When it comes to sudden summer sun, we British are rarely prepared. The hot weather hits and immediately we panic; frantically chilling rosé, madly mowing lawns and searching hysterically for sunglasses. We flounder and fall apart — and nowhere do these spikes in temperature strike more markedly than our wardrobes.
Mercifully, Emma Willis is always prepared. The Jermyn Street shirtmaker has been crafting quality garments since 1987, delivering some of the most authentic, meticulously made pieces of menswear in Britain. Stitched to the highest standard in the label’s elegant Gloucester workrooms, Willis creates every collection, expertly anticipating colder months with brushed-cotton comfort, the annual wedding season with Sea island cotton shirts — and those suddenly sunny days with her new ‘Summer Linen Collection’.
Cut from supple linen, the shirts of Willis’ new collection can do it all. They may be formal, but they’ll look as handsome sitting under a summer suit as they will tucked into jeans. They’d even look the part worn open and billowing over your swim shorts. And this versatility comes thanks to Solbiati, the Lombardy-based mill where Willis herself discovered the perfect linen for her summer shirts.
Using eco-friendly flax grown in France, Solbiati weaves, dyes and finishes its luxurious linen at a decades-old mill in the North of Italy. Today owned by Loro Piana, there’s not a more comfortable, sleek, delicate-yet-durable linen available anywhere else in the world. The mill even washes its linen in aloe vera to afford it the most supple finish possible. “This, for me,” Willis tells Gentleman’s Journal, “is the loveliest linen for shirts. It’s just so soft”.
“This, for me, is the loveliest linen for shirts…”
As for colours, Willis says she “finds it very hard to resist a beautiful blue”. One look at the latest collection, and you’ll see that this cerulean obsession is real; the range features blue shades in summery spades. “We do more blues than anyone else,” the designer adds. “Pale sky for the days, deep blues for the evenings. And, whether you’re in a really hot country, or by bright blue seas, the turquoises and the kingfisher blues look beautiful”.
There’s also a slate blue, a deep indigo and an almost blue-back on offer from the ‘Summer Linen Collection’ — not to mention a handful of additional colours including a fresh white, a pale pink and a characterful faded purple. But the blues will be your true summer saviours; as ready for the office as they are for the ocean.
And that versatility, in most part, is buttoned up by the shirts’ collars. Built with proper structure and shape, these aren’t the floppy-finished neckbands of lesser linen shirts. Instead, they’re firm enough to stand up to your best suit. Similar care has, unsurprisingly, been taken elsewhere — with single needle stitching, relaxed rounded cuffs and real mother of pearl buttons elevating the elegance of this do-it-all design.
There’s even the option of monogramming. While you can, of course, order a bespoke shirt from Emma Willis, you can also pick from this new ready-to-wear range and personalise it with your initials. Whether its on the left side of your chest, the inside of your collar for a subtle, sophisticated touch or on the cuff — a slightly more American approach to monogramming — this tailor-made touch is the ideal way to make your own mark on your new summer staple. If you pick up one of Emma Willis’ decadent dressing gowns, you can even get your initials embroidered onto its pocket.
And you should definitely pick up a dressing gown. These exquisite robes conjure up images of lazy, sun-dappled Sundays; think double espressos and St Tropez hotel balconies. In fact, packing a linen dressing gown for a far-flung getaway is the height of summer sophistication — whether your jet is setting a course for a private pool resort, or you’re upping anchor on your yacht.
But, even here in Britain, the latest launches from the shirtmaker will serve a summery purpose. Because, while this current sunny patch may pass, there’ll always be another unexpected spell of warm weather to surprise us. Gladly, if you’ve got an Emma Willis shirt hanging cool-headed in your wardrobe, you’ll be poised to handle that shock of heat in breezy, breathable style.
‘The Summer Linen Collection’
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