5 May 2017

A Conversation with Ashlyn Chesney of MR PORTER's Style Council

town hall hotel bethnal green review
Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green, London
lamp room inside town hall hotel bethnal green london
dining at town hall hotel bethnal green london resturant

It's fair to say there has been a slight shift in my priorities this year. Buying our first house has brought on a whole heap of new responsibilities, and when you add a wedding to the mix (yep, 8 week to go, flipping heck!) as well as starting up a new agency, Three Letters, with Nik I have somewhat neglected my regular two-blog-post-per-week goal. 

One of my weekly visits to our capital city was to spend an afternoon with Ashlyn Chesney, the main driving forces behind MR PORTER's Style Council. If you haven't heard of the Style Council, simply put, it's a regularly updated travel, food + drinks guide, as recommended by some of the coolest + most well-connected chaps on the planet. 

I met up with Ashlyn at the beautiful Town Hall Hotel, in Bethnal Green, to find out how she came to be in the role of Style Council Director, where her enthusiasm for design + interiors comes from, how she decides which locations to recommend + a little bit more about the MR PORTER's Style Council.


Mat - Tell us a little bit about how someone from Maine, USA - a state known for its fishing trade and shipyards - comes to work in fashion, travel and lifestyle?

Ashlyn Chesney - I’ve always chosen to express myself through fashion and was encouraged by family and friends to do more with it; however, growing up I actually wanted to be an archaeologist – I wanted to travel and explore and learn about the origin of things yet to be discovered. I also loved creating moments for people and wanted to understand more about what motivates us as a society, the hows and whys of when we can come together and the turning points at which we are motivated to do better/create better/be better…It led me to study business and psychology and eventually move to NYC where I managed fashion events and later worked in the hospitality business.

And where does MR PORTER come in, how did the role as Director at The Style Council come to be? Did the role just seem like a perfect fit for you?

In 2015 I decided I needed a change. I was working non-stop, based in NYC but on schedule with London, NY and LA; I hadn’t taken a holiday in several years and my role had become my biggest fear: a desk job. I decided to move on, visit my mom for the first time since I’d started, and then embark on 8 months of travels that brought me to Paris, London, Italy, Argentina and Uruguay. 

I was introduced to Jeremy [Langmead], MR PORTER’s Brand & Content Director, while I was in London, at Mark’s Club. After learning about what I’d done for work and what I was looking for, he told me he might have a perfect role…he wasn’t lying. As Style Council Director, I’ve been able to take the best parts of what I’ve done over the years and I get to do what I’ve always dreamt: travel the world, work with incredible people to experience new places and help others to connect with the world around them.  
matthew pike wears green folk clothing jacket, grey dickies chinos and beige converse, mr porter style council
Folk Shell Jacket | Beams Plus Long Sleeve T-Shirt | Dickies Trousers | Converse 70s | Persol Sunglasses | Instrmnt 
Watch. All linked items c/o MR PORTER.
the lobby of town hall hotel bethnal green london
architecture of town hall hotel bethnal green london, origami
 Origami-inspired interior is a really unusual contrast against the original Edwardian building
executive suite event space at town hall hotel bethnal green london

What’s your favourite part of working on The Style Council? You must get to explore some pretty cool cities, where have you been recently?

All of it is exciting, especially as no one at MR PORTER has ever been in this role before. I’m getting the chance to build and develop a great program that really compliments the lifestyle brand that MR PORTER has already created.  

You’ve always been able to visit MR PORTER for a new wardrobe or rely on us to keep you updated on the seemingly important stuff like: “How to be an adult”, “The Psychological Benefits of Nature” or “6 Alternative ways to use Chopsticks”. Now you can also turn to us for help when trying to discover a great new restaurant for dinner tonight or when you’ve just landed at your holiday destination and are trying navigate the best bars, restaurants and hotels.  

This year I’ve been to Kerala, Bali, Sumba, Cambodia, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, New York and LA. 

I was also recently in Berlin for the first time, and then Rome as well, which I wasn’t too familiar with.  Both were pretty quick trips but by searching Style Council recommendations via the MR PORTER app, I felt like I was able to navigate both of those cities pretty well.   

Mat - And with restaurants, coffee shops and bar being at the centre of what you cover, how do you go about selecting the venues? Does it come from a trusted recommendation?

The majority of our recommendations come from our stylish and inspirational group of tastemakers, which Style Council is named for. Men like Kevin Systrom (co-founder of Instagram), Hayden Cox (award winning surfboard designer) and Keith Baptista (founding partner & MD of PRODJECT and co-founder of MADE Fashion Week). Men who share our love of travel and exploring the world around them.  

