Introducing S.E.H. Kelly
I’ve documented my love for smaller, independent brands several times over the years, as I believe this is where a significant part of the future of fashion lies. Sometimes it’s not about the latest technical developments or paramount designs…sometimes all it takes is embracing time tested essentials with new found love for their essence, quality and craftsmanship. And that’s exactly what S.E.H. Kelly is all about…
Out of its East London workshop, the label has managed to actively engage Britain’s finest makers in an assortment of fields, ensuring the highest quality fabrics, trimmings and manufacturing techniques. Every element that goes into the production process is sourced from renowned mills and manufacturers (some of which the last remaining) located in London, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Donegal, Kent and Nottinghamshire. Combining the best materials with a passion for quality, each garment is cut, sewn and hand-finished in specialised workshops. The result is a collection thriving with authenticity and superbly crafted pieces, embodying years of experience and love for the making.
What I love the most is how they manage to seamlessly blend simplicity with a distinct identity that transpires in each item, an identity focused on the product itself and its real value. I believe they describe it best - “shipping is always free, orders are always wrapped and dispatched within two working days, and prices — because the value of a garment is the value of a garment — are always the same.” This hands down approach along with trademark designs and materials, crafted “as and when”, definitely sets them apart from most brands. One of my must sees next time I’m in London…
Favouring the Underdog
There are some realities in the world that are kept from us by an illusory curtain, until the time comes to actually experience them first hand. As so many other things in life, fashion also plays a part in this universe of illusions, which is more apparent to some than others…
I won’t get too deep into the issue of branding, as by now it would be almost like preaching to the choir, but I’d like to write a brief reflection and bring forth some topics on why I favour smaller labels.
First and foremost, I hope enlightenment has come to you at some point that big names and reputation don’t necessarily translate into quality; unfortunately, in some cases, it’s quite the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, most fashion giants deserve their hardly-earned reputation. I’m a fan of some of them, but the truth remains that the values, legacy and heritage left by their founders are slowly being put to shame by an ever-growing urge for profit. Bear with me…Of course at the end of the day it all comes down to business, fashion represents massive revenues, but in my modest opinion, business can be run in several ways.
Working in the industry for some time now, has opened my mind to the harsh realities behind major labels. For me, the biggest disappointment was witnessing how passion is lost throughout the years and profit alone dictates everything as newer generations and luxury groups take over. I wholeheartedly believe passion has to be part of the equation, in order to create a connection to consumers and actually produce something unique (that stands out for something other than a particular label). Common scenario…Imagine a brand that starts out set to deliver quality and attention to detail in each piece, sourcing the best fabrics and working with the best manufacturers (within its budget): say the original retail price is €100.
Lots of hype, global praise and several raving reviews later, it assumes a cult/exclusivity status, allowing it to increase prices to + €300 (not all manage to do it, but there are several successful examples out there). Although it’s stellar to achieve such an increase in margin and markup, let’s keep in mind they were already making money to begin with…So, one would think that the logic thing to do would be to make the most of this extra breathing space and try to upgrade your product, slowly and even if ever so slightly: better fabrics, materials, quality and craftsmanship, all while enjoying the recent found success of course.
Reality is quite different I’m afraid. Once that leap occurs and brands gain market recognition and dimension, the majority of them work exactly in the opposite way, pressuring manufacturers for lower prices often achieved at the cost of all of the aforementioned. As fashion becomes ultimately a question of numbers, where major brands are run by financial departments, it’s up to us as consumers, experts or aficionados, to actively make thoughtful choices and spend our hard-earned money where it’s actually worth it, instead of merely considering insignias or status.
Miguel Amaral Vieira
Yuketen AW14 Pitti Preview
Mr. Yuki Matsuda’s label has now become a mandatory visit whenever I’m at Pitti. As a footwear aficionado, it’s hard not to drool when faced with Yuketen’s extensive collection, comprised of trademark designs that are constantly elevated to new levels, be it through subtle aesthetical tweaks or core construction techniques.
Although some particular models may be somewhat over the top for my personal taste, the common denominator for all things Yuketen is superb quality and craftsmanship. Starting with skilled artisans who resort to traditional construction techniques, up to the high-end materials and attention to detail, every single item transpires authenticity and love for the product (this goes for both shoes and accessories).
Some of my personal favourites included a beautiful derby shoe with ripple soles, available in supple leather and suede, along with an updated version of the Maine Guide Boot with silver Concho and hand-painted beads.
Ph: Beyond Fabric