British fishing, field sports and country clothing specialists, Farlows, who hold a Royal Warrant from H.R.H The Prince of Wales, launched their new fieldwear and country clothing collection last month, and brand ambassador Peter Sant told us how he’s passionate about British tweed and is greatly inspired by the Royal Family.
Tell us how you started at Farlows?
Farlows were looking for ways to reintroduce their brand into the market as they’d never really done a full, considered and cohesive collection before.
As a very old company; we’re 177 years old this year, and we hold a Royal Warrant from Prince Charles, we are a quintessentially British company, but we weren’t producing enough products that were getting that message across.
The first thing I did was to deliver a brief that stated we were going to source from the UK and create a fundamentally British collection. Farlows is already a fabulous department store for fieldwear, so I created a family of tweeds for men and ladies, starting with the foundation garments; which are a field coat, breeks and a vest. Farlows is such a great house to work for; they’re such a nice team and such a lovely old building. I decided to stay for a while, and now I’m three years in!
What is your product design inspiration?
I said that we should put our stake in the ground and focus on function and form; it should be all about kit that you can actually use in the field; nothing frivolous. By showing we do pure performance wear, our clients trust us. You should be able to go out and shoot in it, or fish with it; you should be able to get wet and dirty and it be completely field worthy.
There’s no point in us pushing technical GORE-TEX® jackets, because there are already other brands out there doing it very well and I’m not trying to compete with those. But with tweed, and certainly performance tweed, it gives you a look that’s well within the etiquette of fieldwear and shooting, but performs like a modern garment.
So what makes your tweed unique?
I’ve used very traditional materials, so a proper hardworking field tweed is twisted very, very compactly; they’re woven as true fieldwear should be. There’s lots of tweed on the market where they’ve raised the surface of the fabric or tried to make it look antique, but it doesn’t work like it should.
Our tweed, in the format of a shooting coat, looks traditional but performs like a modern garment; it has a drop liner in there which is exceptionally waterproof.
I’ve been very authentic with my selection of the way our tweeds are made and produced, and I’ve built the collection in and around a family of mens and ladies tweeds, so everything falls off that; it’s a family and they should all look like brothers and sisters.
The idea is to build up that recognition of a Farlows tweed in the field. It’s very slow fashion and a tweed will stay in the collection for three or four years; as you drop one out you bring another one in, you don’t throw it all away every season.
How do you keep your collections refreshed each season?
The collection’s refreshed with knitwear, lambswools, superfine merino and cashmere, and some traditional Shetland knits, and then there’s the shirts and ties and silks. They’re the vehicles I use to refresh the collection every season.
I’m using some of the best producers in the country; a fantastic coat maker in Northampton, the best tweed mill in the country in Hawick, Scotland, and although I might be one of their smaller customers, they give me the same attention as some of the bigger brands they work with. They’re just fantastic people.
How does Farlows build provenance into it’s brand?
I’ve tried to build a story in every product category. Our tie silks are made up in Suffolk at one of the oldest silk mills in the world; they’re exclusive designs and then they ship them to a small factory in Kent who make ties for me. They’ve all got a bit of a story. The silks for pocket squares use original patterns from our old fly catalogues; beautiful salmon fly designs. I try to build a collection with a bit of provenance and hopefully, from a customers perspective, they’ll see that there’s been some careful considered sourcing.
In an age of disposable clothing, everything Farlows makes has an invested feel about it; our field coats are expensive but I expect to see them in ten years’ time following faithful service to the proud owner.
What Farlows item couldn’t you live without?
Certainly, in country and field, I think our field coat is an absolutely ace bit of kit!
You can go shooting in it, or you can wear it to potter down to the pub with the dog; it’s just a fantastic garment. There’s all the detail in there – the practicalities, like the drop liner and treated tweed and soft rubber snaps. I use some of the best double zips on the market as I’d hate to see a zip fail on a coat.
