Possibly the next company to join the ‘Footsie 100’? We caught up with Oli Brookes of The London Sock Exchange, who, along with business partner, Dan Zell, set up this handy (or footy) subscription service which tackles the age old problem of men’s sometimes slightly worrying attachment with their socks.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of stumbling across the Galvin Brothers, they make beautiful well-made furniture. The brother team, Matt and Andrew, formed back in 2012 and built on their Father’s 61 years of joinery and cabinet making experience. Though this article isn’t about furniture, it’s filed under our The Wardrobe section as the brothers have teamed up with local clothing manufacturer Wayside Flower to produce a small collection of utility work wear. We sat down with Matt Galvin to find out more.Continue Reading →
We were luckily enough to be introduced to the world of Millican last year by our friends at Do Books, exhibiting alongside other great brands such as Hiut Denim and McNair Shirts at the Do Market. Millican are another example of principled, purposeful and value-led companies that we love at The Holborn. Their mission is to make sustainable bags for the conscious traveller, the deep-thinker, and for personal journeys across the globe. The company is based on a farm in the Lake District and we decided to pay them a visit and meet Co-Founder Jorrit Jorritsma. Continue Reading →
They say that habit is a great deadener. And what could be more deadening than the punishment of the single task – surely the very substance of withered life. Its drab weight putting thoughts of joy to sleep. And for factory hand, or office clerk, this proclamation surely hits the mark. But not for all. Continue Reading →
An often overlooked and neglected item of a chaps attire is that small square of material that sits in one’s breast pocket – the pocket square. It is quite often an item that can transform your look from tired dreary city worker to a confident flaneur and dandy about town.
Winter is a cruel mistress, and especially for those of us who decide to venture out to the more rugged corners of these isles. But atop a mountain, chilling on a cliff or lounging on a Scottish beach how does the considered lady or gent look stylish and still fight off the bitter cold and the 62 varieties of rain than can fall in good old Blighty? Well a company based in Yorkshire may have the answer.Continue Reading →
“We are a word of mouth kind of company. I love this feel that if you were looking for a tie you would ask one of your friends and they would recommend us. I like that we still inhabit that world a bit. It means people that come to us wanting a tie, are wanting to wear a tie, not because they have to wear a tie.”Continue Reading →
As Christmas approaches the term ‘retail therapy’ becomes a totally ridiculous concept. Especially when you find yourself wandering around the crowd packed stores desperately trying to remember any slight hint that perhaps your loved one dropped when you told her you were spending the afternoon in the West End Christmas shopping. But do not fear The Holborn are here to help, so get yourself home, pour yourself a gin and tonic, sit back and read our 5 Best Gifts for Her….Continue Reading →
It’s fair to say that there has been a huge growth in the appreciation of eyewear in recent years, with many wearers focussing on beautifully designed and well-made glasses. Consumers are making deliberate choices and now consider eyewear as high quality wardrobe staples.Continue Reading →
Winter has befallen Britain, the charming chaos has commenced; the ground is wet, the roads icy and the trains have started their inevitable grind to a halt. As such it is quite likely we shall all need to do a little bit more walking. However the number of thoughtless oddbods I see out there carelessly slipping around like a Daddy Long legs on ice in a pair of Converses or unwittingly wrecking Suede in deep snow has led me deduce that some of you might need a hand when picking winter shoes.
I first came across Stutterheim a number of years ago, the press surrounding them certainly looked promising (‘The Last Raincoat you will Ever Need‘) but as it was the tail end of summer and I had just purchased a new (just a bit useless) raincoat, Stutterheim did, to my shame pass me by.
VOID Watches was originally launched in 2008 by Swedish designer David Ericsson. What started as a side project to a career in design and engineering turned into a full time job and eventually a small company. After graduating from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm David was offered an interesting position as a development manager for a company in Hong Kong. After a year in a large company he thought it was time to go back to something smaller and more genuine and he started his own company. He started developing a watch (their first ever V01) alongside consulting work for his old Swedish clients. About two years later and having sold enough watches to skip consulting and the rest as they say is history.
It is said that Trawlermen have one of the worlds most dangerous jobs. The hours are long and antisocial, the work filthy and even on a good day, sailing on the North Sea is probably a fairly brutal experience. After arrival at the fishing grounds, a relentless cycle of work will begin: sleeping in bunks, too tired to remove work clothes or the sleep to brief to make their removal worth while. Now imagine what this job was like as a young twenty-something in 1960.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed but bikes are cool. There are bike cafes, bike magazines and even a vintage inspired annual Tweed clad jolly round town. The economist Douglas McWilliams in his book, The Flat White Economy, which explores the explosion of the digital economy around Old Street says there has been a culture shift where; ‘The bicycle has replaced the Porsche, skinny jeans have replaced suits and, of course, flat white coffee has replaced champagne.’Continue Reading →
The best businesses are born out of a passion. For Scott Eden and Ben Marden, co-founders and directors of men’s shirt brand Tripl Stitched, that passion was vintage sewing machines.
They’ve been collecting them for ten years now and initially began using them to create unusual and good quality shirts for a number of top brands, building their business as a British menswear manufacturer. The popularity of the use of the triple stitch machines with their clients including Paul Smith and Ben Sherman sparked the idea to create their own shirts, which are made in England and made to last, using the machine as its key element.Continue Reading →
Mudlark & Co, producers of beautiful handmade sandals, is the brainchild of couple Chris Bingham and Hannah Roberts. The genesis was many moons ago when Hannah worked in a shoe shop in Cambridge. She started to see her boss’s business model slowly changing, moving more towards echo shoes and the comfort import market. She witnessed more and more of his old customers coming back and being disappointed by the move. Hannah felt there was more value in the old patterns. The offer came about from her boss to take the old patterns and make it her own. Partner Chris tells us this was the gift that got them going.Continue Reading →
We were lucky enough recently to stumble upon a new brand that encapsulates everything we at The Holborn love. While sharing a space at a recent show I struggled to keep the attention of our erstwhile Editor-at-Large as he seemed to be elsewhere with his thoughts as I bellowed a number of instructions at him. He was in fact enthralled by the stand opposite us, that being Nuwold. That day unlike this particular British July day was basked in glorious sunshine but still Joshua blurted out off topic – ‘god, I love those umbrellas, I have to have one’. So on further inspection and a chat with co-founder Ian Nash we both instantaneously became fans of this new brand. So we saw it quite fitting to get back in touch with Ian and find out more.
Tell us how Nuwold started? Whats your background?
We have a soft spot for Victorian & Edwardian Heroes, as we do for great tasting Beer and Northampton made Boots, especially when they are all combined into one company. The Shackleton Company is a lifestyle brand who make a range of products, all inspired by the legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton.
“When in the land of perpetual rain, buy a waterproof coat.”
Jacob Hurwitz recalls that quintessential purchase in London five years ago that inspired him to pull the trigger on co-founding his own outerwear and apparel brand, American Trench.
“Returning to PA, at a time when so many people were losing their jobs, my friend [now co-founder] David and I got to thinking… what could we do? What can we make? And I had this beautiful trench coat, and wondered who was making them in the US. We couldn’t find anyone.”
David Hieatt is the Founder of Hiut Denim Co, a premium Denim label based in Cardigan, North Wales. Cardigan was home to the largest surviving jeans factory in Britain. Four hundred employees used to make 35,000 pairs of jeans a week over three decades of production. Then one day, due to an outsourcing of the manufacturing to Morocco, the factory inevitably closed.Continue Reading →
A stalwart of British style – Sunspel has been making underwear since 1860 and in 1947 it was the first firm to introduce boxer shorts to Britian. Having been producing products for larger brands for years, Sunspel has gained itself a dedicated following through the production of high quality wardrobe staples for both men & women that look and feel great. In 2008 a Sunspel Polo shirt graced the shoulders of Daniel Craig’s 007 – continuing a relationship with the world’s favourite spy that began with Sean Connery donning Sunspel swim-shorts during Thunderball in 1965. In 2006 Nicholas Brooke took over Sunspel with Dominic Hazlehurst and the company has been moving from strength to strength. In the past few years the brand has opened its own stores in London’s Soho and Shoreditch. The Holborn got in touch with Nicholas to discuss Sunspel’s past, present and future.Continue Reading →
We ran into Ashley Watson for the first time in the autumn last year and we were taken aback by the simple elegance and ingenuity of his designs. Brands don’t often genuinely successfully combine beautiful aesthetics with effective design, but from what we’ve seen of Ashley’s products he has started to put together something special. We caught up with Ashley following the launch of his second collection to find out more. Continue Reading →
There comes a time in every man (or circus-based woman’s) life where he must take a good hard look at himself in the mirror and address the topic of their chin. The chin is an odd one, unless you have one of those the specimens that look like you could cut glass with it, then it does tend to be a rather disappointing conclusion to the rest of your face. I have a Kurt Douglas chin, that is to say it looks like a small, muscularly disproportioned arse.Continue Reading →
In this week’s design post, we meet Tim Cooper – Oliver Sweeney’s Cobbler-in-Chief – to chat shoes, tattoos and most importantly, whisky. Sweeney’s latest collaboration with whisky connoisseurs Johnnie Walker sees a cheeky little Red Label bottle hidden in a seemingly innocent pair of brogues. Marrying together two such fine examples of UK craftsmanship and quality makes perfect sense and we at The Holborn could never say no to a pairing of two of our favourite things…
Blazers are an incredibly versatile garment, formal or casual. They are great for layering in winter or thrown over a crisp linen shirt in the summer. Executed in the right way they can be a simple way to add individuality to your outfit, perfect for both a timeless, classic look or the latest trends. They transcend the seasons and as such represent a perfect investment piece, one that properly cared for should last you for years to come. Many of you I’m sure will already have a very clear idea in your head of what a blazer should or might look like. So in this article I have tried to incorporate preconceived ideas whilst picking out a few unique pieces, just to get across the message of how adaptable a more casual blazer can be. You will also notice that I have also included an additional accessory for each garment as a suggestion as to how you might choose to wear them.
It is fair to say that there had been something of a glaring omission from our coverage of the world best made and well designed clothing – that being the area of suiting. This has been a deliberate choice, despite a few invitations to take a look at some ready to wear suiting The Holborn has felt that it really wanted to highlight tailoring at its finest. We have dreamed for a long time over owning bespoke garments, not just for reasons of personal vanity, but for the sake that the skills and material associated with British bespoke tailoring is widely (and rightly) considered to the very best in the world (with Italy running a close second). At the crux of the British style phenomenon is the tailored suit, a single item which has defined how British people and British style have come to be perceived across the world.Continue Reading →
Just shy of two months back we undertook our now yearly pilgrimage to the exhibition of the best of British-made goods ‘Best of Britannia’. And just as our previous visits we discovered some previously unknown gems making here in Blighty. One whose quality of goods and whose story really excited us was Faulkner London. We met owner Luke Faulkner and after a significant tangent discussing our bizarrely similar family backgrounds, we got a chance to sit down and chat about his menswear brand.
We love bespoke at The Holborn, we’d have every stitch on us bespoke if we could afford it. There is something so intimate, considered and majestic about wearing something designed around and for you. We have always heralded those men and women who make these deeply personal items, those who take a more considered approach and stand against the eminently more financial lucrative off the peg options. Last year we profiled a Chicago based company Peter Field who make bespoke ties based around your neck size and torso length. Though of all the items in your wardrobe that could be bespoke, lingerie is not one that you often associate with the process. Though if you reflect upon it for a moment what item could be better suited to a tailored, personal bespoke offering. Well we at The Holborn sat down with Marion ‘May’ Perret of Marion May Lingerie, who produces a range of stunning bespoke lingerie here in London.
Nestled between the grand and cavernous entrance of the Renaissance St Pancras Hotel and the opulence of the finest of Railway Station watering holes, The Booking Office, you will find the cloakroom. Here you will find Tom Beecroft, aka The Jaunty Flaneur, shoe shine extraordinaire.
The [*definite article*] Jaunty [*expressing a lively, confident manner*] Flaneur [*a gentleman who saunters around observing society*]
A description that in our more immodest moments here at The Holborn we would flatter ourselves with. On our first meeting with Tom we talked at length about buying high quality, investing in well-made items and then proceeding to care for those items. So we went to meet Tom at St Pancras with a prized pair of Joseph Cheaney shoes on to have a chat over a shoe shine.
Until a week ago, I was pretty enamored with my 3 year old Casio digital watch. Then I went to New York, met Zack Sears from Throne Watches and now can’t stop thinking about how much I need a handmade leather watch on my wrist. There’s just something so special about a daily-worn object with a story, a great smell (who doesn’t love the smell of leather?) and the kudos of owning something ‘Handmade in America’. Having recently released their own design Throne 1.0 watch to go alongside beautiful vintage watches with handmade leather straps, I caught up with Zack at Renegade Craft Fair to talk the importance of handmade, designing and manufacturing products close to home and how a casual request can lead to a thriving business.Continue Reading →
Ever on the lookout for those who do things a little differently (and most importantly, properly) The Holborn was exceptionally pleased to stumble across the fine, handmade threads of Workhouse. Produced in limited numbers using traditional manufacturing techniques, Workhouse channels a frequently imitated, but rarely perfected ascetic; that being the sartorial individuality of the historic working class. Aside from military tailoring (itself a set of functional uniforms) , the clothing of the British working class is possibly the key influence on modem menswear. Overcoats, chore jackets, and of course, denim are re-visited seasonal staples of even the most highbrow and aloof of design houses.Continue Reading →
When we first heard of Spoke they were being made very much a stone’s throw away from our Editor’s flat in Hoxton. With our interest peaked by a local business making one our favourite items, well made chinos with that all important fit, we sought out Ben Farren, Spoke’s founder. We found a dynamic start-up using e-commerce for a unique offering while at the same time grounded with a respect for great craftsmanship. We sat down with Ben to find out more:Continue Reading →
To continue on a theme, The Holborn has another feature on artisan shoemaking today. It’s a real pleasure to finally feature an English shoemaker, we’ve always made a point of highlighting our appreciation for English (and in particular, Northamptonshire) shoemaking, simply because we consider the results to be the very finest shoes in the world. And make no mistake it is not just The Holborn that thinks so, handmade English shoes have been the footwear of choice for the worlds most quality-consciousand stylish individuals for decades. Given the recent surge in interest for heritage brands and handmade garments, UK shoemaking has seen a rise in new customers and businesses opportunities (take Prada’s controversial takeover of Church’s). One such example is the recent revival of Wildsmith’s, which had remained a relatively small, family run operation for many years. Now revitalised with a new website, shoe range and CEO, Wildsmith’s seeks to maintain its heritage whilst bringing its own classically styled take on English footwear to a new audience. We got in touch with Chay Cooper, Wildsmith’s new hand’s on chief to find out more:
If innovation, technology and efficiency are words evoked by the mention of the current American ethos, then George Vlagos could be considered quite un-American. But, almost ironically, it is his patriotism that guides every stitch in Oak Street Bootmakers footwear.
After a brief interruption in service from our man in Tehran, these things happen with foreign correspondents in far flung lands, he returns to bring you more stories for you from the capital of Iran. On this occasion, far from us at HQ with our lunchtime strolls down Savile Row, he venture out on the hunt for a good suit.
I happen to be most probably the only western writer in Tehran who takes an interest in men’s attire in this disconnected country, so I will give you an insight into finding a good suit in this sprawling metropolis.
Tehran, and to a further extent Iran, as you may already know is not known for its male suited tidiness. There are many writers and comedians, including the New York based Daily Show, who will poke fun at former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s choice of governmental clothing. Often described as man on his way to a fishing trip. Or that un(officially) suit ties are technically illegal under the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Either way I will endeavour to tell you about my time only last week with a fellow foreigner looking for a light summer suit. We started off at the bottom of the ladder of suit prices down a street called Bob Homayoun roughly translating to the Majesty’s Door, where any Iranian of a lower class status will hunt for a bargain suit costing no more than about £30, though sprawling through this recently pedestrianized street of sequined suits and diamante studded belts we came to no success to find a simple summer suit.
After stumbling on a outdoor street seller selling some retro glass bottled Coca Cola, my friend and I gulped the cola down in a back alley to avoid the police giving us a fine for drinking through the Holy month of Ramadan. Quenching our thirst we headed back out in the main street, we muttered to ourselves how we never thought how hard it could be to buy a linen suit in the summer.
My friend and I duly jumped into a taxi where we headed up to Engelab (Revolution) Street. We then headed to the men’s outfitters who have been situated on this street since time in memoriam. There we again asked the owners of the stores for linen material to which they told us they were out of stock, most probably since the revolution in ‘79.
Though they did try to tempt us with some tailor made suits for about £100 we were not so won over by the material. You may ask why, at such an exceeding good price. Well because it looked as if the material was designed for my grandfather in mind. Let alone half of the materials which say they were “Made in England” did look somewhat outdated, and I can’t think that these men selling this English material have bought any of it since the hyperinflation hit two years ago.
So reader, we failed, pretty monumentally, in this regard for a linen suit in Tehran. However I will keep you informed on other jaunts into the capital of the Islamic Republic for all sorts of peculiar purchases.
Until recently, my wardrobe has been dictated by either my mother or my pay check. Sadly, this has led to some devastatingly bad choices— fashion-wise on my mother’s part (okay, on both our parts!), and quality-wise on mine.
However, now that I’m almost a grown-up, earning an almost-grown-up wage, I can finally make the choice to purchase pieces that I know have been made to last more than one trip to the washing machine. My predicament is that outlets selling high-quality garments like this from are so few and far between; my clothing diet has been solely high-street-on-a-budget, and I am at a loss for where to find UK-based independent labels.
Thankfully, I have stumbled across Alexandra King, a designer who graduated from the University of the West of England in Fashion and Textile Design in 2005. Having gained valuable experience from working in the vintage clothing market, as well as the BBC costume department, she now devotes her time to her own label, working alongside the label’s head seamstress – Anna Vickery.
Hi Alexandra! Please tell me a little about yourself to get us started.
I grew up in the Somerset countryside where I still live now. I gave city living my best try, but quickly realised how important it was for me and my work to be based in a rural setting. Ever since childhood I’ve had a great appreciation for the countryside; mixed with the encouragement and hard-working ethos of my parents, it gave me the confidence to set the terms of my own career path. I studied in Fashion and Textile Design at the University of the West of England, where we had great tutors who taught us how to question our own work, and the essentials of how to sew properly.
After leaving university, I ran a vintage clothing business for a few years where I collected forties and fifties ball gowns and imagined the stories behind them. The more damaged they were, the more I felt the need to rescue them. They provided the inspiration for creating my own designs which led to setting up the label in 2009.
What would you say are the characteristics of your designs?
Full skirts, beautiful fabrics, tulles and fine detailing that reference mid-century design. They’re very much about transforming how a woman feels in a dress. It should be spectacular, like a movie star, not just the average that you can find anywhere.
What kind of manufacturing techniques go into making your garments?
We make each and every garment here at the studio. We’ve tried different manufacturing techniques and batch processing, but the pieces are always best when made individually. We hand cut the fabric, machine sew all the main seams and finish the linings and any detailing by hand.
How do you ensure the quality of your product?
By knowing every aspect of the business, from research and development to the actual making, wearing and packaging. I design and produce all the samples for each new collection myself so I know every facet of each dress, and I have a wonderful head seamstress whose work is meticulous. We source the best quality natural fabrics from reliable and consistent suppliers and have spent several years sourcing the best synthetic linings that can reduce our costs without the loss of quality, allowing us to work within a wide range of budgets.
How are the garments made – for example, are they made to order, or as a small series? Do you only make a limited amount, or keep making a collection for as long as it sells?
Each garment is made individually. Some pieces are one-of-a-kind, designed with a specific idea and fabric in mind. The ready-to-wear collections are made to order, with a few pieces being made in a small run. I try to keep a few of the best pieces available for couple of years, and sometimes they become a classic like the prom dress. The rest are discontinued so that I can make way for the new.
It has been argued that expertise in clothes fabrication craftsmanship is dying out in the Western world. Why do you think so few garments are cut and sewn in the West?
I have to agree. So few garments are cut and sewn in the West because of cost and loss of skills. People want cheap, mass-produced clothing and the Far East factories are able to supply in high volumes to a good quality. There is the question of ethics, and it would be an ideal world where wages the world over were relative to skill and not location and the availability of cheap labour, but demand and even education in future skills is consumer-driven, and any change would have to start there.
For a label like Alexandra King, our location is important to the brand, along with being able to react quickly to trends. Mulberry have recently opened another factory locally and ASOS manufacture some lines in the UK, showing that European quality is something that will always have appeal.
On the subject of craftsmanship, I recently watched a documentary on Fabergé, which told how this level of craftsmanship will never be seen again. The problem again being money and a customer willing to invest in something like the 80 hours of work required of a beautifully hand-beaded neckline on a dress. I hope that fine craftsmanship can be sustainable for the future, but financially Fabergé couldn’t exist without the Tsars.
What inspires you?
Fashion itself inspires me the most, and the almost mythical world that surrounds the golden-age of couture— the occasions and people who would have been able to indulge in such a secret luxury. I want everyone to have a taste of that kind of beauty. Classic Hollywood cinema is also a major influence. Nothing is more thrilling than seeing those magnificent films with leading actresses and gorgeous costumes, great plots, and all the craft that must have gone into their creation.
Do you pick the fabrics first and then design the garments, or is it the other way around?
Both. I have a huge hoard of vintage fabrics, and when I find a fabric, I immediately start thinking about how the final dress might look. For collections I’ll set a brief, and after research, the fabric sourcing and design will evolve together in the process.
What do you think divides fashion and style? On which side would you say the Alexandra King label falls?
They go together. Fashion is about ideas, and style is how those ideas are used. Both fashion and style are divided by the people who don’t care about either. Alexandra King is for the people who are interested in both.
What would be your motto?
“Make it amazing.”
Interview by Cheryl McGee
The Holborn continues its ‘Artisans’ campaign, a series of articles of which the aim is to highlight the efforts of skilled and inspired individuals and bring you a closer insight into their work – as told to us in their own words. Today we welcome Mark de Lange of eyewear designers Ace & Tate to tell us his story. Ace & Tate are themselves based in the Netherlands and their glasses are crafted in Northern Italy. We not only love their designs but the care and attention they take to the whole process from design to production, the unique pricing model, to you placing the frames on your face. So it is that we present to you the Ace & Tate story. Continue Reading →
There is a strong tradition, or is it more of a bond? Between a man and his kitbag. It stems back to the early days of modern military service wherein the newly initiated solider would be given a few essential pieces of equipment wrapped up in a durable, heavy canvas and sent brusquelyoff into the field. Through the course of his trials, the bag – beaten, dusty and torn would still house those few essential tools for staying alive (and in the case of most European forces, looking sharp).
Thankfully military technology has moved on, wars have moved further afield and foreign travel has become much more leisurely and hopefully in your case; luxurious. But that idea of housing a few precious grooming tools, and taking them with you, wherever you end still lingers, so that wherever you are in the world you can still freshen up, suit up and stride out the door as only a Brit can into an new environment.
And of course, being The Holborn blog we would always suggest you make a small investment in something handsome and well made to accompany you on your own grand tour of life.
Otis Batterbee specialises in very fine, classically styled travel accessories that go beyond the usual Christmas gift-set washbag and those airline complimentary eye masks. These very much are goods for those who like to put a little extra thought into their everyday lives, just to add a touch of mindful design and sartorial swagger to proceedings. The company itself has been making the rounds in the style press for a few years now, but their collections remain uniquely strong and appealing, given their particularly clean, anglocised look. So it came to pass that The Holborn decided to find out a little more from Mr Otis Batterbee himself, founder and Managing Director of the brand…
How did Otis Batterbee get started. How did you actually go about getting the company up and running?
I studied fashion design at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art in London prior to settling up OB and had some experience designing clothing and accessories for other brands. I was shopping for a trip to the South of France on summer and couldn’t find a wash bag that I liked….this was the moment that I decided I was going to design a collection of wash bags that ticked my sartorial boxes and within a short period of time the brand had come together and I was showing the collection to Liberty and Harrods who all wrote orders on the spot. Next thing I knew, we were kind of up and running!
Who is the customer that you have in mind for your products?
The OB customer travels a lot, I often think of our customers that are travelling for work, whether they are a fashion buyer or a designer they all need product that makes travelling for work easier. All our products are lightweight and can fold into nothing. Our travel pillow and eye mask for example all fold flat and fit into our Classic Envelope pouch- so you can have all the comforts required for a long haul flight in the space of small magazine!
What kind of elements inspire you during your design process? How do you come across new ideas?
Fabrics inspire me a lot; I often select the fabric first and then think of what it’s going to be used for, kind of like designing a clothing collection. Also travel itself is a great inspiration. I love being at airports and looking at what people are carrying with them and what they are taking with them on their travels. Soho (where are offices are) is a great source of inspiration – it’s such a melting pot of international styles.
Where is it that you source your materials?
Nearly all our fabrics are produced in the UK – We use mills up and down the country. It is such a thrill finding out from our suppliers that they have started working with Ralph Lauren or Hackett for example.
How do you ensure the quality of your product? Where are they manufactured?
We manufacture all our goods in England. The quality of our products is very important to us and is whey I set out from the outset to produce in the UK. We have very high quality standards here at Otis Batterbee and we make sure that all the staff on quality control in our factories are scared of us!
What kind production techniques go into making one of your products?
There are quite a few processes that go into making our product. Essentially each item is cut from a roll of fabric by a pattern-cutter who is trained in how different fabrics work and react to being cut. This cut piece then goes to a machinist that constructs the item and is then passed onto the presser that steams the article. It then goes over to the Quality Controller who will inspect the item and cut any loose threads etc. Some parts of our production are complex, the eye mask especially as it has British grown lavender inserted into the two layers of fabric whilst the mask is being constructed.
How important do you think it is to support and maintain local production?
It’s so important to support local production. I enjoy very much that none of our goods are shipped half way around the world, I value the fact that our goods consume so much less and pollute so much less than other goods that are made abroad. On a more personal level I love that we can visit our factories and catch up with all the staff. Working in a factory is a brilliant working environment, its team work, which I think so many people don’t experience in their working lives anymore. I was practically brought up in a factory and spent all my holidays as a child learning how to pattern cut and discovering the mechanics of a factory at my family’s textile factories.
What can we look forward to from Otis Batterbee in the future?
We have some exciting collaborations in the pipe line…Also in January we launch or first collection of leather travel goods which we are really excited about – again all made in England!
OB & JMN
In the technologically heavy, fast moving age we live in it is easy to forget about the inventions we use on a daily basis, and take them for granted, which is easy to do when you can have the internet in your pocket and can speak “face to face” with someone on the other side of the world. But take moment to think of those inventions, which might not be as magical and astounding, but have still made our lives effortlessly easier.
For me the zip is a fascinating device, it is one of those unassuming inventions that seems like it has always been there, but it’s journey into it’s modern incarnation is a long and intricate one. Though the date of the first recognized zip was 100 years ago as of the 29th of April.
