A cloudy sky and sporadic bursts of rain couldn’t quell the festive mood at this year’s Goodwood Revival, England’s annual celebration of classic cars taking place each September at the historic Goodwood Circuit in Sussex. Since 1998, the three-day event has honored the motor-race cars of the 1940s to ’60s, as attendees take a brief but deep respite from the present by dressing accordingly in period costume. This year, Private White V.C.. was the Official Workwear Supplier for Goodwood and designed limited-edition suits and trousers for the staffers to wear. The best part? The Goodwood Worksuits look just as good in the 21st century.
One glimpse inside Private White’s family-run factory in Manchester (the heart of the Industrial Revolution for cotton and textiles) will reveal its history and reputation as a trusted outfitter. Since being founded by Private Jack White—who was awarded with the Victoria Cross at the age of 20 for his bravery in WWI—the Private White mill has served as the premier British outerwear factory for top labels like Burberry, Holland & Holland, Gieves & Hawkes and Purdey. His great-grandson James Eden honors his legacy today by transforming the former supply-only factory into an eponymous clothing brand that exemplifies British heritage, craftsmanship and quality.
With such deep British roots and a dedication to making everything in England, it’s no surprise that Private White V.C. would join forces with Goodwood. Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March and Kinrara—more commonly known as Lord March—is a racing enthusiast and the mastermind behind the Goodwood Revival, as he manages his family’s Goodwood Estate. “Lord March is a champion of locally made British products. He and I have been creating images together since he was a commercial photographer, and I was an art director,” says Nick Ashley, lead designer for Private White V.C. whose resume boasts experience at Kenzo and Tod’s, in addition to his pedigree as the son of prominent fashion and interior designer Laura Ashley.
“Goodwood is a dream, there was no research,” says Ashley on the collaboration. Ashley himself also holds both motorcycle and car racing licenses. “We are part-time revivalists, so the Revival meeting is spot on for us. Also, we race old cars and actually participate in the action. We do not want to be seen as a brand that merely brings along some models or celebs to stand in front of the cars—we go out and thrash them, roll them, anything to get attention.”
When asked what car at Goodwood Revival aligned most with the spirit of Private White V.C., Ashley quickly answers, “The Mini Cooper, a right cheeky chap, very popular with the crowd, a potential giant killer and piloted by our very own hero, Sir Chris Hoy (a six-time Olympic Gold champion cyclist). It all fits so perfectly, we don’t even care about the result—it’s the journey that counts man!”
One of the highlights of the Revival is the period dress code. Ashley says, “It completely alters their state; it’s like everyone is on drugs, it changes people. You get people dressing up like lords and ladies and you get lords and ladies dressing like mechanics for a day. It’s very, very British.”
Ashley explains the Goodwood Worksuit Jacket is designed to dress up or down. “The suit is actually made in a PFD (prepared for dying) cotton, so it could be over-dyed in very dark midnight blue and worn as a tux, like the Italian artists used to do in the ’30s, or just wear the jacket with jeans and a T-shirt. I wore a three-piece version every day at the Revival. I threw it in the washing machine every night, then put it on fresh every morning—you cannot do that with a conventional wool suit. Times have changed, for the better.”
Lord March took an active role and lent his input in the design of one of the buttons, the blue checkerboard on a silver background, which is a nod to the Goodwood colors: A navy blue checkered flag on a silver ground. The removable buttons, in six different colors, were designed especially “so the customer can be involved in the final detail in the product,” says Ashley.
The garments made a long journey—the 100% cotton woven in Lancashire, then hand-crafted at the Private White V.C. factory in Manchester, to 6 AM on the opening day of the races in Sussex. Private White V.C. suited 200 young men and women working the elegant affair in their Goodwood Revival Worksuit and Trousers, immediately transforming the atmosphere at Goodwood Circuit. Ashley cheerfully notes: “There’s a British expression, ‘He who is greatest among you, let him be your servant’—and I think we pulled that one off.”
Check out the limited edition Goodwood Revival Worksuit as well as the Autumun/Winter 2013 collections on the Private White V.C. website. And for the interested ladies, not to worry—the brand just launched unisex sizing for its men’s clothes. Garments are also available from their London store at 55 Lambs Conduit Street and their factory shop in Manchester, England.
Lead image courtesy of Private White VC, all other photos by Largetail