We also wanted to provide a seamless experience with the recommendations made throughout our editorial outlets, The Journal, The Daily and The Post, so we created a MR PORTER profile to house these locations. This profile is where you’ll find recommendations that either I’ve discovered while travelling or that a member of our team (or very trusted friend) has suggested after a great experience.

hotel rooms and suits at town hall hotel bethnal green london
typing room restaurant at town hall hotel bethnal green london
cocktails at town hall hotel bethnal green london
 The Town Hall hotel produces its own range of spirits, available in each room

For me, I tend to rate restaurants and coffee shops on more than just the menu. The consideration of design, natural light, and small details, such as the bathroom layout (a little obsessive I know), matters to me is that something you think about too? It’s about the unique character, right?

Detail and character are big for me. I’m the type of person that notices when paint is chipped and dust has collected on the floor boards and chandeliers. Sometimes it is unsettling but other times it can add to the charm. I tend to gravitate toward open and airy locations, lots of natural light, and a quirky aesthetic. In hotels, bathroom lighting is also big for me. 

When in Rome, I stayed at Hotel Locarno, which had a great little courtyard and lots of character:  there were cases of old books and silver pieces around the lobby and the room I was in was covered in red velvet paisley print fabric with marble floors and bath. The bathroom lighting was pretty good too.

Even down to the type of uniforms the staff wear? (you mentioned a little story about this didn’t you?)

I’m convinced uniforms affect a venues atmosphere just as much as the tableware can affect the taste of food. If the colours, textures or sizing is off, it alters the perception of a space (or a dish)…Don’t get me started.

How does the MR PORTER app fit into all of this? Is it used to discover new places or can you book though it too? 

We are such a mobile society, always on the go – with this in mind, the Style Council has been integrated into the MR PORTER app, so that you can access our great recommendations wherever you are.   If you’re at dinner and want to go to a new place for drinks, even if you’re in your own city or one you’re very familiar with, you could easily discover a new suggestion one of our Members has made or get reminded of an old favourite.  

If the venue uses OpenTable, you will also have the ability to book directly through our app. We also integrate with Google so you can see the exact location on a map that pops up, along with the venue’s own website address, hours and telephone number. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Town Hall Hotel. It’s pretty unique, very grand and clearly a lot of time has gone into creating something special. Did you see the metal Origami-inspired architecture design around the back? What do you know about the building’s previous uses?

That feature is stunning, and so unexpected!  

As the name suggests, the hotel used to be a Town Hall building and, as I understand, they did a lot to maintain the integrity of the original Art Deco design from the 1930s. I was also told that they used to shoot a lot of films and music videos in the building back in the day, when it was falling apart before it was renovated and turned into a hotel and that the reason for the metal structure in the back was actually because they couldn’t do anything to restore that section of the building.

mat bucket wears khaki green folk jacket and beams grey sweatshirt from mr porter
The exterior design is inspired by traditional origami techniques. Photography by Lauren Luxenberg

Another thing that’s really important to any experience is passionate people. I imagine you come across some really inspire people along the way. Are they the kind of people that send over those top recommendations?

Absolutely. Yes and Yes. It’s important to me that the Members of MR PORTER’s Style Council are not just considered stylish because of what they wear but also because of how they conduct themselves; that they are inspiring because of what they do but also because of how and why they do it.

Do you see The Style Council expanding to any other cities across the UK? I’d love to see you guys come up north, I could recommend some really unique places in Manchester, Liverpool, and up in Scotland too. 

I’d love that Let’s make it happen!

We are definitely looking to expand, not just across other UK cities but in smaller cities around the globe. We understand that the people who visit MR PORTER and Style Council are located outside of major cities or travel to more remote locations and we would love to be able to offer the same type of resource to those people looking to discover the areas around them.   

Myself + Hollie are heading over to the US in June, for our first proper road trip. We’ve already noted down some places to drop by. Where else is left on your travel wish list?

A road trip across America is definitely on my list – I’ve always wanted to see more of our national parks and the plateaus. I grew up three hours from the Canadian border but somehow have never been so that’s on the list as well…

Marrakesh, Bhutan, and Tokyo are currently at the top but there are so many places to see… basically, if I haven’t been, and if it’s warm, it’s on my list!

Our next stop is Las Vegas in eight weeks time! You bet we'll be on the lookout for places we can submit to the Style Council. Find out more about MR PORTER's Style Council here.

Thanks for reading,

This post is in association with MR PORTER. The ideas + concept behind the post all comes from us, Buckets & Spades.


  1. This is such an interesting interview, and I'm loving this hotel...the style is so unique! Also congrats on buying a new house, the upcoming wedding, and starting a new agency...very exciting! :)


  2. Great convo, enjoyed reading this. It is going to be great year for you! Exciting times.

    Katrina Sophia

  3. Well Ashlyn has quite the job! After reading this I'm ready to hatch some more travel plans, both nearby and overseas.

    Jordan Bunker | www.jordanbunker.uk

  4. robert09:46

    Such a stunning designed hotel! I do like your green jacket and watch!


Thank you for taking the time out of your day to comment. Please leave your URL so we can visit your site.