It’s origins though, actually date back to 1851 when the inventor of the sewing machine, Elias Howe received his patent for the “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”, it was not a zip as we would recognize it, but a series of hooks that when brought together would fix into the loop (eye) on the opposite side. The name though rolled off the tongue so easily, and it’s use much harder than saying it’s name 10 times a quickly, Elias left his idea and took the invention no further.
It was then not until 1893 that the idea resurfaced with the superbly named, Whitcombe Judson of Chicago (Inventor of the Pneumatic Street Railway) who marketed the ‘Clasp Locker’. The design itself was very similar to Howe’s 1851 hook-and-eye closer, but really only aimed at making the fashionable high-buttoned boots of the time easier to fasten. The design looks more like some microscopic part of the human anatomy rather than something practical to use on a daily basis “Clasp Locker” was first presented to the public at the 1893 World Fair, and its success was, minimal. But it did mean the title of ‘The Inventor of the Zipper’ was attributed to Judson not Howe.
Judson launched the ‘Universal Fastener Company’ with businessman Colonel Lewes Walker and associate Harry L Earle and continued to turn out impractical solutions to the same problem for the next 11 years, with the fasteners tearing the fabric around them, bursting open or becoming universally jammed. The company changed it’s name a few times before settling on the ‘Automatic Hook & Eye Company’ in 1905 and releasing it’s most successful design so far called the ‘Judon C-curity Fastener’ and closer to the modern incarnation was attached to it’s own cloth tape. Aimed at women’s clothing, the C-Curity Fasteners main selling point was it’s reliability at avoiding embarrassing situations, but like the previous attempts was still too bulky and not as secure as the claims suggested. Judson and Earle drop back and disappear from zippers story around this time. Though Col. Walker still carried the torch and hired a Swedish-American electrical
engineer named Otto Frederick Gideon Sunbäck. His design skill, and marrying the plant-managers daughter meant he soon became the chief designer at UFC, his difficult job was to make the impractical ‘C-curity Locker’ into a practical and marketable one, in which he succeeded, producing the ‘Plako’ from Judson’s imperfect C-curity, which received its first patent in 1913, this being recognized as the first zip.
Sunbäck threw himself into his work, first coming up with the Hookless no.1, which did away with the hook & eye’s of the previous incarnations, and looked at a completely new way of knitting the teeth together, sprung jaws which “clamped around a beaded edge of the tape on the other side” was the new approach, still not ideal, and had a tendency to tear after only a few uses, it did secure new investment and generated more interest in the company. His next attempt though almost perfected the invention, and has changed very little to this day.
He changed the weak bead and jaw closure to teeth, cut from a ‘Y’ shaped wire, clasped to a cloth tape with “nested, cup-shaped members” or “interlocking scoops” and increased the number of linking parts from four per inch as on the previous design to ten or eleven, but it was in the inclusion of the ‘slider’ which knitted the teeth and brought the whole invention together. He also invented the ‘Scrapless’ machine that would make the full zip tape that cut and stamped the ‘y’ shaped wire and clamped it to the cloth. Within he first year this machine was making a few hundred feet of chain a day.
Though the invention had finally reached perfection, but the public did not immediately embrace it. The first sale of the Hookless Hook was made by Col. Walkers son, four zips were sold for one dollar. An apartment store in Pittburg saw potential in the design, and became a customer, after the design was strengthened but, there was little to no interest in it.
As America joined the First World War and raw materials were syphoned the stockpiled zipper tape that had been made found military application in money belts for soldiers, tobacco pouches and eventually flying suits, this helped proved it’s usefulness and ruggedness, and introduced it to thousands of solders.
For the fantastically named fathers of the zipper, Mr Witcombe Judson and Otto Frederick Gideon Sunbäck the name which has stuck to this day came from the G.F Goodrich advertising campaigns of 1923 taken from the onomatopoeic sound the invention made when being ‘Zipped’ The advertising and new catchy easily understandable name helped the public to embrace the idea of the zip.
After is was reported the stylist Duke of Windsor preferred zippers as early as 1934 tailors relented and after the flamboyant Italian female fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli included large bright, colourful zips as the main feature of her designs of 1935 this paved the way by 1937 for it to be embraced in the mainstream of women’s fashion. The same year Hookless became Talon as the name was deemed to accentuate all that was good about the invention, and became an iconic name with itself.
By 1939 300 million zippers had been sold, and after WWII and it’s wide use on endless military items and technical development during the war years meant that by 1950 zipper sales were exceeding 5 billion per annum securing the zippers place to this day, Levis even producing a zippered version of it’s iconic 501 button jeans the 501z in 1954.
Many of Talon’s patents ran out in 1950, and the lack of raw materials especially copper during the war years hit the company, and they never fully recovered and through bad management, and a lack of foresight the business waned and by 1960 was bought out. Though other companies had also started manufacturing zips, Conmar, Waldes, Crown (crowns ‘Chevron’ styled teeth and spring loaded slider being a beautiful design) and the British/Canadian Lightening (of which Sunbäck was president) and Dot the long term and overall winner has been YKK an acronym for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha English translation being “Yoshida Company Limited.”
Tadao Yoshida had been making handmade artisan zips in Japan for quite a few years, but it was after it purchasing a zipper chain-making machine form the U.S after the expired patents that it learned how to fully automate the manufacturing purpose, It setup it’s headquarters in Tokyo by 1951 and went from strength to strength, possibly it’s cleverest and most decisive step being opening factories aboard, to combat the limited trade restrictions, opening manufacturing in New Zealand by 1959 and New York by 1960, this sealed the fate of American manufacturers and YKK became its top manufacturer, being embraced by the most American of brands Levis. YKK is a ubiquitous presence today, being the supplier of half of the world’s zipper’s; it continuously modernised and diversified itself. Though Judson and Sunbäck may have had the first word in zips and their invention and application to clothing, though Yoshida and YKK seems will have the last, being the first zip to land on the moon in 1969 and Apollo 11. So check your flies, who made them? Buzz Aldren’s are airtight & YKK.
Sometimes it really is amazing who you find on Twitter is it not? We just liked the little illustration of a castle that forms the basis of the logo for Small Castle, a Nottinghamshire based leather brand which led us on one of those rambling online journeys, lustfully examining Small Castles limited but perfectly formed range of attractive, useful goods. Small Castle believe that the products purchased from them to house your technology and so forth should remain useful for many years beyond the obsolescence of the gadget, they are designed in a way that they can be used and reused, evolving in function as quickly as you. The English leather they use is intended to age naturally, colours will age and patina will evolve with use, these are characteristics of Small Castle leather goods. Use them often, give them some love and they will hopefully grow old as disgracefully as you. We got in touch with founder and designer Rachel Lovatt and asked her just a few curious questions whilst we were at it…
So how did Small Castle get started. How did you actually go about getting the company up and running?
The first inklings of Small Castle set about whilst selling off my degree show pieces through the interior design shop Mint (Wigmore Street ,W1), a collection of cast glass, hardwood lamps and an assortment of concrete furniture, some with leather upholstery. These pieces were going to go into small scale production, when a daft bike crash shattered my collar bone and put an end to mixing concrete for a couple of months, in the meantime a full time job offer surfaced, so the project was mothballed. A lucrative sideline in redistributing bits of old Volkswagens, product photography, packaging design and a bit of barking up the wrong tree kept me out of trouble until I started running up a few cushions to adorn the new sofa. I had amassed a large collection of vintage silk scarves and was slowly turning these into cushions, when the smouldering remains of Small Castle proved itself perfectly combustible. I got hold of some Cabretta Nappa from Pittards and had fashioned a few articles, but then discovered the beauty of veg tanned leather with it’s unique wear pattern, and ability to produce that patina you just can’t fake. A collection was designed and prototype’d, and before I had even realised, Small Castle was a thing.
What kind of elements inspire you during your design process?
Running the show from my home can be a double edged sword of inspiration and distraction, with the accumulated priceless antiquities, old tat and collected ephemera of life, fueling the need to fashion objects as worthy as those created by others that I have chosen to enjoy and preserve. Yet it can be all too easy to find those same articles diverting the course of progress. What started as planning out a new camera strap, ended six hours later at dusk as the leaf shutter closed for the last time on that roll of 120 film and I realise I forgot to bring a cardigan out with me. As far as direct influence goes, Origami has been a fascination of mine for many years, and when the pattern cutting recommenced it clicked. Working out the construction of a piece for me is an exercise in the simplicity of a cut, fold and the beauty of intersecting angles and a modicum of stitching.
Where do you source your materials?
Thankfully some superb quality leather is available here in Britain, it took a little time, a lot of samples being run through the machines and some wear tests but eventually we found just the right stuff. All our hardware – buckles, fasteners and fixings are British made from saddlery suppliers.
How do you ensure the quality of your product? Where are they manufactured?
Every hide that comes in is inspected carefully, and whilst leather is very much a natural product with its variations and blemishes, if a skin isn’t up to scratch, it goes straight back. We make every single piece here in Nottingham, and on a warm summer’s day with the windows open, the sound of vigorous applause from the Trent Bridge ground is carried into the workshop on the breeze mingling with the gentle percussion of 1930’s Singer. All the sewing is performed using the same machines that Rolls Royce stitched their leather interiors together with back in those inter war years, and the machines are very much still up to the job, using them is a joy, and with them being hand cranked, you can physically feel the needle into the leather, it really is an ebullient process, seeing another product turned out by such an old yet capable piece of British engineering.
What kind production techniques go into making one of your garments?
One of the perils of designing such simple pieces is that there is nowhere to hide, so it has to be constructed perfectly as there is nothing to distract or divert the eye – so no really fancy business going on, it has just got to be cut right and constructed correctly as it is all on view. Every piece of leather is cut by hand using traditional knives and shaped punches, then stamped with the Small Castle monogram, sewn, trimmed, and finally the edges are cleaned and burnished using not much more than elbow grease.
What can we look forward to from Small Castle in the future?
I could hint at astonishing projects in the offing, but that may lead the reader to engage their imagination and conjure up thoughts of hover wallets, with self extracting pound notes – which sadly is beyond my skills, but fingers are in pies, and projects in motion, so evolution is very much evident.
You can follow Small Castle online if you like:
RL & JMN
There is always excitement here at The Holborn when we find a new UK brand that you can really get excited about. Too often we find that good products are let down by poor branding decisions or a lack of creativity in their designs.
Mamnick is no such brand, shaped and molded by the Peak District that stands on its doorstep, its feel is far more reminiscent of contemporary heritage US/Japanese menswear brands – such as Engineered Garments or Beams. The hallmark of these brands is creative, wearable designs heavily influenced by function and, as the name implies; their own respective cultural heritage.
The name itself – ‘Mamnick’ refers to a physically challenging cycle route in Peak district. A long, windswept climb, getting to the top is what makes it all worthwhile, and that makes a good metaphor for Mamnick own ethos. The shirts, money clips and tie pins aren’t outsourced from in-house control, the founder Thomas Barnett has found skilled manufacturers, seamstresses and craftsmen both in Britain and Japan to create the designs to his own exacting standards. He cites his grandfather (a Sheffield steelworker) and these local manufacturers with a history and a place in the community as constant sources of inspiration. In his words, its all about “Doing one thing at a time, as beautifully as possible”.
We contacted Thom to get the lowdown on the brand, just as he releases its ‘Made in Japan’ collection lookbook.
Everything has to start somewhere, so how did Mamnick itself get started?
It’s hard really to put my finger on an specific time when I decided to start the brand. I had worked with vintage clothing for over eight years part-time whilst i was studying Fine Art in Sheffield. Both have definitely played their part in the foundations of Mamnick. Drawing on details and materials I’d seen on older garments and understanding the limitation of certain fabrics and other materials, such as stainless steel.
The name ‘Mamnick’ comes from the road in Derbyshire where I continue to ride my bike with my mates in the majority of my free time. In fact, all the garments we’ve made so far are named after places where i ride. It was really important to me that I built something that was linked to my passion with the bike and the Peak District. Although we have a couple of products in development that are specific to the bike, I definitely was not interested in making Mamnick a cycling brand.
What were the first items that you ever made under the Mamnick name?
I was encouraged to start Mamnick by two Japanese friends. I had been supplying Osam and Ko’s store with UK vintage for a few years and been designing a few bits of clothing in my spare time. They agreed to stock Mamnick in Japan if I got the ball rolling and wanted to collaborate on two garments, those two piece’s are the ‘Backtor’ and ‘Clough’ shirts.
It was a good starting point and it took a lot of time and patience but we eventually got there and I think we did pretty well considering we had few contacts in the world of clothing manufacture and could hardly communicate at the best of times due to my lack of Japanese. We learnt so much about manufacturing in the UK in such a small amount of time.
The feedback so far has been fantastic and I’m so happy that people seem to be understand our creative vision. It’s a difficult take trying to making your name in a saturated market, especially when we’re not dedicated to only producing one thing, in only one material.
What kind of elements have inspired you during your design process?
The piece and quiet count for a lot when not I’m not working. I’m really lucky to have been introduced to the quiet roads of the Peak District. I sometimes have to remind myself about how good it is being based only a stone’s throw away from total silence and terrific views, It’s far too easy to take it for granted. I know this is influencing me, just I’m not sure how? I think there is some sort of a visual language that I can’t really explain. I really hope that doesn’t sound crap!
Where do you source the fabrics for your garments? What have been your favorite fabrics to use?
All over really. Our first shirts Oxford cotton was woven for us in a mill in Lancashire but since then I’ve found fabrics in France and have also sourced fabrics in Japan.
How do you ensure the quality of your products? Where is it that they are they manufactured?
It was a case of trial and error at the beginning, getting lots of sampling and ironing out the part of the construction that just wasn’t right. I always look to build a good relationship with everyone who touches a Mamnick product, whether that be the manufacturer or the consumer. I like to ensure that the manufacturer understands exactly what I’m expecting from them and what you want from the product. In most cases, I’ve made friends with these people and hopefully we can continue to work closely together for the long foreseeable future.
What kind of techniques go into making one of your pieces?
The majority of the steel products are made by hand, if they’ve been laser-cut then they’ve been finished by hand. The shirts are different. They go through a number of different processes with different people in the factory, all experts in their own particular field. So much so, we used three factories in Japan to manufacture a very small capsule collection.
What can we look forward to from Mamnick in the future? What are your ambitions for the brand?
The beauty of working with such a small team means creatively, I can look at doing almost anything. Something I’ve just started getting the ball rolling on are some cycling shoes, dedicated to Britain’s most famous touring cyclist Ian Hibell. A small run of 100% leather handmade shoes, made in the Peak District.
I’m also in the midst of getting the cogs turning on some traditional road bike frames. All made to order and to specification. Steel is real!
You can also follow Mamnick online here:
TB & JMN
It’s swimsuit season, ladies and gents! We have had at least 3 days of pure sunshine, which inevitably means that men and women across Britain are stepping out, stripping off, and are glugging Pimm’s as soon at the clock ticks noon. Squinting in the seemingly alien sun, we flip open our cobwebbed deck chairs and allow the rays to pour over our skin. But be careful, people, that breeze can be deceiving.
Broken was I, when I came to the sickening conclusion that a trip abroad couldn’t be squeezed into my overdraft this year. The hope of a holiday is the only reason I’d ever buy a new swimming cozzie, so I would have to make do with what I’ve got. Bits of stringy, chlorine-destroyed, shapeless bits of Lycra flung across my bedroom as I begun digging in my swimsuit/sarong drawer. Yes, it’s dig-able. As all ladies know, one rarely buys swimwear without it disintegrating after one summer’s wear.
Getting a suntan is the primary objective these days when the sun peers from around the clouds for long enough. Holidays are booked on the premise that it has to be hotter than the average Indian summer and if you spot a cloud, well you might as well have stayed home. Home for me, incidentally, is Blackpool. A place which was coined as a popular seaside resort for Englanders, and still is for those select few even today. Doing a spot of shopping in the town, I stopped to inspect the old-fashioned black and white photographs that line the walls of the entrance to the shopping centre. They showed men, women, children and donkeys having a tickety-boo time on the beach in front of the Tower and the Pier, all wearing swimming gear of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Young girls are pictured leap-frogging over each other and posing in true ’50s synchronised swimmer style in corset swimsuits, suits with a halter neck line and costumes with a low cut boy-leg which was popular before the more risqué high leg caught on in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Glamour was a big thing in the 1950s and unfortunately the meaning has become distorted through the rise of the modern glamour model. A lot of old-fashioned swimwear often had a small pleated skirt around the bottom, or a straighter fitted piece that covered the tops of the thighs for the apron or tunic style swimsuit. Both were made with a woman’s modesty in mind, to hide any wobbly bits which she’d rather not reveal.
Demand for one-piece swimsuits now seem to be in decline due to the fact that people want the sun to touch as much as much skin as is legal in the UK. The tankini was the starting point to the ‘bare-all’ movement, which then became trimmed down even more into the bikini. Eventually the string bikini became slightly visible until we’ve reverted back to the one piece, but this time folded it up and cut it into one of those paper snowflakes. This inevitably makes one look like a human jigsaw puzzle piece after an afternoon in the sun.
So when did swimsuits become so chic? Following the impracticalities of the Victorian designs; a knitted woolen affair which literally sunk out of sight from society, they soon became more minimalist yet remained demure. Popular designer names that boasted beautiful bathing suits in the ‘50s were Jantzen, Cole of California and Catalina which are still manufacturing modern day swimwear today.
Esther Williams was an American competitive swimmer, who because of her spectacular skills in the pool, plus the fact that she was particularly easy on the eyes, made it on the big screen as an MGM movie star. She featured in her films wearing embellished swimsuits and flashed her pearly whites as movie goers awed as she splashed in her splendour. Funny that there always seemed to be a pool around… According to Miss Williams, Clark Gable was the first to have called her a mermaid. Get in there, Esther. Her movie roles inspired a range of Esther Williams Swimwear in various ‘50s vintage styles which can be purchased on www.modcloth.com.
One company which produces vintage style one-pieces and high waist bikinis is www.forluna.co.uk, who are Britain based specialists in retro swimwear with a motive to bring back the beach belle of the mid 20th century. Another shop includes my already much-loved faux vintage boutique What Katie Did, (www.whatkatiedid.com) who essentially produce lingerie but have their own small range of monochrome swim pieces. By my watch we’ve got about a day and a half left of frolicking about in the sunshine – so let’s get them while it’s hot.
Every year, usually about the time the sun fans its rays over the common-all greens of Britain and Brits heave a sigh of relief that ‘ah it isn’t so bad here is it?’ – The Holborn team swans off to France. Specifically the unspoiled, unpretentious culture of the Languedoc region, famed for it’s red wine, medieval castles, feral dogs and violent lightning storms.
Of course when The Holborn runs off somewhere, we do insist in doing it in at least some style. The Languedoc has a magnificent array of characterful properties (all with rustic swimming pools) available for young, ungrateful upstarts on vacation. The rental rates of the area come in significantly lower that those based forty miles away in the increasingly busy (and anglicised) neighbour; Provence.
There is also a definite sense of communal identity to the department, perhaps that’s down to its rich crusading history, or it’s close proximity to Spain. The population is older and agricultural and in turn, more gracious and welcoming. The food is ballsier, take Cassoulet – a cultural survivor of old Gaul; seven meats swimming in a bath of beans homely enough to bring tears to the eyes of France’s gastronomic elite. The wine there is always red (don’t bother with the white, the locals don’t) and the terrain is parched, mountainous and romantic. It is a place young men should go to remember that life can move at a slower, more considered pace. This is not the place for hyperbole, networking, namedropping and five minute conversations – hallmarks of the second digital age of friend requests. This is the place to read, to eat, to drink, to talk – to craft those valuable memories that you will take on life’s long journey.
Regular readers of The Holborn know that we like to put together kits, it is one of our ‘things’. Perhaps it stems from diagnosed OCD, but still nonetheless enjoyable. Putting together this kit was a little harder, such is the sentimental value of the French holiday to us as a team that we felt we had to get this one just right. So putting our misty eyes aside (painful), without further adieu here is…
A Very Holborn Gallic Holiday Kit
V) SPF 50 Sun Cream, Polaar, Niven & Joshua, £17.50
VI) French Provincial Cooking, Elizabeth David, (new copy) £10.39
A modern classic in all but name, Elizabeth David’s book is full of easy to make, classic dishes from the french table.
XI) Montecristo No.2 – Pack of 3 £62.40
– Made in Cuba
XI) Manon Lescaut, Abbe Prevost, Amazon £10
The quintessential French tale of romance, lust, greed and tragedy.
The ‘great weekend getaway’ is more relevant than ever now that ‘summer’ has arrived on our shores, and it’s high time to invest in a quality piece of luggage, and not only to avoid negatively detracting from your carefully chosen attire. As soon as you enter full-time employment, you will truly appreciate those two beautiful and much-longed for days at the end of the working week. A weekend is not merely for sleeping in late and catching up on omnibus X; a weekend is an opportunity to skip town and remind yourself that there is a life beyond the office. It’s time to stop using your old University-branded sports bag, and burn the rucksack that saw you through secondary school, resplendent with tip-ex graffiti courtesy of your best pals. Pack well, traveler, and become part of the rest of the world again.
I. Cherchbi – Tenter Workbag (www.cherchbi.co.uk) £445
British manufacturer of fine bags, leather goods and accessories specialist Cherchbi are a favourite at The Holborn, admired for their utilitarian and functional designs.
This Tenter Workbag is a real treat; incredibly easy on the eye and functional to boot. Its substantial leather handles allow for carrying by hand, and also on the shoulder – essential for evenly distributing weight on the rare occasion one may have over-packed. The extended zip opening makes for easy access into the bag’s multiple compartments and aids organisation, and the suspended divider pocket (15” laptop size) makes this bag perfect for work, an overnight stay – or both, if your office liaisons have a tendency to spill into ‘overtime’ (oh, behave!).
With cotton twill lining, five brass stud feet and a hand-stamped unique serial number, you can rest assured that this is no mass-manufactured product, but a quality piece of work that – weekend or not – you will want to carry everywhere.
II. Stighlorgan, Sé Black Canvas Leather Tool Bag (www.stighlorgan.com) £109
Contemporary Irish brand Stighlorgan are another Holborn favourite, and their quality accessories, crafted from fine Irish wools, bridle leathers and chic Italian linens, are built to withstand the elements.
This canvas bag is thrillingly simple in its ingenious design, with twisted rope shoulder straps that can be adjusted to allow the bag to be worn on the shoulder or as a rucksack; perfect for Stighlorgan’s ‘discerning, nomadic’ clientele. The durability and practicability of this piece are understood by way of its heavy duty main zip, and large storm flap detail, prevent the inevitable wind-driven rain from coming in through the zipper teeth; essential for keeping your things dry should the weather take a turn for the worse.
Finished with full-grain cow leather trim and fully lined with Stighlorgan’s trademark rope hickory canvas, this is a bag that may well outlive its owner.
III. BRIC’S, Micro-suede Large Holdall Travel Bag (shop.brics.it) €245
Founded in 1952 by Mario Briccola, family-run BRIC’S has over 60 years of expertise in hand-crafted travel bags and fine Italian leather goods. Briccola’s attention to detail, and core values of artistry, style, function and aesthetics have been continued by his sons, daughters and grandchildren, who are at the helm of BRIC’S today. BRIC’S continues to combine ‘concreteness with creativity, innovation with tradition’. Each detail of a new product is the result of brilliant instinct, of ambitious missions, of well-established technique, and of a brave new approach.
BRIC’S travel holdall is practical as well as stylish in micro-suede, with smooth leather details. It has a capacious main compartment with a zippered pocket and handy drops slots for your phone and keys. Microsuede is a great choice for this bag; the microfibre knit blend fabric has a soft finish and a great deal of stretch – perfect for when you’re trying to squeeze in last-minute items.
IV. Aspinal of London, Beige Canvas & Smooth Cognac Calf Leather Weekender (www.aspinaloflondon.com) £276.50
Associated with good taste, high quality and timeless style, Aspinal of London is the perfect choice when seeking to purchase fine luggage.
An adaptable and lavish investment piece, their Weekender bag has been handmade from Scotchguard treated, high-density water resistant beige canvas, and trimmed with vegetable tanned Italian calf leather. For ease of transportation, this roomy Weekend features leather top carry handles as well as a detachable shoulder – strap with leather shoulder pad for extra comfort. Ten gold foil Aspinal destination tags are included complimentary, and the leather luggage tag can be personalised with up to four initials, so you can rest safe in the knowledge that your luggage will reach your destination, airline competence permitting. Finished with contrast double stitching, Aspinal’s signature brass hardware and Swiss made metal zips, the Weekender exudes understated elegance and superiority. Superb.
V. Tusting, Tan Canvas Weekender, (www.tusting.co.uk) £399
With over one hundred and thirty years of trade expertise, and roots in the English leather and shoe trade, Tusting are a family firm based in the heart of the English countryside, run by its founders’ fifth generation descendents. The quality of their products is such that its first batch of briefcases, produced twenty years ago, are still in use today, having matured beautifully and gained the ‘mellow patina and distinctive personality of a classic piece of furniture’. Proper stuff here, chaps.
This smaller version of the classic Weekender bag has been crafted from tremendously durable sail canvas, and protected with a stain-resistant coating, ensuring that its quietly beautiful exterior will remain just so. The full grain leather trim features a leather oval that can be branded with your initials; this gem therefore cannot be pilfered by admiring rascals who would claim it for their own.
Tusting’s ‘thoughtful and responsive design solutions…defy transient fashions’, and are finished to a high and durable quality; this bag is completed with a strong Riri metal zipper and antiqued brass fittings, including base-board studs for further protection, and that ever-important detachable shoulder strap.
Campbell Cole is a brand that believe in taking sure actions towards success developing products and launching them as and when they are ready. Their current range – composed of their own leather goods, Sunspel clothing and exceptional homewares from designer Tori Murphy shows signs of a promising future ahead. That future being characterised by smart, efficiently designed, versatile goods which have been made by hand in these very isles of ours. Needless to say, The Holborn have been pretty sold by their work thus far, so we got in touch with Founder – Ian Campbell Cole to get to the roots of this home grown brand.
Everything has to start somewhere, so how did Campbell Cole get started?
Campbell Cole (campbellcole.co.uk) started as a very different thing all together. I had a project hanging on from University that I had been keen to explore. It involved using plywood to form the basis for a collection of structured accessories. I managed to convince my then full time employer to allow me to go part time as a Freelancer and got stuck into trying to bring the project to life. Initially it was purely about design – I had no commercial ambition for the project. I just wanted to create beautiful products. About a year down the line, in August 2011, I hit a low point. I had found bag makers, and furniture makers and I had made a series of prototypes. But getting the whole thing to come together was seemingly impossible. Added to this, I then promptly broke my back in a mountain bike accident – something I was very, very lucky to (eventually) walk away from. During my recovery, and realising that life can take some funny turns, my partner Felicity and I decided to pull everything together learnt from the year before and create a small range of canvas and leather bags. campbellcole.co.uk went live in May 2012…
What were the first items that you ever made?
