One of my goals for 2014 is to champion more creative work. So I’m lucky to kickoff my first post here at Holiday Matinee with a conversation I shared recently with fashion start-up founder Alastair Rae, of artisan clothing shop Albam Clothing. And trust me: when it comes to menswear, you’ll be hard-pressed to find clothes as simple and stylish as Alastair’s. It’s plain, yet elegant.
Alastair started Albam with his buddy James, in hopes that they could design clothes less about trends and more about what customers want. They had no background in design, but they had a vision and the determination needed to make it happen. It was crazy, but it worked. Walking around the shop, you can often notice a few of the people have last season’s coats on. No wonder they were recently featured in GQ.
And that’s what they’re aiming for. You can pull any of Albam’s items out and it won’t look “last season”. Menswear for them isn’t about the extra frills – that highly stylised pocket or that military lapel hanging off your shoulder – it’s about quality. Fitted wear made to last.
Sitting down for a casual coffee near his Beak Street shop, here’s what Alastair had to say about their work, and what’s up in his world for 2014…
How do you describe Albam Clothing?
Classic styles brought up-to-date, stripped back to the point of only what’s necessary - i.e. attention to details while using great quality, interesting fabrics and yarns.
The premise is that we give the customer only what’s needed. We avoid the things that are unnecessary, like external design features that don’t actually serve a purpose.
What inspires you?
I guess, at the moment, we’re starting the designs for the new season. So what I find most inspiring is that you’re spending time in the shop over Christmas and seeing how excited customers get about what we’re doing and how that product works and what it means to them.
And now, we take that as an opportunity, we see how we can take something and look at what we can do for the future. So it’s the challenge and inspiration of 2014 I guess, but really it’s just what we do. It’s to not create a brand new style, it’s to keep the product relevant, keep people excited, and make sure they’re involved in the creative process.
For example, it’s inspiring when we see the customers in the shop wearing our clothes. It starts the whole creative process over again, rather than us sitting in isolation, saying “Here’s the product” then passing it off to go and sell [to salespeople]. We all have an impact on it, we all work on it.
So what’s inspiring is that sort of a symbiotic relationship with the customer. Democratic is the wrong word. It’s just that everyone’s worked on an idea together.
What’s keeping you busy?
Constantly learning, constantly trying to develop. Not getting stuck in the here and now.
The end of 2013 for us was all about the customer. Meeting the customer, getting in and working at the store and trying to show people what we do. For us, it was really this idea of trying to under-promise and over-deliver in both quality and style. Infusing that sense of customer into the business and making sure it happens.
Tell us two things you’re excited about right now
1. The focus internally is currently on shaping next autumn’s range and I’m looking forward to seeing how the designs develop from the sketching stage (where we currently are) to the sampling through to delivery later in the year. It seems like a long way off, but it’ll be here before we know it.
2. Secondly, for one reason or another, I am travelling to both Japan (somewhere I’ve never been) and to the east coast of the States (somewhere I’ve been a few times) in Spring, so on a personal note, I’m looking forward to being inspired by these highly differing places! Who knows what I’ll learn and bring back.
If you dig Albam’s style and want to learn more, peep this video of their store in Shoreditch featured on Monocole. If you’re convinced and want to buy some kit, head to their website. Delivery runs internationally.