Our autumn trip to London was the usual combination of meeting new suppliers, visiting longtime partners and catching up with colleagues. Combined with an extensive lookaround in Simon’s home town - lots of stylish places and enjoyable events.
Arriving at the beautiful St. Pancras station
After arriving in London on Thursday we spent a relaxing evening catching up with friends and family in preparation for a packed following day.
Meeting with Blackhorse Lane Ateliers
Meeting with the super team of this young, but already quite established denim manufacturer was the main reason to visit London. As you may know, we started considerably expanding our ready to wear offering one and half years ago. We agreed early on that offering selvedge denim jeans for our customers would be a great idea. After reserching the possibilities of creating our own product in Hungary,with no luck, we started to look further afield. After examining various producers we were drawn to Blackhorse Lane Ateliers. As we gathered more information about their work it became clear we would like to work with them. A month of emails back and forth with the lovely Annie and we had our appointment set up.
No fuss around here: workshop, office, shop all in one place
Bilgehan (Han) Ates the founder of the company greeted us in the factory, where they also have their office, store and some other interesting studio ventures set up. As we learned from Han, the area of Walthamstow, is an historic center of all sorts of small artisan workshops.
After some tasty coffee, we got to see what sets Blackhorse Lane denim apart from the competititon. Coming from a tailoring background, Han was keen from the start to find perfect solutions to manufacturing issues, making their products just as beautiful on the inside, as on the outside. Exceptional finishing, a one piece fly construction or thoughtful details like an inside coin pocket are all small but important features, which made a lasting impression on us; they are just as fussy as we are.
Annie of Blackhorse Lane explaining the different fits on offer
Discussing the different fabrics and fits on offer were the major issues to resolve to create the right products for our clients. After some try-ons to get the complete feel of products we left with masses of information to distill. Our minds were spinning around with what we had seen. A great group of professionals with whom we had a rapor. Bodes well for a special collaboration.
A peek into the denim workshop
After a well deserved lunch we headed to Savile Row with a brief stop at the gorgeous Berluti store. Our final destination No. 9-10 were Holland and Sherry have their London showroom. Simon has worked their fabrics for 15 years and now is the retail outlet in Budapest. Cloth merchants for 181 years, the company is based in Peebles, Scotland, supplying tailors worldwide. We were received by Nicolas Guilbaud, who showed us the recently issued collections. Internation Sales Manager, Lindsay Taylor were kindly gave us a copy Simon Crompton’s book, The Finest Menswear In The World as a memento.
Lindsay Taylor and Nicolas Guilbaud and handing over a special gift from the company
Some weeks ago a mutual acqaitance, the renonwed menswear author Bernhard Roetzel, suggested John from Tobias Tailors to come to see us as he was on holiday in Budapest with his wife. Altough he found our premises it was a Saturday and Simon was away. Milan showed them around and arranged to meet up in London during our trip. John, who is more seniour than his looks would suggest, has worked on the Row since the 1960’s. After meeting up together with his doughter Roxanne we headed straight to Sartoria, one of the preffered watering holes of the trade. Roxanne is now finishing her training as a coatmaker and stories reminiscenses and trade gossip flow thick and fast as the wine slipped down.
John and Simon at Sartoria
Everybody knows everybody on the Row and in fact John works close to Simon’s teacher Tom Slatter. How do you manage this? Do you know him? Do you remember so and so? We had a great time and left exhausted but happy for our respective homes, each ready to sample London’s culinary treats.
An industrial alley opening from Shoreditch High Street
After a slight technical hitch with the transportation, London really is a big place, we met up outside of Spitalfields Market for a quick caffeine fix. Renovated Spitalfields is a hive of activity but maybe now a bit commercial. We were after something more rarefied and after a gentle walk down Fournier Street, home to Gilbert and George, we found ourselves at the beginning of Brick Lane, one of London’s historic rag trade centers. Now it’s a bit more touristy, but you can still find some of the best Indian restaurants and a rather scrumptous chocolate shop, Dark Sugars. We wandered around to Redchurch street, where Labour and Wait are to be found.This shop is full with well made,utilitarian objects from household goods to books and clothing. We fell in love with a number of things, definitely a place to covet.
Heading towards Camlet street we found the unexpected Boundary Gardens in front of us. A carousel like green space in the middle of a small square, it is one of London’s first social housing projects. We decided to grab a quick bite and the further explore this fascinating area.
The amazing Boundary Gardens (Photo courtesy of Alan Ard Widdal)
Just a few steps away we found the store of British fashion designer Ally Capellino. Simon had a brief stint at her company as a work placement during his degree studies, a memory he shared with the intrigued assistants in the store. A couple hundred meters away ,Columbia Road, was another exceptional street to walk through. Full with vintage furniture and design items, the style and range of the shops to be found there truly amazing, well worth a look for interior decoration inspiration. On Sunday’s a flower market fills the street and it is one of Shoreditch’s famous sights.
To mix things up we headed back to the West End for a coffee and afternoon drink. The Polo Bar at the Westbury Hotel is an old favourite of Simon’s,and it did not let us down this time either. The perfect atmosphere to talk through all the exciting encounters of the two days, we felt charged-up with interesting ideas for the business at home. Nothing like good gin to get the mind flowing.
More than just business, these trips present a great opportunity to re-charge our curiosity batteries , and for this London never lets us down.