It was at the launch of the new men’s grooming destination, Beast, - more info here - in Covent Garden that I was introduced to Leo Crabtree, the man behind the Beaufort London fragrance brand. There were a few samples of his fragrances in the selection of products to try and I was impressed by the originality of the scents. Historically based, they are a dramatic concoction of rich and smokey scents inspired by Britain’s maritime history. I wanted to know more, so, TheChicGeek asked Leo a few questions:
CG: What’s your background and why and when did you start Beaufort London?
LC: My background is mainly in music and I studied history at university. BeauFort London came about as a vehicle to market some homemade grooming products I was making around 4 years back. I found myself getting bored of the stuff that was available at that time and I thought I could do a better job. This project then developed into something a bit different, particularly when I started to learn about making fragrance. This area really interested me and I’ve kind of followed this path for the last 3 years.
CG: Where does the name come from? 1805 is a special year for you, why is that?
LC: The brand’s name comes from the Beaufort Scale which was thought up in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort - a way that sailors could gauge and report the wind strength. It’s still in use today.
This idea of invisible strength resonates and seemed appropriate for a brand that initially was only selling very firm moustache wax. The metaphor works nicely for fragrance too.
Aside from this detail, 1805 was also a pivotal year for British fortunes at sea… following the win at the battle of Trafalgar (October 21st 1805) British sea power was established and continued unchallenged for a century or so… I think these naval events still echo in the way we Brits perceive ourselves. And there’s something about the early 19th century that fascinates us - it seems to pop up a lot in popular culture at the moment.
CG: How many fragrances are in the range?
LC: The ‘Come Hell or High Water’ Collection consists of 5 Eau De Parfum each representing a different aspect of our relationship with the sea: Tonnerre (Trafalgar/warfare), Coeur De Noir (adventure stories / tattoos), Vi Et Armis (The opium / sea trade), Lignum Vitae (ships clocks / time) and Fathom V (The Tempest - weather). We are launching a 6th later this year too and we recently released a leather discovery set of the whole collection - refillable 7.5ml vials of each which is really popular.
CG: What is the idea behind the packaging?
LC: Well the caps were at one point going to be made out of pieces of old ships, but this didn’t work all that well. So, now, they are made from ash, which is a bit more stable and safer to reproduce.
The boxes ended up becoming almost like books or possibly sarcophagi - this is a pretty important thread in all this. The past, history, books, it’s all in here. I like to include snippets of things I’ve read, pictures inspired by the events that inform the fragrances. Each box is embossed with a little latin phrase which I found on a medal that was given to those who fought at the battle of Trafalgar. All these little things build a coherent picture of the brand I think.
CG: I like Tonnerre, which is inspired by the battle of Trafalgar, how do you get that smokey effect?
LC: Lots and lots of birch tar. This is an intensely smokey material made by boiling birch sap. This has been used a lot in the past to create a ‘leather’ effect (Famously in Chanel’s 'Cuir De Russie’ - historically Russian soldiers used Birch tar to waterproof their boots). In the case of Tonnerre the perfumer uses it in far far higher concentration than anyone has before to produce a gunpowder effect. I love the intensity of it… and the smell of tar immediately reminds me of boats.
CG: Any highlights from the others? What is the most popular and why do you think that is?
LC: We actually use birch tar in a lot of our fragrances. That smokey tar effect is almost our signature so if you’re looking for fresh you’re in the wrong place…
Vi Et Armis is really popular, I think because it’s so ‘in your face’ and unusual - dark as all hell. And Fathom V is an intensely strange aquatic fragrance which seems to be doing well too. We use a lot of strong materials, a lot of wood, tobacco, spice and booze. I think people like our brand because we offer something very different to traditional fragrances.
CG: You also sell other products like candles and moustache wax, how did these come about?
LC: The candles were due to popular demand, we had a lot of people who loved the scents asking if we could make them, so we tried it, and it seemed to work. Again, it hasn’t really been about planning these products, they just seem to make sense, and so we do them. I like experimenting with ideas.
CG: Has it been easy to produce in the UK?
LC: The perfume industry is rooted in mainland Europe for sure, but there’s a rich history of British perfumery and some really interesting newer British brands.
It was always a key aspect of this project that we would only work with British companies, and that has made things tricky (and almost certainly more expensive) at times. But it can be done, and I’m proud of it.