Our first product was the Day Bag in a Grey Marl / Off White Stripe and Tan leather. It had the same silhouette as our current Day Bag but was constructed differently – it had a stiff canvas lining for structure and a softer outer acrylic canvas to ensure the bag was weather proof. It was a beautiful & striking bag but challenging in production due to the unusual combination of hard inner and a soft outer as opposed to the more regular hard outer/soft inner. Still a lovely bag – Felicity nicked mine and uses it on a daily basis!
What kind of elements inspire you during your design process?
Felicity and I have a real interest in design so we tend to draw influence from lots of different things – at the minute interiors and architecture are providing and good deal of inspiration. We recently came across the great work of Living Architecture – “a social enterprise dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of world-class modern architecture”. They have definitely been an influence when designing our new full leather range – from both a conceptual and literal point of view – their buildings are stunning. Other times inspiration can come through discovering a new material, or a chat with a machinist may influence a key detail in a product.
Where do you source the materials fabrics for your accessories? What have been your favourite materials fabrics to use?
Finding materials seems to be an endless process! Some things have been easier than others – we wanted to use the best zips so we went straight to Riri, as they are renowned for good quality. Finding equivalent suppliers for hardware, like buckles, has been far harder – particularly if you want something made in the UK or Europe that is a bit special. Most things are sourced by trying our luck and picking up the phone… lots of recommendations and suggestions – ‘try this person, try that supplier…’ I think the growing network of contacts we have built up over the last couple of years is probably our most valuable asset. To work with – our British veg tan leather has served us well so far – the tannery are just up the road from us and are a real pleasure to deal with (this counts for so much….). The acrylic canvas has also been a good find. Designed for the sailing world and produced in France, it has great technical qualities with a good range of colours.
How do you ensure the quality of your products? Where is it that they are they manufactured?
All our products are produced in the UK. To a large extent, the locality of our factories is how we ensure quality – we spend a great deal of time in the factories figuring out, and exploring the best ways of doing things. The guys in the factories really are the experts when it comes to putting together a great product. The other side of it is materials. We work with reputable suppliers and spend good money on materials to ensure we are making products from good ingredients. We also test components like our hardware through external test houses to ensure they wont corrode or fall apart under load. Finally, we road test product – make it, use it and tweak it!
What kind of production techniques go into making one of your pieces?
Our latest product – the Key Wrap, is nice and simple. The leather hide originates in Northern Ireland and tanned and finished in Chesterfield. From here it is sent down the road to be turned into a Key Wrap in a workshop in Walsall. The leather is split to the correct thickness and the shape is pressed out using a pre-formed knife. The raw edges are buffed and hand painted and the brand emboss is applied. Finally, the finished leather shape is shipped back to our studio in Nottingham where we finish assembly with a Sam Brown stud and wire rope.
What can we look forward to from Campbell Cole in the future?
We are a good way into the development of a range of full leather bags which are taking shape nicely. The range will lift the bar for us taking on a more ownable aesthetic – something we have been very keen to develop. This has meant hours of making canvas mock ups in our Nottingham studio exploring form & shape balanced with functional requirements …and plenty of hours sourcing new materials. With a little luck, the first styles in the new range should be complete and available to buy from SS14. From there we will have to see. Lots of ideas. Saying that, one thing the last couple of years has taught me, is that nothing ever goes quite to plan…
Find out more about Campbell Cole by following them online on:
ICC & JMN
Legendary British fashion house Hardy Amies has been rejuvenated in the past few years under the helm of creative director Claire Malcolm, who has cut the brand’s traditionally tailored aesthetic with some individual, modern day touches. The look itself is an even measure of gentleman and dandy, with any eccentric details tempered by a clean design and staple colours – above all, a primary focus on the correct fit for the modern man.
Paying homage to the ABC of Men’s Fashion, a book written by the brand’s founder, Hardy Amies has released a series of short films with some of the world’s most influential people involved in the creative industries. The ABC of Men’s Fashion was first published in 1964 and written by Amies to offer guidance to young men on how to dress. It remains notorious today for its opinionated tone and sharp wit.
In its new guise, the ABC of Men’s Fashion is a series of over thirty video interviews giving individual views on style and the essentials of men’s fashion, filmed in London, Paris and New York and then posted online at Hardy Amies. The interviews include such figures as Baron Edward Down Patrick, , Olympic Athlete Dalton Grant, the founders of Cool Hunting, Jesse Boykins III the musician, Stephen Rutherford owner of Brooklyn Brothers (advertising), Alex Bilmes the Editor of Esquire (UK).
As a British menswear brand with its tailoring house founded on Savile Row, Hardy Amies has taken a decidedly non-traditional approach to communicating brand messages. With a nod to its heritage but also a practical consideration of the present, Hardy Amies invites the blogging, retail and creative community to tell their story about what style is; the difference between fashion and style and what really makes the man. As it stood, it seemed appropriate for The Holborn to get in touch with the eminent tailoring house to found out a little more about what lies under the finely cut Blazers of No.14, Savile Row.
The Following responses came via Gemma Kirk, Public Relations Assistant at Hardy Amies
Who was Hardy Amies?
Hardy Amies served as an SOE officer in the Second World War and returned to London in 1945. He opened his tailoring house at Number 14 Savile Row in January 1946. Hardy made fashion history in 1961 by staging the first men’s ready to wear collection catwalk show. The runway show was the first time that music was played and that a designer accompanied the models on the catwalk.
Hardy is also famous for writing the ‘The ABC of Men’s Fashion in 1964’ a style guide which is still a great read today. He dressed the England 1966 World Cup winning team and designed all the costumes for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey. Although establishing a global menswear business, Hardy Amies was probably most famous for holding the royal warrant as outfitter to the Queen for over 50 years and for which he was knighted in 1989.
What have been the challenges of working on Hardy Amies – a brand whose roots are set in tradition?
Hardy Amies has a very interesting heritage, therefore the challenge was to tell the story of the brand and find all the elements that are still relevant and appealing to a modern customer.
How do you then take Hardy Amies – a brand with such a rich heritage and create styles desirable to a modern man?
There are so many elements of Hardy Amies that are relevant to a modern audience. Hardy is more style than fashion, the suit itself evolves at a slower rate than most other items so we made a modern desirable fit based on a classic Savile Row hourglass silhouette. We then provide every other part of a modern man’s wardrobe – which may be inspired by classic British clothes but always with the intention of making them desirable to a modern man.
How do you ensure the quality of your garments? What kind of techniques go into making Hardy Amies’s collections?
We make sure we work with the best fabric suppliers and manufacturers and of course we have in depth fit meetings with every garment ensuring every detail has been thought through.
Given its Savile Row pedigree Hardy Amies does still offer a Bespoke service, can you tell us more about Bespoke at Hardy Amies?
Stuart Lamprell is the Head Cutter of Hardy Amies – he also has a very modern vision for Bespoke tailoring. Bespoke suits at Hardy Amies start at £3,800 – a true investment as they should last you for generations.
What can we look forward to from Hardy Amies in 2013/14?
We will be taking part in the London Collections: Men in June with a small presentation in an iconic location!
JMN & GK
Socks are an integral element to the way we dress, but one that we do perhaps take for granted. Day in, day out we pop on a pair, often without much care or consideration, their practicality remaining at the forefront of our mind. Recently however their has been a resurgence in the need to consider our footwear. Shoes, given their prominence gain the majority of attention and investment in this regard, but following the trend in recent years towards shorter, slimmer trousers – our hems have risen to reveal our socks choices to the world once more. Socks, are on the rise.
To guide your selection – Simon Bullmore, owner of Richmond Socks suggests thinking about a few key considerations that might help you pick out the perfect pair.
“When it comes to materials, thicker cotton and wool socks should be worn with casual shoes,” says Lisa Wood, Head of Design at Corgi, “whereas a finer gauge is best with dress shoes”. Whether you go for cotton or wool also depends on the season. In winter merino wool is a real winner. It comes in a variety of thicknesses which means you can find socks suitable for both formal and casual wear. It’s also an amazing insulator.
Cotton is a natural choice for warmer days and nights. But you might also want to check out socks in bamboo. A renewable resource, modern techniques transform bamboo into an incredibly soft textile, perfect for socks – it’s durable and kind to your feet too.
The Long and the Short of it
Quality socks come in two lengths – short (typically reaching half-way up the calf) and long (over the calf). What you go for depends on personal preference and circumstances. In formal situations, or whenever you are wearing a suit we suggest following the example of the Italians and choosing longer socks. In the words of Massimiliano Bresciani, CEO of Bergamo based sock producer Bresciani “we have a saying in Italy – long socks are for men, short socks are for boys.”
Longer socks give you a sharper look. A larger cuff and longer length allow them to sit better on the leg which means they stay up longer. And you avoid having to literally pull your socks up mid meeting. Patterns look better on longer socks as they have more space to develop.
But perhaps most importantly longer socks ensure you avoid flashing a slab of hairy skin when you cross your legs. Not only does this look ugly, it’s considered offensive in many countries and cultures (hint – if you’re going on business in the middle East pack your long socks).
That said we’re fans of shorter socks for casual wear. A short sock with a great design in cotton or merino wool works well with jeans, chinos and cords.
It comes down to personal taste in the end, in the past few decades British men have tended to buy shorter socks. But these days most well dressed guys will have a selection of both lengths in their sock drawer to suit a variety of occasions and outfits.
Which Colour works best?
Choosing the right colour and design has taxed even the most style conscious men. But follow some simple rules and you’ll always look great:
The first rule is to never match socks to shoes. It makes you look like you’ve got a golf club not a foot, or that you’re wearing booties. After that, if you apply some basic rules, along with common sense and your own taste and style, you will find sock selection simple.
An easy first step is to match socks to trousers. The great tailor Hardy Amies suggested that this will make your legs look longer. The modern take on this approach is to choose a slightly contrasting shade, or to choose a pattern or texture that adds a bit of interest to the look.
For formal wear if you feel like being a bit more ambitious with your colour matching you might go for a bold colour that matches something else you are wearing. This could be your shirt, tie, or pocket square. For big occasions it’s worth being aware of the colours associated with the event. Weddings are a great example of how this might work. Grooms, best men, ushers and fathers of the bride would do well to select socks that match a colour worn by the bride, her bridesmaids or the dominant colour in floral arrangements.
When it comes to business quiet contrasts and understated designs send the right signals. “No matter how creative your job is, you want to be known for doing a good, professional job not the wild and wacky socks you wear “ says Anthony McGrath Editor at Anthony McGrath at www.Clothes-make-the-man.com.
“Formal wear should always be formal and dark plains are the way to go” agrees James Sleater, Director of Savile Row tailors Cad and the Dandy (http://www.cadandthedandy.co.uk/) “In general, always match the sock to the suit, not the shoes. Keep tones complimentary, avoiding harsh colour clashes. For patterns, smaller scale repeats with subtle contrasts work best.”
Break the Rules..
For casual wear we suggest reflecting your sense of style but having fun with it. As Anthony puts it “there are almost no rules when wearing socks with a casual outfit, apart from one. No socks and sandals!” The basic rule still applies – don’t match socks to shoes. That aside, anything goes. The beauty of denim and dark jeans is that you can be bold with colour. At the moment candy coloured socks are really popular as they go well with jeans and leather shoes. For softer coloured trousers such as chinos you might consider a pastel sock for a summery feel.
If the sock fits
The final area of consideration is the shape of your legs and body. Yes, socks can help us out here. “If you have long legs and a short body break up the length of your legs by wearing contrasting socks,” suggests Sarah Gilfillan, personal stylist and shopper for men at http://www.sartorialab.co.uk. “For example indigo jeans, with yellow cotton socks for contrast and navy shoes would work very well.” Thin ankles? Sarah has a solution “If you have skinny ankles and your socks are on show with turned up trousers, wear a horizontal stripe or argyle to make them look chunkier.”
Men with shorter legs can also achieve the perception of length with some judicious sock selection as Sarah suggests “choose socks that tone rather than contrast with your trousers and shoes, and go for a subtle pattern such as a herringbone”.
As what feels like a six month long winter finally melts away into an underwhelmingly tepid spring, the great British public are lured outside by these new and deceptively sunny days . When dressing for the spring weather, we tend to fall into two camps. The optimists, so overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of the sun, don camisoles and summer dresses, clean forgetting that sunny conditions by no means equal warmer temperatures. Embittered by a long and cold winter, the pessimists among us wrap up in wool greatcoats, so cold for so long that they neglect to take into consideration the uncomfortable rising warmth that increases as the sun’s rays intensify.
Because a coat is too cumbersome and bare arms are impractical, make sure you stay one step ahead of this mercurial weather and take a peek at The Holborn’s choicest spring jackets.
I. You Must Create Swing Hooded Coat (www.youmustcreate.com) £235
A lightweight mac is essential for this unpredictable time of year – but one need not sacrifice aesthetic when considering practicability. The quirky You Must Create initially took their inspiration from work-ready, outward bound attire, as well as from the ‘precision and crisp functionality’ of the uniforms of both the British and American military. Indifferent to high-street trends and fads (not an Aztec-print crop top to be found in their SS13 collection), YMC’s understated offerings are functional, yet handsomely tailored. This on-trend lime mac, crafted from ‘memory wax’ coated cotton features a generous hood perfect for protecting your ‘do from those inevitable spring showers. The Peter Pan collar lends a touch of femininity to the otherwise androgynous swing cut.
II. Folk Tux Jacket(www.folkclothing.com) £345
With an emphasis on minute detailing and fabric quality, London-based label Folk is a brand with understated excellence at its core. Folk cites iconic furniture designer Charles Eames as inspiration for its design ethos, ‘the details are not the details, they make the design’, and are ‘obsessed’ with minute detailing and fabric quality. Crafted from high quality Japanese cotton, this lovely little tux jacket in indigo twill features drawcord piping at the front and cuffs – a nod, perhaps, to the current sports luxe trend – but the bolero shape and ensures it is still smart enough to slip on for something a little more formal.
III. Jaeger Geoprint Silk Jacket (www.jaeger.co.uk) £275
Keeping up with the SS13 catwalk trends, Jaeger offers up this stunning geometric graphic print blazer, proving that heavy winter coats aren’t the only items they do well. This exquisitely tailored silk jacket will effortlessly take you from desk to drinks – keep the rest of your outfit simple in monochrome, and let this gorgeous jacket do all the talking.
IV. Paul & Joe Sister, Francois Lace Bomber Jacket (paulandjoe.com) £210
Renowned for their pretty, wearable and feminine pieces, Paul and Joe are experts in updating the classics by adding a Parisian twist. This luxurious Chantilly cream lace bomber jacket provides a perfectly elegant way to join in with 2013’s questionable revival of nineties grunge, relentlessly encouraged by the likes of Rihanna and Cara Delevigne.
V. Tucker Bunches Of Bumblebees Jumbo Wrap Jacket (www.my-wardrobe.com) £315
This scrumptious statement piece by Tucker effortlessly nails the difficult-to-pull-off pyjamas-as-daywear trend. Crafted from reassuringly weighty tweed, this jacket is balanced out by the more seasonable three-quarter sleeves in a cheery sunshine yellow. Although the waist belt is detachable, there is no other way to wear but cinched in. Team with tailored black trousers and wear it everywhere. If the sun fails to do its bit for spring this year, at least everyone else can take comfort in how brightly you will shine!
Alexander McQueen is quoted as saying ‘Fashion should be a form of escapism and not a form of imprisonment’. In a world where mass corporations seem intent in shackling us in garish, bobbly uniforms that shrink after a few raindrops, we must delve into the musty wardrobes of the past to bring true style and character back to our streets. Second hand or vintage clothing is the most potent form of escapism through style. Just as the dressing up box of childhood promised to transubstantiate wooden kitchen spoons into glittering fairy wands, putting on a bejewelled eighties dress can transform the most pastel of wallflowers into an unstoppable glamazon. The unmistakable scent of mildew and old denim which lurks in the fibres of most vintage clothing is intoxicating, for the perfectly fitted tweed blazer or a collared and belted forties tea dress can allow one to play out the romances of the characters of bygone eras, and escape the mundane present.
I like to think that I can feel the breath of the ghosts whom once inhabited my clothes on my skin; that painted poppy gown which flutters so beautifully in the wind seems infused with happiness whereas that peach stiff-collared shirt seems more reserved. Picking a garment from my groaning wardrobe is like picking a mood at will. With a simple cut or pattern I can become the perfect English gentleman, the most innocent and courteous maiden, or a dazzling, sequin encrusted Zelda Fitzgerald.
London is a Mecca for those with a penchant for second-hand purchases however the sheer scope of pre-loved treasures available can be overwhelming. Luckily, I have had dalliances with a startling majority and have consequently compiled a list of London’s best vintage secrets:
An accessible starting point for vintage virgins is London Vintage Store on Holloway Road. Marked only by a peace sign chalked above an unassuming doorway, this shop evokes the true spirit of thrift. From dogtooth blazers to denim jackets and Aran knit jumpers, London Vintage Store has every era covered at affordable prices. To an authentic bluesy rock and roll soundtrack, here one can become a wartime sweetheart, a seventies siren in paisley and velvet, a plaid-clad Kurt Cobain or a New York punk in tartan and leather. This is a place for those with transient style and an open mind.
For a deeper foray into the world of the second-hand, one ought to head to The Holborn’s favourite cobbled backstreet, Camden Passage. The shops which line the passage offer true Hollywood Glamour in items which are preserved in pristine condition, as well as a plethora of trinkets and unconventional antiquities. For the best of the passage, one must take a wander on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the vintage market sets up shop. There is something so ethereal about rose patterned slips and silk robes fluttering in the breeze on a sunny day, and the kindly stall keepers are only too happy to provide a selection of hats and mirrors to further the dressing up box experience. Whilst the market specialises mainly in feminine florals, there is also a large range of vintage home ware, pocket-watches, paintings and even second-hand sets of teeth for those who desire to evoke the ghosts of the past in the most complete way.
For the fullest vintage experience one must pay a visit to The Vintage Emporium on Bacon Street, just off Brick Lane. The ground floor of the shop hosts a candlelit Victorian tea room, crammed full of mismatched upholstery and salvaged curiosities, with bunches of dried roses hanging from the ceiling. The tea shop offers a wide range of delicacies and herbal teas, and has a counter stocked with glass jars resembling a Victorian sweet shop. On Sunday afternoons and Monday and Thursday evenings live bands come to play, whilst on Tuesdays and Saturdays life drawing classes are held. The tea shop is also home to two hairy, friendly dogs, whom can often be found wearing knitted jumpers in the winter months.
To fully immerse oneself in the timeless nature of The Vintage Emporium, one must venture downstairs and into the basement which boasts rails of delicate, handpicked vintage clothing, ranging from the Victorian era to the nineteen-fifties. Run your fingers across exquisite furs and beautiful laces and silks and be dazzled by cases of glittering brooches. The Emporium is a must for those with an affinity with decadence and for those truly wishing to transcend the grey trodden streets of modernity for a day.
For those with a more modest budget, stay for a mug of steaming cinnamon spiced apple juice and then head across the street to Vintage Basement. Don’t be put off by the luminous lime green exterior, for inside lies an inspiring collection of good quality shirts and summertime dresses. The jewel in the crown of this establishment lies underground, where every single item is priced at ten English pounds. The way the shop operates is that whenever they come into new stock, the old stock gets relegated to the ten pound basement, meaning that for those who enjoy a good rummage there are some real treasures to be found. From long pleated skirts and dresses to chunky knits and polkadot shirts, the Basement is definitely worth a visit for he who has shallow pockets.
Another undiscovered charm lies behind the façade of What the Butler Wore on the unassuming Lower Marsh by Waterloo Road. Think Carnaby Street circa 1966 and you have an apt impression of this shop. Psychedelic shift dresses and loud floral shirts flirt between the rails with home-knitted cardigans bearing large plastic buttons. Add a beehive hairdo and a coquettish flick of eyeliner to a nonchalant cigarette and one will break many a jaded heart.
Whichever decade one chooses to dabble in, or whether one decides to indulge in many at once, the vintage establishments of London Town have the potential to transform one into a spectral vision of the past overnight and indeed every night. The timeless appeal of David Bowie, Isabella Blow, the great Jay Gatsby or Cruella de Vil to name merely a few iconic dressers lies in the sheer power of their costumes to dazzle and to epitomise a persona; to play at being a character in the most romantic way. If a route to escape lies within the fickle tapestry of fashion, then there is surely no greater dressing-up box than London, where the crossing of the threshold of a dusty vintage shop can lead to traversing the threshold of the mind.
This month, English socks graced the feet of Jimmy Fallon on the cover of GQ’s Style Bible over in the States. Exporting globally and with a show room in New York, Pantherella is leading the men’s socks market with increasing momentum. Based in Leicester, a city with an expansive history in hosiery, Pantherella are one of the few sock manufacturers still based in England, and are a shining example of premium English manufacturing. The Holborn met with Justin Hall, CEO of Pantherella to find out why their socks are not just for Christmas…
Justin, why is it that socks are important?
People do see socks as a throw away article. We say here that you can judge somebody, see where their priorities lie, by the quality of their socks. It shows if someone is wearing odd socks, faded socks, or socks with holes. It says a lot about somebody’s attention to detail, and pride, and I think that’s important. There’s also less ties being worn now, and if people want to add a splash of colour, excitement or interest to their wardrobe then socks are a great way of doing that. I think a lot of people now buy into them for that reason. People want to coordinate what they wear and socks are part of that. It’s not just black socks anymore, people are bored of the black sock syndrome, and we come up with some really great classic heritage designs, as well as some fashion forward and inspiring patterns. The prices of our socks vary, but we’re fortunate in the sense that socks are a small item, so they are accessible. They are a luxury item, and they are at a price point that is within reach of most.
How was Pantherella established?
Pantherella started in 1937; however it wasn’t until 1945 that Pantherella was registered as a trademark. The company was originally owned by Burberry in the 1990’s, but in 2001 Pantherella was taken over by HJ Hall, a family business of which I am the fifth generation. HJ Hall started in 1882, and was set up by John Hall in Stoke Golding, but Pantherella is now based in Leicester. Leicester is the natural home for Pantherella, as it has a long history in hosiery; what Northampton is to shoes Leicester is to socks. Technology was developed in and around Leicester, there were machine manufacturers in Leicester, and it has had a big textile background for a long time.
Pantherella originally started making women’s socks and hosiery, but there was a gap in the market for fine gage men’s socks, as men’s socks at the time were very big and bulky and made with very coarse fibres. In terms of expansion, we’ve been supplying Harrods and Selfridges from the 1940’s, so we have a very good record to build on. Around that time the UK was pretty high in textiles on a worldwide scale, with textiles being exported from the UK. By the 1980’s and 90’s nearly 50 percent of our socks were being exported. We now export more than 50%, and have done for a few years, so Pantherella is a very export lead business. The USA is a huge market for us, but we also sell in Uruguay, South Korea, Japan, China, France, Austria, Switzerland and Germany – all over the world!
What were your personal reasons for joining the family business?
Menswear, men’s fashion, is an interesting business. Socks are a much undervalued or understated part of a man’s wardrobe, and I think there’s a challenge there in terms of pushing them as a product. They can be exciting things. I think in a way Pantherella is one of the best kept secrets, in terms of what we do and the quality of of the socks we produce. I saw great potential for Pantherella being pushed and promoted, which is one of the reasons why I stepped into the family business.
Why has Pantherella chosen to keep manufacturing in England?
Pantherella is a mono brand: we only make socks and we concentrate on making them of a very high quality. We supply the premium end of the market, and we see ourselves as the best sock makers in the world. As part of that, we have to maintain very high standards, and so to have control of that we wanted the manufacturing in house here in Leicester. Equally, having manufacturing here gives us a very good understanding of our socks. If we had a third party site, be it in the UK or abroad, we feel we would lose a lot of control and understanding of our product.
We have a British design team and British mechanics that translate and create the socks. That attention to detail, and the level of experience that they have, is second to none. There are about 90 people in the Leicester factory. It’s a very hands-on, labour intensive process. To maintain the quality levels you have to have skilled, experienced people there to inspect the products, so this means that it isn’t a small operation.
How do the materials you use make Pantherella socks special?
We use some of the world’s best fibres to ensure that you get a sock that lasts. Socks are in a tough environment; they need to survive the wearing and the washing, so we only start out with the highest quality fibres. Our socks look good and feel good wash after wash, they’re not just the disposable item I think many high street items could, and probably should, be.
We use cashmere, Egyptian cotton, merino wool. We also use West Indian Sea Island cotton, a very soft, very long staple cotton, which we use because it doesn’t go hard when washed. One of the things that we are introducing for this Autumn/Winter is escorial cotton. Escorial cotton is a wool that comes from sheep of which there are only two or three flocks in the world.
Effectively it’s a very low micron wool, which means that the hairs are very fine and feel soft and luxurious. Escorial has the feel and handle of cashmere, but is a more durable and practical fibre. We’ve blended that with nylon, as we do with our merino wool. People give nylon a bad press because it’s not a natural fibre, but really nylon brings so much to a performance article such as a sock. It brings comfort and fit, durability and stability, and by spinning the two we have a very nice combination of a very soft, comfortable, supple yarn. And then wool, I can’t talk up wool enough really. I don’t think people understand wool, it has wonderful properties and helps to regulate your temperature so well.
What are Pantherella’s design influences and processes?
The start of the design process begins with a trip to Pitti Filati in Florence where colours and trend for the following seasons are researched, along with looking at sourcing new yarns for the seasonal collections. The ranges are split into two, with a seasonal range that is refreshed twice a year, and an ongoing stock collection that customers can buy from throughout the year. The trend inspired element of the collection takes it’s fashion cues straight from the catwalk, following the seasonal trends forecasted for that season. Other elements of the Pantherella range such as the Classic and the Vintage collections are refreshed each season with reworked patterns from our extensive archive of designs and updated in new colour ways.
What does the future hold, for Pantherella and for you?
I still regard Pantherella as a well-kept secret to a degree. I think one of the things that we don’t communicate well enough with our consumers is the information about the quality of the yarn that we use, as well as the fact that all our socks are made in England. We’re developing a website, to help people understand who we are and what we do more. There’s a very good premium market in the UK, and we’re trying to do more with that. We’ve been investing in machines and investing in people. There’s more to be done in America on a similar basis. We’re also seeing a lot of interest from Asia, so there’s a lot to be done there too. We are growing, and we’re trying to keep pushing that forward.
It’s a family business, so I’m not going anywhere. I’m looking to build Pantherella for the family, for the future. For me at the moment it’s really about putting the building blocks in place for future growth, both in the domestic market and internationally.
Editor’s note: The Pantherella website is currently under construction, if you do wish to purchase Pantherella socks (of course you do) we refer you to online retailer Richmond Socks – who do stock a wide range of styles.
Brazilian-born designer Ms Alexia Hentsch and businessman Mr Max von Hurter launched Hentsch Man in 2008 as the result of a long search for the perfect white shirt. Since then the label has branched out to supplying a great range of simply designed, contemporary men’s clothing and accessories with a just touch of old world, European style. We have been fans of Hentsch Man for a while here at The Holborn as we really appreciate their take on well made accessories and their modern (but still gentlemanly) silhouette. So it was that a few days ago I got in touch with Alexia to get the inside story on the label…
So how did Hentsch Man get started – how did the brand actually go about getting up and running?
