In fashion terms, January means Menswear. London has just hosted the second edition of its very standalone menswear fashion week, London Collections: Men. Florence has just greeted the most stylish men on earth over at Fortezza Da Basso for Pitti Uomo. And right now as I write, Milano Moda Uomo is well under way.
So I thought I gave my attention to the boys this week. To begin with, by putting together suggestions for an outfit that can be classic & casual, weekday & weekend at the same time.
Naturally, we are talking about Slow Fashion for the guys, too. And to be honest, in the UK it couldn’t be easier, with its tradition of well appointed gentlemen. A flair for masculine elegance is in the British DNA – but what I’ve observed recently is a big surge of pride in British manufacturing, in a return to the sort of quality that can be offered through local craftsmanship, traditional mills and sense of heritage. All the brands I’ve selected are produced in the UK, with the exception of Arthur & Henry, who do Fairtrade manufacturing in India, but whose inspiration comes from Grandad Arthur and Grandad Henry, two fine British gentlemen themselves.
- Arthur & Henry shirt - “Arthur and Henry both lived in an age where a shirt was both an every day item of clothing, and something special to be looked after. Holes darned, cuffs reversed & collars starched. We don’t yearn for a rose tinted past, but we take inspiration from it. An era when men dressed just that little bit smarter and clothes were made to last. Our shirts are good shirts. They are well made. We haven’t cut corners. They are good for the environment made with organic cotton. They are good for the people who’ve had a hand in making them, from farmer to factory worker, weaver to dyer. We believe that every man needs a good shirt and so we founded Arthur & Henry to provide beautiful, ethical, men’s shirts. “ 100% organic cotton, azo-free dyes, 20 stitches per inch = top quality stitching.
- Sir Plus Clothing cardigan, 100% Lambswool with elbow patches made using off-cuts from jackets and waistcoats, and boxer shorts, made in London using surplus shirting – Sir Plus make menswear, produced in the UK using ‘cabbage’. What’s ‘cabbage’? In the industry, it’s the term used to describe fabric that’s left over after an order has been made up. “We have formed contacts with many of the major factories and fabric dealers across England. This gives us access to the finest quality fabrics; in an extensive variety of prints and styles. We started using excess shirting to make our boxers and have added waistcoats, jumpers, T-shirts to the collection, which is constantly evolving.”
- Hiut Denim Regular Organic, Regular Fit jeans - A classic regular fitting five-pocket made from a beautiful unwashed 12oz denim from a great mill in Turkey. With History Tag, which shows the history of a pair of jeans from its creation, through its life with its first owner, and onwards as it gets passed on and handed down. Hiut Denim are based in Cardigan: “Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades. Then one day the factory closed. But all that skill and know-how remained. Without any way of showing the world what they could do. That’s why we have started The Hiut Denim Company. To bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on our doorstep. And to breathe new life into our town. So yes, Cardigan is going to make jeans again.”
- Corgi socks - Corgi was founded by Rhys Jones in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Today, the tradition of unbroken family involvement in the business is carried on by Chris Jones and Lisa Wood, his great great grandchildren. Since 1892 Corgi wool, cotton and cashmere socks and knitwear have been exclusively made at their factory in Wales.
- T&F Slacks brogues – “With T&F Slack Shoemakers we wanted to harness what little was left of London shoemaking. Our goal was to help pass on these important skills to the next generation. So far we’ve managed to track down craftspeople in the East End of London who now mentor the young men and women who work for us – mostly graduates of Cordwainers College, the famous London college that specialises in shoes. We make our shoes made in the heart of Notting Hill. In a bid to move shoe manufacturing back to London, we began crafting shoes in our 500 sq/ft factory in March 2009 and today we make about 150 pairs per month.”
- Ally Capellino satchel – “We have been working with our manufacturers in London since we started making leather accessories and we are proud to be using the best of British manufacturing.” Ally recently made a film about why she values manufacturing in Hackney with two small family businesses.
- Elvis & Kresse belt – Elvis & Kresse create stunning life-style accessories by re-engineering seemingly useless wastes. The innovative and pioneering Fire-Hose range is made exclusively from genuine de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses which, after a distinguished career fighting fires and saving lives, were otherwise destined for landfill. 50% of profits are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity. All of Elvis & Kresse’s products have the environment at their core – industrial waste is the cornerstone of the brand. These are some of the materials they reclaim: waste coffee sacks, tea sacks, scrap sail cloth, used Air Traffic Control flight strips, parachute silk, and more.
- The Merchant Fox scarf - This college style scarf was handmade in Britain from Fox Brothers’ ‘West of England’ classic medium weight flannel: a pure lambswool cloth which is woven at the Fox Brothers and Co. mill established in 1772.
- Private White VC coat, made from 100% wool blanket from Delph (30 km from the factory) – “Jack White was a true English gentleman and military hero. He was also a founding father of the Manchester factory that now manufactures in his name. Little could he have realised that one day, the very same factory he had worked in all those years ago would now, under the watchful eye and stewardship of his great-grandchildren, be manufacturing a line of carefully crafted garments, inspired by the heroics and military style of himself, Private Jack White V.C.” Private White V.C. is manufactured in its very own factory, nestled in the heart of Manchester; the factory is currently run and managed by Jack White’s great grandchildren.