England | A Continuous Lean. - Page 2

Made in England | Sunspel Menswear Ltd

Dec 23rd, 2012 | Categories: England, Factory Tour | by Michael Williams

Sunspel_Factory_26

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to see all sorts of things being made. I’ve been to Wayne, Michigan to see a newly re-tooled and incredibly modern Ford plant, to Schaffhausen, Switzerland to see the precision watchmakers at IWC craft beautiful timepieces. I’ve seen multiple generations of tailors sitting side by side in Naples, Italy making Isaia suits almost entirely by hand using skills that look liked they took lifetimes to develop. I’ve seen jeans made in L.A., suits made in Brooklyn and boots made in Minnesota.

After all of this, what I came to discover were people who are amazingly similar even though they hail from vastly different places and backgrounds. To walk into Sunspel in Long Eaton, England and see people making cut and sew underwear was an equally astonishing and familiar pursuit. In American and England, I don’t think people expect factories like Sunspel’s to exist anymore. I for one don’t, even though I have been to so many similar types of places. (I should point out that my marketing company Paul + Williams does work on behalf of Sunspel. Full disclosure and all that good stuff.) It goes to show that people want the real thing, they want quality and they will pay for it. That’s how I feel and over the course of doing ACL I’ve discovered that there are many people out there that feel the same way.

To go against the changes in society and continue to make the highest quality in England was likely not an easy thing to do. It is like swimming upstream. It takes guts and resiliency. On top of that, it takes a lot of hard work and some luck too. The important thing to remember here is that it can be done — these things can still exist in a meaningful way. I admire Sunspel because of its heritage and history. I respect it because it didn’t just close down its factory in the Midlands and chase cheap labor to the bottom over seas. I love it because it is real.

Sunspel Factory

An old image of Sunspel factory sewers from the company archive.

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In the Making | Crockett & Jones.

Oct 24th, 2012 | Categories: England, Footwear, Made in England | by Michael Williams

The history, the shape of the lasts, the legacy and most of all the quality. Those are the reasons which keep me buying and wearing shoes from Crockett & Jones. Every time I am in London I stop by at least one of the Northampton shoemaker’s shops (there are two storefronts on Jermyn Street for some odd reason) in Mayfair to browse and to occasionally take home a new pair of shoes that I plan on owning forever. The New York store is also nice to visit, but not nearly as much fun as seeing these shoes on their home soil.

Crockett & Jones is one of those companies that I have long sought to know on a more intimate basis, partially because I admire the history of the company, but also because I like to wear the shoes so much. Only thing is, Crockett & Jones is a pretty conservative company, one that is much more focused on making great shoes than making much of a fuss on the internet. It rightfully figured it has a loyal following and a strong business, the product is the marketing.

All of this reminds me of Alden. (Incidentally I have basically never had any contact with Alden, but that’s fine because all I need from them is to continue making shoes I love.) The beloved New England shoemaker is another company that doesn’t need to have a heavy hand when it comes to marketing, the shoes and the quality tell everyone all they need to know. Production is limited and it doesn’t want to go crazy increasing it and risk ruining everything. It’s admirable because it works, and also because both Alden and Crockett make such great things.





Hero’s Welcome: The Return of Lucky Jim.

Oct 11th, 2012 | Categories: Books, David Coggins, England | by David Coggins

Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis’s first novel, was published in 1954 and promptly entered the pantheon of British postwar literature. It’s just been reissued by the invaluable New York Review Books Classics, which is the literary equivalent of receiving a case of Laphroaig. Our hero, Jim Dixon, a young university lecturer, grapples with a stream of improbable academic cranks, pretentious artists, neurotic women, a vengeful oboist and his own self-destructive streak. The novel is trenchant, knowing and audaciously misanthropic. It may be the funniest book ever written.

Yes, that’s an absurd statement (Jim himself would surely raise an eyebrow at such a sweeping claim). But Lucky Jim remains the benchmark for satire, misbehavior and the absurd demands of adult life. Strangely, some Lucky Jim partisans struggle through the book’s opening the first time they read it. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to take pause before they plow their way through it. Why is that? Like watching Shakespeare’s plotting villains or early episodes of Deadwood, it takes some time to acclimate yourself to the incredibly specific, rarefied language. But that makes it sound as if it’s an exalted enterprise: it’s not.





Pachyderm Proof | Greg Chapman for Globe-Trotter

Apr 2nd, 2012 | Categories: England, Made in England, Travel | by Michael Williams

Americana loving Brit designer Greg Chapman spent a year and a half traveling around the world with the Globe-Trotter Safari Air, a case that he purchased at the revered company’s shop in London’s Burlington Arcade after a meeting with brand Creative Director Gary Bott. A little while later, Chapman approached Globe-Trotter and Bott about collaborating on a modified case that incorporates some modern day considerations — though nothing too crazy like wheels — and then set out to create a small run of special edition Globe-Trotters based on the company’s functional 1912 Stabilist series.

More history on the inspiration for the Greg Chapman x Globe-Trotter collaboration:

In 1912, the Stabilist series were bespoke manufactured Globe-Trotter luggage that featured special functionality for the Victorian traveler; such as wardrobe trunks, hat and shoe cases for travel by horse drawn carriage, rail and cruise liner.





Becoming a Globe-Trotter

Jan 6th, 2012 | Categories: England, Travel | by Michael Williams

Still made in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire England using original manufacturing methods, Globe-Trotter luggage has over the years built a cult following among well heeled travelers the world over. The process of making these incredible instruments of exploration has largely remained the same for over a hundred years — something not too many luggage makers can boast (though there are still a handful who can).

The company recently released a video highlighting the making of its iconic cases. More on that construction process from the Globe-Trotter craftsmanship page:

Each case is uniquely constructed from vulcanised fibreboard; a special material invented in Britain during the 1850’s consisting of multiple layers of bonded paper. Handles are produced by the leather team who also form the iconic Globe-Trotter corners over a period of 5-days on antique Victorian presses.





Nigel Cabourn SS12 | Desert Rats

Jul 12th, 2011 | Categories: England, SS12 | by Michael Williams

With all that was going on at Pitti Uomo, I didn’t get a good chance to go over the Nigel Cabourn SS12 collection in much depth. As it turned out, I did get another bite at the apple during the shows in Berlin. The spring collection is inspired by General Bernard Montgomery and the “Desert Rats” of the British 8th Army and their campaign in North Africa during WWII. This can be seen very clearly in the photo of the military inspired suits pictured above. Exaggerated khaki jackets paired with long wide leg shorts were at the center of the Nigel Cabourn collection for the season.

Hats off to Nigel and their team for sticking to their guns (pun intended) and turning out the clothes that they want to make, and not clothes that other people want them to make. The remainder of the SS12 line is all of the great clothing that you’ve come to know and love from the British label. I really liked the plaid Irish Linen jacket that is made of fabric specifically developed by the Cabourn folks. More photos below.





Close-Up: Classic Brits at Salon Privé

Jun 9th, 2011 | Categories: Automobiles, England, Jared Paul Stern | by Jared Paul Stern

On June 23rd RM Auctions is staging a staggering sale of classic British motorcars during the Salon Privé, an English garden party-style car show and luxury goods fair at Syon Park, the sprawling London estate of the Duke of Northumberland. There will also be a Concours d’Elegance highlighting categories including the Ferrari 250 Competizione and motorcycles from the Steve McQueen era. Dubbed the “Quintessentially English” sale, the auction features a range of desirable examples from famed UK marques made during the last century, with estimates ranging from about £50,000 – £500,000. We were especially taken with some of the hand-finished details on the cars, pictured here.