My childhood friend, Max and I, started the brand in 2008 with the search for the perfect white shirt. We felt that there was a gap in the market for something simple, elegant and well-priced. So we set about designing it, we made a small run and sold it to friends and family. From there, we slowly developed more staple products and eventually launched the first complete collection.
Your S/S collection has been out for a short time now, what kind of elements have inspired you during your design process?
Mainly travel. The SS13 collection was inspired by a trip to LA and the Western US coast. I loved the weather out there, the way people dress so lightly and colourfully – and especially the way people do beach-to-city wear. This definitively crept into the final look of the collection.
So who is the Hentsch Man to you?
He’s an urban type, a young adult in his 20’s or 30’s. He makes a little cash, spends it well, has a good time and doesn’t take his style too seriously. Effortlessly stylish and a little quirky.
Where do you source the fabrics for your clothing? What have been your favourite fabrics to use?
Most of our fabrics started off being from Italy and Portugal. But lately I have been gravitating towards Japanese fabrics. They still use very old looms out there, so they manage to develop more interesting fabrics than what we have in Europe. But we still use loads of European fabrics too – Italians still do it pretty darn well!
How do you insure the quality of your product? Where are they manufactured?
Our garments are manufactured all over Europe – mostly Italy, Portugal and Scotland. In itself these countries have a good reputation for delivering good quality, but on top of that, we really stay on top of factories. Constantly traveling to the different producers, and developing many, many prototypes and samples.
What kind of production techniques go into making one of a Hentsch Man garments?
We start with a sketch, then we make a pattern off of a live model. When we’ve specked it all up, we send it to the factory for a first prototype. Then we fit it onto our fit model, make any changes and either make a second prototype or go straight to salesman sample. Between the final sample and production we do a final fitting and iron out any last kinks.
Hentsch Man has been a real proponent of using pop-up shops to introduce its collections, what is the experience like to run temporary storefronts? What have been the advantages?
Pop-up shops are great for visibility and innovation – and also a great way to test a market and location. But they’re totally exhausting! Every time you set one up, it’s like opening a real store… Except you have to dismantle it! We’ve really enjoyed doing them and learned and awful lot, but we’re trying to wind them down and perhaps think of opening a permanent shop.
What can we look forward to from Hentsch Man in the future?
Maybe some shops. Definitively a few collaborations and most definitively some bigger and greater collections!
Do you have a personal favourite piece from Hentsch Man What would you wear it with?
I’m love the printed short sleeved shirts this season. Though they might seem a little outrageous to a more conservative customer, but teamed with a casual pair of jeans and scruffy tennis shoes, they work a treat.
AH & JMN
You can follow Hentsch Man online:
Today it is our pleasure to introduce Stighlorgan (stighlorgan.com), a contemporary Irish brand to The Holborn. Stighlorgan make clean, well constructed accessories that are built to last out on the open road and made with fine Irish wools, bridle leathers and smart Italian linens for the comfort of their discerning, nomadic owners. The highlight of their accomplished range has to be their bags (they also make scarves, belts and hats), which range from holdalls to messengers to backpacks and which make showcase a full, varied range of design and craft. We got in touch with Christian Bourke at Stighlorgan to find out more about the brand’s Spring 13 collection and the new Limited Edition Roban Backpack.
What were the founding ideas behind Stighlorgan? How did the company get up and running?
Ireland is a power island. In a similar way in which the island of Jamaica has managed to spread its culture over the entire world, Ireland has too. For such a relatively small place, Ireland’s reach is huge. Not just the population abroad and their famous drinking habits, but also the type of people the Irish are. They have a reputation that has endured of being happy, determined and trustworthy. There are a few reasons why Stighlorgan was founded but I think the key reason was we wanted to tell a story of Ireland, to get it out there in the modern fashion market.
I myself have spent a decade working within English and American fashion. Perhaps because all the companies that I have worked for are such strong representations of their own countries, I have spent many years wondering why Ireland is not yet properly represented out there. There isn’t yet an Irish Paul Smith or Ralph Lauren. There are plenty of Irish clothing makers that make the classic tweed jackets and Aran jumpers that Ireland is known so well for but these don’t properly represent the modern Irish people and they way that they dress. The Irish have their own way of doing things and from the beginning we’ve tried to recreate that approach with Stighlorgan accessories.
What would you say is characteristically Irish about Stighlorgan?
The Irish do things their own way. They layer clothes in different ways, they combine smart and casual in their own way, and they’re into different accessories. Growing up in Ireland in the 80’s and 90’s you were ushered into a very specifically Irish way of dressing. I’m not talking about anything traditional but certainly when I was a teenager in Dublin there wasn’t an awful lot of international influence. Perhaps American if any but the rest was left for us Irish to work out for ourselves.
I’ve also been collecting Irish accessories for many years. New and old Irish military accessories, An-post mail bags, Irish train engineer tool bags, utility belts & caps, vintage Aer Lingus flights bags etc. We combine our start point that writer Davin Gaffney describes in his seasonal Stighlorgan poem, with various Irish accessories and materials that we may have found over the course of the previous season. We then use colours that we feel are relevant to shops and street style we see around Dublin and design a collection that we feel represents modern Dublin.
When you look at a bag made by a Swedish brand, it feels sharp, minimal and Swedish. When you look at a Jacket made in a factory in London, it feels austere, clean and British. American designs can mix British austere with playful American, finished with rugged manufacturing which feels unmistakably American. At Stighlorgan, we feel that we are creating modern collections that feel honest, dynamic, minimal and inherently Irish.
Spring 13 is a lovely season as it was inspired by train stations. We’ve always loved train station aesthetic. Not just the utility of train engineer bags and equipment, but also the luggage that passes through a train station. Including the various trains and station signs, its the ideal environment to be thinking about colourful accessories. So in terms of colour; carriage and signal colours were key inspiration. And it terms of a feeling of utility, train engineer bags and equipment were also key inspiration.
There are bags in the collection like Sé and Doherty which play with this theme of utility with their dual use. One is a train engineer’s tool bag, the other is a flap over shoulder bag, but both can be worn hands free as backpacks. Then for colour we created the Kavan bag. We wanted a really useful but minimal shopper, and we wanted it to be colourful. Something along the lines of a simple book bag but with more substantial detailing and a fully adjustable shoulder strap. The base is screen printed with a special lacquer that coats the raw calico cotton canvas whilst preserving the grain of the canvas weave. The colour range that Kavan came in, which we called the ‘signals’ after train station lights and signs, inspired colour within the whole collection. As a result it was our first collection that was ranged up by colour instead of fabric ranges.
There were also some very literal inspirations such as the beautiful linen gunny-sack material that we made the Spring 13 Rían bag from. This came from a very old train carriage post bag that we found. The fabric we created with our mill has all the substance of a thick canvas mail bag, but with the luxurious softness of linen. A real favourite.
How do you ensure the quality of a Stighlorgan product, what kind of techniques go into making one of your bags?
I’ve been working with the same factories for nearly a decade. With all of them, particularly the factories in China, we’ve learnt together. The factories have carefully taught me the requirements of a finely tuned production line. In turn I’ve taught the factories how to engineer fabrics in unusual and unique ways. Always the two have gone hand in hand as there is no point innovating unusual details if the production line cannot reproduce them with the same quality as a familiar seam. If a detail that looks good cannot be reliably reproduced on the production line, we drop it and find another way.
Some techniques that go into our bags have truly baffled our sample rooms in the beginning. A good example is the leather handle without a seam. Its special technique which we created where you use mock stitch lines to cover up a folded and secured seam that gives the effect that the handle is continuous, without any seam at all. In terms of complexity, one of our new Autumn 13 bags is made up of over 50 different panels.
Where you source the materials for your accessories?
We source all over the world. However, we mainly source inspiration and then re-create materials with our various mills. A great example is our ‘fisherman’s lacquer canvas‘. We were in Sligo on the west coast of Ireland for one of the annual surf competitions (which I highly recommend!). Whilst travelling down the came across a sleepy little fishing town which had beautiful colourful dinghies moored in the bay. On closer inspection we saw that the boats weren’t covered with ‘manufactured’ tarpaulins, they seemed to be individually painted with some sort of lacquer. We investigated, managed to buy one of these covers and worked out that basic cotton canvases had simply been painted with various glossy or satin paints. We brought the homemade tarp with us to our mill in China and recreated it in a way that we could use on our bags. Its been our most popular fabric ever since.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the Limited-Edition Sea-Washed Roban? – As it is pretty special.
My family has a tradition of swimming the forty foot on the coast near Dún Laoghaire. Its a very cold swim but its apparently good for your health. I think that’s where the idea came from. Its also been a long time since I made water distressed/ washed accessories. Last time I did it was for Paul Smith accessories around 8 years ago so I felt it could be popular again.However, I had never done it with salt water and I knew this would have a wonderful effect on the fabric and leather. So, we produced a small batch of our Roban backpack, took them to Salt hill near Dún Laoghaire and then threw them in the sea. The sea did the work for us. Actually, something did go wrong on the day: The bags were all secured with a heavy rope we had anchored to the diving steps. However, two of the Robans somehow (we still dont know how), managed to get loose. We noticed too late that they were floating away. We said goodbye to those 2; the ones that got away. Four hours later when we were packed up we were about 500 yards down the coast when one of us spotted the two bags coming back in to shore! I have no idea why they came back or how they hadn’t sunk. They came so close we managed to pluck them out of the water. They went for the same industrial wash as the others and they’re available to buy now.
We were sure to throw a few coins in the sea in for Lí Ban (Poseidon) before we left, to thank her for helping out.
Can you give us any hints as to what we can look forward to in the future from Stighlorgan?
There is so much more to come. We are evolving very quickly but we know clearly who we are and what we look like. Each new collection has leapt ahead of the previous one and the Spring 14 collection we are finalising now is no exception. Watch this space!
Christian Bourke & JMN
Here at The Holborn, I am pretty sure the gentlemen readers vie for the day when they have made a full transformation into Donald Draper, Creative Director at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, advertising titan and all round ‘hunkatron’ – ‘cause let’s be honest – he is not just hot, he’s ‘toasted.’ For us girls, our corresponding Mad Men lady crush would have to be Joan Holloway, the woman of cor’ blimey curves and possibly the only one in the world to make a pea green tweed ensemble look cracking. I could go on for many minutes about Christina Hendricks’ perfect hourglass figure and attempt to emulate it with a girdle and some industrial tape if it wasn’t slightly straying from my point. However, in all her knock-out glory. I am always vexed at how she maintains that enviously brow furrowing figure of hers. My curves are never that smoothly silhouetted, for the attempts I make to keep it sexy always seem to escape out the top of my Bridget pants. Cut the base out of a muffin case and you have the perfect image of a muffin malfunction.
When researching vintage lingerie and the scary world of girdles, I became engrossed in the glamour that I discovered from What Katie Did (whatkatiedid.com). Oh what wonders that come from the excessive amount of time I spend on the internet – and what a pleasurable discovery it was. One way that I thought to cure me of myself of my current obsession with 1950s was to just get the whole look out of my system. If you can’t beat ‘em, spend a fortune and revel in your sumptuous indulgences. So I made my way towards Portobello Road, a hotspot for tourists, but also the home of a vintage inspired lingerie boutique in the cosy cubby corner of Portobello Green’s small shopping arcade.
I walked gingerly through the door, as lingerie shopping to me always seems to be an exercise which prods at my self-conscious side. A glamorous woman, in true ardour to that of Dita Von Teese stood behind the counter – long raven black hair half victory curled, eyelinered eyes and a slick of ruby lipstick. After doing the routine ‘poke a few garments’ and ‘move some hangers side to side‘, I launched into my prepared speech that really didn’t sound prepared at all. The woman’s scarlet smile instantly made me feel at ease as I stuttered my reasons for visiting the shop that day.
It was Katie Thomas who founded the company, What Katie Did in 1999 and since then it has become one of the world’s leading faux vintage lingerie brands. Inspired by glamour of silver screen movie stars of the ‘40s and ‘50s, the brand has been recognised today by models and film and TV stars alike including Emma Watson, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn and Christina Hendricks herself, of which I give an appreciative nod.
At the store, the signature style is the Bullet Bra; a curiously conical contraption reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s perfect ‘sweater girl’ silhouette – I wasn’t used to the style myself, but who am I to question Miss Monroe’s fashion savvy sense? Heck, we’re still all trying to be her. Marilyn was said to model herself off Marlene Dietrich, a German actress and singer in the 1920s.
Marlene proved to be quite the influential model, for she inspired a range of lingerie that Katie designed – a style of brassiere that moulds the cup shape into a subtle point. Thomas revived this kind of vintage style and her designs have since then appeared in a plethora of period dramas including Call The Midwife, BBC’s Sherlock, and Miss Marple, as well as appearing in Oscar wining movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
After deciphering my curvy credentials, the girl that was helping me disappeared into the back to find my requests and emerged with a satin-stitched selection for me to choose from. When I’d perused the website previously, I’d seen several photo shoots that featured Katie Thomas’s designs in such high fashion magazines as Vogue and Harper‘s Bazaar – the former in which Claudia Schiffer was shot wearing the bullet bra style in midnight blue satin. I don’t need to tell you how fantastic she looked, but in case you wanted reminding I’ll give you a sneaky peek.
Whilst mid way through my briefing, a familiar face took charge of my custom who I’d seen on the online site to be the manageress, Hannah Barley. She led me into the luxurious fitting room furnished with a velvet chair, side table and fully sized ornate mirror for scrunching my nose at as I observed my flawed bits and pieces. After being offered a beverage and a quick pep talk on how to manoeuvre ones self in this style of shape wear, (lean forward and wriggle about) I began my busty business.
Usually, trying clothes on is a daunting task that I, before beginning it, cross myself that it doesn’t end in tearing the curtains down and running out the store crying wrapped in them because that’s the only thing that seems to fit. Even though gold-framed photographs of gorgeous (but enviably slim and trim) girls embellished the boutique’s wall of fame, I was encouraged with the mind set that the fifties female figure and indeed the whole sense of the burlesque gave me a metaphorical wink of approval for any extra curves that I carried.
I left the store feeling delighted with my purchases; their signature Harlow bullet bra in peach satin and one in black from their Maitresse range with matching knicks. It’s not every Monday afternoon that I find myself squeezing into girdles, waist-cinchers and waspies, but maybe I should make a note of doing. Visit the What Katie Did website or take a trip to their Portobello boutique to find your perfect set.
Founded in 2011, Harry Stedman (harrystedman.com) is named after and inspired by the father of the brand’s managing director, Philip Stedman. American heritage and staple workwear is combined with a classic Ivy League style. Many of the garments seem to have walked straight out of a copy of Teruyoshi Hayashid’s ‘Take Ivy‘. Taking such inspiration, Harry Stedman introduces a smarter edge through button-down Oxford’s and Bass Penny loafers a nice contrast to their rugged workwear options.
Harry Stedman is still a young brand but it has started out in a very promising direction, that of one presenting a classic, masculine style combined with a solid commitment to quality. With this in mind The Holborn got in touch with Harry Steadman’s Head of Design; Amy Greenland to find out more.
Responses by Amy Greenland.
How did Harry Stedman get started? How did you get the brand up and running?
The Managing Director, Philip Stedman, who is the son of Harry Stedman, started the brand. He started out with the idea of creating a brand based on the characteristics of his father, Harry and his travels as a Cunard Yank (Merchant seaman) during the 1950s and 60s. A small Harry Stedman team was formed to source and manage the production of a small capsule collection for AW12. Various influencers and friends have been consulted along the way to help create the Harry Stedman brand as you see it today.
Harry Stedman has a clear Ivy league tone, what inspired this direction?
Harry Stedman, the man, joined the British Army in 1951 and later joined the Blue Star Line in 1954 which allowed him to sail all over the world. One of his more adventurous destinations was New York and it was here that he discovered the American Collegiate style and the Madison Avenue style. We have used Harry’s experiences of these styles as the inspiration for the current collection looking at dead stock 50’s button down shirts, classic workwear tees, chinos and 50’s blouson jackets.
What other elements have inspired Harry Stedman during its design processes?
When designing men’s clothing it’s not just about the inspiration or overall concept it’s about the fabric, fit and how the end consumer is going to wear the product. We have been looking at how the modern day gent wears his clothes and how we can achieve the right fit across all products. The fabric is also key, we have sourced newly developed cloths from the UK, Japan, Europe and America ensuring that each product has the right characteristics, hand feel and performance.
How do you ensure the quality of your garments? Where is it that they are manufactured?
Close relationships with the manufacturing factories are vital. To ensure the end product meets the quality and design brief the garment needs to be quality control checked at each stage of the process from the finished design, initial sampling, and production to delivery of the product to the end consumer. About half of our collection is made in the UK and the rest is made in America and some in Europe.
You’ve just released your 2013 lookbook, which happens to be your first. How was that experience?
It’s a really good feeling seeing our creations come together in a well-executed narrative to form our first collection. The lookbook has had some amazing feedback and it has really lifted the brand and rounded up what the brand is all about.
You can see the complete lookbook here
What can we expect from Harry Stedman in the future?
We have a lot lined up with some new pieces coming out in August for our AW13 collection, followed by our SS14 collection. We will be expanding with each collection, introducing new product all inspired by Harry Stedman and his adventures. It’s only the start so watch this space…
Do (either of you) you have any favourite pieces from the collection? How would (do) you wear it?
I think the Desert Navy Drizzler is my favourite piece. It looks great over a Harry Stedman button down shirt and grey marl sweater with beige chinos or simply thrown on over a Harrry Stedman, made in USA, tee for a James Dean/Marlon Brando look.
AG & JMN
We first came across Colenimo (www.colenimo.com) earlier this year when we were researching our article on quality women’s knitwear. We were finding it a real struggle to find UK made, classically stylish garments for women (not for myself you understand, but I am well aware we have a good following of women readers). Thankfully we came across Colenimo, and consequentially Aya Nakagawa its founder and chief designer. When I saw Colenimo’s Spring/Summer Lookbook we knew that we had to feature Colenimo on The Holborn, the ‘Bright Young Things’/’Great Gatsby’ vibe of the whole collection is so painfully spot on in its execution that we immediately got in contact with Aya to find out more about this London based brand…
So how did Colenimo get started. How did you actually go about getting the company up and running?
I started Colenimo a couple of years after moving to London, I had previously worked in fashion in Tokyo for eight years. I was studying English and doing various bits of work experience at brands in London and decided to start my own thing. Something about London makes things seem possible, the attitude towards start-ups is much more positive here. I was lucky to have friends in London who worked in the industry as hair-dressers, make-up artists and photographers so that was (and still is) a huge help. Getting the right images I think is really important for a new brand.
In the beginning I was doing a lot of the work all by myself from my bedroom (design, pattern making, production) which was a big change from working at larger companies in Tokyo, it was very hard work but was a lot of fun.
We printed look books and sent them out and were lucky to be picked up by a few stores in London, Couverture were the first shop to buy from us and we are proud to say are still a stockist today.
What kind of elements inspire you during your design process?
I’m really inspired by fabrics and accessories, when I feel a particular fabric I can almost see the final garment in my hands. I do a lot of research at vintage fashion fairs & flea markets, as well as all the interesting details and quirks of design, it’s inspiring to see the quality and finesse of older pieces of clothing.
Where do you source the fabrics for your clothing? What have been your favourite fabrics to use?
We’ve recently been using a number of fabrics from a family run Yorkshire mill called Moon (Abraham Moon & Sons of Leeds) . The pride and attention to detail that goes into every meter of fabric they produce is amazing, that kind of commitment to quality is a huge source of inspiration to us. We love to use utility fabrics, fabrics with a purpose and a story, for example, British Navy Melton Wool or Waxed cottons.
How do you ensure the quality of your product? Where are they manufactured?
We manufacture at a small number of factories in London. During the production process we are in constant contact with our factories, we often visit so we can see with our own eyes the quality of the final product. This kind of relationship we have with the actual people who make our would just not be possible if we were to manufacture abroad.
What kind production techniques go into making one of your garments?
We use quite traditional techniques really, technically our garments don not demand any really high tech production methods. We do a lot of bound and French seam finishing, which lasts longer than the usual over-locked finishing you see on most mass-produced modern garments. Our leather pieces are cut by hand; our leather cutter is a genius at getting as little wastage out of each hide as possible.
We recently started producing a range of pieces that are over-dyed with Woad, a traditional English Indigo. The woad is grown, processed and applied at a single site using traditional techniques. The woad gives a beautiful deep indigo colour and the process means that every piece has it’s own character and ages distinctively.
What can we expect from the new Spring/Summer Collection?
SS13 was inspired by tennis star Helen Wills Moody AKA “Little Miss Poker Face”, famous in the 1920’s and 30’s. The collection smart preppy pieces with casual vintage sportswear inspired attire.
Do you have a personal favourite piece from Colenimo? What would you wear it with?
My all time favourite has to be the Melton Wool Flight Jacket from AW11/12, it’s a really simple piece but I wear it all the time with just about anything. It’s good just casual with jeans or chinos but has enough vintage charm to pair up with a girlie summer.
Colenimo is available through its own online store (shop.colenimo.com), The Swanfield Boutique (swanfieldboutique.co.uk) & Couverture (www.couvertureandthegarbstore.com). You can also follow Colenimo on Twitter, and Tumblr.
AN & JMN
Long before The Holborn authors even thought about writing ourselves, we were avid readers of Justin Fitzpatrick’s blog ‘The Shoe Snob’. We were lucky last year to meet Justin himself and start to learn more about his own story and his plans for the future. So it was that we were privileged to attend the launch of his very own footwear range last month at Gieves & Hawkes No.1 Savile Row where Justin works and runs his Shoe Shine concession. So after the dust had settled from a hectic March for Justin we grabbed a coffee just off the famous sartorial street to find out more about what Justin has been up to.
Where did your interest in Footwear begin?
I happened into the shoe industry per say as a job, I used to work as a sales assistant in a department store back in Seattle. It was a job at University to earn money. Though at University I was majoring in Entrepreneurship and I wanted to run my own company, and I have always believe if you do what you love every day then you are successful. Whether or not if you make money, if you are enjoying each day of your life then that is a success. Though I have always loved shoes and I was working in a shoe shop, and so when the time came to ask myself what company do you want to start, it was a no-brainer. I was around them all the time, I enjoyed selling shoes to men and seeing them change and would especially love it when they would come back and say they loved the shoe I sold them. I then decided that I would want to do that with my own shoes with my own name on them.
What has the journey been like to get to where you are now?
It’s been the biggest roller-coaster of my life. Since that day that I consciously made that decision it’s been a six and a half year journey. I’ve done so much, so many things which I look back on and think it was crazy that I did them, like packing up my life and moving to another continant without knowing anyone. But everything I’ve done has been pertinent to getting here. Now that it’s happened it still doesn’t feel like it’s happened, It doesn’t feel like I have my own shoe range. Im still just working day to day, though it’s an amazing feeling when I sell a pair of my own shoes and even better when I get good feedback. I think it will feel more real when more regular people, people who aren’t fans of my blog or contacts through the menswear industry, start buying my shoes and coming back to get a second pair.
What have been the benefits of writing your blog ‘The Shoe Snob’ to being able to launch the range?
My blog is my greatest asset. Without it I don’t think I’d have a brand, or a recognisable brand at least. It would have been so much harder without it. The blog gave me credibility, it gave me a customer base, I’ve sold over 100 shoes now to my blog followers in a month. It truly is my greatest asset, I mean I talk about other brands there which are in competition with me, but the people who read it are loyal to me and to my vision. Without their support I wouldn’t be here today.
How has being based at Gieves & Hawkes helped you?
They have given me one of the best locations in the world to flourish my brand. When you start a company there are certain things that’ll make it work or not, some of those things are location and exposure, and Savile Row is one of the most famous streets in the world when it comes to Menswear. And No.1 Savile Row is one of the more recognised spots on that street. With Gieves & Hawkes one does not reap as much as one would like to off their marketing efforts but just being there for me is reward enough. The exposure is great, to the other brands, to their customers, to the PR that comes in every day. It is another one of my best assets, they have done me wonders by just allowing me to be present in their shop.
What are your major influences in Shoe Design?
It’s difficult to say. Having spent time in Italy and England, being from America but also loving French flair, I’d say my influence is everyday life. Watching different people in different countries and how they dress, the colours they use. It’s just being aware of how other people do things and melding the French, Italian and English asthetic into one look. There are many brands as well who I aspire to be like and have success like, like Gaziano & Girling and Stefano Berner, people who make beautiful shoes that I would hope to model after. It’s great to see other shoemakers and how they put things together, it helps my creativity to do something different but still model around the elegance of their designs. I always try to be subtly different, take a traditional english shoe, using traditional lines but switching it up with a different colour that nobody else does.
How did your training in Italy influence you?
The training in Italy, well Stefano and his shoes gave me the basis for the appreciation of beauty. Before then I didn’t really know what beautiful shoes were. In America, it may be harsh to say, but as far as shoes are concerned you are not exposed to the beautiful things that you are in Europe. So Stefano and his way of design, colour use, pattern making it taught me the ability I could have as my own designer and that I could do things that were different to what I’d ever seen before. His influence was simply opening my eyes to the possibility of what could be.
Where are your materials sourced from?
The calf-skins are from France, the suede’s are from England and the soles are Chestnut Tanned and come from Italy. Though I don’t source them, the factory I work with sources them for me.
Why is footwear important?
Well the shoes that are on a person’s feet speak wonders about that person. How they maintain them shows a lot about how that person cares for themselves. Unfortunately or not, the world we live in is one of judgement, you’re being judged on your appearance, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, that’s just the way we are. And I believe that footwear is one of the first things people look at. So I think it’s important for people’s smart appearance, and comfort is also important as it affects your posture and that helps in turn with your elegance of being. A pair of shoes can make or break an outfit, and no matter how smart your suit if you don’t have a smart pair of shoes with it you’re not that smart at all. I believe men can be very smart if they put their mind to it, like the Victorian and Edwardian eras which were, full of smart men, even the tramps were wearing smart clothes. I know we have those capabilities and I would like us to return to an elegant era where we all care, not egotistically, but respectfully, about how we present ourselves.
What does the future hold for you and the brand?
My ultimate goal would be having three stores with my name on, one in New York, one in London and one in Japan. That would be the point when I hit my climax. I’d also love to be selling my shoes in other stores round the world. That’s the ultimate. For the meanwhile my goals are to just launch as well as I can, to build a credible name, to give great customer service and to start to be a competitor in the Mens Footwear industry. Over the next two to three years Ill be working towards getting that first store here in London.
Find below a selection of Justin’s Shoes. To get a pair pop into Gieves & Hawkes at No.1 Savile Row or get in contact with Justin himself at email@example.com
MHG & JF
‘Farewell, my dearest darling! It won’t be long, I’ll see you again very s- son of a b—-!’
Many have been lost, like this refined lady’s, out of the window of a moving train. Many have been caught in the shuffle – as in literally, trod on, when a damsel has dropped one in vain in front of a potential suitor and he’s fobbed her off. Hankies have been lost in time along with the tip of the hat and the click of the heels in mid air, and it is in my personal interests to bring at least one of them back to the forefront and back in your breast pockets and purses with a bit more panache!
