Thursday, 2 October 2014

Best of British Week: British Boxers and their British-made underwear for men

British Boxers have launched their new website and added a new range of super comfortable stretch trunks (see my recent post here) to their original range of British-made traditional cotton woven boxer shorts. 

Deborah Price in the ring fighting for British menswear

They've also added a men’s and ladies nightwear range, using the finest two-fold cottons and cosy cotton flannel, and called it Double Dapper. This sleepwear range (which is made outside the UK) uses the best quality fabrics, including two-fold cottons and brushed cotton flannels. I'm told its exclusivity means it's only manufactured in small runs - so act quickly to buy.

Owner of British Boxers, Deborah Price, a former nightwear buyer for a leading luxury nightwear company, says: 
"British Boxers were launched in 2013, but I have worked in the nightwear sector for over fifteen years and just couldn't leave it behind. That’s why we have designed our Double Dapper range; it really is a labour of love. The launch of is the culmination of two years of sheer determination and hard work. We have used stunning fabrics and workmanship to bring you these collections."

British Boxers and Double Dapper are available at from October. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Best of British Menswear Week: Realm & Empire "cardigan, khaki wool, other ranks" AW14 military archive inspiration

Realm & Empire is a British brand that relishes the heritage, look and feel of historical menswear, updating their finds for the modern wearer. Finding inspiration in the archives if the Imperial War Museums, they have created a collection for AW14 that takes details and from historical garments, photographs, documents and artefacts.

Grey Fox wears Duxford Cardigan and wool slim-leg Officer Trouser from Realm & Empire.
Brogues by Loake, shirt by Smyth & Gibson, tie vintage. Hair and teeth model's own

Their knitwear collection is made in the UK from British wool, so I'm focusing on one key and favourite piece for this review. The Duxford cardigan is modelled on a First World War piece found in the military archives at IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire. Made for use by other ranks, it must have been an essential part of the layering needed to keep warm in the trenches. 

Archive image of Cardigan, khaki wool, other ranks - image IWM

The cardigan has a good substantial feel and the pockets and collar are reinforced with cotton webbing, as was the hem on the original. The colour is Loden green and every garment has its own unique issue number, revealed behind a little tear-off strip in the collar label. This is my first ever cardigan and I'm enjoying it. However, never let it be said that it's a garment exclusively for the older man; this will look good on young and old alike.

The trousers are made of Huddersfield-manufactured wool (although are not themselves made in UK) and half-lined with a deep red jacquard print. They have a slightly slim fit.

I hope to revisit this interesting brand at a future date, meanwhile, see the Realm & Empire website for more of the collection, or to buy. For more on the Imperial War Museums, see here.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Best of British Menswear Week: Barrington Ayre, tailors & shirtmakers

Barrington Ayre Shirtmaker & Tailor Ltd pride themselves on their luxury bespoke and made to order clothing, all made in England in traditional ways. 

Somewhere in this image is hidden a clue that Barrington Ayre make clothes for women too. Can you spot it?

Tom Wharton, Managing Director, told me more:
"We make everything from classic suits to house shoes, from polo shirts to shooting suits and from tartan trews to boating blazers and pretty much anything in between! We make for men and women and have a classic showroom in the Market Place, Cirencester as well as offering a visiting tailoring service in London, across the South West and UK wide by appointment".
Tom adds, "Your imagination really is your only limitation". I've only seen images of their products, so cannot say much more; go to their website for more information.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Dandy Lab: Support the store of the future and British menswear manufacture - on Kickstarter

With Buy British Day coming up this week, now is a good time to launch The Dandy Lab Project on Kickstarter. The Dandy Lab is an innovative shop which will feature the best of British-made menswear and accessories. The project already has some impressive backers, who recognise the future shape of men's shopping in the highly-interactive technological experience which will be offered.

Please take a moment to watch this video and consider pledging to support a great idea and British menswear design and manufacture. See The Dandy Lab on Kickstarter.

Best of British Menswear Week - Men's accessories from Holdall & Co, The Gentle Fox,

HOLDALL & Co have appeared here before as designers of high quality English-made leather goods. I wanted to update you on the recent addition of a large (16") briefcase to the collection.

Rai Navickaite, founder and designer, told me:
"I’m really proud of this new addition to our collection; it’s actually my favourite product! I have been working on it for almost a year (it all started as a bespoke briefcase project for a customer), designing, prototyping and perfecting the design with our craftsmen. Every briefcase is made individually, each piece cut by hand using traditional knives from one single bridle leather hide (to ensure consistency with colour, texture and thickness). As ever, we use traditional techniques and, of course, there's lots hand finishing and stitching".
Go to Holdall & Co for information and to buy.

THE GENTLE FOX makes cravats, bow ties and pocket squares in England. Like many people in her position, Gill started by sewing for herself and friends and found there was a demand for her products, so started to sell them. She uses organic cotton and thread and reuses or recycles as much as she can. She takes commissions for her beautifully-made accessories.

