‘Uncertain times’. That’s what they’re saying, isn’t it? And they’re not wrong. But for many of us, ‘uncertain’ is an understatement. The sudden onset of COVID-19 has thrown Britain, along with the rest of the world, into a new way of living. We’re shut inside, we’ve cut off contact — we’re not even allowed to shake hands anymore. And independent brands and businesses are suffering.
Stricter quarantine guidelines are forcing brands to shut up shop. Supply chains have disrupted dealings and new product launches have been moved online, shelved for later in the year or scrapped entirely so companies can focus on simply surviving the pandemic. There is a glimmer of hope, with recent financial predictions suggesting that this outbreak will be more of an economic blip than a full-blown downturn — but we have worries nonetheless. Uncertain, we certainly are.
And that makes it all the more important for us to continue our support of independent brands — businesses without the weight of conglomerates or corporations to keep them afloat through this strangest of springtimes. Here at Gentleman’s Journal, we’ve always thought it important to enlighten ourselves when it comes to smaller labels and brands; for this is often where we find the purest passion, the most skill and the best customer experiences.
So, in these trying times, we’ve rounded up six independent brands worthy of your discovery. We’re here to help you help them, to turn up and track down new trusted names — and to all come out of this outbreak shrewder, smarter and stronger as a result.
Sunspel has your back with quality basics
It’s been 160 years since Sunspel started making the best basics in Britain. That means the brand has survived the turns of two millennia, both World Wars and decades of cut-throat competition from much bigger brands. And yet, still it stands — producing clothes that we’re proud to wear everyday. It pioneered the T-shirt during the industrial revolution, it brought the boxer short back from America and it has even, on occasion, dressed James Bond. This is a brand worth protecting.
“We are following the advice of the World Health Organization,” Sunspel CEO Nicholas Brooke tells us. “In these extraordinary, challenging times, the health and safety of all our staff, customers and business partners is our absolute priority. Our online store remains fully operational, with all appropriate hygiene and safety measures being taken at our warehouse.”
It’s a good thing, too. Working from home, we’ve been shuffling around the house in our best Sunspel Merino socks, and we can attest that the British brand knows how to pull together some comfy, cosy threads. .
Visit Sunspel to find out more…
Czech & Speake will keep you clean through the crisis
Soap. If you haven’t been using it, you need to get online and buy a bunch of the best bars you can find right now. Thankfully, another of our favourite independent brands sells the finest fragrances and grooming products this side of Piccadilly Circus. Established at No. 88 Jermyn St. in 1980, Czech & Speake is a family business — and they’ve stuck together and looked after each other throughout the generations.
“Over our 40 years in existence,” explains Freddie Sawkins, son of founder Frank Sawkins and director at Czech & Speake, “we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs. We have a fantastic team, incredible partners and fiercely loyal customers who have always helped guide us through with their continued and unconditional support. Contact is at an absolute minimum, but we have a small skeleton team working online to ensure our direct business is still operational during our spring sale — which was brought forward to lighten the circumstances. If we are able to continue bringing joy to our customers, we will.”
And they’ll do it as fragrantly as they know how. Czech & Speake is our pick of the soapmakers at the best of times — so that certainly won’t change during the worst of times. If your soap dish is running low, we can only recommend our two favourite hand soaps from the brand: the triple-milled, luxuriously lathered No.88 Hand Soap; and the utterly fresh, delicately scented Neroli Hand Soap. Stay safe in style, gents.
Visit Czech & Speake to find out more…
Bennett Winch are making the best of a mixed bag
Bennett Winch has been answering our luggage prayers for years. Since the brand zipped onto the scene in 2014, it has been at the forefront of innovation — introducing pioneering products from the Suit Carrier Holdall to its new hexagonal Watch Roll. So, while the brand’s bags and backpacks may not be jet-setting and globe-trotting around the world much at the moment, we’re still thoroughly excited to see what they dream up when those luggage carousels start turning once more.
“We are staying calm in a time where the world is in turmoil,” says co-founder Robin Bennett, “but we are optimistic about the future. It’s not been an easy few weeks, but we’re in the same spot as everyone else around the globe right now and can take comfort in the fact that we are all in this boat together and supporting each other.”
“Short term,” adds Robin Winch, “we’re going to concentrate on everyone who’s at home, so we’re putting together some interesting pieces through IGTV on our channel to spark some conversation and show how people are handling something that none of us have faced before. We’re keeping grounded and being realistic through what is a turbulent time socially and economically, but the most important thing is everyone’s health right now. For us, everything else comes second.”
Visit Bennett Winch to find out more…
Turnbull & Asser is keeping calm and carrying on
The most iconic Jermyn Street shirtmaker of all time used to make shirts and the famous spotted bow ties for Winston Churchill. Now there’s a man who knew a thing or two about times of trouble. And, just as the wartime Prime Minister kept calm and carried on, Turnbull & Asser is today not giving into panic and hysteria. Rather, the British brand is making the best out of a bad situation. Churchill would be proud.
