While perpetual reinvention and daring styles are at the core of the fashion industry, London-based Folk has bucked the trend by consistently produced unpretentious, everyday menswear since its inception in 2001. With the addition of the footwear branch Shofolk in 2004, the company has made its mark as meticulous purveyors of top-quality materials and distinctive designs, always with a subtle playfulness.
Folk literally covers the world looking for the perfect factories and source materials, producing knitwear in Uruguayan mills and shoes in Portugal, with accessories coming from their native England.
Their latest collection (Autumn/Winter 2009) comes at the heels of a complete website redesign perfectly frames the new offerings. We had chance to speak with designer and founder Cathal McAteer about Folk's inspirations and guiding principals. Interspersed you'll find images of the new line, which superimposes model shots onto close up shots from the biggest model railway in the UK.
You're based in London, do you consider your designs typically British?
Not particularly, we're actually sometimes confused for being a Scandinavian brand. But if we could give you a whirlwind tour of our London, come and meet the people that we live and breathe with, it will show you why Folk is what it is. It's very hard to describe the inspiration, but London is fantastically diverse — a multi-cultural explosion — and it provides a great setting for us.
What materials are you most excited to be working with on the new line?
At this very moment, it's wool and alpaca from a very small Peruvian factory that's making hand knits for us. There are also some great Japanese shirting materials that take our shirts to a whole new level. One in particular has a wool, linen and cotton mix in a selvedge finish. It's organic and puts the icing on these tripped-out plaid patterns that we took from an ancient archive in a Portuguese fabric mill.
Read the rest of the interview after the jump.
How does the use of more sustainable, organic materials effect your designs?
We can't say we're 100-percent green — no fashion company that sells and ships worldwide can be — but we try to do our bit. We're particular about the factories that make our clothes, generally picking smaller family-type businesses similar to ours. And since the best fabrics are from nature, we use organic cottons and wools for the clothes and vegetable tanned leathers for the shoes. But at the end of the day, we believe the best way we can help the environment is to design clothes and shoes that are built to last. The worst thing about our industry is the amount of throw-away fashion, and it would be nice to think that when we're old and gray we can pop into the local charity shop and find an old Folk piece from 30 years before!
Do you design Folk clothing and Shofolk in unison, or are they developed independently?
It's impossible to split the two as they both come from the same brains and are designed to complement and inevitably nourish each other.
Do you have any designers you look to for inspiration?
We have our favorites, but going shopping to look at the industry is a fucking bore and distracting. Richard Long, the British artist at Tate Britain, is much more fun and inspiring.