Gentlemen Pioneers : &SONS Clothing
Designed for modern pioneers. Heritage brand &SONS tell us about their affinity with Mutt Motorcycles and the custom motorcycle scene, Peaky Blinders, and why &SONS baker boy hats and chore coats are becoming must-have items for gentlemen. Mr James Cowdale and &SONS clothing 's Founder Mr Phil James, talkshop on the British vintage workwear brand 's journey so far.
Created for gentlemen pioneers. British vintage workwear brand &SONS tell us about their collaborations with Mutt Motorcycles and affinity with the custom motorcycle scene, Peaky Blinders, and why & SONS baker boy hats and chore jackets are great items for rugged men. Head of Brand Mr James Cowdale and &SONS clothing 's Founder Mr Phil James, chart the artisan menswear brand 's journey so far and what's on the horizon.
PRESENTED BY &SONS
James how did you and Phil get into the rag trade and what are your backgrounds?
It was a very unconventional beginning for us and &SONS. Both Phil and I (James) run agencies for a living. Phil is an award-winning photographer and runs a production studio called Shadowplay and I run a creative brand agency called Third Floor. So the partnership began when we worked together on client projects. Phil approached me with the idea of creating a menswear brand focussed on craftspeople and creatives and asked if I’d help with the branding. It was very apparent that this was so much more than another start-up, e-commerce brand and we began working together on creating something unique. Both Phil and I have always had a strong interest in fashion and Phil studied it at college years ago but the idea was born out of a need for him to wear functional, stylish clothing whilst on photoshoots. He’d spend time buying from multiple brands and websites to create his look and felt there was an opportunity to create this under one brand.
The idea has always been to take the best from traditional clothing and iconic eras and create modern versions for how we live today.
To extend beyond clothes, we also champion makers, artists and creatives in their chosen fields and tell the story of their lives and passions. They are our Pioneers.
&SONS has a traditional British workwear feel, what particular period and style most influences you?
Our first collection was workwear inspired. Chore jackets, Selvedge denim and work boots and this was led by Phil’s need for functional clothing. But the influences come from every genre and era of fashion as late back as the 1920’s.
So you’ll see the collection has expanded and we’re drawing influence from everywhere.
We are producing A/W 20 and launching a more sartorial range in the coming months which does have a different feel to it. The A/W collection will include pieces made from Canvas, heavy denim and tin cloth but we’re also producing a pair of chinos and pocket trousers. We never want to be constrained by a particular style. As long as it carries the &SONS DNA we want to broaden into many different styles.
How did you launch the brand and how smooth has the journey been so far?
Hmmm… smooth? Definitely not. But incredibly exciting. We launched nearly 5 years ago using Kickstarter to crowdfund our first collection. This was a challenge in itself but made us realise that there was a need for our brand and a customer willing to support it. From there it has literally been blood, sweat and tears.
Launching a global menswear brand whilst both running our respective companies has meant many long hours during evenings and weekends whilst trying to remain focussed on the end goal. We have had to learn an entirely new industry, one that is often seen as superficial.
We’ve taken what we have done for so many brands in the past and applied it to our own.
We create everything you see from &SONS in our studios and Phil designs every piece himself. Over the past 12 months, we have made some great friends from the industry and work with a very small team of freelancers who help with our digital marketing. We recently appointed Chris Browne, who co-founded Ted Baker and he’s working with us on our ambitious growth plans.
&SONS has built up a strong connection with motorcycle culture, was that always planned?
I don’t think anything has been planned. That’s been part of the beauty with this brand. We’ve made decisions based on what we want to see and how we want customers to feel when they engage with us.
I ride a custom bike and both Phil and I love that scene so there was a natural association.
IN the early days we spent time at The Bike Shed in Shoreditch and they stocked some of our gear but I think our ‘look’ and the type of people we attract, also like bikes. Bikes have always been a statement of individuality and a lifestyle and a lot of what people aspire to with the motorcycle culture is true for &SONS. We’ve worked closely with Mutt Motorcycles having met them down at The Bike Shed show and used a few of their bikes in our shoots so I guess this is where it comes from.
What motorcycles do you and Phil ride, or are dreaming about?
I ride a custom ’48 Harley and dreaming of building a Bobber from scratch or something vintage maybe. Phil has finally decided to join the club and is building an &SONS Mutt Sabbath which should be ready soon.
Mutt is a great brand and I love what they have done by bringing non-riders into the world of motorcycles.
You have collaborated several times with Mutt Motorcycles, do you have a favourite project?
Phil took a couple of the bikes down to the Welsh coast to film and shoot for our S/S ’19 collection. The models could both ride and spent hours carving up the Welsh countryside and having a lot of fun on the bikes. You could really see this in the footage we got and I know Mutt has used it on some of their marketing. Of course, we’re also really excited to see what they do with Phil’s Sabbath. Lots of &SONS design details being added and they’ve been very accommodating.
What are you working on at the moment?
For this summer we released the 1968 collection which consisted of vintage inspired sweats and Tees in a more vibrant set of colours and carrying a distressed 1968 ident. We wanted to celebrate the spirit of that year and all that went with it. It’s been an instant hit with our pioneers and we’re continuing to develop it.
The range will be a serious nod to pure, heritage workwear with antique buttons and heavy-duty fastenings.
Everything will be made to fade and just look better the more you wear it. Some garments will need some serious breaking in but it’s what our customers want and we’ve been dying to do it. We’re in the early stages but if you keep an eye on our social, you’ll get a glimpse soon.
We’re also working with a musician to create a more sartorial range which we hope to launch in the next few months. But that’s all I can say on that one…
One of your signature styles is the Baker Boy hat, do you follow Peaky Blinders and has the series helped increase popularity for that style?
I think the baker boy was gathering traction even before Peaky Blinders was on the scene. Style icons like David Beckham have always chosen the baker boy over the flat cap so I think it’s been gaining momentum for some time. But of course, you can’t ignore such a massive show and it’s certainly opened people’s eyes up to that look. And we’ve loved taking inspiration from the show ourselves.
It was a great era for fashion and I think there are many brands that have been influenced by it.
Being Cotswolds locals, how do you blow off steam or unwind?
You’d imagine long hikes in fields and country pubs but to be honest, it’s about keeping things simple. We spend a lot of time away from our families so to unwind, it’s chilling at home or in the garden with them, a decent IPA and great food. We both train so we clear our heads running up the hills in and around Cheltenham and cycling. Of course, weather permitting, the bike is a great way of getting out and unwinding and we have some epic roads around here.
What does the future hold for &SONS?
Both Phil and I had a dream of creating a brand that would reconnect guys with fashion and give them something real to belong to.
We never imagined it would grow so quickly. So the future looks bright at the moment.
During the pandemic, we got our heads down and created some amazing content for our marketing channels and planned new collections and next year’s growth. But ultimately, it’s to keep doing what we’re doing. Never selling out or doing something we wouldn’t want to wear ourselves and always taking the best from the past to create clothes for the here and now.
Netflix Series: ABSTRACT – The Art of Design.
Work Music: Shopify Playlist – The Nu Modern.
Instagram To Follow: Ronald from @treesizeverse – Awesome, hardwearing rucksacks and bags. I’ve bought a few pieces from him.
Lesser-Known App: Coolors – For creating colour palettes. It’s a great starting point to find the right balance of hues for design.
Late Night Gas Station Purchase: Has to be something from the gourmet range of Ginsters… heated of course, we’re not animals.
Bucket list: Road trip in an International Scout across California meeting artisan makers.
Life hack: Ametora – How Japan Saved American Style
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PIONEER FIELD WEAR