with world-renowned photographer Ryan McGinley in his Manhattan studio. For whatever reason, we decided that growing a beard for the duration of his trip would be a fitting tribute. Needless to say, it was a fairly good choice.

What's great about being a bearded man? I've gathered an incredible level of self confidence since growing mine. I think that's mainly down to the fact that I now look the way I have always wanted to look. I'd always planned on growing and keeping a full beard as part of my look, it was more of a case of being too young to carry it properly. I'm 23 now, which is still extremely young, though I think it's working out quite well.

Do you have a grooming routine? Absolutely! Having such a thick beard, especially for modelling, takes quite a lot of work unfortunately. I need to shampoo and condition mine almost every day. I have to use beard oils at least once a week to keep the hair healthy all the way down to the root. I have been lucky enough to receive a lot of these products for free, which has definitely made things a little easier on my pocket! It's a lot of work.

What's the most interesting thing that's happened to you as a result of growing a beard? Getting signed to a modelling agency from off the street in London is definitely a notable event that would be a direct consequence of having the beard. It's funny how things have developed for me since the beard has grown in.

Do people react differently to you now you have facial hair? It provokes a whole range of reactions from shock to envy. It's been eye-opening, to say the least.

You've got a special relationship with numbers – as you said, I have 19 letters in my full name. When did you realise you had this skill? Yes, this has been a blessing, a hindrance and a nightmare all at once. I remember looking at a starting line up for a football game on television and seeing the names of the players displayed on the screen. All of a sudden I could see numbers beside their names, which I assumed were their shirt numbers. I quickly realised that the numbers were in fact, the amount of letters in each player's surname. Over time I realised that I had been doing this almost my entire life, counting and memorising words and letters, counting their values and storing them away in some sort of library in my head. If someone were to ask me how many letters were in almost any word at all, I'd know how many letters were in it. It's an amazing thing, it truly is. Until it keeps me awake for days on end. That's where it becomes a bit problematic. Everything around me becomes a component in this giant game. It's pretty crazy. It's called arithmomania, I can't really describe it any better than by saying it feels like a little bug inside your head clicking away constantly. It's difficult to describe, I must see things differently to other people, which is a bit daunting to think about.

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Glasgow has changed a lot since I lived there. What do you think it's greatest strengths are? There's just such a diverse mix of cultures and people in Glasgow. There's so many different places with different types of people here, it's a fairly small city but it's definitely got an extremely large set of arms to welcome people in with. You can come to Glasgow and do almost anything, the contrast between the East and West sides of Glasgow is vast, despite the short distance between them.

Where do you like to hang out? I love Grill on The Corner, I don't really know why. Maybe it's the fairy lights all over the front windows and their amazing fish and chips. Probably the fairy lights as I'm a big romantic sop. I really enjoy Nice n Sleazy on Sauchiehall Street, those White Russians are something else. It's a good place to go for a casual evening with some friends.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a model? Remaining focused and confident. There's a lot of rejection, a lot of quiet times. There's been weeks and almost months without any work and it makes you question whether you are good enough, whether you have what it takes. For some people that could be extremely difficult. I find it difficult and I have a lot of belief in myself and my work. The challenges are within your own confidence.

What do you like most about your job? The freedom. The ability to travel, to socialise with amazing, creative and like-minded people. I've always been fascinated by creatives. I find that they all have very interesting personal qualities, whether they are negative or positive, there are always qualities within a creative mind that are extremely unique. It's intriguing.

What's your opinion on the upcoming Scottish referendum? I really don't pay much attention to politics! I am very much a believer that things will take care of themselves, they'll never be perfect and they'll never be awful. Scotland is a great country regardless. I'm grateful for how things are done here and I appreciate the work that our government do for us all. I would move funding into different projects that I feel are most important but then again, wouldn't we all? Independent or not, Scotland will always be Scotland because our people will never change. Each outcome has their own pros and cons.

What’s an average day like for you? I spend most of my day on my phone. Returning emails, doing interviews, speaking with people regarding photoshoots or business collaborations and of course, keeping in touch with the internet and my friends! I do my best to spend as much time as I can with my friends, they help me relax and forget about all of the attention that my work and image seems to be gathering online. It's all a bit scary to me at times. I also drink a lot of milk. That's a fairly normal day for me.

Do you have a dream client? When I began modelling, I always said that someone like Burberry would be a dream for me. I look at campaigns like Viktor and Rolf, Calvin Klein, Dior, Armani, I see models like Sean O'Pry, Lars Burmeister and David Gandy, all of these supermodels who are on a pedestal above all. I'll never be like these men, I just wish that I could do the work they do, they are the masters of their craft.

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I photographed you in the new collection by Aviator Nation for GAP, one of the new American designers selected by GQ. What's great about American design? In fashion, I feel that American design is extremely traditional. Strong lines, very sturdy design and garment production. I think Americans like reliability and longevity. Outside of fashion, the Americans just love big things don't they! Everything needs to be bigger! It's amazing!

I love that GAP are choosing to work with small independent designers for this project, rather than one of the big fashion houses. Why is it important to support new design talent? We are always on the verge of unearthing the next Alexander McQueen or John Galliano. There must be so much unfulfilled creative and design talent all over the UK and the world, it's massively important that we support and encourage new designers, their work and creativity have to be admired!

How would you describe your personal style? My personal style is quite mixed! I wear braces, black jeans and boots every day. I always wear my black leather biker jacket. I'm also fond of a plain t-shirt. I'm pretty boring compared to most fashionistas.

Do you have a favourite menswear designer or store right now? I don't! I have an idea in my mind of what my ideal designer's work would look like, I just haven't found a designer who makes the type of clothing and garments that I'm looking for! Hence my new up and coming project.

How exciting. So tell us, what's on the horizon for Mr Millington? I am in the process of creating my own clothing line. It is called Alaska and I'm extremely excited about it! My brother and I have spent over a year researching, studying and preparing for this and now we are on the verge of beginning the company at the end of the year. We hope to be a mixture between North Face, Stone Island and AllSaints. Highest quality, minimal design, maximum functionality and versatility. Aside from that, I'm just going to continue on this journey and I will see where it takes me. It's exciting venturing into the unknown!

Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom...Wisdom is something I can't say that I have, I've always been a believer that I'll be wise on the day that I die, when my mind can consume no more knowledge. With that in mind, I'll leave my advice to anyone. Pursue the things that stoke the fires inside you, pursue the things that make you smile and bring joy to your darkest days. Don't shy away from your fears, embrace them for what they are, embrace the fact that you aren't without flaw. Find happiness in the knowledge that there are things you can improve on, every day. Strive for greatness by starting on yourself. Strive to become a great and joyful person, surround yourself with great people. Settle for nothing less than the best, push yourself to your limits and then push yourself some more. Continue to remain positive and believe in yourself, believe when nobody else will. Exceed the expectations of your peers, defy the beliefs and doubts of your rivals, turn your beautiful and ambitious dreams into an incredible reality. Don't lose faith or forget where you come from. Stay true to the things that drove you to begin your journey in the first place, use it to propel you to the heights that your dreams couldn't create.

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RSVP to our launch event in Glasgow this Thursday to