The English countryside has a timeless quality reflected in the garments designed for it. While practical, many of these, most notably jackets, have become fashion items and are worn all over the world, in both the countryside and urban places, yet still grounded in our green and pleasant land.
Left - The quilted Prufrock Tweed Country Coat - £425
The British wax jacket is the one the majority of people think of and never shows any sign of waning from popularity. I was recently introduced to the British outdoor brand, English Utopia. Concentrating on wax and tweed country jackets, it has grown over the last couple of years through its attention to detail and British made jackets.
English Utopia currently turns over £650k per annum and has doubled in size every year since its launch in 2013. The label launched in Europe first, via a network of sales agents, and in the US in 2014. The UK launch commenced in 2015 and the label now employs 6 members of staff.
The wax cotton and quilted garments are entirely made in the UK. English Utopia only uses one UK factory, one that Gary - the founder - has had a manufacturing relationship with for over 20 years. All of the woollen garments are made in Lithuania in a family run factory that’s Scottish owned. This particular factory is a specialist at combining natural fibre garment manufacturing with technical /performance expertise.
Founder, Gary Newbold, ‘the Leicester lad’, as he calls himself, is a self-taught designer who left school with ‘nowt’. Long before Wiggins and co captured the cycling zeitgeist, Gary represented team GB becoming a pro cyclist at the age of 18. He competed in sportives including the legendary Milk Race Tour of Britain and lived in France for eight years.
Upon hanging up his wheels at the age of 28, he dabbled in a bit of pattern cutting and in put himself through night school to secure a place at York University. He honed his freelance design talents before landing the top creative job at Barbour in 2000.
Gary has steered the creative vision for renowned heritage brands including Farlows of Pall Mall, and Kneissl (the world’s oldest Ski brand) where in 2009 he was appointment Head of Design. In 2001 he joined John Partridge, where he helped resurrect the label, a perennial favourite of HRH The Prince of Wales.
He still cycles 25 miles to work, though these days he’s swapped Lycra for English Utopia waxed cotton.
The English Utopia name is an amalgamation of his two passions. Firstly, his love of what it means to enjoy the English landscape – from the Cotswolds to Cornwall and Glastonbury to Glyndebourne – English Utopia is a brand firmly rooted in the countryside. Secondly as a designer, the initial vision for a collection is often distorted during the production and marketing process. This ‘utopia’, the original sentiment behind a creation, is something he does his utmost to preserve.
The balloon logo was inspired by seeing them in the summer months air balloons taking off from York races, near his studio. But in addition to this beautiful spectacle, for Gary the balloon symbolises creative freedom. In an age of corporate restraint where there isn’t a place for the unmeasurable, allowing ideas the space ‘see where they go’ is a precious thing.
The company is based in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate and draws inspiration in its designs from the surrounding countryside.
Right - Gary Newbold
If you’re bored of Prada you could do very well to look at new brand UTC00. Founded by four worldwide creatives, UTC00 is a truly global accessories brand with an aesthetic that spans continents. Named after Coordinated Universal Time, abbreviated as UTC, a slightly more scientific version of Greenwich Mean Time, UTC00 is Greenwich and they use these different times, plus or minus, to regulate all meeting up and developing the brand.
From Milan, Seoul and London, they know their travel and have developed luxury accessories to suit. The colours are bold yet masculine and the quality details are streamlined for practicality. The majority of the materials, trims, hardware, and other components are custom developed and produced for UTC00. It brings to mind early Prada and the famous nylon rucksack and with prices of around £120 for a bum bag and £210 for a rucksack, it is premium but without the designer mark-up.
An oldie, but a goodie, Ludwig Reiter is an Austrian shoe brand founded in 1885. The first Ludwig Reiter, a master shoemaker from Bohemia, established a workshop in Vienna. In the 1920s, Ludwig Reiter II transformed the firm into a small shoe factory.
Left - Founder, the first Ludwig Reiter
In the 1960s, Ludwig Reiter III, expanded the company, making it one of Austria’s most renowned shoe producers. In 2011, the company moved into the renovated Süssenbrunn Manor in Vienna. There some 60 employees produce around 30,000 pairs of shoes annually.
Right - Maronibratesr Boots - €698
Today, Ludwig Reiter—the only factory for welted shoes in the German-speaking region—is managed by the 4th and 5th generations of the original family.
