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Men of the clothPTOLEMY MANN MEETS A GROUP OF TEXTILE MASTERS IN THE MAKING

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There is something intriguing, and frankly, quite sexy about a man who knows what to do with a piece of cloth. In modern western society we are quite attached to the idea that textiles are the domain of women. Floral, frilly domestic pursuits or, at the other end of the spectrum, in the art world, mysterious expressions of the feminine.

Historically this has not always been the case; medieval embroideries were stitched by men and during the Industrial Revolution men were just as likely to work in the mills. In many cultures, textile production was, and still is, an economic priority, making it a man’s responsibility to work with cloth to support his family. And a recent BBC documentary about Harris Tweed revealed that all the hand weavers are men – and they always have been.

In that same documentary an elegantly clad man gets extremely excited about tweed. It’s Guy Hills and he is just one of a group of men currently working with cloth in a way that redefines our perceptions.

‘Dashing Tweeds’ is the company that Guy Hills, the aforementioned enthusiast, and Kirsty McDougall, weave designer, founded to encourage us to embrace this often misunderstood fabric. Even the word ‘tweed’ stems from an error. A London merchant mistook the handwriting on an order and changed the word tweel to tweed assuming that it was a trade name based on the river Tweed. Tweel was actually the Scottish term for 'twill’ – a historically accurate tweed would be based on a diagonal twill rather than a plain weave structure.

In recent times tweed has suffered from its association with exclusive classes and activities. It’s this preconception that Hills McDougall, the design studio arm of Dashing Tweeds, wish to dispel. Bridging a gap between the flailing British weaving industry and high end fashion, connecting mills with designers, Hills McDougall are a creative lynchpin. Starting with a collection of ‘Urban Tweeds’ four years ago, they sourced a ‘reflective’ yarn which could be woven into a tweed enabling its wearer to cycle through city streets at night, glowing with safety and style. Trademarked as Lumatwill™ it is redefining sportswear with garments such as their ‘Scooter coat’.

Tweed is a naturally durable and breathable fabric, in many ways a far better casual fabric than the American denim that dominates contemporary wardrobes. Hills longs for men to embrace it again. He worries about a “lost generation” of men who are disregarding the clothing traditions of their forebears. His answer is Dashing Tweeds online, a ready-to-wear line that will make tailoring more affordable to the average chap. As Hills says, “Every man needs a tweed knock-about-suit, it’s more comfortable than anything else.” He feels we need to re-educate British men to appreciate that style and action can go together. As if to illustrate this, during the interview, he showed the entire tweed collection, put the children to bed, cooked dinner and modelled several three-piece suits. Order the man in your life a ‘London Glen’ tweed suit and maybe he too can explode the myth that men can’t multitask!

All these men disprove many commonly held ‘facts’. The truth is many men love cloth and love clothes just as much as women. The animation in Ian Batten’s face when he talks about his work is a wonder to

01 Ian Batten 02 Guy Hills

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Photography by Richard Nicholson

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UndercoverJOHN SMEDLEY’S STRONG FOUNDATIONS

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Photography John Midgely at Renate Gallois Montbrun

A revolution in the underworld of under garments, John Smedley’s chic and understated line of underwear was first launched in 1996 – and 1896. The 90s saw Smedley knits move from best-kept secret to most copied status in just a few seasons. Like most elements of Smedley business, the simple yet elegant underwear encompasses the family characteristics of high quality, tradition, innovation, and continuity.

The Smedley wool business can be traced back 300 years, but it was in 1784 that the original mill in Derbyshire, England, was built by the first John Smedley. The factory itself was a leader in the Industrial Revolution, built in the neighbourhood of the first waterpowered spinning mill pioneered only 13 years earlier.

