If Christopher Bailey made a film it would be The Dig. The story of Basil Brown and his discovery of the ancient Anglo Saxon treasure of Sutton Hoo, it is a master class in washed out 1930s style. That end of summer, sliding into autumn feeling of swaying grasses and bleached out countryside.
The style takeaways are numerous from Robert Pretty’s rocket knit to Basil’s floppy gardening hat to Peggy Preston’s Roman coin necklace. Dig in!
Left - Robert Pretty in his intarsia rocket jumper
Left - Burberry ad. campaign circa 2009
Buy TheChicGeek's latest book FashionWankers - HERE
Read expert ChicGeek Comment - HERE
Check out TheChicGeek's new shop of fabulous plants & books - Give me Penis Cactus!
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 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.