Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Rampley & Co pocket squares: Macclesfield silk

One of the pleasures of curating this blog is coming across another young, entrepreneurial, British menswear business committed to manufacture in the UK. Rampley & Co fits this mould, making a variety of pocket squares from Macclesfield silk and other materials, such as Harris tweed.

They have produced several designs and it initially was their Fine Art Collection that caught my eye. Developed in collaboration with the Tate in London, they reproduce dramatic works of art by John Singleton Copley, J.M.W. Turner and John Martin (seen in that order below).

The Death of Major Peirson 6 January 1681 (at the Battle of Jersey)

The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory

The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum

The squares are made of high quality silk with hand-rolled edges and are ideal for folding or stuffing into your top pocket. At 42cm square, they are an ideal size, not too small, not too large. The benefit of a large, colourful and irregular pattern, such as these, is that you can fold it in many ways to create a wide variety of top pocket looks.

There is much more to come from Rampley & Co. This collection and others can be found on their website here.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Recreating the look - Steve McQueen relaxes in a camel jumper

The blogger's standby for style posts of this sort is Steve McQueen. His clothes are never complicated and he always looks stylish and relaxed. This is his secret, of course. Achieve a simple look and carry it off unselfconsciously. Suppliers' details below.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Quantock Clothing - jeans made in England

It's always a pleasure to report on British-made denims. These jeans are made in England for Quantock Clothing

The denim is robust but not harsh, the fit is ideal, slim, but not too so and the waist is comfortably-placed: you won't feel like an inmate of the US penal system with the them hanging somewhere around your lower backside, as is too often the case.

They are designed and made in England from Japanese selvedge denim woven on looms for a tighter and denser weave by the Kuroki Company in Okayama, Japan. There are two styles to chose from - rinse washed (or indigo jeans), or classic stonewashed finished. Highly-recommended. See Quantock Clothing.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Loake: a visit to their Kettering factory

I recently visited Kettering to see the Loake footwear factory. As a blogger, I've had the privilege of visiting several factories around England and Scotland. All were similar in many ways: the smell of oil, the sounds, the ordered but well-worn furnishings and machinery, the quiet focus of the workers, their enthusiasm and care and the breathtaking expertise shown in those quick, deft movements used by those totally familiar with their work. 

All were proud of their work, from managers, owner, designers to those working on the factory floor. All were gratifyingly busy and it's good to see the continuing growth of British fashion manufacturing.

I own three pairs of Loake, all made on last 024/F, which just suits my foot shape. It was interesting to be shown the last on which these would have been made (pictured above).

Loake has been a family business since 1880 and I spent time with Andrew Loake, whose great-grandfather opened the factory. Loake is almost the only shoe factory left in Kettering. Andrew's father remembered when there were at least thirty footwear factories and associated tanneries and industries in the town. One other has recently opened up; a sign, hopefully, of the world-wide growth of British-made menswear.

Shown round by Factory Manager Brendon Drage-Dawes, I watched as shoes were made from the first cutting of the leather, to the construction of the Goodyear-welted soles and uppers around the last and on to the finishing and polishing before packing and despatch. 

The size of the factory surprised me, but each shoe goes through some 230 stages during the manufacturing process. Much of the work is done entirely by hand to remarkable tolerances by highly-skilled and experienced men and women. 

Seeing the processes drives home the sheer quality of the product. These are shoes made to last; a synthesis of high quality materials and 300 year-old tried and tested construction methods. There are no cheap gluing techniques, only processes designed to make a durable and comfortable shoe.

Increasing capacity is given over to refurbishing of shoes for the large number of customers who send them in for repair. What they get back is virtually a new shoe, re-heeled, re-soled and polished.

Loake has a factory in India, to which they send components which are made into shoes (designed in Kettering) to similar quality to those made in England. This enables them to offer a lower-priced shoe of good quality to those looking for this rather than a full-British-made shoe. The company believe that it is important to be totally transparent about the origin of their shoes, as Andrew Loake discusses in this article on the Loake website.

As with all my factory visits, I came away fired with enthusiasm for the quality of British manufacture. But 99% of the footwear we buy in Britain is made abroad. Hopefully I can instead persuade you to try a piece of British-made craftsmanship.

For more about Loake, or to buy their shoes or find a local stockist, see the Loake website.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Selfridge's Bright Old Things, The Whitworth Art Gallery: Anne Karpf & Grey Fox in conversation

Well, I'm delighted to be considered both old and bright enough to be invited to take part in Selfridge's Bright Old Things initiative, celebrating the older person's capacity to take on new roles in later life. On Thursday 19th February I will be in conversation with Anne Karpf at The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. 

The event is part of the Whitworth's re-opening after a refurbishment which has transformed the gallery. In a collboration with Selfridges and to celebrate Bright Old Things, the Whitworth has also taken up residence at Selfridges, Exchange Square, Manchester, with a specially commissioned exhibition featuring artists who found success in their later years.

Curated by Dr. Maria Balshaw, Director of the Whitworth and Manchester City Galleries, the exhibition showcases the creative energy of a selection of renowned artists, including esteemed photographer Johnnie Shand Kydd and fashion designer turned award-winning science and art practitioner, Helen Storey.

To find out more, or to buy tickets to the events, click here.
The Whitworth
And see and buy products designed by Bright Old Things at Selfridges.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Lavenham jackets, made in England

Entering its forty-sixth year, Lavenham can claim to be on the proud list of classic British clothing manufacturers. Starting in 1969 making quilted horse blankets, it branched out into country clothing; the quilted waistcoats and jackets, much loved by the riding and country set. But things have developed further and the company has had collaborations with Kenzo, Look Mum No Hands, Hackett and others. New owners, Fred Perry, see a worldwide market for the brand and it's good to see another British manufacturer taking such an ambitious approach.

Always keen to support British menswear companies, I tried one of their jackets, choosing something a little different from their usual offering of stylish nylon quilted coats. The Harlow is faced with British tweed. Modelled on a blazer shape, it has patch pockets, a quilted lining and a soft-shouldered and generous cut that makes it both comfortable and practical to wear with layers in cold weather. A good alternative to a pea coat or waxed jacket, it retails at £243 (reduced from £325) and, like the rest of the range, is made at their Suffolk factory.

I've found that this jacket is now the first thing I reach for if there is a chill in the air. I'd like to have seen internal pockets for wallet, phone etc, but this isn't a deal breaker for me. This is a versatile coat, which I've found to be very much at home on city streets or in the country. 

If, like me, you like to watch videos of how things are made, you may like this one:

Lavenham is proud of its British heritage and its origins in the equine world of Suffolk. As with so many brands that started by making practical, working products, the result has been clothes that are well-tested in use and with the addition of a bit of stylish design, have translated successfully into an attractive collection that's a little different and fun to wear. British materials are used wherever possible and design and manufacture are kept in-house. I hope that, under its new owners,  Lavenham preserves the very English nature of the brand.

See Lavenham to find out more, or to buy.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Joseph Turner: Grey Fox sponsors

Joseph Turner is a clothing company based in Thirsk that wears its Yorkshire heritage with pride. Their clothing is made from the finest fabrics, sourced from local mills and spinners and family businesses wherever possible. They have an extensive range of both men’s and women’s clothing from nightwear to formal shirts to outerwear. They also have premium brands such as Loake shoes and Hunter wellies..

I'm grateful to Joseph Turner for sponsoring Grey Fox Blog by paying for an advertisement on the right. Please click on the advert or visit Joseph Turner to browse or to buy.