The contemporary menswear show at London’s Truman Brewery this week had a bit of a buzz about it, with plenty of the usual faces, despite the absence of a number of regular exhibitors and some unexpected inclusions. Here’s what some of the fair’s finest had to say.
Connor Poole, international brand manager, Luke and UK sales manager, Alpha Industries
What’s new from Alpha Industries for AW19?
It’s the 60thanniversary of Alpha Industries, so there’s some special features like gold embroidery and taping on the sleeves of a MA-1 flying jacket. That will retail at £200. Historically Alpha has manufactured jackets for the US Air Force, and it’s 50 years since the Apollo moon landing, so they’ve done a separate NASA-inspired range relating to that, including a stand-out silver parka, based on Alpha’s N-3B parka design. June 18 is when the Apollo mission launched, so we’re going to be doing three-day instore events, starting on that date, at key partners such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and End, including window displays and rocket rails.
What’s the new football connection with Luke?
We’ve had an absolutely huge reaction to our sponsorship of Aston Villa Football Club – new for this season. The Luke lion logo is on the chest of the kit. It’s been the most successful kit launch in their history, we’ve sold out three times. Literally kit sales have been something like 750% up on the year before! Luke Roper himself designed the first, second and third kits for the season. GQ called it the best-looking football kit in the Championship for this season. As a family business – it’s my dad Simon’s company – and all being from Birmingham and Villa fans, it’s a very proud moment for us. It’s also seen a massive increase in our sports collection in general, with tracksuits and the athleisure styles now being 65% of our business. So, the brand is on the pitch and on the terraces for sure! We also made history in being the first fully fledged fashion brand to sponsor a football team, and we’re now going to be looking at doing the same with other teams.
James Hall, brand sales manager, British Bag Company
How long have you been with the company and when was the British Bag Company established?
It’s 18 months now, after eight years at Gloverall. The British Bag Company, which was established 10 years ago, comes under the banner of Arnold Wills & Co. Ltd, leading designers and manufacturers of fashion accessories including belts, small leather goods, braces and gifts, which was founded 65 years ago. It does private label for some of the big UK high street retailers, as well as some premium menswear brands. It’s actually one of the biggest suppliers of men’s and women’s accessories in the UK.
What products are proving popular?
The Harris Tweed holdall bags with leather trims are getting a good reaction, and our leather wash bags are popular. We also have wallets, card holders and hip flasks. Men are more interested in accessorising these days. This is our second showing at Jacket Required and its proving very successful. We write orders here, and I’ve opened some new accounts including Porters Menswear in Harrogate. Price points are key, as the most expensive bag we do is a soft ‘milled’ leather holdall which retails at £150. We’re raising our profile, growing our international distribution and have just launched a new e-commerce website.
Where are you seeing growth?
One of the biggest growing areas for us is our waxed canvas bags with leather trims, and we’ve brought new colours in. There’s a tote bag, barrel bag, messenger bag, cross-body bag, rucksack and even an army kit bag in a khaki waxed canvas. Production is mainly in India, where we have our own joint venture factory, though we do still produce some belts and braces in Leicestershire.
Dean Batty, creative director, Edmund Hillary
What’s behind your decision to bring the brand to Jacket Required?
It’s our first time here with Edmund Hillary, and Jacket Required is really the only decent show in the UK for this type of product. Some people might say it’s not as busy as it used to be, but on day one there seems to be plenty of people about.
What’s the background behind the brand?
We got talking to Peter Hillary, the son of Edmund – the famous New Zealand mountaineer who was the first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Talks progressed on putting together a suitable collection inspired by the 1953 ascent of Everest and what they wore, and an outside body of investors came in. Peter’s two sons, George and Alexander, are also very involved with the brand. After initially trying to get it off the ground about five years ago and things not quite working out, the first collection of this new set up was for AW18.
What are the key pieces for AW19?
We’re focused on down-filled jackets, with one piece, the Khumbu parka, inspired by one that Hilary wore himself. We’ve also gone big on knitwear, as back in the early 50’s they wore a lot of handknits. Taking a lead from that, we’ve created handknitted replicas of knitwear they wore on the expedition, all handmade by women in Ecuador, who get paid well for their work. We’ve also got some great Fair Isle knitted bobble hats which are going down very well.
Are there any retail plans for the brand?
We’re actually opening two shops in airports in New Zealand, where Hillary is thought of like royalty. The first store will be in Auckland Airport – opening in two weeks time, and the second will be in Queenstown Airport in two or three months.