In the beginning, Smedley produced muslin and spinning yarns, but towards the end of the 18th century he began to manufacture knits and hosiery. In 1819, John Smedley’s son, John, was apprenticed to the company and took control just six years later, at the age of 24. The second John Smedley expanded the operation and implemented his vision maintaining that all the activities of the business, from spinning to knitting and manufacturing, should be kept under one roof. He also decided to use only the best raw materials available, from Sea Island cotton to merino lambs wool, and to invest continuously in state-of-the-art machinery. Interested not only in clothing the body, but caring for it (and perhaps in allowing people to benefit from the same waters he lavished on his knits), he built a centre for hydrothera py, called Smedley’s Hydro near Matlock.

Though he died in 1875 leaving no heir, the company eventually passed to a cousin, J.T. MarsdenSmedley and to his son, the fourth John, John B. Marsden-Smedley. Chairman for 70 years, from 1888 to 1958, he developed the business still further, installing the most versatile and modern knitting machines available and developing a production line capable of manufacturing fine gauge, fully-fashioned underwear and outerwear (including swimwear and nightwear) that could be found nowhere else in Britain.

Still operating with the most high-tech machinery, the original factory in Derbyshire remains the centre of current operations, as the family-owned business is now chaired by J.B. Marsden-Smedley’s son-in-law Ian Maclean. Many of the skilled operatives are thirdgeneration employees or more, and some have been with the company for over 50 years.

Today, Smedley’s success is due to a design team composed of young, creative minds that are taking this classic product into the next millennium. Though the basic ingredients and products remain the same, there are important variations in shape from season to season. The ‘right shape’ is an elusive formula, often a question of mere centimetres, but the length, width and fit of a Smedley product is always perfect and always contemporary. The underwear line is a prime example: the women’s briefs, shorts and camisoles are feminine without being skimpy and the men’s undershirts and shorts are sublime in their long boxy cut and drape.

Another key quality of Smedley underwear is the finesse of yarn: while most manufacturers stop at 24-gauge knits, Smedley works through to the finer, 30gauge knits and this year introduced a 13.5 micron yarn, finer than the finest cashmere.

Though the underwear is currently created in the essential colours of black and white, the white is something special. Called ‘Mr Smedley’s White’, it is a unique finish perfected during the 1800s that involves soft bleaching with special sulphur compounds.

This Smedley foundation is timeless, ageless and classic. Worn without glaring labels and free from generational marketing, it is a garment you wear to feel good underneath it all.

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attire

Nightie night…

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Illustrations by Miles Thistlethwaite

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Plato suggested that bed was an idea conceived in the mind of God, unfortunately he doesn’t mention what God considered suitable attire. The Romans thought it important to wear something during their many hours lounging, but as it was forbidden to wear a toga lying down they stripped to their underwear for sleeping, the men wearing their tunics and women in bra and loincloth having removed their make up, hair pieces and jewellery to lie as the historian Martial put it, stored ‘in a hundred caskets’.

It was easy to be elegant in hot climes, further north emphasis was on warmth. Animal skins were an obvious choice but woven sheets of linen and blankets of wool made an early appearance in wealthy homes.

From the 11th to the 15th centuries nightwear was frowned upon to such an extent that it was rarely seen. To the medieval mind it was sinful for there to be anything other than a complete distinction between the genders. The chemise and the shirt were considered too similar, and in the absence of inventing two different forms of nightwear they slept naked. Records from the 13th century reveal that a wife had to get permission from her husband to wear a chemise in bed. Monks were the exception; under the edicts of Bishop Hugo Gratianopolitanus they had to sleep in their habits. This was one medieval guard against temptation – at the other end of the spectrum, early Christian saints and martyrs tested their purity by sleeping beside a beautiful naked young woman.

Propriety in the bedroom did not always take the form modern morality would expect. Guests were frequently asked to bunk in with family members regardless of age or gender. Mostly necessitated by poverty or lack of space, it was common for whole families to share a bed during the Victorian era and prior to that it was so universal that when Erasmus wrote ‘Polite Manners for Boys’ in 1530 he gives the etiquette for sharing a bed with a comrade stating ‘lie quietly, do not toss with your body for this can lay yourself bare’.

