London, Tolworth, Gypsy Hill; not exactly a roll call of the world’s fashion capitals, but a glimpse into a brand’s proud roots. ‘Stain Shade’ is leading the charge of tie-dye returning to our wardrobes. Also know as, James Brackenbury, 31, Stain Shade was mobbed at the recent CIFF AW20 fashion trade show in Copenhagen with people who couldn’t get enough of his hand tie-dyed T-shirts and hoodies. I thought I’d find out more from the UK's new king of tie-dye. Will the real Stain Shade please stand up?:
:eft - James from Stain Shade at CIFF, Copenhagen, 2020
CG: Where are you based? From originally?
SS: I live with my wife in Gipsy Hill, but I grew up in Surbiton/Tolworth in South West London. This is where my mum still lives and her house is the base of the Stain Shade operations.
CG: What is your background?
SS:I studied contemporary art in Leeds then moved to London and worked for Vivienne Westwood on the wholesale side of things. I continued to work in the fashion wholesale world after that, and continue to do so, along side running Stain Shade.
CG: Are you doing this full time?
SS: Yes, amongst other things, some consultancy etc.
CG: Tell me more about Stain Shade. Where is the name from? When did it all start?
SS: I was always interested in hand dyeing, tie dyeing and was always on the lookout for good vintage tie dye stuff. One day I ordered a kid’s tie dye kit off amazon and did a few bits, some tees and a pair of jeans if I remember correctly. I posted a picture of the tee on my personal Instagram and a few people were asking me where it was from.
This lead to discussions with the guys at LN-CC and the subsequent launch of Stain Shade. We did a few tees and some hoodies for them. I didn't have a name for it and basically tried to think of synonyms for 'dye' or 'dyeing' and Stain Shade was the result. I drew the logo and then got some woven neck labels ordered, set up an Instagram etc and we were good to go.
Left - James' mum's house in Tolwroth is the production centre
CG: Where does Tolworth come into all this?
SS: Like I mentioned before, this where everything gets dyed, in my mum’s back garden in Tolworth. It's where I grew up, and, fortunately, my mum has a space there which I can use, she's involved as well and helps me on all the dyeing side of things.
CG: Where are the base clothing items from?
SS: It varies, depends on what the store/brand/client wants really. I can do organic ethically sourced blanks or can do more price sensitive mass produced options.
CG: Where can you buy it? What type of pieces do you produce?
SS: We have worked with retailers like Selfridges, Browns, LN-CC, Liberty, Bloomingdales, Lantiki etc. There are plans to work with all of these guys again some sooner than others. Some retailers do still have Stain Shade in stock but you can always contact us directly for custom items.
CG: How can you tell the difference between good and bad tie-dye?
SS: I think it's down to personal taste. One thing you do see a lot of though is printed tie dye, where the manufacturer was just printed the pattern all over the item and not dyed it. You can normally tell if this is the case if the reverse of the garment is still the original colour.
Right - Stain Shade in Selfridges
CG: Why do you think tie-dye has/is becoming such a big trend atm?
SS: I think its always bubbling in the background and I think that good tie dye/hand dyeing will always have a place in popular fashion. It just so happens that it's having a moment these past few seasons and I think there will be at least another summer where it's at the forefront.
Left - The Stain Shade production line
CG: What are your future plans?
SS: I am looking at different ways of working that don't necessarily exist in the conventional fashion wholesale environment. I am trying to do more collaborations and special project work on shorter lead times rather than the traditional order it and receive it 6 months later system. As a set up, we are designed to be very reactive and can get stuff done quickly so we can be more responsive to customer or retailer needs.
CG: What would you say to those who think tie-dye is just for hippies or ravers?
SS: I’d say if there isn't a part of you that is a bit 'hippie' or 'raver' then something is wrong.
See TheChicGeek's picks of SS20 menswear tie-dye - HERE
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News in, Jigsaw is closing its Bluebird concept. After 15 years, the majority of those spent at the quiet end of the Kings Road in Chelsea, it recently moved more central to the prime site of the refurbished ‘Carriage Hall’ on Covent Garden’s Floral Street.
Left - Inside Jigsaw's Shop At Bluebird, Carriage Hall, Floral Street closing this week
Named after the art-deco car garage it was once housed in, it relocated in May 2018 and was part of the landlord Capco’s relaunch of Floral Street alongside the first central London outpost of Petersham Nurseries.
Stocking a mix of designer labels and maison objets, after just over 18 months in this location, The Shop at Bluebird, to give it its full title, is closing its doors for good this week.
A concept store without a concept, its short spell on Floral Street clearly illustrates how a once thriving, premium fashion street in a central location is struggling to pull in the shoppers. The store will turn into a larger Jigsaw store format.