Aron Sharpe, managing direction, Options Distribution
Which brands have you brought to the show this time?
We’ve got Conmar, Denham, Thomas, Dutton and Thorowgood shoes, PRPS denim – which we’re relaunching now, Colchester Rubber Company – the original vulcanised basketball boot, and Dubbleware, an old heritage American workwear brand from Boston. That originally dates back to the early 20th Century, and we’ve bought the brand. This is only our second season with that. It’s very authentic and purist for selected distribution, with raw Japanese denim the focus. We’re trying to keep the price point quite commercial, with jeans retailing at £120-£180 and jackets at £200-£250.
What’s new for Conmar for AW19?
Conmar is the biggest jacket brand in Italy, and AW19 is our fourth winter with it. For us, it’s still all about positioning it in the right stores in the UK market, and to try to penetrate the monopoly of the Canada Goose, Moncler and Stone Island brands. Brand new for AW19 is a colourful skiwear inspired outerwear collection, which goes back to original 1970’s skiwear which they have reproduced. They’e brought back a lot of their old archive, including shiny nylon jackets. And they also have that kind of original Paninari look, which we think will be a success for us this season.
How are you finding business in general at the moment?
We’ve got two different sides to the business. There’s a lot of independents finding it very difficult at the moment, so we’re tending to try to be a little bit ahead of the curve – exporting more than we are importing. The market seems to be a bit more buoyant in Europe than it is in the UK, although it’s still hard out there too.
Tony Wall, co-founder Kippered UK Ltd agency, showing Palladium, Lois, Tag 3 Militaire, K-Swiss, Vintage Supply and Lüscher
How’s things going with Lois?
We’ve been working with Lois for four years now, since the 80’s Casuals Classics shop reintroduced us to it. We’re now working directly with the sons of the brand owners in Spain, and we’re curating the range for the UK. We’re doing the original jumbo cords, but we’re also doing needle cords, which are a slimmer cut with a bit more of a taper, and are more commercial. There’s cord jackets to match. We’re not doing so much on the denim yet, but that’s there to build. We’ve also done cord overshirts for AW19, and a super jumbo cord in a French worker’s jacket style.
Any news on Palladium?
We’ve been looking after the South East of England for three years, but they have now restructured and we’ve taken on the North of England, Scotland and Ireland. We’re now focusing it on the waterproof boots, the original canvas French Foreign Legion boots – which we’ve put a more comfortable footbed in, and a new urban style which have a nylon mesh insert and a younger appeal.
What’s the interesting military-look brand you’re carrying?
This is a brand new launch and is called Tag 3 Militaire, with a focus on upcycling.The guy behind it, Kervin Marc, used to be a professional cricketer, but then gave that up and went to Central Saint Martins to study design and art. He gets vintage French military jackets and rucksacks, cuts them up and reworks them. Various parts of the bag go on the jackets, so its very unique. There’s a collection of eight jackets which he’s able to reproduce in sizes and number, but there will still be slight variations because they are all done by hand and over-dyed. It’s labour intensive, so they’re not cheap, retailing at £400 each. The response has been very good so far.
Marie Milan, co-founder, and Athina Olaussen, sales manager, Le Mont St. Michel
What’s the background of the brand?
Athina Olaussen: It’s from Brittany, and the original French workwear brand was established in 1913. Aside from the iconic workwear garments there is also knitwear, because the Le Mont St. Michel brand actually merged with a 100 year-old knitwear brand, called Monthorin. This is the 100thanniversary of that, and we have brought back to life some archive knitwear for AW19.
Marie Milan:Le Mont St. Michel is a name that always existed, but it was a sleeping brand. We relaunched it in 2014, and we have four generations of archive to work with.
Is the French worker’s jacket trend set to continue?
AO: I think it will keep going strong for men and women. Typically workwear is sustainable, as it’s strong, durable and lasts a long time, and people are looking for garments that stand the test of time. You will sometimes find old Le Mont St. Michel pieces in vintage shops. Each season we bring in new colours, and add fresh fabrics in the classic French worker’s jacket, such as a cord version for AW19. We’re also doing cord and moleskin trousers.
MM:The brand actually originally manufactured cord and moleskin garments in its rich history. We have a lot of archives going back to the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Are you now finding success with your work dungarees?
AO: We call it our jumpsuit, and it’s from the original work garment the brand produced many years ago. It’s very popular for women, but we are also now making a men’s version. There’s definitely a growing interest in jumpsuits for men.