“We are entering a time where we are forced to live with even greater consideration of the decisions we make,” says Jonathan Baker, managing director of Turnbull & Asser. “This time presents an opportunity, and indeed a necessity, to reconsider what matters. We’re proud to be Made in England, but even a UK supply chain is not infallible. At this time, our workrooms continue to craft the finest products possible. Over the next few weeks, we’ll largely continue with ‘business as usual’.
“Alongside updates on the measures we’re taking,” he adds, “we’ll also provide snippets of stories to keep minds active and entertained, as well as the occasional suggestion of what to wear, read, watch and listen to, should you find yourself having to settle in and hunker down. Let’s take this time to remind ourselves what really matters; compassion and caring for one another.”
Wise words — and even more impressive considering they come from a brand who has delivered one of the best SS20 collections currently ready to buy.
Visit Turnbull & Asser to find out more…
Sir Plus is, as always, working to save the world
When it comes to saving the world, Sir Plus has always been one step ahead. Since starting out on a market stall 10 years ago, founder Henry Hales has all but sewn-up the sustainable clothing market. All of his clothes are crafted from ‘cabbage’ — offcuts that larger fashion houses neither want nor can use — and they have developed an identity and signature style of their own. It’s no surprise then, that even in these trying times, Hales is making lemonade out of some particularly bitter lemons.
“Since I started Sir Plus nine years ago,” says Hales, “there have been many challenges. But none quite like this. With some extra time on our hands, we wanted to see what we could do to help and came up with an idea. We have excellent DPD and DHL accounts. So, if, over the next few weeks, you need to have food, medicine, or even a support package picked up from you and dropped off to someone else, we’d be happy to do this for you, using our courier accounts. We will only charge you the amount that it costs us.
“Truth be told,” he adds, “whilst people are worrying for their loved ones and gripped by the stream of news, topping up on new threads is not the main priority. I get that. However, if you have your eye on something, we are still very much fulfilling online orders.” And we’re glad they are — because the brand’s new camel brushed cotton chore jacket is a thing of durable, stitch-detailed beauty.
Visit Sir Plus to find out more…
Crockett & Jones is taking stylish steps to beat the crisis
Our watchword during these troubling times is ‘trust worthiness’. While everything else is in flux, we’re in search for a constant — and you can’t get more reliable than a pair of finely fashioned, Goodyear-welted, meticulously made shoes from Crockett & Jones. From its bolthole in Northampton, the shoemaker is still plugging away through the crisis — creating the best footwear money can buy for when we walk, surely and steadily, out of the outbreak.
“As it stands,” says James Fox, brand director at Crockett & Jones, “the factory is currently working, with a view to reducing the working hours. Our staff want to work, and at the moment, the risk in Northampton is minimal. This can of course change very quickly, of which we are aware. But mark my words, we shall come back with a smile on our faces as soon as sensibly possible and have great confidence that our customers will too.
“Leading on,” he adds, “we are forever pragmatic in the face of adversity and lead on with a smile we shall. Our forefathers have been through far worse and, during a time to be thankful for those around us, the management of Crockett & Jones plan to waste little of that time, preparing for our Autumn/Winter 2020 season already!”
We’re more confident than Crockett & Jones. Not only are we sure that we’ll still all enjoy a summer, but we’re hoping to stride through it in the new, brightly coloured loafer collection from the shoemaker.
Visit Crockett & Jones to find out more…
Beaufort & Blake will keep your chin up and your button-downs
There’s not much that can shake a brand who sold its first 50 shirts out of the back of an old Land Rover. And Beaufort & Blake is pushing through the pandemic with all the grit, determination and rugged reliance we’ve come to expect from it. It’s still wishing mothers a Happy Mother’s Day. It’s still pushing you to live your best life. And it’s also offering handy tips if you’re working from home, Skyping the office, or struggling to pass the time (hint: they suggest reading that one book you’ve been putting off for years).
But the best public service Beaufort & Blake is providing is a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s nothing we hate more than being cooped up in our houses — especially when it looks like this outside. But take a quick trip across to the British brand’s Instagram and you’ll be dreaming of sunnier climes and times of adventure before you know it.
The brand’s new Spring collection is a good place to start, with bold, bright coloured pieces including the Seaview cornflower chinos and basil Oxford shirt bringing a much needed splash of colour to your work-from-home days. Or, if you’re looking further ahead — and we all should be — why not take a dip into the Beaufort & Blake holiday shop, stuffed with such joys as the Caspian Tiger swim shorts and Sky linen shirts?
Visit Beaufort & Blake to find out more…
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