Right - Discrete sign advertising the brands on Floral Street
Floral Street, a charming cobbled street just off the busy James Street, has been a fashion destination since the late 1970s. A pioneer of the area, Paul Smith opened his first store in London at 44 Floral Street in 1979. Over the next 20 years, Floral Street became one of the coolest fashion streets in London. Agnès B, Nicole Farhi, Jones, a cult designer menswear retailer, and Jigsaw Menswear were just some of the stores to make this street blossom. It’s slightly off-the-main-drag location was part of its charm.
Today, many tourists and shoppers walk straight past to the busy market area with its plethora of beauty brands or upwards to the more high-street Long Acre. Peer down Floral Street and it doesn’t look like much is there.
Floral Street isn’t alone, the same thing has happened to South Molton Street in Mayfair. On a map they geographically look as central and in the mix as anything else, but they, seemingly, get so easily passed by. Since the millennium these streets have gradually lost their appeal and declined.
Even Browns, the main pull of South Molton Street is moving. It has occupied its collection of small stores since 1970 and is now moving out. Running from Bond Street Tube station, on the corner of Oxford Street, diagonally down towards Brook Street, South Molton Street has long been a stylish cut through. Today, it has become more synonymous with people giving out free mini samples of soap than chic retail destination.
Browns is closing its collection of awkward stores to move around to a new, singular location on Brook Street. Now owned by online giant Farfetch, Brown’s new store will open this summer in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
While not being able to comment on the reason they are moving out, Holli Rogers, CEO of Browns and CFO of Farfetch, says “it really is telling that we found this incredible location to be our new home as we also look to celebrate our 50th anniversary. It was important that we stayed in the heart of Mayfair bringing our clients on this exciting journey, whilst honouring the path we’ve been on and looking to the future of Browns as a pioneer of luxury multi-brand retail with a technology viewpoint. Being in one dedicated space, we are excited to be able to offer a vital and engaging customer experience that draws on the store of the future technology whilst also playing homage to the history and story of both the location and fundamentally Browns.”
Left - Paul Smith's original London shop opened in 1979
So what will become of South Molton Street as even more empty shops pile up? Landlord Grosvenor is proposing investment in a ‘South Molton Triangle’ as the delayed Elizabeth Line finally opens in summer 2021 bringing many hundreds of thousands of more people into the area. But, they’ll need to entice them to venture down South Molton Street and not lose them to Oxford Street.
Right - Landlord advertising Kent & Curwen's Floral Street on the busier James Street
Bounded by Davies Street, Brook Street and South Molton Street and well-known as the home of Grays Antiques Market, this part of Mayfair was always a pedestrianised break from busy Oxford Street.
Grosvenor launched a public consultation in the summer of 2018, no doubt expecting the new underground station and line to be finished sooner. Simon Harding-Roots, executive director, Grosvenor Britain and Ireland, said at the time, “Our proposals are at a very early stage and we want to encourage feedback on how new investment could best serve the community above and beyond the opportunity to better manage increased pedestrian numbers. It is important to us that local voices are incorporated into the planning submission we will ultimately make.”
“The West End is currently ill-equipped to cope with the levels of pedestrian traffic we already see every day, let alone the arrival of thousands of extra visitors expected from the Elizabeth Line. Many of Mayfair’s pavements are too narrow, routes were built for a different era and, perhaps counter intuitively, there are not enough services for those living in and visiting the area.
“We recognise the potential of the South Molton Triangle to address a number of the issues the local community faces. By proposing new investment here, we will be able to better protect and enhance the character and simple enjoyment of living and working in one of the most desirable places in London and the West End.”
Right - Glossier beauty pop-up open until February 9th
These areas need more than simply people management, new pavements and street furniture and it feels like landlords, Capco and Grosvenor, have been focusing on larger and juicer parts of their estates rather than these streets which are more on a Victorian and Georgian scale. At the same time streets like Chiltern Street and areas like Coal Drops Yard have developed and are doing what these locations used to do.
The American beauty brand Glossier recently opened a pop-up on Floral Street, open until February 9th, 2020.
These forgotten about fashion streets were once a destination for those looking for the new cool. Being surrounded by hugely popular shopping areas, there is no reason why they can’t return to this.
These streets need to find a new reason to be and then channel people accordingly. They need to work out and provide what is cool in 2020.
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One of the last designers standing at LFWM doing anything remotely luxurious and expensive looking is Edward Crutchley. He’s stealthily built up a fan base and business selling beautiful and theatrical clothes stocked by the likes of Harrods, matchesfashion.com and Browns. Patterned chintzs and medieval looking prints are an extravagant, yet wearable, display of his fashion craft.
The Charles I hair - or was it Brian May?! - and exaggerated Freemasons’ Fezs - Shriners - made you yearn for beautiful things again. (There’s still a customer).
The furs were real - this could explain the refined walnut lined location of the Skinners' Hall - and provided by Kopenhagen Fur. Black and white checks and lewd artly printed silks are a signature of Crutchley's.
Silly, and as basic as it sounds, but, considering the state of the quality and output from many ‘luxury’ brands, this all looks good enough to buy. Finally!
Pass me the American Express.