Myke Bartlett on Tyler Brûlé
There’s something not very convincing about Tyler Brûlé. That’s not to say there’s anything remotely suspect about his work as publisher, journalist or advertiser. It’s more that his backstory feels almost too good to be true.
Son of a Canadian football legend and a German-born Estonian artist, Brûlé moved to Manchester in the late 80s, where he trained as a journalist. In 1994 while working as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, he was shot twice and nearly died. Some soul-searching from his hospital bed led him to abandon the battlefield and launch seminal style magazine Wallpaper*. Since leaving the magazine in 2002, Brûlé has founded leading ad agency Winkreative and launched Monocle, an intelligent print journal that has defied a downward trend for the magazine industry.
Alongside his media successes, Brûlé is known for his love of international travel (in business class, naturally) and high living. His weekly Financial Times column paints him as something of a restless, millionaire playboy, obsessed with fine dining, exquisite clothing and ski resorts. Similarly, Monocle feels somewhat like a magazine James Bond might read when jetting out on his latest mission. Intelligent, beautifully written political analysis is interspersed with shopping guides and carefully curated, high-class advertising.
Flying up to Sydney to meet Brûlé at the Park Hyatt, I worry that I too have been seduced by the man’s mystique. I’m far more nervous than usual and feel slightly as if I’m meeting Bruce Wayne or Don Draper.
As it is, Brûlé is nothing like Don Draper. He is, as I suspected, impeccably dressed — wearing one of his many blue blazers, a light shirt and well-cut jeans, turned up at the ankle. (It’s an outfit I’ll see cloned — with substantially less flair — by his fans at that evening’s Monocle cocktail party.) In person, Brûlé has a commanding presence: engaging, charismatic and occasionally effusive. I’m aware, however, of his restless gaze skittering away across the cafe.
There are things we don’t talk about. I sense he isn’t keen to yet again talk about his near death experiences in Afghanistan. When talk turns to his parents, he deftly directs the conversation away from his father. He and his father have been estranged for years — his father disapproving of Brûlé’s homosexuality — and I regret not steering our chat back towards the topic. As soon as we’re done, Brûlé is off, promising to meet up at the evening soiree. And we do. He is standing on the door, like the father of the bride or, perhaps, a head of state. He shakes my hand, looks briefly confused, and I realise he doesn’t quite remember who I am. I don’t take it personally. Our chat was 12 hours ago. The world has turned since then and Brûlé, always moving on, has gone with it.