Workwear; we’ve seen it inspire many a menswear collection over the last few years and we continue to be big fans of the aesthetic. That said, we're very much welcoming a fresh take this season with thanks to basement newcomers M.C. Overalls, a label with a long and industrious history manufacturing workwear since 1908.
Not that you’d know it, because M.C. Overalls aren’t peddling their heritage like most. And we love that. What we see instead is a great collection of hardwearing pieces adapted for the modern streetwear market. Straightforward Ts, trousers and jackets constructed from polycottons, heavy denims, technical fleece and jersey. And yes, we have overalls too.
Available in-store from this Friday, coinciding nicely with the opening of the label’s first bricks and mortar store on Carnaby’s Newburgh Street. Congrats M.C. Overalls, we're super proud to be exclusive UK stockists for AW17.
At last, there’s a nip in the air and with it comes a very nicely timed drop of knitwear from basement newcomers Country of Origin. Against the backdrop of soulless mass production, this is a label doing things differently and producing truly beautiful knitwear in the process.
Founders Ben Taylor (a filmmaker) and Alice Liptrot (a University of Brighton fashion textiles graduate who previously worked for Donna Karan) started out determined there had to be a better way to produce contemporary clothes that are honestly made, highly desirable, and made in Britain. They wanted to produce clothes that lasted longer than a season, and for there to be transparency about where things come from and how they are made, hence the brand name.
All of this proved easier said than done, however. The pair scoured the country looking for manufacturers and found large minimum orders stacked up against them. So instead they turned to 19th-century textile technology: hand-powered, hand-framed knitting machines, the happy halfway between mass-market, computer-controlled machines and hand knitting with needles.
Today the label occupies a small strip of land between two train tracks in South London, a none too salubrious setting where they design and make bespoke orders on a hand-framed knitting machine, with their ready-to wear collection hand-framed in Hawick, one of Scotland’s specialist knitwear centres. Inspired by modernist art and design of the twentieth century, this is a subtle Mondrian on a beautifully crafted jumper, a good knit with an interesting primary colour stripe or trim. All the stuff we really, really like.
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.
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.
AW17 at The Hambledon has the feel of a different time, stepping back as far as the 19th century to a refined and ever so English affair. In fact, we like to think we’re at home with Jane Austen, taking tea and eyeing up her desk in the corner.
The furnishings are subdued; plush velvets and floral prints, punctuated by rich colours, glints of burnished gold and beautiful objects arrived from far flung shores: candles and confectionery, stationery and china, linens and trinkets.
Of course we’re dressed for the occasion, every occasion, always elegant and polished. Wardrobes laden with heavy velvet, fine knits, print jacquards, metallic stitching, lace trims, and all the colours of autumn; mossy greens, mustard yellows, rich browns and stormy greys.
Welcome to AW17 at The Hambledon.
There’s a small town on the west coast of Wales called Cardigan where lots of really good stuff happens. Much of it is thanks to major do-ers David and Clare Hieatt, who returned to their native Wales after a stint in London back in the 90s. They founded (and later, sold) the original Howies clothing company (you might recall we stocked it for some time), moved to a farmhouse on the edge of Cardigan, dreamt up the Do Lectures (a lecture series which they still hold annually in their cow shed) and set up The Hiut Denim Company, which we’re really pleased to welcome to both menswear and womenswear this season.
Hiut came about after the David and Clare found out about Cardigan’s former denim industry; four hundred locals had been employed making jeans; 35,000 pairs of them a week, for three decades. Until, one day, the factory closed and the business went overseas. The discovery was a bit of a eureka moment for the couple and there and then, the seed for The Hiut Denim Company was sown; a means of bringing manufacturing back home, using the skill on their doorstep, breathing new life back in to the town, and making some really good jeans in the process.
Hiut’s whole ethos is ‘do one thing well’ and that’s what they stick to; using the best quality denims, cutting them with an expert eye, and letting their ‘grand masters’ at the sewing machines do the rest. Even with the music loud and the coffee strong, they can only make 100 pairs of Hiut's a week. But that’s ok, because they are really, really good.
This is the rigid denim we’ll all be wearing this season. For the girls, a classic slim leg style called Coda, a button fly mid-rise crafted from raw denim. Then there’s the Girlfriend, lower in the rise, sitting just above the ankle, made from 13.oz denim, rinsed once. Heading down to menswear you’ll find the Organic Slim, Slim Tapered and Selvedge Slim, all getting the seal of approval from Rob, our chief denim fanatic.
Only question is, will you be joining the Hiut No Wash Club? An elite club, where six months without washing means six months - no cold dip in the bath, no getting caught in the rain without an umbrella - all in pursuit of the most beautiful pair of jeans you've ever owned. The bar has just been raised, Hambledon denim lovers, say hello to The Hiut Denim Company.
It was a warm and sunny Friday evening when Tim Webb, Moscot’s man in London, arrived with a suitcases full of specs for our Moscot Trunk Show. Many, many Moscots; sunglasses and spectacles of every shape, size and style. We could not have been happier, with buckets of cold beers and a good few hours to chat eyewear and try them all on.
Things continued in the same spirit on the Saturday with many a Moscot fan making a special trip to the store. Some remaining faithful to the classic Lemtosh. Others discovering new styles with thanks to Tim’s expert advice. Everyone leaving looking super smart in their brand new specs. Thanks Tim, great time had by all.
Moscot have been making iconic glasses in New York for over 100 years and have not let up creating the eyewear people want to be seen in. Founded as an opticians, they are renowned for their craftsmanship but have added global fashion brand to their list of quality achievements. We are honoured to have Tim Webb, our favourite bespectaled eyewear oracle, instore for one day only to pass on his extensive knowledge and on-the-button cool advice. Tim is a qualified optician and responsible for bringing Moscot to London. He will be taking time out from running the Moscot Soho store to bring his trunks full of men's and women's optical and sun glasses to Winchester and guide you to find your perfect frames. He knows about sizing, fit, colour and all that but when he says "try these for fun" and "they are killer", you know you will be taking home your favourite ever pair of glasses.