Our perfumers are based just outside of London, our boxes are made by hand in Sheffield, our bottles are filled and packed in the Cotswolds, the candles are made in Derbyshire and the moustache wax cases were made in Coventry.
CG: What do you think about the current perfume industry? Is it welcoming to niche producers? Is there too much product?
LC: When I first launched the range we went to Paris fashion week to have a look around. I was talking to a guy who works for a very long established French perfume house and he said to me quite unequivocally, “now this is war”, which seemed pretty ridiculous at the time. However, as time has passed, I think he’s right. There’s so many brands all trying to get a piece of the pie and the pie isn’t all that big in the first place. New launches happen all the time and it seems like (as with everything else) attention spans are short and the temptation is to churn out ’newness’ (a word I particularly hate) to grab attention fleetingly.
In the next few years, we may see some of these brands falling away as saturation point is reached. In my mind, starting a brand is the easy bit. Establishing longevity and maintaining engagement with your customer over a significant period of time is much harder… Time will tell.
CG: Is there any advice you would give to men about choosing fragrance or how they apply or use it?
LC: As with anything, the most rewarding experiences are those you invest some time in… do some research, get some samples of things that intrigue you. Spend a bit of time getting to know the fragrance in different environments as the best fragrances can develop massively throughout a day. Don’t rush… I’ve always said that YOU should wear the fragrance, don’t let IT wear you which is particularly important with these strong, heavy fragrances. There just too much for some people… they should blend with your character somehow rather than take over.
CG: What’s next for Beaufort London?
LC: Put it this way, we have been researching Georgian vices… I can’t say much more than that but it’s going to be an interesting couple of years!
Based in East Yorkshire, Dr Katerina Steventon has launched an anti-ageing serum to address concerns about wrinkles and vertical lines. Named ‘4’ after the four regenerative plant oils - jojoba, rose hip, camellia, echium and four technologically advanced active ingredients - marine micro algae, Indian gentian leaves, Renovage, (the brand name for trepenone, developed by the French skin care company Sederma and used for anti-ageing and skin stress) and liquorice and it is promoted alongside her ‘Faceworkshops’. Over her career she has worked at La Prairie, Shiseido and Smith and Nephew wound healing.
Left - Katerina Steventon 4 Anti-Ageing Serum - 15ml - £52.90
TheChicGeek says, “A new Doctor brand, Katerina Stevenson says over 20 years' experience has gone into this serum. It’s light, non-greasy and is applied before your moisturiser twice a day.
For Katerina it is all about the massage and the ritual of applying the product and with it being an oil-type consistency, this makes it easier to do this.
It’s labelled a serum, but I would call this an oil. I like oils as they feel nourishing and feed the skin. They feel more physical than a normal cream type product.
Katerina says it’s a hybrid product: serum in the morning, massage oil in the evening. The ‘Vertical Line Massage’ - she shows you how to do this on her site - is a prep before the product, but also an exercise for the facial muscles. I’ve seen this promoted before, when Creme de la Mer launched their Renewal Oil - see review here - but I didn’t do this with this product.
It says you need only a few drops of the rape seed coloured product, but I felt I needed more and the more I used the less it felt like an oil. It has a good consistency, absorbs well and smells good. Interestingly, people said how well I looked a few days after using this. A coincidence maybe?
These type of products are for the long-term, but I like a product somebody puts their name and face behind. A lot of these products you have to have an instinct for on whether they are working. This one I would say yes and would definitely look into trying the massage techinques. People can't expect to reduce ageing by simply and lazily apply a product. It makes sense you need to exercise, like the rest of your body, in order to keep it firm and looking its best.”
The word of the season is 'oversized'. The bigger the better. It just means getting dressed just got easier: one item covers all, well nearly.
We've been a fan of this AW16 collection since we saw it at Pitti Uomo at the beginning of the year. Handmade in Hackney by knitwear designers Anna Wilkinson and Lindsay McKean, Cats Brothers is known for its quirky crochet and colourful knits. Putting the craft into fashion, their pieces are ingrained with humour and style and feel more art-piece than yet another fashion item with a creature or icon.
Credits - Red Monkey Jumper, Oversized Black & White Jumper, Tiger Bag - Cats Brothers, Tracksuit Bottoms - Lyle & Scott, Velvet Trainers - Russell & Bromley
Shot by Robin Forster on OlympusPEN
More images & video below
There are two types of Britishness: urban London Britishness, which is too often clichéd and touristy, involving bowler hats, red telephone boxes and the like, and, then, there's the Britishness of the countryside, which comprises of green rolling hills, National Trust properties with colourful herbaceous borders all soundtracked by the theme of The Antiques Roadshow.