The handkerchief is an object of many hidden talents, but generalised as a redundant square of material that can only be used once during a bout of the common cold and then it’s off to the washing machine. Right? Wrong. So wrong.
‘What other possible uses could handkerchiefs have?’…I hear you enquire. Well, you lucky devils, this is your fortuitous stumble-upon.
1.) Wiping a patch of perspiration from the forehead, neck or face. It is a balmy day and you are sat outside on the bottom step of a town house on the Upper-East side of New York. You’re in a movie. Why would you not have a handkerchief?
2.) You have a firm grip on your beautifully embroidered hanky, and proceed to wave it frantically out the window of a locomotive at a loved one that you are slowly pulling away from. Now stop messing about before we reach a tunnel.
3.) You simply blow your irritatingly runny nose. Once, twice, even three times (if you’re a lady.) Don’t neglect it after one go – a little snot never hurt anybody. Just don’t lend it to anyone else; they don’t want that thing.
4.) Wear one poking out of your left breast pocket. James Bond manages to get away with it, so why cant you? Oh yeah – because he is James Bond, he kills people.
5.) Depending on the size of your handkerchief, lay it flat on the bed, place various essentials atop it, and bring all four corners together and tie it to the end of a stick. Next, pretend to run away from home. Note: works best with a polka dot hanky, and when you’re six years old.
6.) In the old days of chivalry, manners and mingling, a gentleman would hold his kerchief in the right hand whilst enjoying a waltz with a lady friend. It was considered ghastly if a man presented his bare hand before a dance. Who knows where it’s been?
7.) Watching tearjerkers. A woman can cry openly, using the shoulder of her man’s shirt to soak up her sadness. But a guy? You cry on her silk blouse and she’ll give you something to cry about.
8.) Watching a tearjerker in public. Don’t bring a pack of Handy Andies to the cinema. No-one likes a rustler.
9.) Chloroform. I mean, Olbas Oils.
So there you have it, boys and girls. If you’d ever found yourself hankerin’ for a sniffle just for an excuse to crack out your kerchief, then you now have nine more absolutely genuine excuses. Also, if you’re looking for something special, have a nosey at my personal pin-up girl favourites by Tinuviel Tinkerings.
Few brands achieve so synonymous a relationship with a garment as Baracuta has with the Harrington Jacket. Baracuta (originally based in Stockport) created the original G9 Harrington jacket in 1937. The Jacket itself is one of those fine items that has surpassed its original purpose (golf, if you were wondering) to be re-appropriated by youth movements from mods to suede-heads to soul boys. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, the 1966 England football team, the who’s worn it list is nearly endless. But in the end it all boils down to the fact they can be worn pretty much any way you want, a theme explored in Baracuta’s latest Synonymous & Antonymous ad campaign. Kevin Stone, Brand manager at Baracuta got in touch with The Holborn to tell us more about the campaign and Baracuta’s latest collection.
How did you first come to Baracuta? What attracted you to the brand?
Ten years ago I was asked to resurrect the brand, by the company who owned the trademark, they had a license in Japan and nothing else. My background and interest was brands with provenance and heritage and Baracuta was right up my street. I knew the G9 (Baracuta’s famous Harrington Jacket) and I set about documenting its rich cultural history, buying archive pieces, and planning to relaunch a Made in England G9.
Current incarnations of the classic G9 Jacket – Baracuta S/S13′
All available at www.wpstore.com
What are the challenges of dealing with a brand like Baracuta- who have such a rich cultural history?
When you are given the opportunity to be involved with a brand that has crossed cultural divides, has dressed icons and legends and has been woven into the very fabric of British youth culture, you quickly realise that it is loved and cherished almost owned by a lot of people so you have to respect it. However it’s also very important for the brand to not always look back but to keep moving forward, to make the brand relevant to today’s tastemakers.
What were the ideas behind the new Synonymous & Antonymous campaign?
The campaign was created by Marcus and his team at Jocks & Nerds Magazine. The campaign shows how the iconic G9 jacket can be worn and interpreted regardless of age, lifestyle or culture. In the campaign real people talk about their emotional relationship towards the jacket and its place in youth culture over many years.
To what extent are Baracuta garments still a quality product in terms of their production?
More than ever! We have upgraded the G9 jacket to become the ultimate Harrington jacket, new fabrication, Coolmax lining with 100 percent cotton ribbing. The fit has also been enhanced and it is now made in London. The ‘Blue label’ collection has been designed by Kenichi Kusano, Kenny is the ex-Creative Director at Beams+ He has used British fabrics in his collection and we are making it in Italy.
To see the full ‘Blue Label’ collection click here
What can we look forward to from Baracuta in the future? Any highlights?
We relaunched for SS13 and are now taking our time, we have new owners in WP Lavori who are so well respected in the world of research and design, they are supporting the brand, we have a desire to show at London Collections and we are in discussions. We have a great collaboration coming out for this Autumn but I’m afraid I have to keep it under wraps for now.
Do you have a favourite Baracuta item? What would/do you wear it with?
I have three, the new G9 jacket in Dark Navy, its a timeless classic, I have a fantastic G4 jacket that I worked on previously with Comme Des Garçon that is very special, and I have also grabbed the sample of one of Kenichi Kusano’s Autumn 2013 designs, its a G9 Baseball jacket in British Moon Fabric. I always like to team them up with good raw denim and a British brogue.
KS & JMN
Why not visit Baracuta’s offical Tumblr Page for more of the latest news and information on the current campaigns?
When we first started writing The Holborn one of our key aims was to highlight the work of those who set out to make things and do it well. The more we’ve explored and gotten to know about those skilled, practical individuals the more we feel encouraged that there is a positive momentum towards a more ‘hands-on’ economy, shaped by the hard graft and plentiful imaginations of our creative industries. Another person who sets out to champion such efforts is Daniel Jenkins, founder of Daniel Jenkins Ltd. Based in Swansea in South Wales, Daniel’s store sets out to highlight a range of smaller, innovative brands that he feels often aren’t given the opportunity to flourish. His focus on the British Isles has taken a step forward recently with the launch of his own in house label; Purposeful Activity.
We thought it would be interesting to hear from the other side of the shop counter and give Daniel the opportunity to tell you about his passion for well made garments, why it is that he sources such items for his store and his new label.
Daniel Jenkins, Daniel Jenkins Ltd:
The last Six months have been interesting ones at Daniel Jenkins LTD. We have moved from working primarily as a retail organisation which dealt with other people’s clothing to a company which whilst still supporting new talent is also looking to produce our own clothing.
I believe that what we are proposing with Purposeful Activity is the future for UK manufacturing and small scale brands. It is my belief that grass-roots, self-funded growth will always, in my experience lead to longer term secure success. We operate and live in difficult and challenging times and whilst it might be appealing to chase fast finance, this road very rarely leads to nirvana. Although a change in direction it is not that far removed from how we have always looked to approach fashion.
Six years ago I opened a menswear store with corresponding website called Daniel Jenkins. From the start I made the conscious decision to support young talent so after a season working with Raf Simons & Acne we concentrated solely upon young British talent. I am proud of the fact we stocked most of the young British labels making waves at the recent London Collections before anyone else.
What drives our buying policy (apart from selling young British talent) is the desire to sell something interesting. Something you would want to wear even when trends had long past their sell by date. Fashion yes, but an individual take on it. I have always bought with me in mind, if I wouldn’t wear it why should I expect others to buy it? I am interested in refined takes on established styles. My day to day uniform is quite simple, shoes from Crockett & Jones, black Acne jeans. I have been wearing them daily for six years alongside a purposeful activity shirt or a plain white T-shirt and a coat. My favourite heavy winter coat is first thing we ever sold in store, for me nothing has come out that’s bettered that style, so I have not bought another like it.
Some brands are ready for the market straight away, others took a little time to build and some lost their way after a season or two. That’s the beauty of making a creative product it’s ever evolving. I still wear the first pieces of Lou Dalton we bought, same with Carolyn Massey. Those two probably stand out as the labels who had the most initial potential which thankfully has been turned into something interesting five years on. It is best to ignore the hype around a lot of brands, I am always impressed when you go into a tiny traditional womenswear boutique and you see a brand you’ve never heard of that receives no press, but that when you chat with the sales assistant it turns out to be their best seller. People will continually go back to brands that make quality items regardless of the press other things receive. I feel that sometimes this has been lost from menswear; lots of stores look quite similar. I understand the temptation but now that we sell worldwide surely we need to define a niche just for ourselves? There is no point trying to ape the ‘big boys’ as they have the money and power to influence the market.
Some of the highlights form the Daniel Jenkins online store (from top left to bottom right: Caroline Massey, Lou Dalton, Tender Co. & Martine Rose) – click the image to be re-directed.
About twelve months ago I had a number of meetings regarding UK production. Labels came to us unable to meet production minimums and were therefore being charged a premium even if they produced abroad. This led to increased wholesale prices and the pitfalls that ensue. I decided that I ought to do something public about it rather than just carry comfortably along.
Therefore along came Purposeful Activity. It is my slight “up yours” to the notion that you cannot design and manufacture in the UK’s best factories using the best material possible, pay everyone a fair price and not have to ask the consumer to forgo a month’s mortgage payment to purchase. We don’t wholesale preferring to grow gradually and self-funded through our site.
I believe that what we are proposing with Purposeful Activity is the future for UK manufacturing and small scale brands. Organic, self-funded growth will always lead to longer term secure success. We operate and live in difficult and challenging times and whilst it might be appealing to chase fast finance that road very rarely leads to nirvana.
In terms of a look we were aiming for Antonioni’s (Michelanglo Antonioni director ‘Blow Up’, ‘La Notte’ and ‘Beyond The Clouds’) take on British swagger, blown up for today. We removed superfluous menswear details and concentrated on the fabric, cut & manufacturing. Garments you would wear to compliment your style rather than to stand out like a sore thumb.
All of our items (hopefully) follow my initial buying strategy to offer things which improved upon the best out there. For the next installment a slight change of direction. London made Boxer shorts.
There ought to be no reason why these can’t, along with our ‘Byron’ shirt become a wardrobe staple in the years to come. Made by the best underwear factory in the UK and using super soft cotton Marlowe is a deceptively simple product executed to the highest possible standards. I feel that it fills the gap in the market for reasonably priced, British made (rather than, say thought about in the UK and made elsewhere) boxer shorts in grown up colourways. Designed to be as comfortable as possible – representing understated, elegant essentials made that are in the UK.
”A sweet disorder in the dress
kindles in clothes a wantonness…
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly ”
–Sweet Disorder, Robot Herrick, 1648
Thank you, first off for permitting me an old indulgence. It has been roughly five years since I started a piece of writing by quoting a poet, and I had hoped that I had matured enough to say that I had quite grown out of the practice. Sadly it seems, not yet.
‘Sprezzatura’ is a term which is making the rounds a great deal. The primary reason for its resurgence has been in relation to the sartorial style of men, particularly male bloggers and street photographers who are presenting to the world a new kind of style icon. One who is not immensely wealthy, or even particularly well to do, but a more individual, grass roots kind of style which, rather than following the endless and repetitive silhouettes of the fashion industry, chooses to celebrate a clear sense of individualism, nonchalance and personal charm.
The actual term sprezzatura relates to a specific and purposeful imperfection in dress, a practice of strategic dishevelment. It all sounds very enigmatic doesn’t it? The aim is to give the impression you don’t really give a flying fuck what other people think of your clothes. Wether you really do or not is completely up to you, Sprezzatura can either act as a tool to re- imagining oneself, or a means by which to truly express who you actually are. The trick being to show people that no matter how much money and time a person is willing to spend, it shall be your own natural quirks, tastes and style which shall allow you to stand apart. Such is the individual and personal nature of your choices, that they are harder to reproduce. The look is considered superior precisely because it is perceived by onlookers to be unique and effortless. It also has a tendency to be a style which is accented with rare, unique or bespoke items.
The phrase ‘sprezzatura’ itself was coined by by the sixteenth-century writer Baldassare Castiglione, Castiglione was a leading advisor to Popes Leo X and Clement VII, and later to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier appeared in 1528, but it still has surprising freshness when read today. It was considered fairly revolutionary in its time, and yet Castiglione’s new take on manliness owed much to titans of classical literature such as Aristotle and Cicero. The ideal courtier was to have Aristotelian arete, which is to say excellence. An aristos (hence our word aristocrat) was educated in the best ideas and honed by education to possess the best impulses, both martial and artistic. From Cicero, Castiglione seems to have taken the Stoic concept of neglentia diligens (‘a studied negligence’), a precursor perhaps to sprezzatura.
Developing sprezzatura can be interpreted as a subversive challenge in a contemporary society that openly discourages, and is suspicious of discretion and restraint. Popular culture dictates that we tend to distrust anyone we suspect of not being open. But the whole point of restraint, and the etiquette that surrounds it , is to give us a chance to negotiate slowly and carefully the difference between being strangers and becoming friends. A man who has sprezzatura is content to keep his own counsel. He not only does not need to have his motives understood, he prefers that they not be understood. His actions and his style speak for him. It is not necessary for strangers to know more. From this you can see how influential Castiglione’s concept has on later European concepts of ‘the gentleman’.
To make an admission, this is a hard concept to define in words as it is such a visual and by its nature, personal concept. Style Blogger, photographer and fashion insider Scott Schuman, author of The Sartorialist has perhaps done more than anyone to visually define the concept for a contemporary age. Through his photography he has brought the sprezzatura of various individuals to a global audience. Here are some examples of his photography from Florence and Milan which I think really gets to roots of what I have been trying to write about:
With high street chains and out of town shopping centers sucking the life out of shopping in England’s smaller cities and towns, The Holborn set off to meet one woman in Leicester who is determined to provide a platform for independent UK designers to launch their work. Stephanie Macdonald-Walker, owner of Watch.This.Space boutique and the creative power behind her own label, SMWalker, talks of her own journey through the fashion industry, and her desire to help others in theirs.
Despite featuring over 89 designers, the whole of Watch.This.Space reflects Steph and so I open by asking about the work she makes for her own label, SMWalker, which she sells in the boutique. She tells me that she began making couture leather pieces, particularly collars, however she has also now branched out into more commercial pieces like bags and clothes. She is quick to add ‘but not really commercial’, and she is right, they are not. Her leather bags are unlike anything I have seen. In contrast to the polished goods normally available they have an earthy charm that somehow makes them more glamorous for it. Steph tells me ‘they’re all made from leathers, 100% wools, silks. I get a lot of distressed leather, and I distress it myself with foils and things like that’.
The branch into clothes, a natural progression as she has a degree in fashion, reflects the distinctive look of the collars and bags. When I ask about her manufacturing process, it becomes clear that this process has a heavy influence on the finished products. I ask if she makes her products by hand, and she points to a sewing machine behind the boutique’s counter: ‘I make everything myself. I have a Bernina sewing machine which has a really strong motor and I sit there and make my pieces when the shop’s quiet. I don’t do patterns, I just fold fabric and cut it in different ways so it hangs differently on the body’. The freedom of this approach to her work extends as I ask where she takes inspiration from, and she surprises me by saying ‘I know it sounds daft but I don’t really get inspired by things. I get inspired by natural things, like pavements on the floor with weeds coming through the cracks, but basically when I’m sat here I just do whatever’s in my head’. This brief reference to nature is reflected throughout Watch.This.Space, from the animal skulls on the walls to the branches displaying jewellery, and so I move the conversation on to the boutique.
The natural features of the shop are offset by mismatched furniture, and Steph tells me that this was a conscious decision to try and promote a relaxed atmosphere. She explains that the furnishings of the shop were either free, or from car boot sales and charity shops; ‘I wanted it to be chic. There are so many boutiques that I myself feel intimidated going into, and I wanted to have a relaxed atmosphere in here. I don’t approach customers, I just let them do their own thing. Someone might want to come and browse the designer’s work, maybe they don’t have the money to buy but they still have the option of looking around for half an hour’.
When I ask what the original vision for the boutique was, Steph surprises me again saying ‘I never really thought I was going to have a shop!’, however the story of how she came to open Watch.This.Space is clearly one that has influenced the way she runs the boutique. Steph tells me of how a little time after finishing university she found herself, along with many others, entering her work in exhibitions and galleries and getting nothing back for it. Just as she was beginning to wonder where it would end, somebody at a networking event happened to suggest that she open a shop, and the idea stuck. After running a pop-up shop for three months as a trial, Steph opened Watch.This.Space on May 4 2012. She has a background in retail, but she describes the satisfaction she has found in having her own boutique, ‘I’m doing it for myself now. I’m not in a mundane position behind a desk all day, I’m behind my sewing table’.
Conversation moves onto the many others still in the position she was just after university, and it becomes clear that Steph has a real desire to help these people get a foothold in such a tough industry: ‘The motto for the shop is to bring the economy back. With the economy the way it is at the moment, especially with all these students working for free for mass manufacturers, there’s just no hope for anyone. There are so many designers that have so much talent and it needs to be seen and recognised. People need to know their names’. This motive means that Watch.This.Space only stocks UK based designers, however Steph stresses that she doesn’t only stock graduates: ‘I have one designer who is a guy who is retired, and there’s an 83 year old woman who makes some of the greeting cards. I just take on anyone in England who makes something that looks good, is well made and has a price that will sell’.
I ask Steph if there have been any stand out designers from those she has worked with, and she names Rouge Pony who make the feather and flower headbands sold in the shop. ‘I don’t want to say she’s my favourite, because I love all the designers in the shop, but it probably would be her’ she says. ‘For me her pieces stand out and bring life to the shop’. She tells me that Rouge Pony is now stocked by Urban Outfitters, and has been featured in numerous editorial magazines, ‘she is just a superstar of a designer. She’s going up and up and up’. She also names Outpost leather goods, from whom she stocks belts, purses, bags and satchels. ‘It’s just outstanding the way Outpost’s work is made. My leather work is very rough and ready so I have a lot of time for what he does, and the prices are so good for what they are’.
I am absolutely blown away by what Steph has achieved with Watch.This.Space in just a year, and so it seems only fitting to end the interview by asking what the future holds. Steph tells me that she is going to open an art gallery in the boutique’s upstairs, while the basement currently hosts a small studio for a company called Future Videos, with whom she plans to create a boiler room. She explains that this is a ‘live streaming of DJs from all over the world, with walls covered in TV screens of all sizes. This will be more of an invite only VIP thing, somewhere where people can come to discover underground music’. When it comes to expansion, the sense of development and experimentation the art gallery and boiler room introduce is confirmed: ‘I wouldn’t want to move to the high street, the boutique would always have to be in a back alley or something. I would like to have another boutique open up, though I think I’d want to move to cities that are up and coming, because I think that’s why the shop works in Leicester. There isn’t anything like this here at the moment’. Despite these long term ambitions, and the excitement of what she has planned for the short term future of the shop, Steph insists she only makes yearly plans. She hopes to finish this year with a celebration of the boutique’s birthday on May 4. To this she invites her designers and customers to meet and greet and to revel in the success that together they have created.
Watch.This.Space is situated in St Martin’s Square in Leicester’s town centre. If you are interested in submitting work for sale in the boutique, or art for exhibition in the gallery, contact Steph on firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that all work must be hand-made, and you must reside within the UK.
Every now and then, innovation goes beyond a single stroke of genius and becomes an all-out family legacy. So goes the story for the Goodyear family, beginning with Charles Goodyear, Senoir in 1841. Though not widely recognised during his lifetime, he was the man behind vulcanised rubber. Thankfully, in one of the better post-humous comebacks we’ve heard of, he received his due credit thirty years after his death with the creation of Goodyear Tire, a company named for him despite his having no connection with the company or its founders. (Incidentally, they also have a fairly comprehensive history for him on their website.)
And yet, it is not Charles, Sr. we are here to talk about it’s his son, Charles, Jr, a man graced with the very same inventive, innovative spirit of his father before him. Long story short, he’s the Goodyear behind the Goodyear Welt process. For those of you not familiar with Goodyear Welt (or those who simply know it’s a good thing, but have no idea why), the welt is a strip of material, usually leather, that’s sewn around the bottom of the shoe to connect the inner and outer soles with the upper. Though welts had been used in the manufacturing of shoes long before Goodyear, the process was done by hand, took too long, and was usually skipped by lesser shoemakers.
Charles, Jr. patented his Goodyear Welt sewing machine in 1871, a machine that could quickly stitch together the welt, upper, and soles, without the inefficient tedium of hand-sewing. The resulting shoes are marked by an outstanding durability and quality, are waterproof and can be resoled over and over – meaning they can last you decades instead of years, when provided with a little TLC. And so, we’d like to thank Mr. Goodyear and his father before him for providing the discerning buyer with a starting point by which to judge their future footwear investments.
The Holborn continues its ‘Artisans’ campaign, a series of articles of which the aim is to highlight the efforts of skilled and inspired individuals and bring you a closer insight into their work – written in their own words. Today we introduce you to Paul Vincent, Co-Founder and maker at S.E.H Kelly (www.sehkelly.com). Based at their workshop in east London, S.E.H Kelly makes garments with the makers of the British Isles, meaning the best regional mills and factories in the country. For us at The Holborn, it is the materials that really stand out in their hand-finished, classically British garments. They are of such a standard that is sadly lacking in many ‘heritage’ inspired brands. It is in Paul’s skilled hands to which we now pass you:
Size seven and one eighth and don’t hold back on the peak! The former, my hat size and the latter my preference; the bigger the better. I only discovered Christys’ & Co not more than a week ago when I was scouring the internet about where to buy a top draw fedora. On first glance, there was the usual high street stores which sold the odd quirky bowler and an extensive selection of logo emblazoned beanies and snapbacks, many thanks to Cara Delevingne I believe. On closer inspection I discovered Christys‘: established in 1773 in White Hart Court, London, by Miller Christy who later joined forces with Joseph Storrs to manufacture a hefty number of hats for the next 240 years. From top hats, to flat caps and supplying horse riders and The Royals, Christys’ is a brand of timeless British tradition. Even though the company is based in Oxfordshire, the main stockists in London are Harrods and Liberty’s, so seeing as I have a love affair with Liberty’s architecture, I figured I’d better make a triangle with their lovely little hat collection.
Whenever I’m on a hat hunt I return home disappointed. Wherever I go, the range of styles isn’t particularly extensive and size wise, it’s either one size fits all or I hang my hatless head in shame. Thanks to Christys‘, there’s a handy hat sizing chart which provides you with all the conversions and calculations to find the perfect one. Squinting in the mirror with a tape measure round my head, my hair puffing up into a mushroom cloud, I read backwards that my I boasted an exact 22-inches, which equalled size seven and one eighth. The extra eighth for the number of times I’d told my sister how much I’d suited hats, and asking why didn’t she suit hats. No hats? No hats at all? Not even these three of mine? Maybe I have a naturally hat friendly head. God, I look good in hats. I could swear I was 21 inches before…
So in the name of research, I boarded the green and blue lines toward my destination, discovering that Liberty’s hat collection is more of a little cubby corner on the ground floor. In the centre of the small room stood a tall Christys’ hat tree, extending its branches of wool Trilbies, straw Panamas, and fur felt bowlers. The Panama straw hats were in better bloom for preparation of the spring and summer that apparently doesn’t want to come out and play this year. One in particular that clocked on to my weakness for the colour coral was the Panama Wide Brim Down Trilby which screamed Hollywood starlet, so naturally I made grabby hands for it. At £90 I could tell it must have been one of the more popular styles, but for a Christys’ traditionally handmade piece, made from genuine superfine Ecuador brisa panama straw and bound with satin ribbon I could tell that it just might be worth the extra pennies. The majority of my favourite styles that I’d seen on the Christy’s website Liberty’s didn’t have in stock, but having had a feel for the classic style and with the knowledge of the brand’s heritage, I could happily trawl online on http://www.christys-hats.com/ through the colourful array of crown-pleasers and bag one with that extra eighth of confidence.
Being a ‘hat person’, according to my nanna is none other than a myth. At present, due to the current climate she has taken to wearing a Russian-style faux fur Cossack hat which she dons to church or to the shop for an egg custard. Regardless of the fact that it’s bigger than her, she tells me that when her friends see her, they say ‘oh what a nice hat, Aud! If I wore that I’d look like a bugger’. To which she protests that they wouldn’t look a bugger if they wore one all the time. And maybe they should consider a haircut. Although I’m not completely sold on the hypothesis that if you wear one enough you‘ll get used to it, I do agree that people have stopped wearing hats as much as they used to. When discussing the extinction of headwear with my lovely northern nan, she quite simply professed that when she was a girl you weren’t properly dressed if you didn’t ‘ave your ‘at on’. I, like Aud, have been blessed with a hat head and I’ve been wearing all manner of headwear ever since I was a tot – my lucky denim sun hat still exists to this very day, mainly because it’s so small it would take the jaws of life to prize it off my skull, no Disney ride could crack that baby – tried and tested.
Hats today exist as easy fixes for a bad barnet, they provide extra coverage for a chilly day and are sometimes riddled with white rabbits. Sometimes. Wearers are always intending to cover something up rather than to wear one with a bit of panache. A real hat wearer must be confident, so a hat should make a statement. If you place your pork pie at a jaunty angle, leave it there. Refrain from keeping on taking it off, and pushing it here there and everywhere, off and on and up and down, unless you’re doing the ole bamboo. Looking back at old Hollywood movie stars, the ones who had a bit of chutzpah are all peeping from under a peak: Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca, Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Jim Carrey as The Mask– wait, what? Well, there’s no denying it. He’s smokin’!
Quite often at The Holborn we have a tendency to feature items that have just caught our eye, something that has gotten us excited over the course of a quick browse of a website or trying out such an item out the shopfloor. This is not the case with Cherchbi – a British manufacturer of fine bags, leather goods and accessories.
The Holborn’s admiration for Cherchbi is a long, brooding love affair that has developed over many years. When The Holborn’s founders took their seats at a Sun-drenched wooden table twelve miles outside Carcasonne, they spoke long into the l’occitane night of the homegrown brands that each thought exemplified The Holborn philosophy; Cherchbi was one of these. It stood to reason then, that we should get in touch.
So it came to pass that last week that I popped along Lambs Conduit Street to meet with Cherchbi’s founder, chief designer and all round nice bloke Adam Atkinson.
After out initial greeting, I asked Adam how Cherchbi came into being? Where had the idea come from? Adam tells me that it was something of a happy accident. At the age of thirty six Adam returned to Britian, after spending a number of years living abroad , working on and developing bags for some of the largest brands around – including Nike (Adam had trained in menswear at Newcastle before moving onto work in luggage).
A little tired of London, Adam settled on the natural beauty of the Lake District as the place to work freelance, and take the time to really think about his designs and priorities. It was while perusing the back pages of The Westmorland Gazette that Adam learned of a protest by local hill farmers who had taken to burning the wool of the ancient Herdwyck sheep, a breed singularly bred for meat and of whose wool was callously deemed undesirable for re-sale (prices for the wool reaches as low as ten pence a kilo).