‘Bundling’ took the communal bed sharing experience beyond the simple matter of sleep. In remote areas of Wales, New England, and the Outer Hebrides where there were few venues for dating, and the weather was too harsh for meeting outside, courting couples were allowed to spend time alone together in a bedroom with the stricture that the girl was fully dressed and tucked into bed with her legs tied together at the knees, in ‘a complex traditional knot’. Her boyfriend was then allowed to lie on top of the counterpane fully dressed.

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ContentsINDULGEtextiles to buy, collect or simply admire 15 Timeless Classic wardrobe staples 63 Starter for ten Pared down essentials for the coming decade 76 Confidences Sveta Dresher shares the highs and lows of the hand made

INDUSTRY from craft to commerce 26 COVER STORY Men of the Cloth Ptolemy Mann meets a group of textile masters in the making

ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives 38 Hard times The fortitude of the fairer sex in wartime 59 Together we stand Resolve to get out more and meet like-minded friends 54 COVER STORY Cinderellas in breeches Land girl uniforms 48 Frontline fancy goods In wartime a privileged few didn’t have to ‘make do’ at all 73 Curator’s Choice Rebecca Arnold chooses from the Courtauld collection

CONCEPT textiles in fine art 43 Another man’s shoes Jim Naughten takes the measure of historical re-enactors 19 It’s not the job, it’s the cabbage The embroidered work of Susie Vickery

ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends 34 Nighty night The history of pyjamas and night caps 32 Underwear John Smedley’s strong foundations

COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed 68 COVER STORY Bespoke living Tailor Timothy Everest has fashioned the perfect studio

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Evacuee in Blue Coat

Evacuee with Tank Top

Red Cross Nurse

US Naval Petty Officer

Bespoke living TAILOR TIMOTHY EVEREST HAS FASHIONED THE PERFECT STUDIO

Photography by Andreas von Einsiedel

Now dwarfed by gigantic glass office blocks, the cobbled streets and Georgian houses of Spitalfields resemble a filmset waiting for action to begin. That pockets of these 18th-century houses survive at all is down to a handful of 70s pioneers, among them architectural historian Dan Cruickshank and artists Gilbert and George, who protested and squatted in the area to stop the bulldozers. Cruickshank was among the founders of the Spitalfields Trust, a group who went on to save numerous houses in the area.

For former Savile Row tailor Timothy Everest, it was the ideal place to set up shop. In the mid-18th century the area was filled with the looms of Huguenot silk weavers, later becoming the tailoring heart of London. Street names – Fashion, Fournier and nearby Petticoat Lane all tell a story.

Everest’s journey to 32 Elder Street began in his great uncle’s store Hepworths in Milford Haven. “I flunked school, loved clothes and wanted to be a racing driver.” He describes Hepworths men’s outfitters in those days as hilarious, “like a ‘Carry on Tailoring’ movie.” The experience provided the perfect grounding for his next move. “I answered an advertisement for ‘Boy Wanted’ placed by Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter whose clients then included Elton John, The Beatles and The Stones. My future wife interviewed me, I got the job and entered a sort of University of Style.”

Tommy Nutter gave Everest the freedom to expand his ambitions. “I thrived on deadlines, improved the way we worked and learned to put together collections. After four years Everest was seduced into joining Malcolm Levine, and left Savile Row. “Even in the 80s the big brands didn’t always have a shop of their own – Prada and Armani were stocked by independent retailers – my goal was to make Malcolm Levine into a top brand.”

Two years of freelance styling followed, working with George Michael and creating wardrobes for fashion shoots. All the time though Everest was thinking how

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83 Selvedge events Join us for the first Selvedge film night. The evening will be introduced by Sue Pritchard curator of textiles at the V&A who will talk about narrative in quilts before a screening of How to make an American Quilt . 95 coming next The Quilt Issue: Piecing together the layers

SELVEDGE ('selnid 3 ) n. 1. finished differently 2. the non-fraying edge of a length of woven fabric. [: from SELF + EDGE]

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