Anyone that gets fired up by that entrepreneurial spirit and decides to launch into the tricky world of menswear deserves a fair hearing. Daniel Gardner, 25, from Kent, has launched Brother & Gent. Moving from media publishing to brand owner, Dan wanted to combine the act of brotherly love with the manners of a gentleman. And, this new men’s accessories brand certainly has lofty aspirations.
Left - Where is all began, Dan's loft
“When I was younger I often wondered how many of these well established and respected menswear brands such as Hackett, Ted Baker, Paul Smith or Charles Tyrwhitt actually started out!? They must have started somewhere, right?.. And I’m sure all would agree there’s no way of creating such a renowned brand name, such a reputation simply overnight... “ says Dan.
Brother & Gent sells men’s accessorises, think ties, bow ties, braces, pins and tie-clips, and while the dandy look is disappearing in menswear, men always like nice things, especially when it comes to gifting. Some of the accessorises are made in England, others in Italy and even some Dan is making himself in his loft. The prices are keen, and, from what I can see, offer great value. Ambition and passion are the two things needed most when starting a business. Watch out Paul Smith!
Right - From Dan’s home county - ’Garden of England' Tie - £36
I don’t usually feature Kickstarter campaigns. I like to wait until something is concrete and there’s something to see. Otherwise, the website can become a graveyard of sartorial dreams that never quite materialised.
Left - MDN English trainers in ChicGeek 'ginger'
I met Jamie Harris from shoe brand, Modern English, at LCM, last summer, and the recent Jacket Required men’s trade show in February. He had finished product and from what I could see it looked really good.
Here's the Modern English story. Until the 70s, there were hundreds of shoe factories in England – capable of turning out almost 180 million shoes per year and the majority of shoes bought in the UK were made locally. Today, only a handful of shoemakers remain and imports account for 98% of UK shoe sales.
Founder and Creative Director, Jamie Harris, believed England's craft footwear industry could only survive if its products were relevant to today's consumers and, in 2013, Modern English was established with the intention of ‘evolving', rather than ‘preserving’ this 600 year old Northampton-based industry.
The name, Modern English, is their manifesto; everything they make will be made in England, and will be modern in its thinking. He likes to point out that “Modern English is NOT another 'Heritage Brand’".
Right - MDN English sandals in this clean, polished white
Keeping it simple, there are just 2 styles of shoes - trainers & sandals - in 6 bold colours, all made in Northampton, the home of English-made shoes.
He first produced a small run (100), because he wasn't sure how they’d be received, and they immediately sold out. He's now doing an exclusive collaboration with Natural Shoe Store which will be a limited-edition of 65 pairs and available at their stores in mid-July.
Now, he’s decided he wants to go straight to consumers and decided to start selling by Kickstarter. He’s got the factory, made the all the mistakes and, now, you can grab a pair at the remarkable price of £125. He can keep costs low because the construction of the shoe has been simplified which, I think, also adds to its physical appeal.
A pair of contemporary and stylish made in England shoes for £125? It’s definitely worth a punt.
Watch the video below
If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford bespoke shoes you may have heard of Carréducker before. Founded by James Ducker and Deborah Carré in 2004, Carréducker’s shoes are lovingly handmade in their small workshop near Holborn. These babies cost upwards of £3000 a pair and are usually found in the sartorial home of Gieves & Hawkes at No.1 Savile Row.
Left & Below - Carréducker London - Winkers - £199 in UK sizes 3 – 12
So, for us on a slightly more regular budget, Carréducker, has now launched a new accessible range called Carréducker London.
A Kickstarter success story, they’ve started with a formal slip-on slipper and plan on expanding the brand into many classic men’s styles with further Kickstarter funding.
Using existing pockets of British artisanal manufacturing to make each style, the aim is to build a steady flow of orders, breaking the peaks and troughs, and supporting the skilled local workforce throughout the year. They will make short runs of several different styles and colours, offering customers from around the world the very best of British footwear design and manufacture through their online ‘Shoe Shop’.
The first, Winker, style is made using Designers Guild upholstery fabric. Made in Sheffield in 9 colourways with different fabric finishes, they are leather-lined with a padded sock for comfort and with a leather heel and sole.
TheChicGeek says, "Perfect for adding a dose of laissez-faire attitude to any outfit, the Winker is ideal for Summer and I love the use of the Designers Guild fabrics. I'll be wearing mine with a checked jacket and slim evening trousers."
Left - Coming soon - The ‘Barkan' Desert Boots
Life outside of London?! Yes! Tailors, Clements & Church, are proof that by doing what you do well and slowly growing your retail network in wealthy pockets around the UK, you can build a healthy menswear business with a point of difference.
Left - All images Clements & Church SS16
Starting life a decade ago when Clements & Church’s Managing Director, Mark Nash, bought a tailor’s in the heart of Birmingham, they now have a further four shops in Oxford, Solihull, Leamington Spa, Beaconsfield and, now, online.
They’re not cheap, but then quality tailoring never is.
The Clements & Church’s localised tailors have a feel for their customers and, literally, tailor their offering to suit the area they are in. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t experiment. Using quality Italian and British fabrics, they design new styles of tailoring and accessories every season in bold fabrics and colours while still grounded with good taste. Many items are made in Britain and are an update of traditional designs and processes.
Mark Nash, says, “We have always wanted to combine the very best quality, with individuality and something different. If a customer was after something a bit different, when we first started, other than a navy or grey suit, they wouldn’t have been able to find it. We have filled that gap.
