2020 was a disaster for many brands and designers. Though, for some, it has been the impetus to strike out and do their own thing. For those individuals who were made redundant, or had a previous business disappear, it has been an opportunity to start afresh, optimistic about the future.
We are only just starting to see the first exciting wave of lockdown fashion businesses launch, all hoping to capitalise on an established market disrupted and downsized by the epidemic. Huge businesses or chains closing or shrinking has left a chasm in the retail market and the opportunity is there for the taking.
One such business is Hand and Jones. Graham Hand, with over 30 years’ experience within the fashion industry is supported by his partner, a practicing architect. Their lives between London and Rye, East Sussex, with their two rescue dogs and three cats adopted from Mykonos, is the inspiration for Hand and Jones’ range of premium basics for men. When they were increasingly unable to find attractive and quality basics, that were ageless, stylish and enduring, in the existing men’s market they decided to create their own.
Tell us a bit about your background
I studied fashion at Central St Martins, then went on to work in various London studios, including Roger Dack Menswear and Margaret Howell. In 1997 I established my own womenswear label HAND, which sold worldwide including Whistles in London, Searle in NYC and Aqua Girl in Japan. I closed this company after five years to focus more on product development for a variety of labels and brands across all sectors of the market in both women’s and menswear.
What made you set up the brand?
I continued with my technical consultancy until the end of 2019, when many retailers were already facing trading challenges. With a reduced workload, I decided to pursue a long-term ambition to work with the manufacturers and suppliers I have built up relationships with over the years to develop my own line of menswear, supported by my partner Michael Jones. I have been focussing solely on Hand and Jones throughout the pandemic, launching the first pieces online in October 2020.
What is the inspiration?
I wanted to create a focussed range of premium, timeless everyday pieces that are made to last – the antithesis of the fast fashion world I have inhabited in recent years. My philosophy combines a minimal design approach underpinned with quality materials and a rigorous attention to detail.
We divide our time between homes in Central London and Rye in East Sussex, where we are surrounded by the remote seascapes, marshlands and woods which inspired the classic, restrained, natural colour palette that underpins the range.
Who is it aimed at?
The intention is to make key elements of a core wardrobe for a diverse range of discerning men of all ages, shapes and sizes – something we have found it increasingly difficult to find for ourselves over the years.
What was the gap you saw in the market?
We wanted to create classic yet stylish, high quality, season-less clothes that could last for many years. The clothes were also designed to effortlessly bridge our increasingly blended worlds of work and home, as well as urban and rural living.
Talk us through the key pieces. How it is priced? Where is it available?
We have twisted-seam pima cotton t-shirts at £50. Our "Sweatshirt Sweater" – a super fine wool and cashmere hybrid between a classic sweatshirt and a wool sweater retailing at £245 – has been incredibly popular, particularly the version with the playful "HANDFUL" graphic intarsia knitted into the front priced at £260. This is the first of a series of knit and jersey pieces that will feature my name HAND in a variety of mischievous ways.
I have also collaborated with illustrator Nicola Rowsell to create two unique cashmere sweaters. These are intended to be the first of an ongoing series of supportive collaborations with artists, illustrators, craftspeople and the creative industries on bespoke and limited-edition products with provenance. These are 12-guage intarsia knitted in 100% premium cashmere and retail at £350.
Although in time we would love to be stocked by independent retailers, the range is currently only available on www.handjones.com
How have things gone so far?
We have had a really positive response, with orders coming in from around the world and several repeat customers who have come back to order more pieces based on the quality and fit. Social media coverage has been incredible, with several high-profile people posting pictures of themselves wearing sweaters from the collection, including actors Russell Tovey and David Ames as well as the TV presenters Darren Kennedy from BBC1 "You are What You Wear" and John Whaite from Channel 4’s "Steph’s Packed Lunch".
What made you do it at this time? How have things gone so far? What’s next?
With more time available from my shrinking consultancy workload, the COVID-19 downturn seemed the perfect opportunity to focus on this long-term ambition. The current t-shirts and knitwear are just the start – the range will grow organically over time, with the most immediate plans being to add men’s underwear, swimwear, additional jersey pieces and homewares, all of which are currently under development.