Adam’s interest was piqued, he began to carry out research into the Herdwyck herds. The breed had nearly been wiped out during Britain’s Foot & Mouth outbreak in 2001 and what followed was a prolonged effort to restore the breed to the hills of the lakes. As Adam describes it the sheep are seen as part of the landscape and culture of the North ”heritage as an animal’ as he puts it.
Adam says of his products ”They should always reflect the landscape…to where I was (Cumbria) at the time”. It would be fair to say that the Herdwick tweed that features so predominately in Cherchbi’s collections is the anchor of the brand. Adam agrees, despite moving into full leather products, the tweed will always be a feature at Cherchbi.
Adam then shows me some swatches of the Herdwyck No. 10 tweed, it is a real feat of weaving, there are so many layers to it, subtle shades that are never quite the same, a light, white downey thread peppers the surface – a feature Adam tells me that quietly disappears with age and use. The idea of a material that ages with its owner and visually reflects its own quality and hardiness is something that really excites The Holborn about Cherchbi’s products.
Adam proceeds to tell me about the No.10 tweed itself. ”It took three years to perfect..working with different spinners and weavers… it was troublesome to work with as the machinery had to be adapted and it slowed production down”. Adam finally settled on a spinner in Kilcar, County Donegal ”The spinning process is slowed giving the yarn greater strength. This is woven into cloth in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Extra picks are added into the loom creating an unusually dense weave. The tweed is then sent to finishers in Galashiels where it undergoes a specialist ‘wash & press’ finishing. Finally at Fergusons in Lancashire, the finished wool tweed is bonded to its cotton lining with a natural rubber core”. The result is a soft, strong tweed of which the quality and durability (”firmly waterproof”) is clearly evident.
”The bags themselves are made in a twelve person workshop in Walsall, they are bench made, a method ideally suited to small scale, batch production”.
As I’m talking to Adam, I notice that he has a beautiful, full leather rucksack sitting next to him. It is an alteration on the Cherchbi’s ‘Black Sail’ model, and I tell you dear readers it is just something to behold. Adam tells me that the leather comes from the raw hide of Hereford cattle, which come from the same farm in Northern Ireland and the same gender to ensure a consistent level of quality throughout. It is then taken to J.Clayton tanneries in Derbyshire whose 180 year old pit tanning process (using natural, tree bark tannins) brings a subtle ”Old school inconsistence” to the leather. Adam passes the bag to me, it’s reassuringly weighty with a patina that many shoemakers would sell up for. The shine Adam tells me comes from retaining the natural oils that have been returned to the leather, a feature that will ensure that the leather ages with grace and grows softer over time. Cherchbi has started producing belts and they’re currently working on a range of wallets (including an intriguing watch-wallet) and accessories that will showcase their leather credentials in full.
Suddenly aware of the time I reluctantly move the conversation onwards, I ask Adam about the Cherchbi design process. Adam retains ”full design control”- the first few designs were made on his kitchen table.
After the initial sketches, mock up’s are made in Calico ”which prove the construction, shape and size of each bag…the mock-ups and corresponding specification drawings are revised until both are correct then passed to the sample and pattern maker who produces a prototype. After review and further revisions a final sample is made in the correct materials”.
I ask Adam about trends, ”you don’t just go completely on your own…(Cherchbi) takes inspiration from British creativity both old and recent”. Cherchbi does a great job of introducing new materials into its collections whilst never straying far from its utilitarian, functional design. Materials such Cherchbi’s collaboration with Tamasyn Gambell, resulting a screen printed Herdwyck No.10 which brings very individual but tasteful character to their range.
After another ten minutes in which Adam and I discuss the wider heritage scene in general (topics included Burberry, Japan, Ri-Ri zips, Eastman Leathers, Lissom & Muster, Private White VC and S.E.H Kelly) I remember that I am here to ask questions about Cherchbi and so I bring up the topic of Cherchbi’s future plans, Adam teases with reference to a Herdwyck No.10 jacket he’s had made, there is also some new materials on the way such as cotton canvas and a seasonal summer sailcloth, plus a collaboration with British tailoring legends Hardy Amies. I also sense a hope from Adam that the Herdwyck No.10 Tweed will take on a life as its own as a material to be sold wholesale, such is its outstanding quality and character that I have no doubts as to this venture.
I realise that it’s probably time for me to let Adam get on with the more important tasks of his day and so with one last, longing glance at the Blacksail rucksack a bid my farewells. Meeting Adam has, if possible increased our admiration for Cherchbi threefold. They really are a brand which should be placed on a pedestal as an example for how to go about founding a business. Adam, took his time and found the best people to make his products because he knew that his idea was a good one and that in the end – it would be worth it. Cherchbi succeeds in reflecting Adam’s transitional time in the Lakes and those hardy, ancient sheep. Cherchbi honours them with the hard work and respect that such an incredible landscape deserves. The business side of Cherchbi also represents clear leadership, quality design and a solid model for the direction of the future of homegrown, British manufacturing.
Here are just a few of the highlights currently available at Cherchbi.co.uk
Our thanks to Adam and Dan at Cube Company PR.
Come what may, Italy will always be a centre for clothing, textiles and the manufacturing thereof and it is a great one at that. The problem seems to have been that up until now is that the country seems to have been stuck in its last period of great fashion success, which was the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. However things are changing – Museum Originals (available to the UK via their online store) make very cool, American/Heritage -inspired outerwear styles which are actually better made and more functional than their US counterparts when it comes to actually taking yourself to the mountains, forests or just popping into town. The Holborn caught up with Edoardo Ambrosini, marketing manager at Museum to get to know the label a little better..
How did Museum become established? How did the company actually go about get started?
Museum was estabilished in 1986 from the idea of an Italian stylist that wanted to put under the same brand the best original outerwear brands in North America and bring them in Europe where sportswear as we know know it was not so famous and used by common people. He decide to make collaborations with brands as Woods, Mondetta, Pendelton, Canadian Sweater, Lewis Creek, Gravity ecc. We bought the brand in 2000 when the collection was almost one jacket. Now Museum has its own collection inspired by north America but with a more Italian taste.
What are the challenges Museum faced in establishing itself an independent brand?
We had first of all to get a reputation in the trade market showing that the products the customers received was in time and well done.
What kind of elements inspire the Museum design process? Tell us about your three labels (Antarctica, Rivers & Forests, Ground Field)?
We are inspired by all that is outerwear and sportswear from America to Japan but the most inspiring place are our mountains in Italy, the best in the world.
Antarctica focuses on arctic themes that attest to their utilitarian quality, warmth and performing sportswear spirit for daily living.
Fiumi e Foreste represents a passion for nature and outdoor living. The line focuses on authentic north American culture with a modern style.
Ground Field takes its origins from the study and research of military and civil uniforms. These garments have a useful and versatile urban style.
Where do you source the fabrics for your Clothing? What have been your favourite fabrics to use?
In many countries in the World especially Korea and Japan. Our best fabric and actually the most used is called “Ramar”. Ramar is a particular fabric made of 60% cotton and 40% nylon famous for its durability and quality used for historical American outdoor garments. Museum proposes a new one made of 70% cotton and 30% nylon with a foil to make it waterproof, breathable and even more resistant.
How do you ensure the quality of your product? Where are they manufactured?
Museum products are made in different countries all over the world as the technique asked for. Our suppliers are specialized in outdoor technical garments and chosen from the best in the world to guarantee the maximum durability and performance possible. All the prototype are made here in the factory to test down, fabrics, techniques…
Generally we use direct down injection for an extreme comfort. Last winter we had a jacket made with a new technique the reduces to the minimum the points of contact with the external cold.
How important do you think it is to support and maintain local production?
In my humble opinion it’s important to maintain the production in the factories that guarantee the best quality, wherever it is. Generally every nation has its own specialization in production and we don’t have to focus on one particular nation just because its local or cheap. It depends on what you have to produce!
Do you have a favourite piece from Museum? What would you wear it with?
My fav is Shorty because it’s our first model to have success in Italy, and because it’s very cool!
Why not continue on the Alpine Italian theme and pair up a Museum jacket with some Diemme Boots (handmade in One Di Fonte, Italy) ?
EA & JMN
Amongst all this cold bitter weather its hard to imagine summer will ever turn up. So as we curl up by the fire, in March, we welcome anything which reminds us of the Great British Summer. So we introduce Esther Porter Bags and the TENT SS13 Collection. All the bags in the SS13 collection are made from a combination of tent fabric , reclaimed from summer music festivals, British rubber-bonded cotton canvas for increased water resistance and durability, equestrian-grade cotton webbing in the straps for comfort, and nickel hardware for strength. Sounds pretty good. We had a chat with Esther to find out more…
Where did the idea for TENT come from?
I was at a festival one summer and was one of the last to leave, and was struck by how many tents were left. I thought they were good, strong colours and that the fabric was really good quality nylon. I made a few prototypes and liked the result.
Why bags? Where did the interest come from?
I did a bag design and pattern making course and then spent time at a specialist leather bag sampling workshop and enjoyed it so much I decided to start designing and making bags
What are the influences in the design?
I like simplicity in design and like to concentrate the design on focussing on the quality and mixture of materials. I mix nylon tent fabric with traditionally milled waxed cotton, vegetable tanned leather, solid brass hardware and cotton webbing.
What is your creative process like?
I‘m always checking out other people’s bags and jackets – I like a lot of mens outerwear and try and incorporate aspects from jackets, parkas and bomber jackets into the bags – like pockets, the colour of a zip contrasting with the other colours on the bag, the lightweight quality and substance of nylon on a parka.
What is it like seeing the finished product out there?
Really gratifying, and the cliche about all your hard work paying off is so true!!
How do you ensure a good quality finish?
I get the bags made by Chapman Bags which is a really well respected bag factory in Cumbria
What one piece has been your personal favourite?
The navy backpack which is new for SS13 – I use it all the time!
What does the future hold for TENT?
More styles are coming for AW13 – laptop and ipad cases – and I’d like to experiment with a wider mix of fabrics – I have a quilted Barbour jacket inspired bag which would mix quilted khaki tent fabric with brown corduroy accents…
And here are some of Esther’s wonderful SS13 collection:
There’s nothing quite like the British sporting spirit is there? Be it thumping a Welshman in the face on the hallowed turf of Twickenham, invading France with nothing but a willow bat or casually staging the greatest Olympics of all time. The athletic achievements of the British isles far exceeds that expected, or even required by so small and backwards a nation.
It was never enough that we invented most of the world major sports… and golf (there is some debate over rounders – Baseball, and women’s rugby – American Football) the history of British sports is such that it still, to this day centers around the practice of good sportsmanship and fair play (current Premier League football does admittedly seek to challenge this).
Following on from our recent article about twentieth century über-sportsman and fellow moustache wearer C.B.Fry, The Holborn team felt compelled to dust off the weights, oil the chains and re-lace the trainers as they prepare themselves for another year of ”… oh well, it was the taking part that counts”.
Of course, like all Holborn endeavours there’s going to be a kit bag full of desirables to give them a helping hand along the way, so here it is…
A Very Holborn Sports Kit:
I) The Gym Bag
Nothing too highbrow is required here, you simply need something large enough to fit a change of clothes, shoes and large packet of wine gums into. A classic american varsity style never dates and the old boys of Princeton, Brown and Yale tended to favour the Duffel bag:
Duffle Bag by Trainerspotter, £45
The streetwise spin off brand from Heritage Research brings it’s eye to detail and it’s love of American pop culture to it’s great range of clothes and accessories. This clean, durable design doesn’t feel the need to shout ”I do sports!” from the rooftops and could easily double up as an overnight bag.
If you’re one of those go-getter types who likes to hi-five people and run/cycle to and from the Gym, the holdall maybe be a less than mobile option, so in the rucksack department I to you present two options:
Pickwick Backpack, Brooks, £230
A fairly versatile canvas roll-top backpack whose design would complement a distance run or journey by bicycle. It is made from water-resistant cotton and leather trim. The price-tag perhaps has something to do with it being manufactured in the hills of Tuscany by Italian artisans.
Vintage Swedish Army M39 Rucksack, £34.99
Yes, you read correctly, it’s a great size, practically made with a simple, active function in mind. There’s been one knocking around in our house for years, and it simply refuses to die.
II) The Trainer
For The Holborn chap, finding a trainer is usually a case of simply finding the one that possess the least amount of gold and neon (probably some form of regulation plimsol) and then sticking with it for about twenty years. Canadian firm New Balance has been making trainers in Cumbria since 1982 thanks to the encouragement of Olympic Gold Medallist, Chris Brasher. Recently New Balance have begun to catch on amongst the East London crowd, popping up various mock-industrial fashion shoots on models pretending to be cockney’s (they also appeared briefly on a wheezing Bond in Skyfall).
Despite this however, the product is a good-looking, sturdy UK-made running shoe that will age well when properly looked after:
For the gentlemen cyclist, who prefers a more leisurely and ascetic approach to the weekly rounds, Taiwanese cycle shoe company Quoc Pham (following on from a successful collaboration with The Tweed Run event) makes a particularly distinguished range, to perhaps be matched with Brooks’s (staggeringly priced) Criterion Cycling Jacket.
The ‘Fixed’ by Quoc Pham, £110
Handmade in a carefully hand-selected vegetable-tanned leather and traditionally hand-polished to give them a deep antique cognac patina, the shoe is then finished by being rubbed with many layers of beaswax to seal.
III) The Sweats
We’ll I’m just going to come out and say it, we like a matching tracksuit, perhaps it’s our slight adherence to a uniform in all things. Perhaps it’s just because of this:
Again the 1940, 1950’s Ivy League style seems to have gotten the design/function balance right with simple Terry Loopback cotton crewnecks (we know everyone loves hoodies, but honestly a grown man in a hoodie looks a case of arrested development). However such a functional style doesn’t mean you can’t still inject a little personality – Holborn favourites Sunspel make a unique selection of ultra-durable, traditionally printed (in Nottingham) loopback sweats that work just as well dressed up with Chino’s and jeans as they do ‘blazing’ round on the track:
matching Loopback Cotton Sweatpants, both £95
IV) The Swim
The Holborn team are like moths to a flame when it comes to swimming pools, once we’re settled there’s very little that will get us away from one, we might try and swim a few lengths, a few idiotic dives – but after a while some wine is opened and the whole experience takes on a more lethargic air. To recreate this experience in your own bathtub simply open a bottle of Occitan’ red and wear..
Fiorentina Navy Bulldog Swimshort by Orlebar Brown £140
”The Bulldog” as it’s known is the perfect ‘bridge’ short, expertly tailored for style and for comfort. The shorts themselves are handmade and pieced together using traditional tailoring skills to ensure a exemplary fit. This particular edition continues Orlebar Brown’s exploration of 1960’s architecture through the geometric prints of David Hicks, so they’re supposedly educational as well as athletic?
V) The Ride
Following on from the realisation that Team GB were no less than demi-Gods at competitive cycling, it’s fair to say the UK has rediscovered its love of the bike. Some people insist on taking it far too seriously of course, spending hours discussing the finer points of frame angles and donning competitive level lycra all-in-one’s for their commute. The Holborn rider is never going to be first – he spends to much time doffing his cap at passing strangers and deliberately slowing to allow a nearby women to notice him. Once in a while however, the Holborn man leaves the city for a batch of quiet country lanes, sloping hill-roads and charmingly in-bred locals – for which they will require a solid and trusted ally.
The Pashley Guv’nor, £845.00
It is the consistent commitment, attention to detail and hand built quality that has earned Pashley its enviable position as Britain’s most exclusive cycle manufacturer. For 80 years, and riding against a rising wave of foreign imports Pashley continue to hand-build bicycles and tricycles at their factory in Stratford-upon-Avon. The cycles themselves are still lovingly welded, powder-coat painted and assembled at the factory. Based on the indomitable Path Racer model, the Guv’nor echoes the purpose and style of those classic racing bikes of the 30’s and 40’s. Just the ticket for exploring these isles, heck even the world.
VI) The Reads
Whether you’re on your way to the treadmill, on the team bus to the game or setting you oars for Henley, the inspirational sporting read can go a long way to spur on your own personal ambitious, both in sport and in life. The following four are a small selection of some of the finest and most extraordinary sports writing, a genre which is frequently written off critically, but is no less engaging for it:
Trautmann’s Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend, Catrine Clay
The incredible journey of Manchester City legend Bert Trautmann, who finished the 1956 FA Cup final despite having broken his collarbone ( his neck was visibly crooked when he received his winner’s medal). Previous to his footballing career Trautmann had been dedicated and efficient solider on the Eastern Front, who survived capture by the Soviets, British and the French Resistance. He was the only individual to posses both a OBE and an Iron Cross.
Coppi: Inside the Legend of Il Campionssimo, Herbie Sykes
This coffee table tome contains page after page of glorious and beautifully printed images from the career of Il Campionissimo, as the incomparably charismatic Fausto Coppi was known, interspersed with the testimony of the old men who were once his team-mates and rivals. The pictures are mostly black and white, of course, but nothing is more moving than the muted colour photographs of the great man’s funeral, with crowds thronging the lanes around his village in Piedmont on a sunlit winter’s day in 1960.
Playing The Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made the Nation, John Carlin
Also known as Morgan Freeman vehicle ‘Invictus’, Playing The Enemy centers on sports ability to bring together those who previously had sworn to fight the other unto death. The book captures a rare moment in South African history, that of a tentative unity under liberal values. Mandela’s attempts to understand the rules of rugby are also charmingly revealed. However it is the story of the world’s most famous prisoner adopting the sport of his oppressors that goes someway to explaining continuing Mandela’s value to South Africa and the world.
Death In the Afternoon, Ernest Hemmingway
In his ode to his beloved Bull-FIghting, Hemmingway achieves the astonishing feat of distilling the essence of sport as a personal and emotional spectacle. A great deal of the book deals with the honour surrounding sportsmen and sports and it’s diminishing role in the face of regulation and commercialisation. Hemingway leads you gently into the subject as though you were chatting while seated at a comfortable table in an outdoor cafe on a pleasant afternoon sipping Rum.
VII) C.B Fry’s Miscellaneous Sporting Extra’s
Finally here is a further selection of (semi) essential items hand picked by The Holborn to help you on your way to a staggering multi-sports victory… all without the knowing winks from Lance Armstrong.
(Click on the images to be linked)
Spring is on the horizon (hopefully) and for those in need of wardrobe contributions I’ve turned to one of my favourite London boutiques, Pipa, to provide recommendations for the season.
Although Spring often brings sunshine that doesn’t mean that it won’t get nippy. All the more reason why investing in a good quality cashmere knit is a good bet. Cashmere 360 came out with a great collection including this classic stripped ensemble with a fuchsia twist. £189.
Back to basics
When looking for a jeans investment MiH is a great independent label based in Shepherds Bush. I discovered them this year and thoroughly recommend them. This light denim pair is perfect for Spring. £160.
Tomboy meets girlie girl
Lace has been cropping up everywhere lately adding a healthy dose of femininity to every outfit. That said, if you’re not one for being overly girly, the following top – a match of khaki prints and lace, works very nicely. Perfect for Spring. £89.
Practical yet perfect
Black leggings have been on the girl basics list for years now. They go well dressed-up or down, perfect for lazing around the house or going out when coupled with heels. For those that want a pair with a twist Filippa K have ones which have a great suede effect to them. £109
I dare you
I’m a big fan of double denim at the moment. Browsing through Pipa’s store another shout out goes to MiH for this great cotton, loosely fitting in all the right places, top. £179.
Beck Sonder Guard is a brand with superb accessories. For the final touch to an outfit this silk and model scarf, so soft and with a great print, makes it an interesting piece to liven up simple attire. £89.
Written by Pascale Barget Co-founder of Twenty Something London.
Pictures by Alex Moore
Kerry Christiani reports on how quirky young Austrians and Bavarians are putting aside their skinny jeans and day-glo t shirts in favour of traditional alpine clothing.
Stroll into Salzburg’s Sudeerk, the club within Die Weisse’s brewpub when the monthly Almrausch night is in full swing, and you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve gate-crashed an Octoberfest. Gingham, breeches, bosoms and Alpine attitude are all in evidence, alongside lashings of local beer. Spend a little time here, and you’ll realise the crowd are younger and considerably cooler that you’d expect. Certainly not the oompah-loving traditionalists you’d usually find In this garb.
Let us introduce you to the latest nightlife trend among Austria’s Hipsters. Tracht – or traditionalist costume- nights are popping up in the major cities, providing a setting for twenty something’s in check shirts and lederhosen to flirt with girls in revealing dirndls and ballet pumps, all accessorised with a heavy dose of irony.
As DJ’s pump out folksy beats, and clubbers sing and dance on chairs, clapping and whooping, it’s clearly a far cry from the old style. ”My great grandmother wouldn’t have approved of girls wearing leaderhosen hotpants with trainers and showing off so much flesh in their dirndls, but times have changed.” Laughs Salzburger Anja Schneiider. ‘’We create our own unique style. Trachten today can be cool. ‘’
‘’Its definatly back on trend again’’ says Die Weisse manager Peter Huber who organises Almrausch ‘’Dressing up makes people feel and act differently – there’s a cheeky element to it. Salzburgers like to personalise their outfits: teamed dirndls with bright trainers or lederhosen with a pair of totally crazy socks.” ”Neck lines have lunged and hemlines have risen’’ says Sara Sengthaler of clothing store Trachten Forstenlechner. ‘’Women might match a t-shirt emblazoned with motifs like leaping stags or with shorts or a pair of lederhosen. Pretty much anything goes. But there is an emphasis on heritage and quality. A pair of leather lederhosen can cost €1,000, but they’ll last a lifetime. ’’
Over the border in Munich, it’s much the same. Ask young Munichners and they’ll tell you that Trachten are all the rage – and not just after six steins at Oktoberfest. Find them at events like the oompah fuelled Lowenbraukeller Nacht der Tracht in mid April or club nights such as Almrausch at P1.
Designers too, have tapped into this Zeitgeist, with recent collections for ladies displaying a penchant for neon colours, beadwork, embroidery, halterneck dirndls and feathered Bavarian hats. Men are sprucing up their ledehosen with multi-coloured check shirts, neckerchiefs, chunky loafers and silk and velvet waistcoats with elaborate patterns.
Shops like Angermaier and Lodenfrey are always abreast of the trends, stocking an enticing array of Tracht. At Stoffwandel Marion Schmidt revams vintage dirndls with eye catching details like polka dot pinafores and lime green lace. For those on a tighter budget there’s Weis’n Tracht & Mehr (editors note – one of the funniest websites you will ever see) where sassy dirndls go for €50 and lederhosen start at €200.
Will they be coming to a high street near you? Probably not. But if you ever wanted to unleash your inner Hans or Heidi on the dance floor, you know where to go.
Most people have in their wardrobe a prized item of vintage clothing, of which they are deeply fond. This item was probably found in some second-hand ’boutique’ hidden between ugly jumpers and lumpy suits, a specific piece that touched a nerve with its unique charm and bargain price tag.
But beyond finding that one-off at a good price, how much would you be willing to pay?
The term vintage has become a loaded term and though it has no timescale, what can be classified as vintage and what left resolutely to the undesirable tag of second hand?
Some people think the term applies to pre 1940’s, others till the end of the 60‘s and after that, most agree it all started to go a bit wrong. It became cheaper and easier to mass- produce clothing via machinery and wage saving labour, clothing became cheaper and no longer seen as an investment and meant to last a life time, because you’re already being told it only had to last till next season.
People who look for vintage all agree on one thing, vintage clothing is better made and finished to a high standard. Which is true, higher quality fabrics and trimmings were used, more personal methods of production and service were used because that was all that was available and what people wanted. The clothing was made to last, in some cases because it had to but others wanted the cache of design and quality with their branding as a stamp of excellence, with the view anything that would fall apart would be bad for business as it had their name on it.
In the late 1950’s Levis removed the phrase “EVERY GARMENT GUARANTEED” from it’s label, which was already being produced out of paper as opposed to leather, for me this is a good indicator of how the quality of production was changing, and the consumers’ views towards it.
In 1954 American Industrial designer Brooks Stevens delivered an interesting lecture about ‘planned obsolescence’ this was the idea that you would make something that would relatively quickly become outmoded, obsolete or just simply break. This is blatantly obvious today in technology and fashion. The need to be current out weighed the rationality for quality.
I headed to Spitalfields Market to speak to Dave who runs Ragtop Vintage which specialises in classic Americana, for him it has been a life long passion, he grew up ‘immersed in American culture’ his parents, children of the Second World War, saw the U.S as having the best future that could be offered, be it culture, clothing and consumables, an escape from the exhausted, austere world of post war Britain which surrounded them. Growing up, he couldn’t find what he wanted to wear on the high street, but certainly could in ‘vintage’ as do his customers today, and all have the same passion or as Dave described it ” It’s a bug, you’ve either got it or you haven’t ’’.
For those who do, vintage clothing transcends merely being something to wear, simply a jacket, or pair of shoes. The item will have a story to tell; not so much about you at first, but about itself: through wear and construction, where it came from, the possibilities of it’s history and the intricacies of it’s detail, because it is individual. By purchasing it you will add to and continue it’s unique history.
Paul, who owns the Urban Gentry stall at Spitalfields market and deals in ‘Clothing For The Gentry’ he has the view; ‘‘ I don’t go for, “let me see if I can find this” and then find 20 of them, that’s not the point, I’m happy to find the one, something that’s not maybe a one off, but is certainly unusual’ which makes sense, if he did have 20 of the same jacket or suit, then they lose their individuality which probably charmed you in the first place.
Paul subscribes to the ideology that older is usually better, ‘Fabric quality and old high-street for example; lets take Dunn & co, or Burtons, their standard off the peg is still better quality than a very high end designer now’’. If you did want the same quality you would be looking towards bespoke for that level of fabric quality, which is out of the question for the majority of customers.
Paul only buys items he likes and passes them on, his customers, like many vintage enthusiasts, are savvy, headstrong and know what they like, with a understanding that quality is timeless.
This idea does seem to be making a comeback with brands such as Levis running labels such as Levis Vintage Clothing (LVC) alongside it’s main brand producing reproductions of it’s own vintage back catalogue, made in the same way as it would have been back in the day, (with leather tag and guarantee) but with a heftier price. Buzz Ricksons, and Real MCcoy’s are two brands that operate heavily in the Japanese market specialising in reproducing vintage work wear and militaria to an incredibly high standard, again made as it would have been, on old shuttle looms, and reproducing fabrics and even rubbers, which have been lost or defunct over the years. And closer to home younger companies like Albam, Heritage Research and Universal Works emphasising the quality of their chosen fabric, and are trying to bring manufacturing back to England.
All of these companies owe a lot if not everything to vintage, I asked Dave what he thought of these companies and their attention to detail and care in sourcing the materials and fabrics for their high end reproductions, and the more home grown companies offering in the same vein and what effect they all have on the vintage market?
