The curtain is down, the tree is up and the lights are on. Yes people, it’s time. Christmas Shop 2017 is here and it’s more beautiful than ever; our take on Christmases past, as traditional as we’re ever going to be. On one side, shelves glittering with baubles; pears, pinecones and a menagerie of creatures great and small. On the other side, crackers, wrap and all the trimmings, a flurry of gold stars and candy cane stripes. In the middle of it all, our very first Hambledon tree, decked to the nines and truly resplendent. The countdown starts here.
In the few seasons we’ve been stocking Portuguese Flannel the label has proved a massive hit with our menswear customers. So Rob was there in a heartbeat when the brand recently invited him out to Porto to see their shirt-making in action. Heritage brands don’t get any more authentic than this; the Magalhães family have been making shirts for four generations with the business headed up today by brothers António and Manuel who were on hand to give Rob the guided tour.
Rob’s visited quite a few factories in his time as menswear buyer for The Hambledon but never has he seen a production line quite as smooth and spotless as that at the Vermis factory. In his words, it was almost hypnotic watching the flow of garments through production. While he was there, AW/18’s samples came off the line, and he got to explore the company’s amazing archive of fabrics dating back as far as 1930 (watch this space for an exclusive Hambledon flannel in seasons to come).
With the serious work out of the way, it was on to the vineyard next door for lunch and a wander round beautiful Old Porto (a UNESCO world heritage site), taking in a Dieter Rams exhibition and the local record shops, of course. A few too many Pastel de natas later, and it was on to Lisbon, but that’s a whole other story. This one ends with a massive thanks to Mark at Brand Progression, António and Manuel and Damien and Alessandro for their amazing hospitality and making the trip happen.
Japan has been making waves in the menswear world for a good few years now with Tokyo seen as a breeding ground for emerging talent, and the industry out there fast earning a reputation for impeccable quality and attention to detail. And as the noise has hit our shores we’ve been steadily turning our attention in its direction and finding ourselves increasingly impressed with what we’ve been seeing and buying.
While they may take their references from different places, what resonates from all of these great Japanese labels is a commitment to producing high quality, hugely wearable and timeless pieces; an approach that is forward thinking and respectful of heritage in equal measures.
As Rob says, the fabrics are second to none; theirs are the pieces that will still be hanging in your wardrobe when everything else has faded and died. And while first impressions reveal beautifully simple and functional garments, look a bit closer and soon you notice heaps of personality and loads of great little details.
AW17 offers shining examples of all these things from menswear’s Japanese gathering. Beams drawing inspiration from Ivy League America, this season exploring texture with beautiful mohair and Melton pieces. A Vontade, referencing US and European military, workwear and sportswear, excelling in clever detailing for AW17. RoToTo socks, classic as they come in appearance, crafted from a fabric that regulates temperature at the skin’s surface using NASA technology. Made in Japan, these are the labels to look to for something that little bit extra.
Our feet are set to be exceptionally well dressed this season with thanks to our favourite French sock suppliers, Bonne Maison.
This is the brand that has taken sock making to the next level, each season presenting a series of brilliantly inspired and whimsical designs that are produced to the highest of standards; using the best quality Egyptian cotton, spun in Italy and dyed to Bonne Maison’s exacting colour palettes; then manufactured in France, double thread knitted for optimal strength using fine gauge machines which allow them to accurately reproduce the intricate patterns. All of it resulting in by far the most beautiful socks we ever did sport.
For A/W'17 we’ve got monkeys, peacocks, trails of flowers, abstract waves and bold block camo in super lovely colours. Forget the hats and scarves people, accessory of the season right here.
We’re re-visiting several things we love this season. The first was Reichenbach porcelain, and now, Alex Monroe jewellery. Having embraced the minimal, Scandi, geometric look for some time, we decided the time was right for something a bit prettier, more intricate, more whimsical. And no-one does that better than Alex Monroe, so here we are with a stunning cabinet come to life with our favourite bee pendants and bracelets, as well as pieces taken from the new Four Seasons collection; delicate boughs of oak leaves and acorns, garlands of flowers, foraging squirrels, leaping rabbits, pollinating bees and posies of wild roses. Jewellery just got a new lease of life, so good to have you back Alex Monroe.
Steeped in denim history, MiH has always been somewhat retrospective in its approach, often recalling its 70s heritage in its collections. (Founder Chloe Lonsdale is daughter of Tony Lonsdale, the man behind the legendary Jean Machine stores, and denim model Chekkie Maskell).
This season, however, MiH is taking us back to the 90s with Golborne Road by Bay Garnett, a capsule collection inspired by the West London style scene of the 90s; a vintage scene which is legendary, emanating from Portobello Road market - stretching from Golborne Road to Westbourne Grove. It was a time that introduced a new way of dressing; mixing vintage, denim and streetwear in a seemingly slapdash way that continues to define good street style today.
