We've always felt that the overall design process is never communicated enough by brands, particularly by small, independent ones like ours who care so deeply about fabrics, plus the fit and functionality of an outerwear garment.
It's a laborious process that really puts co-founders Adam and Charlotte through the wringer of emotions, but in a bid to become more transparent in all areas of our business, we feel that it's important to give you a greater understanding of how a collection is produced. This, we hope, will make you appreciate what we do even more.
Unlike most brands, for TWC each collection doesn't start with a blank canvas and a philosophy attached to it; it's an evolution from the one before – always has been, and always will be. "We are always reviewing and discussing the collection until we agree on a style that we believe will add a point of difference to our growing range," says Charlotte, who points towards this season's grey wool Overcoat as a key example.
The process is naturally split into roles. "Adam thinks about the style, function and fabric he wants to use, as he inherently knows what men want and expect from a garment. Whereas, I think about the colour, texture, silhouette and mood we want to evoke, and how the piece will sit within the shop and online." she adds. More often than not, Adam’s outerwear designs draw inspiration from his extensive archive of militaria and workwear, with each piece having been conceived to be functional and protective, and one piece he’s reworked this season is the navy double-breasted belted Mac, which stems from a vintage postal worker coat.
As you'll know too well, TWC is all about fabrics. "It's what gives a garment its attitude and finesse, and it’s what you see first if you’re in a shop or online," says Charlotte. So, throughout the year they're both constantly rifling through the latest fabrics swatches from leading European mills, such as Olmetex from Como, Italy. “They’re the most exciting mill to work with as they are great at pushing boundaries within the capabilities of a fabric. They can make reflective and heat reactive fabrics, plus of course breathable and waterproof, recycled or biodegradable ones.”
Then, there’s Fox Brothers from Somerset, England, which Adam first visited in 2010 when he was Head of Design at Dunhill. The archive there dates back to the late 18th century, and it’s one shining example of a mill that’s a master of its craft with techniques that haven’t changed for many years.
Whilst using new fabrics is one thing, they both feel strongly about trying to be sustainable in their choices, and do so by using deadstock materials. “It’s insane to waste fabrics and not create something from them," she says, and case in point is this season’s grey and ochre checked Gilet, which is made from a vintage wool fabric from the aforementioned Fox Brothers. Adam discovered it in the depths of Mackintosh’s arsenal of fabrics, and it’s since proved to be one of the most popular creations this season due to its nostalgic charm.
The culmination of this fabric process has resulted in a collection that feels classic in handle, thanks to the likes of waxed cottons and heavy wools, but super clean and modern in performance and style. But, whether or not a swatch is chosen isn’t exclusively dependent on its look or handfeel, and they both have to compute how the fabric will sew, hang and hold its shape.
Sampling comes next, but it’s this stage that can prove to be expensive and extremely time consuming. Larger brands have the luxury of sampling a specific style in a range of fabrics, and then sometimes scrap the design entirely and therefore wasting time, money and resources of the entire supply chain. Whereas, TWC has to be absolutely certain on the fabric before putting it into production due to the size of the business. Once the ‘tech pack’, which is a presentation of precise annotations of each garment, has been finalised, Adam then personally visits each factory to hand it over and talk them through exactly what he and Charlotte have envisioned together. Charlotte says “this helps to build strong relationships with our makers and we’d never rely on emails for this – we care too much!”
This process can take up to three months before Adam and Charlotte are both happy with the SMS (salesman sample), which they then show to buyers from around the world. This is because specific elements, such as the shape of sleeves and collar, or positioning of the buttons or size of the pockets, make or break a garment as it’s all in the details. But, perfection is paramount and if they needed to take more time, they would. Thankfully, though, this stage was seamless for this season’s outerwear collection, which was made entirely by the esteemed manufacturer Mackintosh.
Overall, there’s a significant deal that goes into creating every TWC piece. But, these many steps, the back and forths, trans-global phone calls, the odd headache and frequent long nights are all part and parcel of creating garments that are long-lasting and pure. Using the best fabrics and trimmings possible, and working with world-leading manufacturers has its costs, but Adam and Charlotte have always believed that the price is more than fair, and from a quality point of view the collection would stand toe to toe with esteemed heritage and luxury houses – many of which Adam has worked for.
TWC is ‘Made For Like Minded Souls’, and we hope that this provides you with a better insight into the inner workings of producing each seasonal collection. And, as always, Adam and Charlotte would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.