John Smedley is like the grand old master of the basement labels. Older than the hills and quietly going about business from season to season, the label very much defines the production values we've come to expect from our brands. They've been turning out their excellent knitwear from the same premises in Derbyshire since 1784, employing a long lineage of local families whose years of experience and craftsmanship would be hard to match. Indeed, Rob insists there isn't a finer merino knit going. They wash and wear like all good wardobe basics should.
New this season, the Belvoir rollneck, joins old favourites the Cavendish cardi, Bower v-neck and the Hunter crewneck. And alongside the navy and charcoal, appears a great new colour called 'soot'.
You have to admire the pea coat. The enduring classic with dual purpose. Standard issue of the US Navy since about 1881, the 32oz wool, extra tall collar, broad lapels and double-breasted fastening, are ideal for fending off the bitter chill in a howling gale at sea. The fact they also happen to look extremely good, especially on a moody winter photoshoot, is a very happy coincidence we think.
To create a similar look we suggest the Fidelity version seen here. Suppliers of the pea coat to the US Navy, it’s as original as you’re going to find. Everything from the stand up collar to the anchor buttons and lining are exactly as they were back in the 1900s, and still cut stitched and pressed under one factory roof in Boston, MA to this very day.
The subject is Edwin so pay attention now because it means talking denim and it can get technical. All ounces and rinses. But if you're a denim man then this is your territory and Edwin are your jeans. To start with (and very important if you're a denim man), they've got great heritage. We love how Mr Tsunemi was responsible for taking American style denim production to Japan in the 60s and pioneering 'old wash' and stone wash techniques in the 70s and 80s.
Second (and this is where it does get technical), they turn out a superb pair of jeans. This autumn, the classic straight leg ED47 returns in a red listed 14oz dry denim as well as a new primo rinse wash. It's also our first season carrying the tapered ED55, again in red listed14oz primo wash denim. Sorry if we lost you there. We'll finish on a more straightforward note, but with equal enthusiasm, saying Edwin also do great knitwear. The cable knit made from recycled yarns is well worthy of some attention too.
Like many of the menswear brands we most admire, Reigning Champ keep it simple and do one thing really, really well. In their case, it's perfecting classic jerseywear. Their sweatshirts and sweatpants are crafted from 25oz heavyweight Canadian fleece and handfinished by a small team of inhouse sewers with flatlock seams and their signature zigzag stitching. Rob's rarely been without his grey marl classic sweat of late but the final seal of approval for us has to be the fact that another of our much admired brands - Engineered Garments - always turn to Reigning Champ to make their sweatshirts. Got to be good.
YMC has come of age with their AW offerings. The aesthetic is altogether smarter, yet we're pleased to see we've not lost the label's bold takes on shape, colour and texture. It's the geography teacher and the librarian, not out of place taking a walk down Shoreditch High Street, warding off winter in colour and in style.
The girls are wearing silk pussy bow blouses, beautifully fitted wool dresses, cropped knits and a peter pan collar coat, all in a lovely, unwintry primary palette. Following on are the guys wearing heavy textures and rich hues; weighty cashmere blend knits, beautiful tactile shirting, thick cord chinos and smart wool trousers.
Woolrich is a company made of steadfast stuff. In the 19th Century they saw the confederates through the Civil War with blankets and uniforms. And they're still going strong today with straightforward designs and uncompromising quality. They make clothes you'll come to depend upon.
With the label's first outing in womenswear, Victoria and Lucy were won over by their original blanket-style pieces. A series of heavy duty knits and boiled wool jackets centre around one supremely gorgeous cape. The lovely toggles, buttons and collars smarten up appearences on a crispy autumn walk.
Meanwhile Rob's second season is the most perfetly complete collection you'll find in the basement. The starting point is the parka, the piece for which Woolrich have become most well known. Tokihito Yoshida's re-engineered arctic parka and grey wool field jacket set a high standard, which continues with classic wool blazers, cashmere blend roll necks and subtly checked brushed cotton shirts.
A trio of classic coats heads up our small but perfectly co-ordinated collection from Paul Smith this season. A rather majestic maritime inspired double breasted wool overcoat takes centre stage, flanked by two distinguished tweed blazers in navy and grey. Remove the outerwear and you'll find the rest equally as well dressed; here are the consistently excellent shirts - florals, checks and stripes - and Rob's standout piece - a heavy grey mohair knit to see off the winter chill in style.
As many of you well know, our Rob is a shoes man. So when he started working at The Hambledon, it wasn't long before we were stocking Tricker's, the shoemaker responsible for the very finest shoes a man can buy in the land. Three years and many a happy Tricker-clad customer later, the time had come to get serious.
So, back in Spring, Rob and Rich took a trip to the company's historic Northampton factory to commit some exclusive Hambledon designs to leather in our first ever footwear collaboration, a matter of huge excitement not least for Rob, who as you can imagine was in seventh heaven.
The result is two unique takes on tried and tested styles. The Superboot is an adaption of the classic Burford style in a rich chestnut Nastor calf leather. They kept the welt and midsole in natural leather and soled the boot in a durable Dainite rubber unit. The boot is finished with brass eyelets and the choice of two sets of laces.
Next up is the Supershoe, based on the classic Woodstock. For this, Rob and Rich chose a burnished coffee calf which is at its best when polished black, giving a fantastic finish over time. They stuck with the original by going for a double leather sole but made it a natural shade to give a rich contrast with the upper. As with the boot, the shoe comes with the choice of two sets of laces plus the all important tin of black polish. And let's not forget our favourite bit, The Hambledon stamped smartly in gold on the leather lining.
And it really is as straightforward as that. Sticking to what they do best, Norse Projects deliver more of the stuff we love for AW12. Preppy sportswear meets high quality basics in a subdued palette of olive, grey and navy.
It's a collection that triumphed at London Fashion Week back in February and now that it's hanging on our menswear rails we can totally see why. Oliver Spencer has once again delivered garment after garment of beautifully wearable clothing. The trademark tailoring is ever present, as are the fanatstic shirts. But what marks out this collection is the colour, texture and pattern. Olive, red and ochre breaks up the navy, as do large checks, fine stripes, paisley, polka dots and tightly knitted Fair Isle. Layer up and look good.