When did Margate become the epicentre of cool? This once unloved seaside town has seen a renaissance, not only with its minimal Turner Gallery and reopened and vintage inspired Dreamland theme park, but its collection of quirky retro and vintage shops.
Left - Eau De Parfum/GPS 23’34”N - 100ml - £160
Well, it was only a matter of time before Margate would spawn a collection of local brands. The first to catch my eye is Haeckels. Kent’s answer to Aesop, Haeckels is a premium, natural fragrance and skin care brand.
Using local ingredients, most prominently the ‘hand harvested’ seaweed, all Haeckels’ products are formulated in their cliff top lab in Margate where they only use and distill locally growing botanicals, offering the very best anti-oxidant properties.
They hold one of only two licenses in England to harvest seaweed from the English coast. (Margate’s coast is genuinely unique: built on a giant 14 mile long Jurassic chalk reef which makes up 20% of the UK chalk reefs which means its able to nourish families of seaweed not found anywhere else in the world).
The local seaweed forms the base ingredient of the skincare range based on the tradition of 'Thalassotherapy' derived from the Greek word meaning ‘sea’ or ‘ocean’. Thalassotherapy treatments use ocean water, seaweed, ocean mud and marine minerals to treat ailments and enable the body to replenish, remineralise and revitalise to enhance good health for body and mind.
Haeckels was founded in 2012 by film maker, volunteer beach warden and coastal enthusiast Dom Bridges. When Haeckels was starting out Dom would collect seaweed and local botanicals along the Margate coast and bring them bring back to his family kitchen to experiment. Dom’s wife, Jo, soon said it was time to get a proper lab and turn a passion into a business as every saucepan in the kitchen was starting to smell like a skin care product. Taking his wife’s advice he acquired the 'Lab on Cliff Terrace' in 2013 where more product formulas were developed to complete the range.
Right - Chalk Room Diffuser - 100ml - £100
The company has now grown: taking on members of staff whilst still playing an active part in the local community by organising beach cleans and taking part in marine conservation surveys.
Haeckels currently has two stores: one in Margate, the other in Shoreditch and has just gone into Selfridges. They are planning the world's first Victorian sea bathing sauna on Margate beach. Watch this space.
For the last couple of summers men's footwear has been about plastic pool sliders and Birkenstock type buckled sandals. Well, on my recent visit to Pitti Uomo in Florence I spied a new cross between the two. Could we possibly label it the 'slandal' or 'sander'?!!
Left & Below - Moses - £35 (You can e-mail the website to see which men's sizes and colours they have available)
Called Moses, they are one complete plastic unit in a rainbow of colours. They are made from a breed of plastic called PCU, a superior grade of sustainable eco friendly plastic injected with air, creating a unique combination that creates a durable and ultra comfortable new feeling when you walk.
Behind the brand is Sarah Gurt, originally from Paris. She acquired her professional education as a shoe designer in 1999 at Cordwainers College and Central St Martins and has since worked as a shoe designer for companies in Europe and the US such as Thierry Mugler, Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta.
After 14 years, Sarah decided it was time to come back to her adopted home of Israel and start a brand that related to her local lifestyle and that could resonate with people around the world: a brand that embodied the aesthetics and vibes of her city, Tel Aviv.
The sandals are washable and smell of milk and honey, quite literally, thanks to the combination of PCU plastic and natural oils and perfume injected into moulds which are placed on rotary injection machines. They come in a rainbow of colours and I expect see these next to every pool next summer.
Move over Mary Portas! Le Slip Francais is all about home manufacturing: French manufacturing. Founder, Guillaume Gibault, made a bet, in early 2011, with a friend, in a Parisian Café, where he wagered that with an inspiring story and traditional French craftsmanship anything and everything was possible.
Left - Oo La La - Le Slip Francais' Logo
The briefs he imagined, on that fine evening, first saw the light of day a few months later in a small workshop on the banks of the river Drome in the Dordogne which had been producing underwear for the last 60 years. In September 2011, the first consignment of 600 pairs was delivered to Paris in the trunk of a rental car and Le Slip Francais was launched.
Never had the 2,000 villagers of the sleepy commune of Saint-Antoine-Cumond dreamed that their home would soon become the French underwear capital.
Right - Le Slip Francais' colour palette for its underwear and swimwear in based on the three colours of the French flag - Red, White & Blue - Trunks - £25
Three years later with the expansion that followed, partnerships with established brands, two pop-up stores, one store in Paris, Le Slip français celebrated the sale of its 60,000th garment – one of over 120 different lines, created in one of 15 workshops across France.
But, Le Slip Français is much more than a brand of underwear. This dynamic brand fuses French manufacturing tradition and expertise with a modern twist and a sense of humour. The internet has offered them a new way to fund, create, communicate and interact with their brand community worldwide. In achieving this vision they're breathing new life into what had been a declining industry, by creating a brand that is relevant for a new generation of discerning consumers who value quality garments with a genuine story and honest authentic provenance.
Left - For Spring-Summer 2015, another French brand, Aigle, has collaborated with Le Slip Français. Drawing inspiration from classic French style 'Breton stripes' the capsule collection has six statement pieces including swim shorts, trunks, espadrilles, T-shirt, a tote bag and iconic Aigle wellington boots. The colour palette of the collection is based on the French tricolour and the whole collection is made in France.
A family affair, the American knitwear brand, Orley, consists of brothers Matthew and Alex Orley and Matthew's wife, Samantha. Orley is a designer brand that launched with a capsule collection of Italian-made knitwear for A/W 2012 and expanded into a full men's ready-to-wear collection for Spring/Summer 2014.
The spring 2015 collection, pictured, is inspired by the photorealist paintings of Robert Bechtle and Robert Cottingham. Orley is known for its combination of elegant yet youthful, irreverent design with a focus on luxury knitwear and commitment to the highest quality materials and manufacturing. The work of the Orley designers subverts classicism, using proprietary stitch techniques and an idiosyncratic colour palette to create a wholly unique product.
Left - Chaz Plais Sweater - £480 from MatchesFashion.com
In 2014, the Orley designers were finalists for the 2014 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. Orley was also nominated for the 2014 Fashion Group International Rising Star Award in Menswear.
Right - Brooks Striped Knit Polo - £280 from MatchesFashion.com
In 2015,the Orley designers were nominated for the 2015 CFDA Swarovski Award for Menswear and shortlisted for the 2015 LVMH Prize.
TheChicGeek says "Orley love to use Italian fabrics which gives their knitted polos, their signature product, an authenticity. They are pure 'riviera chic' and have some of that Talented Mr Ripley styling I love so much. Perfect with a pair of shorts or chinos on holiday."