Born with a natural aptitude for business and an enviable eye for detail, the acclaimed entrepreneur Matthew Moneypenny is also an esteemed Talent Manager, having represented New York’s art, photography and fashion elite. With a film star name and looks to match, it’d be fair to mistake the charismatic Moneypenny as a Hollywood sensation. It’s surprising then to learn that staying out of the limelight is much more his style.
“So, first question: Who is Matthew Moneypenny?”
“You’re not going to do that are you?” He laughs heartily – long, genuine and catching. “I’m not at all shy but that question makes me very uncomfortable. Despite the fact that I seem like an extrovert, I’m actually very private and don’t love talking about myself.” It’s a humble response. Ask him about his taste in music, art, or what his favourite hotels are and his chatty character blooms. But getting him to talk only about himself is a challenge.
Moneypenny is known for having founded and led Trunk Archive as well as Great Bowery. With both businesses, he essentially took old ideas and made them new – modernizing them and making them more relevant. As a Salle Privée ambassador, he was selected by the label, but says he just as much chose the brand as one he wishes to represent.
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“Trunk Archive was about taking the collections of the world’s most famous image makers, putting them in one place and making them available for the world to use and license. And although that business model had been around for a long time – there was Corbis, there was Getty, and a bunch of other companies – no one had taken the best of the photography world and put it into one place. Great Bowery, my second business, was in some ways very similar. I stitched together a bunch of agencies, many of which had been around for years, and fashioned them into something new – something we all thought would better serve the artist, the community and the clients. Hence I really relate to what Salle Privée is doing. It’s interesting to look at the best of the past – that which maybe hasn’t changed for some time – and try to find ways to tweak it and make it that much better. There’s room for improvement everywhere. Nothing is ever perfect.”
"Hence I really relate to what Salle Privée is doing. It’s interesting to look at the best of the past – that which maybe hasn’t changed for some time – and try to find ways to tweak it and make it that much better. There’s room for improvement everywhere. Nothing is ever perfect."
Currently, he is working on a new venture. “The Moneypenny Corporation never sleeps!” he says, delivering another hearty laugh. But that’s all that can be divulged – every attempt to mine details is fruitless. With no option but to change the topic, we get talking about style. Ever on-it, he shares his definition of fashion.
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“For me, fashion isn’t just about the clothes – it’s about a lifestyle and a way of viewing the world - moving through the world with a fashionable perspective. When you listen to most people talk about fashion, they’re generally talking about the clothes, or the accessories, or the look, but that’s only one small part of the fashion lifestyle, or rather being fashionable. And I much prefer the term ‘being fashionable’ to ‘being a man of fashion’, because it’s really about how you look at the world. It’s everything from what you wear and what you drive, what your interiors look like, the neighborhood you choose to live in and why you choose to live there, what you choose to plant your garden, and where you choose to dine – all of that is part of the fashion lifestyle. Having a really specific idea about what those places should be, what they feel like, what they look like, how you look and feel when you’re in them, that to me, that’s fashion. It’s not just about the clothes.”
"I much prefer the term ‘being fashionable’ to ‘being a man of fashion’, because it’s really about how you look at the world"
He’s a super visual guy. The way things look is important. While aesthetics matter immensely to his work, beauty is a part of his life. His West Village apartment serves as proof. “It’s important to me to live with objects and art, and books and furniture, that I feel passionate about. I always fall in love with things because of the visual. And I’m very specific about that visual. I know it when I see it. My style of interior design hasn’t changed that much in 20-25 years, but finding the perfect pieces to execute that aesthetic in each new residence can be challenging and is super important to me.”
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His most prized possession is a small Ansel Adams print he acquired last year – a scene entitled, ‘The Evergreens’. For someone so involved in photography, that’s no small compliment to Adams. “It took me a long time to appreciate Ansel Adams because he’s been so highly commercialized – there was that trend of big school dorm room posters of the falls at Yosemite, or the Aspen trees in New Mexico – but when you really look at the entire body of work, there’s a reason those prints command so much at auction: the composition, the palette, the light and attention to detail… It’s exceptional. Of all the photography I own, that little Ansel Adams is by far my favourite print.”
While Moneypenny makes time to enjoy the finer things in life, his career keeps him endlessly busy and constantly on the move. As a frequent traveller leading a fashionable life, he seems the perfect person to ask for tips on packing the ideal roaming wardrobe. “I’m a dedicated monochromist. All black, all grey or all navy. I love navy, especially when I travel. When traveling heavily, or when going through several different climates on one trip, packing a monochromatic wardrobe makes it so much easier. If you can remove the need to think about how you’re going to look great that day, because everything you brought is the same shade, it makes the whole trip so much easier, more pleasurable and less stressful. Occasionally layering in one contrasting colour is also one of my favourite things to do. It makes it much easier to deal with different climates and wardrobe needs – dressier on a cool night, casual during a warmer day – and it’s all much easier working with a single colour.”
"I’m a dedicated monochromist. All black, all grey or all navy. I love navy, especially when I travel."
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On travel, the conversation digresses to unpack Moneypenny’s recent 4-week trip to Harbor Island, Miami and Palm Beach. “To be fair, in Miami and Palm Beach I was also fund raising and doing a few other work-related things, so it wasn’t purely vacation. But I’m not complaining! That said, I’m always happy to come home and reconnect to the energy in New York.”
New York’s energy is famous. Anyone who’s been to the Big Apple raves about it. Even those who haven’t visited have still felt and imagined the stimulating electricity that fills the air of this global hub – a destination so often portrayed and considered as the center of the world. Closing the conversation, Moneypenny is posed one final question: “What does it mean to be a New Yorker?”
“Oh, that’s a good one! There’s so many ways to look at it. One thing that I, and I believe many other New Yorkers have realized – especially during the era of Trump – is that we’re really New Yorker’s first and Americans second. Everyone who comes here feels that way too. If you’re the right type of person who will thrive in this town, it means you’re embracing diversity; you’re embracing all the amazing cultural resources we have. I don’t mean our more obvious resources like epic museums and ridiculous shopping and all that sort of thing, I mean the diversity in culture that you see on the streets. If you’re a real New Yorker, that influences you. For those of us that stay and make New York our permanent home, one of the reasons I believe we do so is the incredible diversity and who that allows you to become if you synthesize it all and make it a part of who you are – everything you see and feel and hear, from your fellow citizens and our architecture, and the way the life and the city moves. New Yorkers tend to be highly intelligent, and super turned-on, and we’re all taking those influences in, and I think it shows in our style, and perhaps most importantly the diversity of style that you see in New York. All of which I think are good. They may not all reflect my personal sense of style, but they’re all good.”
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