“Clements and Church is unique. We are an extension of our customers’ lifestyle and have fantastic relationships and a very high level of retention. We offer a product that has a sophisticated and distinctive look and we pride ourselves on our knowledge and service,” he adds.
Highly trained tailors are available to service customers for Bespoke and Custom Made suiting in each of their shops.
TheChicGeek says, "This is some of the best tailoring I've seen lately from a label unknown to me, until recently. It's great to see this kind of quality coming from outside of London. It is expensive, but, you are getting value for money when looking at the fabrics and manufacturing used. You're also pretty safe in the knowledge that nobody else will be wearing it, plus you'll standout for the right reasons. Slow and steady always wins the race!"
The English countryside has a timeless quality reflected in the garments designed for it. While practical, many of these, most notably jackets, have become fashion items and are worn all over the world, in both the countryside and urban places, yet still grounded in our green and pleasant land.
Left - The quilted Prufrock Tweed Country Coat - £425
The British wax jacket is the one the majority of people think of and never shows any sign of waning from popularity. I was recently introduced to the British outdoor brand, English Utopia. Concentrating on wax and tweed country jackets, it has grown over the last couple of years through its attention to detail and British made jackets.
English Utopia currently turns over £650k per annum and has doubled in size every year since its launch in 2013. The label launched in Europe first, via a network of sales agents, and in the US in 2014. The UK launch commenced in 2015 and the label now employs 6 members of staff.
The wax cotton and quilted garments are entirely made in the UK. English Utopia only uses one UK factory, one that Gary - the founder - has had a manufacturing relationship with for over 20 years. All of the woollen garments are made in Lithuania in a family run factory that’s Scottish owned. This particular factory is a specialist at combining natural fibre garment manufacturing with technical /performance expertise.
Founder, Gary Newbold, ‘the Leicester lad’, as he calls himself, is a self-taught designer who left school with ‘nowt’. Long before Wiggins and co captured the cycling zeitgeist, Gary represented team GB becoming a pro cyclist at the age of 18. He competed in sportives including the legendary Milk Race Tour of Britain and lived in France for eight years.
Upon hanging up his wheels at the age of 28, he dabbled in a bit of pattern cutting and in put himself through night school to secure a place at York University. He honed his freelance design talents before landing the top creative job at Barbour in 2000.
Gary has steered the creative vision for renowned heritage brands including Farlows of Pall Mall, and Kneissl (the world’s oldest Ski brand) where in 2009 he was appointment Head of Design. In 2001 he joined John Partridge, where he helped resurrect the label, a perennial favourite of HRH The Prince of Wales.
He still cycles 25 miles to work, though these days he’s swapped Lycra for English Utopia waxed cotton.
The English Utopia name is an amalgamation of his two passions. Firstly, his love of what it means to enjoy the English landscape – from the Cotswolds to Cornwall and Glastonbury to Glyndebourne – English Utopia is a brand firmly rooted in the countryside. Secondly as a designer, the initial vision for a collection is often distorted during the production and marketing process. This ‘utopia’, the original sentiment behind a creation, is something he does his utmost to preserve.
The balloon logo was inspired by seeing them in the summer months air balloons taking off from York races, near his studio. But in addition to this beautiful spectacle, for Gary the balloon symbolises creative freedom. In an age of corporate restraint where there isn’t a place for the unmeasurable, allowing ideas the space ‘see where they go’ is a precious thing.
The company is based in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate and draws inspiration in its designs from the surrounding countryside.
Right - Gary Newbold
If you’re bored of Prada you could do very well to look at new brand UTC00. Founded by four worldwide creatives, UTC00 is a truly global accessories brand with an aesthetic that spans continents. Named after Coordinated Universal Time, abbreviated as UTC, a slightly more scientific version of Greenwich Mean Time, UTC00 is Greenwich and they use these different times, plus or minus, to regulate all meeting up and developing the brand.
From Milan, Seoul and London, they know their travel and have developed luxury accessories to suit. The colours are bold yet masculine and the quality details are streamlined for practicality. The majority of the materials, trims, hardware, and other components are custom developed and produced for UTC00. It brings to mind early Prada and the famous nylon rucksack and with prices of around £120 for a bum bag and £210 for a rucksack, it is premium but without the designer mark-up.
An oldie, but a goodie, Ludwig Reiter is an Austrian shoe brand founded in 1885. The first Ludwig Reiter, a master shoemaker from Bohemia, established a workshop in Vienna. In the 1920s, Ludwig Reiter II transformed the firm into a small shoe factory.
Left - Founder, the first Ludwig Reiter
In the 1960s, Ludwig Reiter III, expanded the company, making it one of Austria’s most renowned shoe producers. In 2011, the company moved into the renovated Süssenbrunn Manor in Vienna. There some 60 employees produce around 30,000 pairs of shoes annually.
Right - Maronibratesr Boots - €698
Today, Ludwig Reiter—the only factory for welted shoes in the German-speaking region—is managed by the 4th and 5th generations of the original family.
Keeping to the company’s traditions, a classical Ludwig Reiter shoe is welted using the Goodyear method. This artisan method remains the best way to give the shoe both mobility and stability. In this method the upper leather and the leather insole are first sewn together with a continuous leather band—the welt (single stitching). Only then is the welt connected to the sole (double stitching).
Thus the upper part of the shoe and the outer sole are connected not directly but indirectly, and hence flexibly, with each other. This means the shoe can follow the foot’s complex movement when walking.
Left - An old Ludwig Reiter après ski advert
Brad Pitt is wearing a pair of Ludwig Reiter boots in the film, Inglorious Basterds.