Left - The not-so-secret garden at the entrance of Burberry's pop-up Makers House
The British countryside is basically a giant garden dotted with the history of people aiming to perfect their little corner of it and that's why we all love to be tourists in it, regardless of where we are from.
And, it is this Britishness that Burberry has mined for its latest show and show space, which has been opened to the general public for a week afterwards and is called Makers House.
Right - Makers are gonna make. The day I went it was bookbinding
Located in the old Foyles book store on Charing Cross Road, on the edge of Soho, Burberry has teamed up with British craft collective, The New Craftsmen, showcasing their hand-working skills, making everything from tassels to keys to scissors. There are different people displaying different skills, on each day, creating theatre in the bottom of the space.
Just to be clear, these people didn’t produce anything for the new Burberry collection, but it’s an illustration of the type of skills involved. I guess Burberry needed huge volumes and a long lead time if they were able to be the first brand to fully deliver their new ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept worldwide, all at the same time, both offline and online.
Left - One of the standout pieces of the menswear show
You can buy their products in a small shop here, but I think Burberry missed a trick by not including a few of their own products. Maybe a few of the classic pieces.
Right - A print taken from the V&A archive and used in the collection and on the show seating
Alongside them is a pop-up branch of Thomas’, the Burberry café from Regent Street, which has to be one of the best of the big brand versions of this type of thing, offering seasonal British fare all served on British made tables and chairs, and in this case, leading onto a garden of white busts and classical plaster casts contrasted with lush green planting that welcomes you at the entrance.
It’s like Daylesford Organic has comes to Soho, hostas and all, in this mix of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Nancy Lancaster’s decorating skills, (she was the owner of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler), and a celebration of the great and good of British history all lined up like a friendly who’s, who. I feel like we may have been given a glimpse of Christopher Bailey’s Yorkshire lifestyle. He has to spend all those millions somewhere after all. This is the fantasy perfection of British country living that we never seem to tire of and one which Burberry has used as inspiration before such as Charleston in Sussex or gardening at Sissinghurst.
Left - TheChicGeek on the poetry staircase doing his best Rapunzel impression!
Upstairs, where the catwalk show was, 83 mannequins show off the full collection of men’s and women’s wear, 250 pieces in total, where you can look at the details and touch the fabrics. Everything is available now, if you can afford it, and the collection was Bailey’s usual strong balance of wearability and fashion. Think artist-like relaxed shirts with ruffled collars and cuffs interplayed with brocade and cropped shearlings and slouchy trousers. I particularly like the orange/biscuit coloured shearling and 30s style printed pyjama shirts. The green carpet design was taken from a garden print from the V&A.
Right - The Tudors are back! Taking the ruff with the smooth
Burberry took a risk on the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept, but I think they’ve pulled it off. Unlike other brands, this show season, who have made it a token gesture to gain attention and PR, this is full on and took some organisation. I guess many items had to be comprised or changed to fulfil the tight delivery dates, but it doesn't show.
Left - Pieces of Michelangelo's David looking over his shoulder while a sculptor builds up his clay maquette
I like the way it’s been opened up to the public. You spend all that money on the show space, you may as well as justify it by making it customer facing, especially now they’re selling the items straight away. I can’t wait to see how they will top this in February.
Many other luxury brands will be watching this enviously and wondering whether they could or should do the same.
Right - Nancy Lancaster's bed from her house, Ditchley Park
In a post-brexit world I think Burberry should take this whole concept on a world tour. Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mumbai would relish this little outpost of Britishness, pots plants and all. We have to remember there’s a big world outside of London.
Burberry Makers House Open Until 27th September 2016, 1 Manette Street, London, W1D 4AT
How many of these great British figures can you name?
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
In a quiet industrial estate, off a nondescript North London suburban street, sits Albion Knitting Co. Not some relic from the 60s or 70s, that, somehow, managed to survive, but a new venture, with state-of-the-art machines, producing for some of fashion’s biggest names, all proudly made in glamourous Haringey.
Left - Welcome to Albion Knitting Co.
I was invited down by American brand, Peter Millar, to see where some, not all, of their knitwear is made. Producing between 5,000 to 10,000 garments, a year, for Peter Millar, the factory opened in 2014 and also produces knitwear for luxury brands such as Chloe, dunhill and Nicole Farhi.
