Perfecting craft over centuries
Gary Newbold is a designer who has travelled the world in search of the best fabric. After working with top names like Barbour and Ralph Lauren, Gary now focuses on his own luxury brand – English Utopia.
Luxury brands need the best raw materials
English Utopia is a brand that captures the essence of the English countryside. We design and tailor jackets that can be worn by those who ride, fish and shoot, but which also look great in town. To make clothes for a luxury brand, you need quality materials. It’s important to recognise when a textile has great properties and how that can be translated into a garment.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve been exploring and sourcing the world’s best fabrics. In my experience superior textiles come from regions where a traditional craft has been perfected over centuries. You see how locally available materials combine with the natural elements – rain, sunshine or mountains – to create hardy and versatile fabrics. For the English Utopia Collection, I source textiles from traditional mills in Britain, Austria and Italy.
Tweed has a long-standing tradition in Britain. For centuries local craftsmen and women have been turning coarse woollen fibres into striking tweed. Historically, tweed is produced at a heavier weight across the British Isles. The thick material is designed for warmth and durability. Perfect for stalking through heather or being kept warm on a cold winter’s day.
There are many tweed jackets in the English Utopia collection. We source from traditional mills – like Lovat Mill in Scotland – which been weaving tweed for over a century. The weaves and patterns and twisted yarn reflect the colour and character of the landscape; from rolling Yorkshire hills to sharp Scottish mountains. It’s part of what makes tweed a quintessentially British fabric.
In Austria, there is a remarkable natural fabric called Loden wool. The craft of producing this fabric originates from a cold, wet, steep region. The local population needed garments to perform well in harsh conditions. For them, oily wool from mountain sheep was the material to hand. Over time, Austrian craftsmen developed a specific process to produce a woollen fabric that is thick, water-resistant, warm and windproof yet supple and flexible.
Loden wool stands out because of the need to create a textile that can withstand Alpine conditions. Turning fibre into such a fabric takes years of learning and understanding how material works. Manufacturers such as Lichtfried continue to capture that tradition and innovation and produce the woollen fabric which we use in our luxury jackets.
Cotton with a flair
Perfection does not always arrive from the continuation of one specific process. Craftsmen also have to adapt to certain conditions. Once upon a time, Northern Italy was full of skilled manufacturers weaving silk. But in the 19th and 20th centuries the silk market moved to China. That must have had a catastrophic impact on local Italian production.
To survive, Italian silk-weavers adapted and applied their technology and skills to a different material – cotton. The tradition of silk-weaving brought new creativity to cotton production. Even today, the way that cotton fabric is finished in Italy is far superior to any other country. It is my go-to region for sourcing cotton lining because there is an Italian flair that just cannot be reproduced.
Products that stand the test of time demonstrate quality. This is an essential characteristic of Ernest Wright Tailor’s shears. What I hold now is the outcome of 300 years of tailors and cutters feeding back to scissor-makers about what works and what doesn’t. Centuries of critique and adaption to specific problems have produced a near-perfect scissor. And it shows.
My everyday work and enjoyment of fabric have dramatically improved. These shears save a third of my time and make cutting a dream. The handles fit like a glove. The blade is sharp and cuts fabric neatly. The design is beautifully ergonomic and while sturdy, the 13” shears are easy to work with. I imagine that any tailor on Saville Row would take pleasure in cutting textile with Ernest Wright Tailor’s shears.
IT'S ALL ABOUT CRAFT The Heritage Craft Association is a charitable led organisation which safeguards craft skills and knowledge for the future. Their work is vital to support practitioners and promote Britain’s craft heritage. Mary Lewis, HCA’s Endangered Craft...
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