The Gentle Fox

Go to The Gentle Fox for more information, or to buy.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Mark Powell Bespoke: a very British tailor

To mark the start of my Best of British Menswear Week, I've been to see Mark Powell.

Historically, much of Great Britain's success has been based on the contradictions it displays to the world. Its toughness and belligerence hide the essential kindness that drove the British to pioneer parliamentary democracy and fairness. Mark Powell, London-based bespoke tailor, is just like that. He's very British - in appearance a hard East Ender; in reality a highly creative, humorous and generous man. 

Mark Powell

Like many men in their fifties, life's experiences bring focus. This clarity of purpose shows in Mark Powell's tailoring and it's easy to recognise his work. But there are contradictions; is his style classic or modern, nostalgic or cutting edge? In reality it's a bit of all these things. Nothing is ever truly original; it's how he uses inspiration that makes a man an artist.

Maybe the best approach is to see how Mark Powell sees himself. He describes his work as follows:
"Established in 1985, Mark Powell is one of London's most iconic and influential bespoke tailors. Renowned for his nostalgically and classically inspired tailoring, combined with experimental cuts and styling, he was one of the first to successfully bridge the gap between the traditions of Savile Row and contemporary street style".

The Mark Powell bespoke stamp is unique and widely-appreciated by the many big names he has dressed from the worlds of film, television, music and sport from George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Mick and Bianca Jagger, David Bowie, through style giants such as Bryan Ferry and Naomi Campbell to The Killers, film director Joe Wright, Keira Knightley, Sean Bean and most recently, Paul Weller, Martin Freeman and Bradley Wiggins.

Nostalgia is there, but not in a mawkish way. I saw tailoring influences from Edwardian through every decade of the intervening century; most recently the mod look has been seen on Bradley Wiggins and Paul Weller. Essentially it is sharp tailoring with brightly-described details in buttons, cuffs, collars, taking ideas and colour from earlier looks and adding a very contemporary feel. And yet somehow Mark captures the essence of the wearer, not imposing a style on anyone.

Despite, or because of, the celebrity links, Mark has worked with more establishment organisations like Marks & Spencer and the DTI to bring his style, and that of Britain, to the high street and to the world.

I really enjoyed my meeting with Mark Powell. He was informative, friendly, passionate about is work and generous with his time. Several people had described him to me as 'scary' - what nonsense. If you want a garment that reflects your personality, rather than shows you up as a tailoring clone, go to Mark Powell. This makes him ideal for the man confident about what and who he is; in general that means the older man as, despite having its roots in nostalgia, this is a very mature style.

To pigeon-hole his work is impossible - the most accurate description is that it's Mark Powell. 

Mark Powell, 2 Marshall Street, London, W1F 9BA.
Telephone +44 (0)20 7287 5498  

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday favourites: Scott Fraser, Jacamo all sizes, next week Buy British Day

Scott Fraser London-made jackets

I haven't featured Scott Fraser for a while, but he's been busy designing his range of British-made menswear and has now added the reversible, zip-up, shawl-collared Campus Jacket

They are manufactured to order in London and are made from a variety of short-pile velvet, Melton wool and denim. Inspired by the Ivy Leaguers' blouson/windbreaker/baseball/golf/bomber jacket/Harrington of the 1950s, they would suit any age, worn with jeans or chinos, brogues or penny loafers, button-down shirt and tie.

The jacket's available in navy blue velvet/denim reversible, ochre velvet/blue denim reversible or red velvet/wool check reversible. See Scott Fraser's website for more information and to buy.

Jacamo - a brand for all sizes and ages of man

I receive a lot of questions relating to style choices from men for whom standard clothes sizes don't work and have recently posted advice about this from stylist, Sarah Gilfillan, on these pages. 

I recently went to the launch of the flagship Jacamo store in Oxford Street, London and have found a retailer aiming to stylishly cater for all sizes and shapes of man. To underline this the store was opened by the England fast bowler, Fred Flintoff who assured me that his height and muscular build didn't prevent his getting a suit off the peg at Jacamo.

Chatting to the tall (I'm 6ft), but still Jacamo-sized, Fred Flintoff at the Oxford Street store launch

I noticed that a row of men's suit trousers ranged in size from 34" to 54" and I believe this may shortly include 32" waists as well, so Jacamo must be the first port of call for the larger man.

Buy British Day - Next Friday, 3rd October. 

To mark Buy British Day next Friday and Best of Britannia at the end of next week, I'll be having a Best of British Menswear and Accessories week next week. I've had to select a few brands from the hundreds available (see my list of Made in UK menswear), but I hope it will encourage you to explore the creativity and skills available in the UK. 

Why not buy menswear sustainably and locally, rather than cheaply from abroad?

'Brutus' - Photo Grey Fox - taken at Private White VC in Manchester