‘‘I would like to think that people will become more ethical consumers, and could see the point of spending £400 on a good winter coat, and rather than think it’s out of fashion the next winter they will just keep wearing it, but most people won’t spend 25 quid on a bloody t-shirt’’ and as for repro heritage brands? ‘’I’ve come to the conclusion that to just reproduce is pointless, all they’re doing is creating fake vintage, and why spend £600 on a copy when you can get a perfectly good original for half the price. The whole Heritage work-wear is kind of a double edge thing really, ‘cause now you can go to pretty much anywhere, from Gap or All Saints and buy stuff inspired by vintage work-wear and in a way it sort of kills the market, you could only get that stuff second hand at one point, and now you can get a version of it new, and a lot of people would prefer to have it new… but vintage is still authentic, it’s real’’.
Vintage runs the gauntlet between modern fashion, reproductions and being seen as old and ugly, now it is easier to find vintage inspired at reasonable prices, so you don’t have to buy used. But with true vintage there is still magic in the quest – the hunt and surprise discovery, unlimited uniqueness of what it can offer but probably most importantly it’s history, it speaks of times we see as being easier, full of more worth and higher values, of an age where evolution technology in industry was tangible and changed the way the world worked, becoming more and more the world of relative luxury we have today, where the majority of jobs where physical and office work in the minority. I asked Dave if people would look back on our recent history and call that vintage (which inevitable they will) his response was, “They might do, but I doubt they’ll find much inspiring there”
The market for vintage will remain, trickling through the mainstream, relying on nostalgia and as a partial antidote to the somewhat fickle, short attention spans of the modern day consumers. ‘True vintage’ has started to take on the quality of a rare commodity, slowly depleting and rising in value, and price at some point it will be left to collectors and cultural historians. Will we the interested buyer who looking for quality in their style, for sake of ease and personal finance start to change our habits and look less far into our past? But will we, or indeed our grandchildren look at a Topman jumper with the same adoration and think, ‘I love vintage stuff!’
Paul’s view on his stance as a vintage vendor is, ‘We’re not here to necessarily invent something, but we are here to add our twist on it, not stuck anywhere in the past, we are living in this day, why not draw from everything’’.
Both Paul and Dave can be found at Spitafields market every Thursday, if you’re not familiar with it already, pop along and shop around, see if ‘the bug’ bites.
Continuing our line of style Q&A’s The Holborn has, as ever endeavored to introduce you to the visionaries, designers and craftsmen who make some of the world’s finest garments. It’s fair to say that since our visit to Brooklyn last September The Holborn team has grown a bit of a soft spot for the place, perhaps because across the Williamsberg Brooklyn seems to have been shielded from the full-scale gentrification on Manhattan island and something of that famed ‘melting pot’ of rich cultures continues to thrive within an innovative and creative community.
The Brooklyn Circus, founded by the sartorially enigmatic Ouigi Theodore, a former graphic designer by trade seeks to ”strengthen consumers’ appreciation for classic aesthetics and antique motifs whilst upholding the pillars of modern design”. The Brooklyn Circus’s (the ‘Circus’ refers to the team of creative individuals and relationships fostered by the brand) attention to detail in its garments is truly extraordinary, even within the heritage clothing industry. In their own words; ”every cuff of trouser, roll of the sleeves, and peaking pocket square is connected to a greater story, as they’ve (BKc’s designers) succeeded at tailoring not only cloth and fabric, but lifestyles”. Modern American history, classic prep, black culture and Eighties sportswear are clear influences on the intelligent, attractive designs.
Here are some of our favourites, currently available via the BKc website:
(Click on the image to be linked)
I caught up with Mr Theodore himself to learn a little more about the brand, here is what he had to say:
Everything has to start somewhere, so how did The Brooklyn Circus get started?
We began our journey in 2006. We felt it was necessary and that there was a void in the fashion market. As individuals we wanted to create a product that was similar to all of us.
What were the first garments you ever made?
T-shirts, Candles, and the Varsity Jacket.
What gets you out of bed everyday, what keeps your passion alive?
The love of the business. I love every minute of my business.
What kind of elements inspire you during your design process?
I am always designing; a lot of history inspires the Brooklyn Circus line. A lot of vintage also inspires our creations for the newer Brooklyn Circus lines.
Where did the strong Ivy League/Varsity feel come from?
It comes from education, which was a central part of my upbringing. A lot of the women in my family were well educated which was passed a long to me. A fashion inspiration is Ralph Lauren, which is one of the first fashion brands that I began to collect.
Where do you source the fabrics for your clothing? What have been your favourite fabrics to use?
Everywhere – Japan and the USA for the most part. We do use some English fabrics for our tweeds.
Favorite fabrics: There are fabrics that we continue to use more often. Tweed we use heavily in our fall collections.
What’s coming up in 2013 for The Brooklyn Circus?
Lots of exciting things! Every year we grow and expand on the projects that we have done in the past.
Do you have a personal favourite piece from The Brooklyn Circus? What would you wear it with?
I cannot choose! I love all of my pieces, they are like my babies. Every piece is designed with a purpose.
OT & JMN (with thanks to Rakia & Jade)
With any fashion tips article, lets face it, it would be easy enough to look at respective magazines and regurgitate what’s hot and not, what’s in season and out. Over the last month fashion weeks have come and gone while big industry announcements, including Wang’s move to Balenciaga have been announced and speculated upon. In the meantime, the rest of us are left attempting to combine the fashion world with our real lives; how to get up and dressed in a half decent fashionable manner while in the midst of a pre-work rush and how best to re-invent our tired looking wardrobes on recessionary budgets while trying to look in the mirror and not feel like a grumpy old bag.
In light of the latter I’ve collected some tips to stand the test of time. Whether you read this today, tomorrow or in ten years time (fingers-crossed) not-too-dissinterested gaze can look upon them with confidence.
Who am I?
Rather than thinking what’s in or out of fashion it’s even more important is to find your own style – something unique to everyone that can often be guided with the help of role models. Whether it’s Beyonce, Lady GaGa, Audrey Hepburn or a mix of all three, finding your own taste is much more useful than keeping up with the latest trends.
Big result, small effort = red lippy
Make up can do wonders. For those that have the time in the mornings to ‘put their face on’ kudos to them however for the majority, myself included, make-up time is usually limited to a 10 minute pre-outing rush. This means beauty regime and speed go hand in hand making red lipstick (by far) top of the list. By Terry available at SpaceNK is a fantastic brand. Yes pricey at £31 a pop but boy does it last – having used it incessantly for the past year with it still going strong, provided you don’t lose it, it’s a product purchase everyone should vouch for. It’s the one thing that takes a few seconds to put on and makes you look as if you’ve spent ages in the mirror. To those who think they can’t pull it off, think again. It’s simply a case of getting used to your ‘new’ look and trust me, once you start, there’s no going back.
Shoes glorious shoes
I have a shoe fettish and think everyone should have one too. Heels to be more precise and comfortable ones at that. They are one accessory that can completely change an outfit. Take the simple and particular favourite white t-shirt and jeans. With a pair of sneakers, pretty standard. With a pair of heels you’ve immediately turned your outfit into a classy and timeless affair. Not to mention your legs look half the size and better still, you’ll never have to worry about not fitting into your shoes.
Investment pieces are always needed. Some may call them frivolous splurges but I beg to differ. For those who live in dubious weather climates such as the UK, needless to say you will need a good winter coat – an obvious investment. For one that will last around five years think of the following check list: practical – to dress up down, stylish – to ensure your fashion statement doesn’t look outdated after a year, and good quality – for something that is meant to withstand all weather conditions you shouldn’t be skimping on the latter.
Mix and match all over the shop
New and old, expensive and cheap and all part of what brings great outfits together. This coupled with the idea that less is always more is key to fashion. Try pin pointing your favourite independent shops, casting an eagle eye over their collections, and sit and wait until the sales. If you go with the philosophy ‘if it’s still there in the sale it’s meant to be mine’ you’ll end up with a piece you love without breaking the bank, one that others won’t have, and in true Twenty Something London style, you’ll be supporting independent business. My personal favourites are Pipa in Warwick Avenue for clothes and Spice in Primrose Hill and Angel for shoes.
Written by Pascale Barget Co-founder of Twenty Something London.
Spring has arrived – apparently. As I look out my window I was half expecting to see a Richard Curtis-esque vision of London bathed in light and new life, our old Albion re-born – as it stands purposeless drizzle continues to sodden the heads of the capital’s honest Tom’s. Spring is a tricky one to predict in Britain, in recent years temperatures have soared up to 22 degrees celsius (I know!) and occasionally, very occasionally the Sun has seen it fit to rise. On the whole however, grey clouds seems to be the dish of the day, today for instance the weather seems straight out of a Cormac McCarthey novel.
I would love to be able to report that you can hang up your winter coats, fold away your scarves and shed a small tear for the Christmas Fairisles. The forecasts ahead are still unsure (still put away the Fairisles, we all have to grow up eventually) but there is one thing you can be sure of, friends come and go but it will always rain.
I noticed heading into work the other day it started to both rise in temperature and rain heavily at the the same time. I couldn’t help but realise that the combination of my wool coat and (also wool) suit just felt excessively warm, not entirely dry and frankly looking a little out of place.
The trick for the coming months then, is to stay dry, be cool and keep up appearances. A challenge no?
So it is that The Holborn has assembled for you a few choices concerning men’s Spring Rainwear with an emphasis on keeping you one step ahead of that ever changing weather variable.
Here’s our choices:
Inspired by the 1940s French workwear, the French Linen Work Jacket is made of waxed cotton/nylon fabric that provides a durable water resistance. Apolis wanted to use a tried and tested classic work style with a functional history and fabricate it in a useful water resistant fabric for more versatility. Looks surprisingly good with a crisp Oxford shirt and knitted tie worn underneath. For more on Apolis see our article here.
A more casual example for you, reminiscent of British and Scandinavian nautical jackets from yesteryear, Northsea Industries have put together thisbrightly coloured example cut from closely woven cotton canvas which is then washed to further tighten the weave of the cloth. The washing process further individualises the garment, and increases wind and rain resistance. Great for Sunday walks in the hills or along the beach.
With the use of Sweden’s finest craftsmanship, materials and details, Stutterheim guarantees us that The Stockholm has in fact, undergone severe testing in horrible conditions both on land and sea, and notes that each coat is “individually controlled by a skillful seamstress”. Stutterheim best describes his collection as ‘Swedish melancholy at its driest’. No Gore-Tex included, no Velcro attached and no straps to fiddle with. The Stockholm raincoat is plain, simple and understatedly stylish with its clean, double-welded seams in the best quality rubberized thick cotton fabric. For more on Stutterheim, see our article here
For the Barbour To Ki To Blast Jacket, design maestro Tokihito Yoshida has merged the short and snappy stylings of a Harrington jacket with Barbour’s trademark waxed cotton. With it’s short fit and angled pockets (originally designed for storing golf-balls don’t you know), this has all the trademarks of the majestic Harrington, and thanks to that Sylkoil waxed cotton it’s perfect for a quick round of crazy golf in the rain.
V) Mackintosh Monkton Trench Coat, £695.00
Yes, this is the real investment piece ( – still £600 less than a Burberry Porsum Trench), the smart man’s option. I fully admit to softening you up with the others.
Whatever Mackintosh’s expansionist intentions, traditionalists will be glad to learn that the handmade manufacturing process remains resolutely Scottish. True, the cloth comes from Switzerland, the rubber from Indonesia and the two are vulcanised together in an oven in Manchester. But once the pieces arrive in Lanarkshire, they are seen through from start to finish by a highly trained workforce of 56.
The Coat-makers at Mackintosh spend three years in training, including several weeks just smearing the rubber in a straight line on a practice piece of cloth. Unlike designer powerhouse Burberry and the now defunct Aquascutum, Mackintosh has kept its production line distinctly uncluttered – still just making a range of fifteen coats (Burberry would make checkered kitchen sinks if they thought they could sell them – see their latest £1,895 abomination here). This policy of doing one thing well sits well by us at The Holborn and the strength of Mackintosh’s sales in Japan – where traditional quality is rightly venerated, hints at a very promising product indeed. Be warned though, this particular model is a tough one to find online. Wear with just about anything, it always looks great.
Of course to complete your rainproof Spring outfit, every aspiring Englishman and his Dog needs an Umbrella. This gives you an excellent excuse to visit James Smith & Sons beautiful artisan Umbrella store on the corner of New Oxford Street, London.
Inside, Smith sells every conceivable type of man and woman’s umbrella and parasol, as well as made-to-measure walking sticks (fitted while you wait). Given the heritage of the brand, some prices are pleasingly affordable – walking sticks are cut to length from £30. Many are assembled in the workshop on site, their carefully crafted parts ordered and sent from specialists across Europe. We refer you without hesitation to the ‘Classic City Umbrella’, topped with intricately wrought handles and bearing engraved silver collars. Just brilliant, worth a visit to the store alone.
Stay dry chaps.
UK-based Heritage Research makes garments with a clear respect for the past coupled with a contemporary sensibility, the goal being to create classic, well crafted clothing. The result are collections with character, warmth and endearing imperfection. All of the fabrics Heritage Research uses are specifically woven for them, either in the UK or Japan using traditional methods and looms and all the garments are handmade in England under one roof by skilled craftsmen and women. There is no formal production line, the emphasis is placed squarely on quality not quantity. With this in mind that The Holborn had a pleasant, extended chat with Creative Director Russ Gater:
So how did HR get started? How did you actually go about getting the company up and running?
It started out as an ongoing project essentially fuelled by our interest in historical and military garments and their application in contemporary style. I’m the type of consumer that requires context within the things I buy so we decided to create a brand where every piece directly references a garment from the past but isn’t necessarily an exact copy.
It was initially a side project, we found a small studio run by ex-Savile Row tailor Paul Hubbard and worked with him on developing a capsule collection. We initially sold to a few handpicked accounts in Japan but at the time the market was shifting in the UK and Europe and we started to get a lot of enquiries, so approached some key UK stores and it took off. After a while the demand became such we had to move to a larger production base that we hoped had the same skill and knowledge.
What kind of elements inspire you during your design process?
Our influences can come from anywhere, at the moment I’d say USMC WWII and Vietnam era military clothing, the photography of Tim Page and Ron Stoner, American Civil War uniforms, Dennis Wilson, Californian motorcycles clubs of the 1940s, Will Oldham, John Ford’s The Searchers, John Steinbeck, 1940’s Aloha shirts, Flight Jacket art.
Where do you source the fabrics for your clothing? What have been your favourite fabrics to use?
We’re actually sourcing most of our fabrics and cloth from Japan now, the mills over here just can’t compete with the quality and variety. Also, the Japanese bought most of the original narrow looms from the UK and the US in the 80s and 90s so they can do things we just can’t do anymore. The UK essentially sold off its manufacturing heritage and is only just realizing the mistake.
For Spring/Summer 2012 we used a lot Japanese narrow loom layered patchwork hand embellished cottons which were beautiful, these are possibly my favourite fabrics alongside some of the hickory denims also from Japan.
How do you ensure the quality of your product? Where are they manufactured?
Both pertinent questions at the moment as we’ve recently had to change manufacturer due to their inability to produce garments to our required standard of quality. I won’t name names but they’re based in Lancashire and are making quite a bad name for themselves in the industry at the moment for this reason. Just because a factories been in business for a 100 years doesn’t necessarily mean their product is any good nowadays, something we’ve learned the hard way.
We’ve now looked to Japan, arguably the last bastion of real craft left. The attention to detail when working with the Japanese is second to none and their skill base and knowledge of traditional methods and fabrics is actually more apparent than in the UK, they seem to have valued and nurtured knowledge.
What kind production techniques go into making one of your garments?
We use a number of older processes of making clothing that don’t generally exist anymore in an age of production lines of machinists, conveyor belts and laser pattern cutting. A lot of these techniques have their origins in 19th century English tailoring. All of the HR patterns for each style are bespoke cut by hand allowing for subtle adaptations as the garment is developed, we want to ensure the garments are ‘crafted’ rather than ‘produced’ as each team member is physically connected to each individual piece in the way that a traditional tailor works by hand and is connected to everything he makes. Hand stitching is used on elements of each piece such as the bluff pocket on the Artillery Jacket which features an old tailoring method where the stitch is invisible, hand folded seams, authentic shank cuffs, elements you would usually only find on a bespoke garment. Our processes use only the simplest machinery to ensure the garments retain the feel of a bespoke piece and not the homogeneous output of a large factory. We like the fact that each piece is slightly different and not every stitched seam is exact to the mm.
How important do you think it is to support and maintain local production?
Its important as long as the local production base is skilled and competent. We made it our mission to produce a true made in England garment using English fabrics but I have to say failed in some respects. That’s not too say that all UK produced garments are bad, not at all, they’re still very good comparative to most worldwide production however compared to the quality of a brand like John Lofgren from Japan then I believe the UK doesn’t have the ability to meet this standard with the exception of someone like Eastman Leather Clothing who make exacting replicas and are the World leaders in that area.
Is the ‘Made in Britain’ brand a guarantee of quality?
No! Definitely not. There’s a lot of factories out there latching onto this made in Britain trend who genuinely don’t have the abilities or understanding to produce quality clothing, see question 4! If you visit any East London industrial estate you’ll find a sewing factory which is essentially making garments in England, the quality though is open to debate however I’d say some of these are preferable to a lot of the factories in the North of England currently selling themselves as something they’re not. The reality is that most of the best UK made garments are done so in 1970s industrial buildings on London or Birmingham trade estates not in 150 year old aesthetically pleasing buildings in the North.
That said, it is site specific, there are still some beautiful British made products out there, Eastman and Tender are both great examples. You just have to know the right production bases or do it yourself as Gary Eastman has done.
Tell us about your other brand Trainerspotter, what are the ideas behind it?
Trainerspotter is really a vehicle for our interests in American popular culture. A lot of what we do is drawn from a love of art (Haring, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Basquiat, Koons), television (specifically Michael Manns original Miami Vice series where he enforced a specific colour palette and styling for each episode) and sneaker culture (alongside military, denim and workwear we also collect 1970’s Nike sneakers, apparel and advertising).
Some of our design from Heritage Research definitely spills over into Trainerspotter which creates a kind of post modern garment in a way, real street style I suppose, form over function! The collections are fun but also subversive to a certain extent while remaining wearable. As fashion should be!
Do you have a personal favourite piece from HR? What would you wear it with?
I think the Eastman x Heritage Research USN G-1 flight jacket is my favourite, a beautiful handmade garment that will always be in style and will last for years. A true piece of craftsmanship. I’d wear with a vintage 50s sweatshirt, a pair of Lofgren work pants and Lone Wolf Lineman boots.
RG & JMN
Becci Sharkey is an interior and graphic designer, TV presenter, and director of design studio Blackbird Design Studio. Graduating from the prestigious Glasgow School of Art in 2007 in Visual Communication, she went on to work for some of the North West’s top design agencies before starting her own studio with design partner Natalie Perry. Specialising in cutting edge and innovative design she has worked on a wide range of projects from creative pop-up bars and events, to high end private homes.
Becci is also a presenter and designer for CBBC’s new show ‘I Want My Own Room’ a show where she creates dream spaces for children by transforming their homes. Using her creativity and design skills she has transformed bedrooms into cinemas, and campsites and even created an office, complete with secret revolving doors, from scratch in a garden space. She also presents elements of design background and history, as well as demonstrating ways families can up-cycle their existing furniture.We sat down with Becci to talk about her life as a designer and to hear about her most recent enterprise; clothing brand Halvo Shores.
Why is it that you do what it is you do?
If you don’t like something, do something about it, and there are so many things I know how to improve be it interiors, branding or fashion. Luckily I’ve been able to work in all those areas on some great projects such as a BBC show or my own fashion brand, it’s the variety that’s kept me interested in what I do. You have to have a real passion for design and a thick skin to work in this industry as there’s so many years of being under appreciated over worked and vastly underpaid, if I didn’t love it I’d have given up a long time ago.
Having grown up in a household full of driven scientists I’ve an insatiable need to prove the worthiness of working in the field of design. Comparing my successes of a recent branding project to my sisters discovery of the existence of the polarization vision in dragon flies is always a tough one, or that of my other sister performing her first triple heart bypass is hard to do so I have to keep striving to achieve a notable success.
It’s the small successes that make me happy and the large ones that make me work harder, to create a beautiful hand printing new t-shirt makes me happy, to sell out in one week makes me work harder on the next line. Being a female in the graphics industry also drives me to do what I do, with fewer and fewer women in the field (lead by an over indulgence in men that talk coding) I feel to represent women in design is as important as the projects I do, to encourage more women to take on leading roles in design is essential for the future of the industry.
What inspired you to become a designer?
The appeal of working in design is the variety of projects and never working on the same thing twice, the inspiration comes from the process itself. The creative side of me loves that fashions are constantly evolving and creating something totally new, and the adrenaline loving part of me is driven by tight deadlines and having to sell an idea almost wanting to do the impossible to see if I can. When I started studying design at Glasgow Art School I had no idea what I was getting into, I was in love with Robert Rauschenberg’s work and had an interest in typography but the people I studied with seemed to be fixated with graphic designers past, present and future as area of expertise. However on discovering knowing about other people’s graphic design work does not equate to being a good designer, I evolved an important basis of concept based designing. Taking each project down to its basic elements of why, how and what for, you can create a problem which then can be solved using any method, idea of inspiration from a source. Inspiration is important but a framework to work within channels ideas into beautiful solutions.
What are your influences?
I’m influenced by many things, and I think living in Salford particularly shapes many aspects of my life and work. Living in an area that contains the UKs most deprived estates but also some of the most interesting people I’ve met really puts life in perspective. Having grown up in Liverpool and studied in Glasgow I wanted to break from the usual progression of going down to work in London and opted for Manchester instead, having spent a lot of my spare student time in Berlin and documenting the street art scene, I’m a fan of an underdog city with a history one that the media bashes but is full of friendliness and warmth. Importantly being much cheaper to live in Salford it’s allowed me to take bigger risks such as start my own company, try things and not be afraid to fail and importantly be influenced by the Northern attitude – which is to never give up.
I’m a big fan of collecting; furniture from flea markets, real Salford flea markets the ones you have to put your game face on for and keep your cash close; Otl Aicher’s design work for the Munich Olympics (I’ve a great collection of the matchboxes); and most importantly modern art – I felt like it’s a better investment than putting my money in the bank, and looks much prettier than a bank statement. I’ve a few big pieces by Peter Blake, I can’t help wanting everything he makes as he’s the master in reflecting the current trends in modern life, especially the new London series.
The design community can get very self indulgent, its important to have a good design style and be knowledgeable about current trends but pushing an idea or a product into a client just because you like it and not because the brief says so impacts negatively on designers as professionals. The more designers design for themselves and not for their audience or client the less credibility the industry has. for example working for CBBC as an in screen designer led to all sorts of things I never thought I’d design, building a tent in a child’s bedroom instead of a bed, to building revolving bookcases – your skill as a designer is to fulfill the brief it in better ways than the client can imagine it themselves.
The inspiration behind Halvø Shores evolved from a shared love of Scandinavian ethos and style as well as a similar childhood growing up by the beach in Liverpool we felt a connection between their colour palate and fashion inspiration as our. After long days bouncing ideas off each other with my, now business partner and well known blogger, friend Lei Mai teamed up and a big shove from my very supportive architect partner Phill (who I suspect just wanted free clothes). People always comment we’re an unlikely pairing, Lei with her beautiful tattoos, amazing street style and half thai heritage and me, blonde with my love Scandinavian but feminine clothes and cheery tv presenting persona and a passion for baking. I’d always wanted to use my print and design skills for fashion but needed the push to make it a reality with someone who knows the industry inside out. I do think without those friends and peers to inspire me I wouldn’t be doing it at all.
Describe your personal feeling involved in creating your products.
Every piece of design work is personal, you’re putting yourself out there to be judged but if you don’t take risks your work becomes safe and fades into the mass of design work out there. With Halvø Shores we created the design by stripping it right back to the essence of what we wanted to put across. For example with the latest collection we wanted to capture the Scandinavian summer so took it right back to five colour tones that epitomized the feeling of the seaside, the fresh outdoors but the raw outdoors of the Jutland coast, them we built these up using cot, fabric and graphical elements to create the collection. Following my gut feeling more and quicker decisions allows me to get the idea into reality and cut down on procrastinating and worrying, keeping the ideas pure and current.
What are your own principles in relation to design and production?
I have really strong principles of design and production, there is so much work out there that wastes valuable resources be it reams paper items when an e-version could be made, or packaging that has triple layers of plastic for no fees able reason. It was really important for us to have as many products fair trade and created using fair pay and education schemes, as well as utilizing our sources locally using independent print studios and young designers to assist with the process. I believe that if we are always aiming for fair trade and paid products and environmentally friendly and sustainable items other companies will follow suit, it’s up to the consumer to choose what to buy but if we make all out items as environmentally sound as we can and keep the costs low we are making the choice much easier for the customer.
Even our packaging is carefully considered, we use recycled tissue to wrap our clothes in followed by recycled brown paper and not glues or tapes just recycled garden twine, which then goes in a biodegradable courier bag out to our customers, we don’t make a sound and dance about doing it we just think its our responsibility to make sure we do our bit and don’t add to the inconceivably huge about of plastics out there.
What do you think of the industry at the moment?
As they say ‘its a great time to be alive’. The design industry has taken a huge leap forwards over the last ten years with regards to creativity. When I started at art school ten years ago they had four iMacs between the department and we couldn’t afford to use the printer for the first few years meaning everything was pretty much hand rendered and our design inspiration was found in the library or on the streets if Glasgow.
I remember working on a persona project where I went round at night fly posting the main bus routes with questions for commenters to ponder to create some sort of internalized therapy process. I used Socratic questions at internals on the route to develop their thoughts into therapy such as ‘what did you do well today’ and ‘how did that make you feel’. The failure in the project was a lack of being about to see the results, find out if anyone saw the posters, or if they impacted on anyone’s day. If I’d had done the project today there’d be a hash tag to look up to follow the debate, a website to talk to others and consider the questions. Many people dismiss new social networks as simply fads but their power to connect people both in the design communities and the wider world on both visual and discussion levels is unparalleled.
We promoted Halvø Shores purely on social media, we gave ourselves 8 weeks from idea though to selling and using tumblr and twitter allowed us to promote ourselves quickly and gather orders from all over the world within days of launching.
I strongly believe ideas are far more powerful than any design treatment, process or software package, having a strong concept is the only essential part to a design. Once you’ve created this solid foundation the opportunities for collaboration, exposure and success are endless.
‘Hang on’ I hear you cry, ‘what’s going on at The Holborn? Jet-Setting? Those chaps are getting above their station – back to dimly lit alleys of Chancery Lane with you!”. Well quite, couldn’t agree more. Such are the prolonged stresses of modern Aeronautics that The Holborn team will always much prefer to take a long, leisurely train journey or adopt the role of a stowaway in the hull of an Eighteenth Century Dhow across the Indian Ocean. Sometimes however our delusions will only stretch so far, and at like every Englishman with dreams of lovemaking on foreign soil we shall find ourselves trapped in the bowels of the ever-hateful Heathrow Airport, cursing the day the Wright brothers rode that cardboard bat of theirs over the Carolina countryside.
