Walpole Editorial | What is The Essence of British Style? By David Evans of Grey Fox Blog
I started my blog nearly nine years ago as a search for style. I wanted to dress better, so my idea of style was of the sartorial kind. The hunt very quickly uncovered a world of British brands that I hadn’t thought existed. I’ve got to know many of these over the years and have developed a feel for the very essence of British style and quality – luxury if you will – that I’d like to pass on here.
When I started out I thought that British manufacturing had been destroyed in the latter decades of the twentieth century, so it was exciting to find that many are still working and that new ones – often driven by young entrepreneurs – are cropping up all the time. I came to recognise that there is a certain something that sets British brands apart and makes them so sought after around the world.
While my initial interest was sparked by British manufacturing, I appreciate that we simply don’t have the skills and resources to make everything in the UK. Many British brands moved their manufacturing bases away from the UK to Europe or Asia in order to survive, some have returned and many have continued to make abroad. These brands remain entitled to call themselves British as long as they are based here, pay their taxes, employ UK staff and are honest about the provenance of what they make.
This essential honesty about the nature and origins of products that was one of the first things that struck me – and it’s essential to success. Through my blog and Instagram account I hear much criticism, rightly, of brands that wave union jacks in order to give the impression that they make here when they do not, but most are honest about this and about the products they make. Those that are not will soon fall by the wayside as consumers seek integrity.
I’ve been lucky to visit mills in Scotland and Yorkshire, sock factories and leather works in the Midlands, shoe brands in Northamptonshire, car manufacturers, silver workshops, jewellers and clothing manufacturers all over the country. From the far flung islands of Scotland to inner London, I’ve been privileged to visit workshops and factories and speak to those making and selling British products, from cars to cloth. In all these places I saw workers proud of what they were doing and employers driven by the quality of their designs, their manufacturing and the integrity with which they treated their employees.
In addition to these qualities all were united in a pride in the heritage of British manufacture. I appreciate that the word ‘heritage’ has been done to death recently, but it’s that long tradition of skillfully making things, often dating back long before the industrial revolution, that attracts others to our products.
These qualities are what make up the DNA of British style and no British luxury brand will last for long without signing up fully to them.