Ever since photographer Mario Testino asked him to perform at a Kate Moss book launch party last year, Charlie Siem has fast become the fashion world’s favorite violinist.
This story first appeared in the January 16, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
With his aristocratic good looks, penchant for crisply tailored Savile Row suits, and posh education at Eton and Cambridge, it’s easy to see why Siem has been fawned over by the likes of Bruce Weber and profiled in a bevy of glossy fashion magazines. Oh, and he can fiddle some pretty nice music out of his 1735 Guarneri del Gesù d’Egville violin, too.
“It’s not something I’ve gone after. It’s all happened rather organically,” says Siem of his embrace by the stylish set. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s only giving exposure to the violin to a different audience — a fashion audience — that might not otherwise read about it or know about it. So it’s only a positive thing.”
A casting director at the Testino party offered Siem a role in the Dunhill spring 2011 advertising campaign, which was followed up this year with performances at a Calvin Klein party in London, a Cartier fete in Rome and Lady Gaga’s CFDA after party at the Top of the Standard, which ended with the pop star pecking Siem’s cheek.
The London-born Siem is a natural fashion plate, as he’s long been particular about clothes. Along with his taste for Mahler, Bruckner, Brahms and Sibelius, Siem is partial to custom-made suits, in dark blue or gray, from Meyer & Mortimer; dress shirts from Eterno, and knit ties from Charvet, Hermès or Brooks Brothers. His feet are often shod in Belgian shoes — the lizard slip-on style is his favorite — and he’s never without a silver bracelet that once belonged to his father.
“I’ve always liked fashion, especially in a very traditional, male, tailored sense,” says Siem, adding that he enjoys dressing up out of respect for his audience and the music he loves. “When I go onstage, it’s an occasion to celebrate that music and of us all being together in this kind of ceremony.”
Siem, 25, has released three albums, and tours prolifically, having shared the stage with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. He’s also played with Bryan Adams, Boy George and Pete Townshend.
“When I look at other musicians, everyone has got something to say. It’s always worth listening for that little moment of inspiration,” explains Siem, who first became enthralled by the violin at the age of 3, when he heard Beethoven’s violin concerto, which is still his favorite piece. “That’s what I’m aiming for: Every note has to have some kind of meaning.”