Right - The feature staircase inside the North London factory
Left - The stairs on the staircase features old pieces of knitting hardware
Knitting, washing and finishing takes place here by the 20 strong workforce. An example of skills and production returning to the UK, from abroad, the whole environment is very open and features a stunning metal staircase with steps incorporating old pieces of knitting hardware.
Right - A final AW16 look from Peter Millar
If you haven’t heard of Peter Millar before, the Richemont-owned men’s brand is busy expanding into the UK. Known for golfwear and currently available at Harrods, they have aspirations to take a chunk of Zegna’s market in that stylish, but won’t scare-the-horses-type of mature menswear. Making in London is certainly a start. If the label says 'Made in England' then the Peter Millar garment would have been proudly made by Albion Knitting Co.
Making it onto TheChicGeek's Hot List is a pair of made in England trainers. The majority of people would be surprised to learn that there are still manufacturers making trainers in this country.
Bolton to be precise. Norman Walsh make these classy looking trainers for Marks & Spencer's latest AW15 Best of British collection, where they support British manufacturing.
The first casual shoes within the range, they come in this handsome grey colour which look just as good with joggers as with more formal trousers.
Left & Below - Marks & Spencer - Best of British - Trainer - Grey - £99
British outerwear brand, Baracuta, has opened a flagship store on Soho's Newburgh Street. The original purveyors of the classic Harrington jacket - as seen on everybody from Frank Sinatra to Steve McQueen, - the brand has drawn inspiration from the famous Fraser tartan lining, as seen in the carpets and walls throughout the store.
Bespoke packaging has been designed exclusively for this flagship store. Perfect for taking your new G9 away in.
Iain MacKay is the person behind Logan MacKay Menswear. The name Logan comes from his mother’s side of the family and MacKay from his father’s. Only 24 years old, he established the brand after coming out of university where he had studied ‘Business Entrepreneurship’.
Left - AW15 - Navy Wool Bomber with Beige Shearling Collar - £650
“Although I haven't been to a fashion college or studied any fashion related courses, I learned pattern making/cutting from a family friend who had been in the industry - now retired - for over 40 years”, he says.
“Initially, I focused on designing coats and jackets (AW/15 and SS/16), but due to demand I, now, intend on producing a full menswear collection for AW/16,
“My design ethos is fairly simple, I like to create garments that I would personally love to wear and hope that transcends to the customer. I also strongly believe in supporting British factories, therefore all of the collection is manufactured in a small factory in Bethnal Green”, he says.
Right - A Preview of SS16
TheChicGeek says, "When producing small quantities of quality product, Britain and in this case, London, is ideal for controlling and fine tuning the final item. Iain obviously has an eye and with his business background it will be exciting to see where he takes his eponymous label".
Thankfully Gloverall has realised that there’s only so many duffle coats we can buy (they do make the best by the way) and only so many times they can wait for this classic outerwear item to come back into fashion on the back of a Paddington Bear movie.
So to fill that void and expand the offering there is a new label from this proudly British manufacturer called Gloverall 1951.
Left - Gloverall 1951 - Monty Duffle Coat - £430
Vintage inspired and delving into its rich sports-led archive, this made in England collection takes its lead from a set of black-and-white photographs chronicling the early days of the British Grand Prix.
The images from the 1950’s capture moments both on and off the race-track featuring motor-racing cause-célèbre of the day, Tony Brooks. Photographed wearing Goverall‘s iconic Monty duffle coat, Brooks is captured alongside racing legends Sterling Moss and Mike Hawthorn while racing at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1957.
For AW 15, the launch collection updates the iconic Monty duffle coat, featuring appliqué racing-inspired motifs and pins.
Additional outerwear highlights include a selection of all-weather raincoats, sporty mid-length car coats, a tailored sports blazer, a quilted rally jacket, a wadded parka and the race-inspired Paddock jacket. Premium british fabrics run throughout: tweeds from Abraham Moon, Fox Brothers and Harris Tweed feature alongside waxed cottons by Halley Stevens and bonded cottons by British Millerain.
Right - 1951 Sweatshirt - £150
The complete collection also includes a range of casual utility shirts with faint echoes of the 1950s alongside a beautifully executed selection of Aran and Guernsey knits, Fair Isle and striped options as well as a crew-neck knit emblazoned with the collection’s 1951 slogan.