Keeping to the company’s traditions, a classical Ludwig Reiter shoe is welted using the Goodyear method. This artisan method remains the best way to give the shoe both mobility and stability. In this method the upper leather and the leather insole are first sewn together with a continuous leather band—the welt (single stitching). Only then is the welt connected to the sole (double stitching).
Thus the upper part of the shoe and the outer sole are connected not directly but indirectly, and hence flexibly, with each other. This means the shoe can follow the foot’s complex movement when walking.
Left - An old Ludwig Reiter après ski advert
Brad Pitt is wearing a pair of Ludwig Reiter boots in the film, Inglorious Basterds.
If Helmut Lang and American Apparel had a lovechild, you’d probably end up with RON DORFF. Born out of the partnership of Jérôme Touron, a Frenchman, and Claus Lindorff, a Swede, RON DORFF is a simple combination of their two last names. Aligning Swedish functionality with classic French elegance, RON DORFF is a new idea of sportswear.
Left - SS16 - VELO LOVE developed together with Lorenzo Martone of MARTONE CYCLING COMPANY OF NY
Basically, it’s basics with a few slogans in a simple typeface and we can never get enough of these post hipster labels.
Offering sweatshirts, hoodies, swimwear, joggers, underwear, accessories and skincare, RON DORFF slogan is DISCIPLINE IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.
RON DORFF constantly collaborates with other designers and together offer exclusive limited editions such as the ‘Innocent Summer Pleasures’ series developed in collaboration with the Swedish graphic artist Johan Oxe and the ûber-light but practical city bike VELO LOVE developed together with Lorenzo Martone of MARTONE CYCLING COMPANY OF NY.
Left - RON DORFF's skincare line is made in Sweden
RON DORFF line of bodycare products is 100% made in Sweden and developed in partnership with Sweden’s most respected skincare brand, FACE Stockholm. The collection includes a shower gel, body scrub, tonifying shampoo and Swedish Massage Oil. The list of ingredients is brief, free of parabens and mineral oils, enriched by active botanicals harvested north of the Arctic Circle. The series also includes an exclusive, scented Swedish Massage candle made in Grasse, France.
Right - The majority of RON DORFF items are unbranded, but come into the slightly pricier bracket for men's basics
They have a Paris flagship store and plan a second in London at the end of this year.
If you wanted that summer feeling to last you well into the autumn, then those standard jute-soled espadrilles may get a little soggy come all the wind and rain. This was the thought MULO founder, Tobias Cox, 35, had when he was unable to wear his favourite summer shoes in the changeable climate of London.
Left - MULO - Suede - Cobalt - £115
Inspired by a sailing trip across the Atlantic, which saw another pair fall apart, Cox became determined to create a version that could stand up to wear and tear yet retain the charm of the original.
With no formal fashion training, Cox made a DIY prototype by cutting up his waxed cotton Barbour jacket to see if the weatherproof qualities of the material would translate to footwear. Further product testing proved that by using waxed cotton the shoes were not only durable but also aged beautifully.
This breakthrough instilled the belief that each part of the shoe should be enhanced in the same way. Over the course of two years Cox deconstructed the espadrille and rebuilt it using only the best materials, working with specialist suppliers to customise each component.
The result was a simple yet elegant slip-on.
TheChicGeek took time out to ask Tobias a few more questions:
CG - Where does the name MULO come from?
TC - It is the spanish translation of the word 'mule' - humble, pretty and hard working. It captures our goal for the shoe, and seemed a fitting homage to the Catalan heritage of the espadrille.
CG - What did you do before founding MULO?
TC - I have no formal fashion training and worked in management consulting, but always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
Right - MULO x David Kafri - Tribal - £115
CG - When did it start?
TC - The idea for a modern version of the espadrille came during a sailing trip across the Atlantic. I was wearing a traditional pair that very quickly fell apart and it made me realise that as a concept the shoe does not really work. I wanted to create a version that could function whilst respecting the simple charm of the original. It was several years in development and launched in 2013.
CG - What’s the difference between a MULO espadrille and any others?
TC - We don't use the traditional rope sole, we work on an Oxford last which makes the shoe a properly structured one. We are an elevated staple that combines the fit and feel of a sneaker to the summer essential. We rebuilt the espadrille on an Oxford last, lending structure and a fitted shape, and customised each component using premium materials to make it best in class.