Pioneering the look was famed British stylist Bay Garnett; Golborne Road was her running ground, and this capsule collection, a curated selection of just eight vintage treasures thrifted over the years, plucked from her archives and faithfully reproduced for the masses.
Here at The Hambledon we're stocking the Tiger Camo Shirt and Turner Dress, two classic and downright fabulous pieces, which we're tempted to wear together in true Golborne Road style.
Universal Works' Ltd. Store is here - a project of exclusives and firsts with one of our favourite labels, and something we could not be more excited about. We’ve worked with many brands in our project space over the years but we’ve never collaborated with a label to the extent where they’re designing exclusive pieces and branding for the space. Not only that, in reflection of our different retail departments, David and Steph (Universal Works' co-founders) also went and produced womenswear and homewares designs in addition to menswear, marking the label’s first offering beyond menswear. All of it, a cause for major celebration. So that’s what we did.
With the paintwork dry and the last spot vinyl in place, Rob hit the decks, Laurie, Amy and Alice set up bar and we welcomed the first of many guests that evening (including super star of the night, Cosmo the dog). We drank (super nice shorts, courtesy of Bruichladdich and The Botanist Gin; even better for the rosemary Alice nabbed from her mum’s garden and the tonic and ginger ale brought buy a lovely chap called Barry). We chatted (David, Steph, Martin and Jamie from Universal Works meeting many of our lovely customers). We shopped (a lot, and sold out of some sizes). And then, tired and happy, we shut up shop, went for a curry and toasted Ltd. Store and the very wonderful David and Steph who made it all happen. Cheers guys!
Universal Works has to be one of our favourite menswear labels; for their good quality, honest menswear, commitment to top-notch production, and because designer and co-founder David Keyte is one of the nicest guys in the industry. For all these reasons and more, we couldn’t be happier to welcome the label to our project space with Ltd. Store - a super exciting collab. featuring menswear, womenswear and homewares designed exclusively for the project. We took the opportunity to get David's take on it all.
This is a first for our project space; its own identity, branding and exclusive garments. How did the idea for Ltd. Store evolve?
Rob, The Hambledon's menswear buyer approached us to work on a pop up, and we liked the idea as we like the store a lot. We have done a series of Ltd. Stores, our own version of the pop up, in recent seasons; a couple in Tokyo, one in Paris, so why not Winchester! Each time we have made exclusive items and they have always been fun to work on and popular with the local customers.
Tell us a bit about the collection, its inspiration and references.
I based it all on one visit I made to a fabric supplier in Tokyo earlier this year. I had the Ltd. Store concept in mind for The Hambledon and bought a few really special fabrics, fabrics I thought would fit the store well, and work for both men and women. So they became the inspiration for the store merchandise; it's all about a crazy irregular spot print I found in Japan and and beautiful wool blend ripstop, a fabric that looks like old workwear but is more luxury.
Production values are hugely important to Universal Works. Where is the Ltd. Store collection made?
It all depends on the product itself really as we make in UK, Portugal and one supplier in India. The Ltd. Store special pieces were made in the sample room at our Indian supplier. Our Indian supplier has an amazing sample room and they make many of our trials and first pieces. They're also very good at making the fabrics we buy from Japan. At this facility we can make small numbers of very special pieces to a high quality. Weirdly, in our UK and Portuguese production we have to make greater numbers than we do in India.
Wherever we work, we are very keen to work with smaller suppliers as then we feel we have more control, but also a more positive impact. It means we really know the people who actually make, stich and knit our products. We try to have a very close relationship with everyone that makes anything with the Universal Works label in it. We want to make high quality product with people we like and respect; where were we know first-hand that our products are made by people who care about what they do and are paid properly, we don’t exploit anyone.
Finally, Ltd. Store stocks Universal Work’s first ever womenswear collection. How did the designs develop? Did the process differ?
Victoria had asked us before about some womens pieces and well, we just thought the time was right for this project and it felt truly collaborative as we could reach the entire Hambledon customer-base by including womenswear.
I can’t say we approached the design process any differently really. I guess my favourite womenswear is, and always has been, a sort of 'tomboy' look. Well, maybe not tomboy exactly, just not floaty, sexy, tight, glamorous style womenswear. I guess our vision is more unisex, more practical, more off-duty weekend wear. We have a couple of pieces that are solely womenswear - a dress and a shirt. We first made these styles a few seasons back, but only for Stephanie (my partner and co-owner of the company), as well as a few friends and supporters.
The dress is sort of based on a kimono. It doesn't look in any way like a kimono, it's more to do with the way the pattern was inspired; one size and just simple, straight cutting to achieve a relaxed fit. The shirt is an equally simple, if oversized fit, although it does come in sizes. The rest of the pieces are the same styles we make for men but refitted to make them work for women. We sell a lot to women already, they often just buy the smaller sizes and roll the cuffs on jackets and pants! Maybe it's long overdue as we have had many, many requests. Or maybe it will be a one off just for The Hambledon, let's see.
The Ltd. Store is open until 8 October, in-store and online.