Buy better, less often
Callum McCall & George Rutherford-Jones – Flax London
Flax London was created on the premise that the creative use of different weights, weaves, and colours could bring out so much more from linen.
We put the quality of our clothing front and centre of our brand. A lot of companies pay lip service to the notion of quality, but it’s difficult as a consumer to know which brands are practising what they preach. In the world of fashion, you certainly don’t always get what you pay for, contrary to the famous maxim.
Buying better quality items, less often, is not a new concept – watch, car, and shoe enthusiasts have long seen the value in investing more in something they can keep for a long time. Unfortunately, it’s something of an alien concept in the world of fashion, particularly for casual clothing. Longevity doesn’t seem to be a major concern for an industry that’s conventionally followed a strict system of seasonal releases.
We’re trying to change that by making clothes that stand the test of time. Our approach is conceptually very simple, revolving around three key pillars: durable materials, enduring patterns, and diligent manufacturing. Sustainability is the glue that binds them all together.
Finding the right fabrics requires a lot research. At our scale, fabric manufacturers don’t come to you. You’ve got to get yourself to the big textile shows and do some digging. Our starting point was linen. No other fabric combines the amazing texture, unique handle, and rugged durability we love so much.
Well looked after, linen lasts a lifetime. And it only gets better with age, as it softens and takes on different characteristics. The main hurdle for us was to break linen free from the shackles of the summer wardrobe. After a fair few trials, we found a linen that fit the bill perfectly. Hailing from Northern Ireland, our shirting linen is 238gsm (versus the standard 175gsm) and is different to anything we’ve seen on the market. It’s heavier, more opaque, and is perfectly suited to all seasons. The concept of wearing linen all year round seems to be catching on!
The process we follow for designing any new product is underpinned by a carefully tried and tested process. We make sure we have a clear vision of exactly what we want to achieve, a sampling process that doesn’t compromise on attention to detail, and a level of patience which ensures we wait for the product to be precisely what we’d originally envisaged. Finally, we road test samples for a few months to see how they react to real world wear-and-tear before putting them into production.
We design all our products with a view to them being worn for 10+ years. That involves studying the styles that have endured over the years, registering the key features and then injecting our own creativity into that formula. The idea is that we end up with a unique but also timeless design. The features we add to each pattern serve a functional purpose rather than being purely aesthetic. They’re subtle improvements to the construction of the shirt which won’t go out of fashion as seasonal trends pass.
You might have the best design and best materials in the world, but it can all be in vain without the sort of craftsmanship that can turn raw materials into a finished product that fits your customer’s eye and only gets better over time. We look at two main aspects. Quality of finishing and quality of construction. Finishing is important for the initial impact a shirt makes when a customer unwraps it for the first time, and construction is important so that it makes the same impact when they pull it out the wardrobe 10 years later.
We’ve found a manufacturer in North London that’s very consistent across both finishing and construction. Having our manufacturer in the UK is good for a whole host of reasons, but from a design perspective it’s great because it gives us greater control over the process. We visit the factory all the time, pouring over every detail of our clothes. And we know our makers by name, which may sound trivial but it’s a reflection of how well they know us and how well they understand our intentions with every piece we make.
Underpinning all three pillars is a commitment to sustainability. Fashion has an undeniable issue with sustainability. And the root of the problem is twofold: a boom in fast fashion and a supply chain that has huge ecological impacts. We’re committed to doing what we can to improve the whole value chain and change mindsets.
Water consumption is one of the most major concerns. The intensive irrigation required to grow cotton places huge stress on water resources, as shown so vividly by the near total disappearance of the Aral Sea – once the fourth largest lake in the world. By contrast, the flax plants used to make our linen are grown in Northern Europe and only need natural rainfall to flourish. More generally, thanks to its natural wicking capability and anti-bacterial properties, linen doesn’t need to be washed as regularly. It all adds up.
The amount of time we keep our clothes is also a big piece of the sustainability puzzle. Wearing a piece of clothing for an extra nine months is said to reduce waste and water usage by c20-30%. Imagine what an extra 10-20 years would do. Well cared for, linen should last you a lifetime. There’s a reason why the world’s oldest woven garment is a 5000-year-old linen dress from Ancient Egypt.
We also think it’s vital for consumers to have a better idea of the story behind their clothes. That’s why we’re totally transparent about it, providing a breakdown of everything that goes into each piece of clothing on the relevant product page – from the manufacturer and linen producer, right down to the buttons and packaging we use.
We can be better, of course, but we’re doing what we feasibly can for the time being with the resources at our disposal. We are aiming to be 100% plastic free from our SS19 collection onwards. And we’re currently looking into options for reusable packaging to create more circularity in our transactions.
For more information and to check out what Flax London have to offer please click here to visit their site.