It’s not that we fear flying at The Holborn, it is all the ‘administration’ which now surrounds it that bothers us. Sandwich bags for your personals, a child’s drink coldly being emptied in front of them, a hearty grope from the ever friendly security personnel (if you possess even a slight tan one should be prepared to answer quick fire questions on The Republic Of Yemen). The excitement of traveling is damned near sucked out of everyone by the time they reach departures, a muttering, exasperated herd left staring vacantly into their stale Upper Crust baguettes.
But what’s this? Over by Duty Free? A person of some importance? Casual blazer on, coloured chinos prepped over suede loafers looking as if he hasn’t a care in the world. No it’s not a young conservative on tour (they’re rarely carefree and always travel in packs) It is a Holborn reader and they might just have this modern flying lark pretty much sussed…
Here’s how The Holborn goes about it:
I) Organise your flight in advance
If possible book your seat some time in advance (it’s cheaper of course) window seats are always nice (though there’s always the git who books the window seat and slams down the blind as soon as he gets on board) Row A is the only certain denomination for Window seats across the airlines. If your airline offers it check in online too, it just makes sense. You’ll be amazed how many people – usually the more mature members of our community who still don’t do this. Electronic check-in terminals are great as they save you the needless task of queuing with the buggy brigade to get your online print off scanned by a heavily bronzed and oddly clueless airline official. But do check ahead to see if your airline and indeed the airport offer this service.
II) Pack lightly and intelligently
Obvious no? Ok then how many times have you seen people (or even yourself) on the floor of the airport desperately pouring over their possessions (which usually include a hairdryer, several books, numerous full sized bottles of cosmetics and half a kilo of slogan t-shirts)? Do these individuals ever look calm and happy? Truth is that unless you’re traveling with children you really don’t need to take that much with you on holiday. Thanks to free market economics most day to day goods are available internationally. Any hotel worth their salt possess items such as travel adapters, hairdryers and shaving kits for your convienece. So simply pack what you feel to be essential.
I personally hate suitcases, I think they’re a bloody nuisance. There’s the weight issue, additional costs, and the mind-numbing carousel game at the other end. Not to mention all those cretins who insist on putting their flight paperwork inside them. If it’s possible just take a carry on bag, it’s ten times quicker and everything you need is to hand for the entirety of the journey, you just feel freed up. Don’t bother with liquids, it just isn’t worth the fuss, seeing the line of people rummaging through their handbags at last minute still perplexes me.
Perhaps put aside a bit of cash to purchase essentials (suntan lotion, Hendricks Gin) in duty free as there tends to be more travel sized/ hand luggage friendly options available. And for goodness sake don’t pack matches, scissors, Caesium or Aymen Al-Zawahiri it’ll just make everyone at the Airport hate you.
We recommend the La Portegna Benson holdall of whose boxy shape allows for easy, efficient packing.
In addition why not use La Portenga’s Menodcino folio to keep all your travel documents safe (you don’t want that all important printout getting creased (Air Pirates Ryanair will charge you £40 for a new one).
III) Arrive punctually
There’s no such thing as fashionably late at Airports and last thing anyone wants when flying is to be rushed, so best arrive two-three hours in advance. Better to be strolling round a Mont Blanc concession than sweating buckets in security trying to explain that your partner didn’t actually pack your bag (”just a slip of the tongue”) with twenty minutes till departure. Best to book your to/ from transport in advance as well it usually works out cheaper overall and you’re less likely to spend the first hour after arrival dialectically wrestling with local Airport staff for directions.
IV) Travel Alone
I am not saying holiday alone but making the journey by yourself is far more pleasant and you know it is.
V) Learn to master Security
Sound, practical advice that sadly has a great deal of basis in truth. I can say without reservation that my transit through Beijing airport was the single most pleasant and expedient I have ever experienced, make of that of what you will. Best to check your outfit for loose change and old shotgun cartridges before you leave the house. Take note of the advice about slip-on shoes – I would go so far as to try an go without a belt too – there are few things more uncomfortable than being in a public place with a group of men removing their belts, it feels like you’ve wandered into a Hamptead toilet.
VI) Travel in style
Well, you knew this was coming didn’t you? Truth is the golden age of travel is long gone, but there’s still something to be said for making your arrival in a new country a sartorially positive one. For one thing it has been proven to help you in your attempts to get upgraded to First Class. You don’t have to go overboard, a casual, easily adjusted outfit is best; a jacket or cardigan (ideally merino wool as the A/C will always kick in on board the plane) with light cotton trousers, breathable socks and a decent pair of broken in loafers. Best to go with a jersey shirt over the smarter variety on long haul flights, just for your own personal comfort. If you are actually attempting to get into First Class (good luck) it’s probably best to avoid your tatty old Che Guevara t shirt and unfortunately given the current security predisposition’s towards our cousins from Asia Minor being clean shaven also helps.
Here’s some quick outfit suggestions to give you an idea (click images for details)
and a bag for luck..
VII) Make yourself comfortable
I’m afraid to say I can’t stop the airline placing a large, sweaty individual or a noisome child in the seat next to you as these people need to travel too, apparently. On the whole most children tend to be fine, it is babies that can really kick off and simply can’t be reasoned with, no matter how many £20 pound notes you wave in their face. But best not to worry about that now, you’ve got more pleasant concerns. Thanks to the advances in handheld devices you can pretty much bypass the fuzzy back-of-seat Jennifer Anniston comedy/ aurally abusive headphones for your own miniature HD cinema’s. Simply put the device into in flight mode, pre load up some audiobooks/HBO episodes and while away the hours daydreaming of upcoming possibilities. If you’re a frequent flyer it might be worth investing in a pair of noise canceling headphones (the rest of us can give the complimentary earplugs a shot) to help drown out the excess engine noise/ Glaswegian hen party.
A nap is always enjoyable and it’s no different on a plane, Texidors make the best travel blankets and you’ll be the envy of those around you trying to shelter under their half sized polyamide numbers.
A couple of drinks never hurt either, though best to go with small measures as you probably don’t want to be seen consistency queuing up at the lavatory like a sexually eager Ralph Fiennes. Most long haul flights have excellently stocked bars in First Class, so if the steward in economy gives you some official jip about not having any Rum, simply indicate that you know that there three excellent varieties about twenty feet away.
Also best is to avoid a situation like the wine-addled Holborn team (thank you Delta Airways) at JFK -straining to keep straight faced whilst introducing ourselves to the light hearted employees of the US Border Protection Agency.
If you’re a nervous flyer please go and see a shrink. I was stuck on a long haul flight next to a particularly sorry specimen and he did was shiver, twitch, drench me in sweat and deliberately knock me awake whenever the seatbelt light went on. The only consideration I made for him by the end of the flight was for the fact that I had not violently assaulted him. Yes you’re in the air, yes there is wind, no I am not interested in looking at the last will and testament you’ve prepared.
VIII) Enjoy your arrival
Arrival is my favourite part of flying, there’s few better feelings that walking down that gangplank towards the airport exit, the white light at the end of the tunnel. Passport control will of course try to drain you of some of this enthusiasm (if you’re returning to Heathrow it really is a national disgrace) but once you’re through you can start on the enjoyable task of taking in your new surroundings. Admit it how many times, when entering a nation of sunnier climes have you cinematically placed your sunglasses on the end of your nose? Great isn’t it?
If you have planned accordingly, reaching your onwards destination shouldn’t be too taxing. Over the years I have been tempted into saving a penny here or there by trying to catch trains, trams, tube’s and trekking my way towards my accommodation, but if I am honest the convenience of a taxi taking you straight to your door is worth every extortionate penny. For one it gets your trip off on the right foot – at no point have you been forced to reveal your language or navigation deficiencies to your traveling partner, tension is avoided. Calm prevails.
So throw your bags on the bed, grab your room key and just get on out there.
Venturing away from the hustle and bustle of the London fashion scene we decided to take a little deeper look, all the way to the thread it all starts with. So we headed out of the city and headed westward, we arrive at the town of Wellington, Somerset to visit one of the oldest working woolen mills in England.
This is the home of Fox Brother’s and Co Ltd , who have been in business since 1772 and are still going strong. At this time the company was a cottage industry, mainly producing woolen serge known as ‘Tauntons’. The early British woolen industry naturally established itself in areas where sheep were farmed, as was the case in Wellington. The mill has had its ups and downs since. It started with 5000 staff and 9 mills, which slowly reduced. Supplying the Army and the Navy with their uniforms was a mainstay of the mills work. They influenced an important part of British Military history as during the Boer War, Fox Brothers developed the new serge drape mixture know as ‘khaki’, which eventually led to the demise of the British Army’s traditional ‘Redcoats’.
It now thrives on its exclusivity and the fact it is small enough to spend the time working with its customers, supplying to many countries around the world and the famous Savile Row. Fox Brothers best selling cloth is their most famous cloth Flannel, however it changes due to the fashion and the demand. Delving into the large archives that have built up over the 250 years Fox Brothers arrive at new designs. They also take inspiration from vintage garments and work with their customers to cater for their tastes.
They are a woolen mill; therefore it is a lot harder to arrive at new designs for the summer collections. This doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of creating wonderful summer fabrics. The technology hasn’t changed much over the 250 years, most of the equipment has been rescued, however they do now have two new looms.
Many of the people who work at Fox Brothers have followed their fathers and grandfathers into the business, so knowledge, craftsmanship and heritage is at the heart of the process. Their highly skilled weavers utilize traditional looms, some of which are over 50 years old, in tandem with modern technology, to create the world’s finest wool and cashmere cloths. The company is rooted in their community and would never shift production from Wellington, Somerset because it simply belongs there.
Images by Eleanor Gann
So it has come to pass that one half of The Holborn team shall be spending Valentines alone this year. Shocking news for our readers I’m sure – it seems the market for short, swarthy looking paupers with a penchant for knitted ties has gone the same way as western economics (because it existed, right?). For the past few weeks The Holborn has been recommending gifts and advice on how to make the best of the day with your partner.
Now cometh is the turn of the singleton. Solitary but resolute, we know Valentines day can be a bit of a chore. You may even feel a strong compulsion to try to ignore the event all together. A few years ago, so keen was I to escape the day that I hopped on a flight to the nearest Islamic nation (in this case – Turkey) to avoid it. In retrospect this was a little drastic. However with just a little forward planning, you can have yourself a pleasant evening that doesn’t involve staring out the window for three hours or going home with a sobbing hook-up, but rather celebrates romance as a positive concept, if not as a personal actuality.
A word to the wise – avoid major pedestrianised areas (i.e London – Southbank, New York – High-Line, Paris – Monmatre) every Casanova and his mother will be out for a moonlit stroll.
So here are some very Holborn’ suggestions:
I) Frequent your local Speakeasy
Just because couples are everywhere doesn’t mean you can’t have a good drink. Dark, frequently cramped and essentially an Bacciac alter of booze, the speakeasy will be off the radar for most Valentines couples who are looking for something of a more amorous atmosphere (the nerve!). Pull up a stool with a close friend, tip the pianist well and get stuck in to a three course meal of bar snacks, cocktails and bourbon. Here just a few of The Holborn’s favourite joints that we’ve had the good luck to visit across the globe, why not give one a shot.
Orient Express Bar, Greenwich Village, New York
Marks Bar, Soho, London
Worship Street Whistling Shop, Shoreditch, London
Harry’ Bar, Venice.
Bramble Bar, New Town, Edinburgh
Barrom, Munich. (Not so much a ‘Speakeasy’ but fits the required criteria).
Le Tres Partiiculier – Hotel Particulier, Monmatre, Paris (As a general rule, if you’re not a Parisian, best avoid Paris at Valentines..).
II) Attend to your personal grooming
Perhaps you’re single because you are a bit of a scruff? All the hairdressers and barbers with have a nice open schedule on Valentines day itself, so why not book yourself in for a bit of sprucing up? For the chaps we recommend Geo F Trumper or Murdocks for a full cut-throat shaves with a side of Gin to lift the spirits and reinforce the ego. For the ladies, perhaps some manner of Spa evening? Spa’s are, on a whole a male free environment – though we cant vouch for the odd anomaly.
III) Invest in some personal tailoring
Listen to wise old Ron, a man only ever looks at his very finest in suit which he is truly comfortable in. The same is almost certain for a young lady and a dress. If you’re in a financial position to go bespoke, please do so in the name of all of us that can’t – the tailors of Savile Row would of course be our recommendation. If you’re looking for something a bit more immediate, the best ‘Off the Peg’ tailoring is that of Brighton based Gresham Blake (who also offer Made to Measure and full bespoke) or Clive Derby’s (formally of Kilgour, Savile Row) incredible investment pieces at Rake.
It doesn’t even have to be a new suit, getting an existing suit professional altered (i.e adjusting overlong sleeves, shortening the length or taking in/letting out the waist) can really add new life to a garment.
IV) Retire to the countryside.
Make like Withnail and book yourself into a rural retreat, get the Chicken in the kettle and set about traversing your new environment, take a hike, ford a river, live the life of the country squire. Perhaps start writing that Kingsly Amies rip-off you’ve been planning? If you’re feeling particularly aggressive (did they run off with their spin cycle instructor?) – a spot of shooting the local wildlife? Collective caricatures aside, settling down in the local pub’s finest armchair with a decent book (Manon Lescaut seems appropriate), after a long scenic walk is a true celebration of your own peace and solitude.
V) Treat your parents.
Granted, form the outset this can seem something of a tragic option – an admission of defeat perhaps. But Dad’s probably made a lax effort again and it’s probably high time you had his back. Book a table in his name (The Wallace Restaurant is nice) ask the restaurant to put some bubbly on ice, send your mother some flowers and then wake the old man up to the fact that he has to put some trousers on this evening. Then settle back into that pub armchair and treat yourself to a self-satisfactory beer.
So seeing as you’ve had a few drinks, brought yourself some new threads and are now feeling generally pleased with yourself perhaps now would be a good time to broach the subject of…
Turkey it is then.
Eastman Leather Clothing has been in business for over thirty years now, located at its long standing premises in Ivybridge in Devonshire. Since their inception they have always specialised in flight jackets, particularly the military styles from WWII. Over the years they have acquired a unique expertise in this area that is considered by industry insiders as second to none. Due to their extensive, persistent research about the original cuts and materials used, Eastman learned how to perfectly reproduce period Flight Jackets using similar practices as employed during the 1930’s. Such is the accuracy of Eastman’s research that they have become desirable garments for use in period filmaking. Eastman Jackets have appeared in Hollywood Blockbusters; Pearl Harbour, & Red Tails. Within menswear too, the quality of the jackets is such that Eastman have been attracting collaborations from newer brands with younger profiles such as You Must Create (YMC) & Heritage Research. The Holborn decided to get in touch with founder Gary Eastman to find out more..
So how did Eastman Leathers get started? How did Eastman actually go about getting things made at the start?
” I started my company in July of 1984 on Margaret Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowance scheme. I was a printer by trade, having done a 5 year apprenticeship from 1978 – 1983, after leaving school. I took a year out after finishing my apprenticeship, and went to the US. While I was there, I followed my nose and dug around for that which I had a passion for – vintage flight jackets. The US certainly proved to be quite bountiful in that regard – having previously had to make do with scouring the vintage clothing stores in London, like FLIP (that’s the original FLIP that was in Long Acre Road, Covent Garden) for such articles.
I came home with quite a bunch of garments, and started selling them in the Exchange & Mart – there used to be two whole pages devoted to militaria in that periodical back then, and that was the place to sell vintage flight jackets.
Unfortunately, the trade I had spent 5 years learning was in decent – desk-top-publishing was fast replacing the traditional method of print, and so I found myself struggling to find work. I fancied doing something in the field of vintage clothing – especially flight jackets – but sourcing enough originals to make a living was tough – it was then that I hit upon the idea of making very accurate reproductions. I figured: people really want to wear these things, but generally originals are too hard to find, don’t fit, and are too delicate to wear, so a good reproduction could be a good alternative.
I went to the library and took out some books on pattern making and grading, borrowed my Mothers sewing machine, and with a few old bed sheets made up a rudimentary toile to see if it could be done. Several attempts, and several bed sheets later I was reasonably confident enough this might be possible.
I took the small amount of money I had from selling the originals I brought back from the US, and went to London and bought an old 1930s singer sewing machine, some leather, other trim parts, and set about making the first Eastman A-2s in my garage. I was able to produce 5 garments from the first batch of leather I bought, and they all sold in the Exchange & Mart within a week. I carried on like that for about 3 years, whereupon I employed my first sewing machinist in 1987, and not long after, my Father (who had recently been made redundant from the print trade as well), to help with the cutting – he still works at Eastman to this day, and so does that first machinist. Since then I haven’t looked back, or even had time to think about looking back, – it’s as crazy busy today as it ever was – nearly 30 years have passed – ha” .
Where do you source the fabrics for your clothing?
” The main material of course is leather and sheepskin. These can be sourced from anywhere in the world, but generally it comes from Italy and the US. We quite often use finishers within the UK to finish leather crust the way we want it – i.e. the crust is brought in from overseas, and then the dying and finishing is done here – it’s easier to monitor the spec that way. However, some overseas tanneries have good finishing departments as well, and so some of them can be relied upon to supply the finished material just as you want it – but it’s gamble to do that with everyone, which is why we often use finishers in the UK”.
How do you ensure the quality of your garments? Where are they manufactured?
” All the jackets (both leather and sheepskin) are manufactured right here at our factory in Ivybridge, Devon. The quality is ensured because the operators know they are making an enthusiasts product. The emphasis is on taking time to make a good job. There are no mass-production lines at our factory – it’s a small workforce of a dozen skilled people – after a garment is cut and prepped, the sewing machinist makes the whole garment, from beginning to end. When the garment is finished, it is then quality control checked by another person, who scrutinises the garment for any possible errors or problems – the operators are so conscientious though, this rarely happens. They know what the score is, and they know the customers are keen about these products, so there is no ‘that’ll do’ mentality at all”.
Where does your appreciation for historical flight jackets come from?
” I’ve always been interested in the whole WWII aviation thing from as far back as I can remember. I suppose it’s got a lot to do with being brought up in the post-war era as a kid, where WWII stuff was all around us, from tv to toys to model-making etc. Many of the war movies from the 50s and 60s were quite hung-ho about how we won – and they made it look cool (quite different in reality of course, but that’s how we saw it). As I grew up, and realised it was possible to acquire the actual stuff i.e. a real flight jacket from WWII – that was like dipping back into the past and pulling out a part of history that you could feel and smell, making a connection to an era that was otherwise impossible to sense. I still get the same nostalgic feeling even now when I find an old jacket”.
What is the personal experience like of creating a quality product and then seeing people wearing the fruits of your labour, particularly on screen?
” I get great satisfaction from a customers satisfaction – because I want them to feel like I would, if I didn’t make jackets, but found something like this. That’s kind of the whole driving force behind any new style I make when its under development – I want to be able to look at it and say ‘yeah, I’d buy that, that’s looks bloody amazing, I got to have it.
When we produced all the jackets for the movie Pearl Harbor – which was the first real movie production we supplied – it was quite weird seeing the jackets on the big screen for the first time. We were invited to the movie premier in Leicester Square, which was quite a lavish affair with after show party and all, and when the first scenes of the jackets appeared, I did feel quite an overwhelming feeling of pride come over me”.
Do you have a favourite piece from Eastman? What do you wear it with?
” It’s hard to say because I try to make them all favourites, but I find myself wearing mostly the G-1 – it’s such a practical design, it works anywhere – I generally wear LVC or Edwin jeans, along with either Redwing or Buzz Rickson footwear, and Buzz Ts or sweatshirts”.
Yet more nourishing insights for the sartorially inclined amongst you today. I had the good fortune of catching up with David Keyte, an ex-miner from Mapperly and founder of Universal Works, a Nottingham based menswear label founded in 2008 under a mantra of good, honest British design. There’s a great deal of workwear, military and heritage influences in his clothing, and the pieces are timeless in such that they suit all ages. ‘Clothing you look good in” Universal Works calls it. Here is what David had to say to The Holborn..
So how did Universal Works get started? How did UW actually go about getting things made at the start?
It started on my kitchen table with a bunch of designs and patterns then a few weeks after the plan hatched we had a 35 piece collection in a London showroom and we got it in front of some great buyers, and we had ten stores buying the first collection which was for Winter 09, sounds easy but I had many years experience making garments for many other brands (Paul Smith) and designers in the UK, working with many factories and makers, so it was not so difficult for me to know how to do this, its just using those years of experience well and finally backing it with my own brand.
What do you look to for inspiration when creating new designs?
I sit back at the same kitchen table and image what I want to wear in a years time and start working on developing the styles from previous collections and working on fit, shape and proportion, inspiration for me is normally some nutty old guy waiting at the bus stop on my walk to work, or a film or book I am reading, more than any fashion trend.
Where do you source the fabrics for you clothing?
Depends on the season, I try to use British fabrics where I can, more so in winter than summer as I think we are better at making more suitable things for the cold than the warm in fabrics, but I also buy fabrics from Italy, Portugal, and India for hand looms and Ikat weaves
How do you ensure the quality of your garments?
By a lot of hard work, checking prototypes check samples checking production, re checking and re checking, visiting all makers personally during the sampling and production process .
What is the personal experience like of creating a quality product and then seeing people wearing the fruits of your labour?
Seeing someone in the street wearing Universal Works makes it all worthwhile for me, I love it.
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming Spring/Summer collection?
Check out your favourite stockist they will be getting it out in store pretty much about now, its loosely based on a character I called the Torquay Tycoon, I was doing a kind of Rivera summer collection, so lots of stripes and summer patterns, light weight fabrics and printed shirts, but thought it was more fitting to base it on the English Rivera not the French Rivera, more Torquay than St Tropez! and the idea of my dad as a working guy finally making enough money for a summer holiday as a young guy and feeling like a Tycoon being able to buy a new outfit.
What one piece has been your personal favourite from Universal Works?
Knitted work jacket (below), in wool, it’s made in Nottingham and we have done this style every season since season one back in 09 and its still a great piece, I am wearing it today, it’s merino wool, 4 years old and looks great, but then I am biased!
Authors Note: I brought a Red version of the above today from Peggs & Son, Brighton, really, really nice.
We return to the British Isles for our next Artisan: Mr. William Kroll, owner and founder of Tender Co.
It’s fair to say The Holborn has been following Tender Co for some time, drawn in by the lure of English made, Woad-dyed Denim. To describe Tender Co. as simply a jeans company would be ignoring half of a great story. Though the brand is primarily based around William’s expertise and appreciation surrounding traditional British Workwear, Tender’s project has spread to designing and manufacturing an eclectic variety of different objects and accessories. These pieces are intend inform the main clothing collection, be they small leather goods and boots cut from the same oak bark and wattle tanned hides as Tender’s belts, or natural cow horn combs hand made in the same English factory as the jackets’ buttons.
Since I began writing for The Holborn, I have spent countless hours researching independent purveyors of style, searching for those whose emphasis on individuality and quality are reflected in their practices, and shine out through the quality of their work. From I’ve seen so far it does seem to me that there is something of a gender imbalance when it comes to affordable, quality clothing, and a lack of representation for women when it comes to a range contemporary heritage styles.
Perhaps there is a question to be asked as to whether such quality is valued, or even desired in womenswear, and its customers? However from conversations I’ve had with manufacturers, buyers and customers alike this isn’t the case. It seems more that larger brands failing to meet with what is actually very real demand for an increase in quality, and to feature brands with a credible story within womenswear.
Gitta Plotnicki is one such person who is striving to change that. Feeling that her own personal style was not being represented on the shelves, Gitta has taken it upon herself to design, create and launch her own brand (Also called Gitta Plotnicki) through which she is be able to communicate her own tastes, styles and sensibilities.
Currently doing the rounds at the Capsule trade show in New York and Bread & Butter in her native Berlin, Gitta is showcasing her designs and spreading the word, seeking to get her pieces into stores worldwide. Such as it was, we decided to catch up with Gitta and find out a little more about this exciting new brand.
Can you tell us a little bit about the idea behind Gitta Plotnicki?
I love the ‘rugged’ style which can be found in men’s clothing. I enjoy reading magazines like ‘Free & Easy’, ‘Men’s file’ and ‘Heritage Post’ with all the great clothing & accessories presented in there. But most of all, I really like the idea of buying something very valuable, that won’t just last for one season: either in terms of quality or in terms of look. I also enjoy a lot the vintage, authentic look with its heritage twist. Because I couldn’t find it for women, I decided then to make things like this for women.
What would you say are the characteristics of your latest collection?
The characteristics in general for my collection, is that everything is manufactured in Germany. Also I set great score in high quality production.
The fabrics I use are also very special: most of them come from Japan, from old shuttle looms. Mostly they have red selvage or are even are indigo-dyed. A jacket, a pant and a skirt in navy blue is made of lovely fabric which is 39.3%wool, 32.7% linen and 27.4% cotton. Although it has a ‘classic’ look, it feels very casual.
In my latest collection I have a fabric with little woven polka-dots, which is very special. Also I have merino knitwear (this is however produced in Italy, in the very good family-run company GRP). Afterwards it is hand dip-dyed in natural indigo in a little workshop in Germany. Also I have again a range of shirts which are made in collaboration with Merz b. Schwanen on the Swabian Alps, which are produced on original authentic circular knitting machines. Slight irregularities are one of the main characteristics of this fabric.
Like I already mentioned, the more ‘Classy’ styles are manufactured in a very casual style without using too much inlets. Also hand-diped indigo shirts and the woolen styles play an important role. But also I have silk scarves which are made in a very traditional way: the Blueprint technique. It was invented in the 18th century and it is all made by hand.
What are the advantages to having your pieces made in Germany?
One of the main advantages is that there are not so many long distances between productions: you can go there more often, to check if everything is going well. Also you have the chance to work much more detail-oriented way. Also I like the idea of supporting German companies, who really have to struggle in times of less-loan-cost productions in foreign countries. Not that I think, that those companies and the people who work there don’t also deserve a good-running company. But companies here also have to struggle and they do really very good work.
What inspires you?
Being together with people who kind of ‘think’ the same way inspires me a lot. I love the Bread & Butter fair: especially the L.O.C.K. area and the fire-department, because so many people with the same state of mind come there and I have so many chances to talk to them, take part of there way of living and thinking, hear their opinions. Also I like traveling a lot: last year we went to San Francisco, Los Angeles and twice to NYC. It was absolutely amazing, what was going on there: so many very good stores ( like Unionmade in SF, Mr. Freedom in LA, American Rag in LA), W.H. Carter, Freemans Sporting Club in NYC and much more… Also I really liked the restaurants and bars: especially ‘La maison premiere‘ in NYC, Paulie Gee Pizza or ISA, ..all located in Brooklyn…oh Brooklyn is at the moment is my most inspiring place. So many creative people with so good concepts: really amazing!
What are your hopes for the future of Gitta Plotnicki?
I hope, that more and more women will find there way to the rugged style and will also enjoy wearing ‘smart women’s wear’ as much as I do.
(Our thanks to Gitta for taking time in her busy schedule to talk to us. If you’re interested in knowing more about the brand, do take the time to check out Gitta’s website and the Gitta Plotnicki blog).