Our limited edition collections using bold prints and images add personality. We recently collaborated with Design Miami/Art Basel. We applied a print by Pierre Frey named Chromatropic to our shoe, an assemblage of palm trees, sunsets, and foliage, cut from current Pierre Frey designs and pasted together to resemble wildly coloured camouflage. The shoes were made using different parts of the print, meaning each pair was one of a kind. They were a statement piece that immediately sold out.
CG - Where are they made?
TC - Our shoes are entirely handmade in Portugal. It takes 20 steps to make our shoe - from cutting and stitching to lasting. We work with a family run factory who share our values and take pride in their craft.
CG - What inspires you?
TC - Good design and craftsmanship.
CG - Where is the business based?
TC - London.
CG - What does becoming one of Walpole's Brands of Tomorrow mean?
TC - It is an honour to be recognised by such a reputable institution - Walpole is a unique alliance of over 170 of Britain's finest luxury brands, with companies such as Burberry, Jimmy Choo, The Savoy and Harrods among its membership. We are at a very exciting stage of development and are constantly navigating opportunities whilst also needing to stay nimble. Walpole is providing us with invaluable counsel and a wealth of resources to successfully expand in the luxury marketplace.
CG - What are the future plans? Own retail outlet?
TC - Our goal is to follow former Walpole Brands of Tomorrow - Orlebar Brown, Charlotte Olympia, Mr Hare, The Business of Fashion - and become recognised as a leader in our field. We plan to build the business selectively, through retailers and online, to maintain our premium market position and push creative boundaries.
French snow and cold weather specialist, Moncler, has produced capsule collections before. I was a big fan of Moncler V, a few years back.
Left - The new Moncler A capsule collection is deliberately oversized
The latest - Moncler A - a capsule line for the AW15 season, is a team up with AMI, founded in 2011 by Parisian menswear designer Alexandre Mattiussi.
Right - Fashion’s all gone a bit Wes Anderson and this collection is testament to that with the oversized logos and beanie hat styling
The collection features an oversize fit as the hallmark of the range; jackets have wide shoulders and trousers a low crotch for a loose fit. The collection’s other details include oversized zips and cream linings throughout.
The classic Moncler shield logo has been enlarged and features a vintage-look embroidery finish.
TheChicGeek says "This is a great collection. It has just the right amount of exaggeration and there's something very desirable about the Moncler logo and all the quality retro touches. It's also built for the cold as with all the outerwear from Moncler".
Left - Moncler A - Tricolour Wool Zip Cardigan - £580
More ChicGeek picks of the new Moncler A collection below
While a lucrative market, it is very difficult to enter the luxury leather goods sector fully formed. Gladstone London has done just that with its premium men’s accessories using the finest Italian leather.
Left - The signature Gladstone London hardware is handcrafted in Florence to jewellery standards. Each piece is crafted on a lathe in solid brass and finished in pewter. (I think it looks a bit like a Kalashnikov!)
Founded, just this year, by John O’Sullivan, who has over 30 years experience in luxury fashion, working for brands such as Harrods, MCM and Tanner Krolle, Gladstone London is said to reflect ‘a sense of relaxed and timeless elegance for the urban male, focusing on the reinterpretation of iconic shapes, long forgotten, but re-launched with a conscious expression of contemporary urban life’.
Right - G1 - Icon - £950
Sleek totes feature pewter plated brass zips and elegant travel bags are lined with Alcantara.
"After a lifetime working at luxury accessories brands and watching the priceless heritage of artisans working leather into timeless pieces, I saw many a design and craftsmen retire and with them, techniques lost.
"Often, pieces came back for repair, some over 100 years old, but the designs were still inspiring and still fit for purpose. It was the passion of these craftsmen and the vintage pieces that came through my hand which incorporated simplicity and an understatement of design which felt so right for now, that I set on a path to reinterpret these timeless luxury pieces with the help of a contemporary urban designer”, says John.
TheChicGeek says, “What I like about Gladstone London is the designs are classics yet still feel fresh. The styles have been given a light update and the minimal branding let them speak for themselves in terms of design and practicality. While expensive, when you consider they are handmade in Italy, they offer better value than many other brands in this market and it feels like you are paying for the design and craftsmanship rather than just the name".
Left - G48 - Hours - £1095
The entry level price point for Gladstone London is the G5 wash bag which starts from £285 up to the G48 Travel Tote priced at £1095.
The first AW15 collection is exclusively stocked at Harrods