By Aleks Cvetkovic
There’s a fine balance to be struck between contemporary design and craftsmanship. Often, in my experience at least, brands tend to weigh in too heavily on one side of this line; either you’re looking at high-quality product from a traditional maker that’s a bit stuffy, or you’re paying hefty prices for designer menswear that isn’t perhaps as well-made as you’d hope.
In The Workers Club, though, (a brand I’ve followed with interest for some time now) Adam and Charlotte seem to have perfected the art of walking said fine line. TWC’s creations are satisfyingly robust and thoughtfully made, but they’re also pretty fresh from a design point of view.
Nowhere is this clearer than in TWC’s new camp collar short sleeve shirts, which have got me itching for summer-proper to roll in. Three are made from smooth printed cotton and the fourth is cut in super soft seersucker, making for a capsule collection that’s as luxurious to wear as it is refreshing to look at. Design-wise, it’s simple but effective. Camp collar shirts have been a fashionable choice for spring and summer for a few seasons now, and TWC’s feature trim collars, handy hip and breast pockets, knife-pleated backs and the boxy 1950s-inspired silhouette that makes camp shirts such great fun to wear in warm weather.
Design elements aside, the craft component in these comes care of each shirt’s fabric. There are prints, and then there are prints, if you see what I mean. Often, bigger brands will resort to inferior quality machine printed cloths in order to meet demand and maximise their margins, but that certainly ain’t the case here.
Aside from the midnight blue cotton seersucker number, TWC’s camp collar shirts are all cut in hand-printed fabrics, sourced from traditional small-scale weavers and printers in India. As Adam puts it, “there is a story behind each piece. All the cloths are sourced from Chennai because we wanted to do these traditional materials justice, and we’ve thought long and hard about how each shirt can complement our collection in a meaningful way.”
With this in mind, each of the prints that Charlotte and Adam have selected are subtly different; there’s an authentic paisley kalamkari print in the lovely colour combination of ochre, royal blue and black, each of which is applied separately by hand. Then, there’s a powder blue block print that almost looks as though someone’s taken a set of watercolour paints to a shirting cloth, and my personal favourite, a dark indigo and slate grey Ikat shirt.
The process of making an Ikat fabric is fascinating; unlike most prints, the yarn used to weave an Ikat shirt is printed, rather than finished fabric itself, which when woven together produces the cloth’s distinctive broken pattern. Again, this process is a labour of love performed by hand, and takes time to get right. “These really are printed by hand; there’s literally someone sat there with a wooden block printing the roll of cloth row by row,” Adam explains, “the result is a natural variation in the print itself.”
This organic approach to the printing process lends each individual shirt its own character with slight variations in the print between each piece. This only adds to their charm, serving as proof that you’re wearing something that human hands have touched, rather than a production line packed with machines.
When it comes to wearing these, it pays to keep things simple. These shirts look great layered over a white tee, or simply buttoned-up with a pair of tailored shorts or dark denim. They’re easy, breezy, and like all TWC’s designs, satisfyingly tactile.
All we need now is some sunshine, eh?