It’s the most over-engineered garment, it really is. There’s so much going on with it, but it’s just a great staple item. I wear mine all winter through and although I do go into the county quite a bit, it’s also a very faithful coat in my daily life.
Is the a must-have for shooting season you would recommend?
Definitely, for the more formal shoots our clientele go on, a shirt and tie; beautifully made in English silks with exclusive designs. These are well within the shooting etiquette for our clients. Lots of ties are sold this time of the year, and they’re very handsome.
What does British craftsmanship mean to you?
I think there’s a certain refined robustness to British manufacturing.
Whereas it’s not agricultural by any means, there’s a certain quality with the suppliers I use that make a garment that feels like you’re going to wear it and love it, you’re going to trust it, and it’s going to be faithful to you.
From my knitwear makers, to the tweed that I procure, and even though to the footwear; a lot of the suppliers I work with are small scale to the point of artisan.
I’ve got a stick-maker who makes all of our beautiful shooting sticks with carved heads. This guy works in a shed in Northern Ireland and he only makes for two or three suppliers. I’m probably his biggest customer, and it takes him a whole day to make every stick. He tells me what he’s got, and I invariably buy it. He doesn’t know what he’s going to carve until he picks up the stick, and I love that sense of uniqueness of what he does for us.
I’ve just engaged with a new leather workshop in Birmingham. They work in a converted garage, there’s two apprentices, and one designer and a cutter, and they’re making the most beautiful small leather wallets, gun certificate holders, and small leather pieces for me. If they pick up a unique piece of leather, they’ll tell me what they’ve got and how much they can make out of it. If it’s eight wallets, they will be the only eight wallets on the planet!
I love that unique angle of what we’re doing at Farlows; they give our sourcing a refreshing edge, and it gives us a really nice story to tell our clients that’s real, true and honest; and that’s refreshing in a world of mass-consumerism.
What, or who, inspires you?
I love old photographs, and the Royal Family as a whole inspire me because they have a history of loving the countryside. I can often find pictures of The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles wearing garments in such a natural way, and in a natural environment, and I take my inspiration from that.
This season I’ve created a half Norfolk tailored shooting jacket inspired by a black and white photo I found that The Duke of Edinburgh was wearing back in the 60s or 70s. I’ve taken elements of that and it’s influenced the tailored jacket this season. He would have had his made for his very specific needs, and had a bespoke tailor to craft it, but for that garment to be cut out of need, necessity and function is absolutely perfect for me to base a Farlows garment on, because it gives out all the right messages; its function and form and etiquette.
What advice do you have for young British entrepreneurs who are inspired by you and the Farlows brand?
What designers come to understand is that there’s compromise everywhere. Whether it’s fabrics or specifications, at some point you know you’ll have to compromise on something. Working in an environment with the least amount of compromise that you’ll accept, will make you the happiest.
I came from a background in high fashion but I wanted to get into tailoring so I went into Savile Row, and that’s where there’s the least amount of compromise and I love the nature of that. High turnover fashion is faster and more consumable, but in slow fashion there’s the least amount of compromise; British suit making and British shoe making has no compromise at all – it’s hand built over someone’s knee, or it’s made on a bench, and it’s what I love and what I’ve aimed at.
So for up and coming designers and creators, it’s all about understanding the amount of compromise you have to make with a product, accepting it and working with it. You may work at the mainstream edge, but you just have to understand the value of your product.
So what’s next for Farlows?
Well, we’ve already started working on the Winter ’18 tweeds, and this season’s ladies knitwear collection has been a huge success so we’re building on the strength of that for next winter too.
We’re organically growing the collection and adding elements to it.
For Spring ’18 we have a very, very small cotton collection coming to the brand, and I’m aiming it around adventure travel. People are travelling to exciting and remote places to see nature, and this small capsule collection, based around hotter climates, safari and adventure travel, will satisfy those needs.
For more information on Farlows, click here.
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