January 14, 2019 by Ville Raivio
January 10, 2019 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
PV: 35, Menswear designer.
VR: Have you any children or spouse?
PV: Yes — my spouse is Sara Kelly, who is the other half of our company. She worked for years on Savile Row in London, and the experience of that time was fundamental for the start of the business, and is a strong influence on us to this day.
VR: How did your family react when they first learned about your passion for clothing?
PV: I’ve never really discussed my profession with my parents to any great level of depth. They have always seemed happy so long as their children are happy, and have never pushed me or my siblings in any particular direction.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
PV: My work dominates my life, and absorbs my time and thoughts to a great extent. I love it. I am also interested in politics, sport, and architecture, and film. However, nothing that can be defined a a hobby: my hobby is my job. Even when I am reading about politics or watching football, I am also thinking about my hobby.
VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards more classic pieces? Why these instead of fast fashion?
PV: I have spent disproportionate amounts of my income on clothing since my early teens. I cannot readily explain why, to be honest: it is not to make a statement, and it is not to stand out; it must be for some inexplicable sense of satisfaction within the self. As time has gone by, as with any strong interest or hobby, I have sought to deepen and expand my knowledge, and that has lead me along the way to the classic forms of menswear. This currently dwells on traditional styles of coat and jacket from the past hundred years, and the materials woven in traditional and / or region-specific ways from around the British Isles.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?
PV: Just here and there. It isn’t an active process. There is no shortage of information online, of course, but I stumble upon it rather than seek it out. We are also fortunate to work closely with people very knowledge on these subjects, at factories or mills, and they’re often not backward in coming forward with their knowledge.
VR: When did you decide to set up your own clothing company, and what goals did you set for yourself in the beginning?
PV: We set up the business in 2009, as the recession / “credit crunch” began, and we were both left with nothing much to do with our time. Sara, however, had a wealth of knowledge and contacts with various mills and factories, from her time on Savile Row, so we decided to try something new. Our sole goal, which is the same to this day, is to make a particular type of garment, made with cloth and components from around the British Isles, and to market it at a sensible price (one which will also sustain a niche business, I mean).
VR: Is there a story behind the company name?
PV:It’s just Sara’s name. She came up with a long list of brand names, and I didn’t think much of them. “Why not just use your name,” I suggested, “it looks good written down.”
VR: What’s your criteria for choosing the factories and weavers who take part in creating SEH Kelly’s wares?
PV: We don’t choose them on aesthetic grounds, but on grounds of authenticity, story, or very apparent regional provenance. We have worked with weavers on remote islands who make very decorative and textured tweed, and mills in the middle of cities that make cloth the opposite of that. I am always keen to learn about what they make, and how we can apply that to our styles.
VR: What’s your style or cut philosophy behind the clothing?
PV: We hope to make things that endure trends and other vagaries of fashion. I try to look at things through the lens of “What will that look like in five years’ time?” — both from a stylistic perspective, but also a quality and material perspective, in terms of how the thing will age with time.
Our cut is a classic English one — one which has mostly prevailed in men’s outfitters from the middle of the 20th-century onwards — and so is quite straight, up and down. The style is mostly simple and unadorned. We strive for simplicity, but also innovation, here and there. Ideally, these two qualities will go hand in hand: there is nothing better than one aspect of a garment doing two jobs, such as a seam that doubles as an entry-point for a pocket, or a pocket that can also serve as a belt-loop.
VR: How would you describe the “House Style” of SEH Kelly?
PV: It is perhaps a classic English style, but modernised through by alternative means of construction. We do lots of different styles of shoulder, for instance, such as raglan, semi-raglan, split-sleeve, Dolman, Magyar, and others. Despite this, the proportions and shapes of more cosmetic aspects of a garment — such as collars, pockets, and the other things — consistent, and quite “classic”, right across the board. They do not change.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
PV: Going to the factory every day, and building on what went before. We keep evolving our styles, to make them better, and to apply new learnings to old developments. That is the principal source of inspiration: to keep pushing forward in terms of quality of cut, design, and material. I am never fully happy with any of our garments for very long, and always wish to make them more pleasing to look at, to wear, and to be more lasting. Being surrounded by people at the factory who have the same outlook strengthens that resolve.
VR: What’s your definition of style?
PV: The old Hardy Amies quote, about getting dressed with the utmost care, but looking to all the world like you haven’t tried at all, is perhaps the best one for me.
VR: Finally, how would you say British style differs from Italian?
PV: I don’t really think I can answer that without falling back on cliches of either. British tailoring is more reserved and more structured; Italian looks to be lighter and more fluid. But then there is street style, there is high fashion, and there are the manifold and impossible to map influences on both from other cultures. I could not sum it up, and I do not know enough about either to make an informed response beyond that.
December 14, 2018 by Ville Raivio
December 8, 2018 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
JM: I’m a 48 year old Textile Designer and Independent Harris Tweed weaver. I weave single width Harris Tweeds from my home in the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
VR: Your educational background?
JM: I enrolled on a 2-year clothing technology course just after my daughter was born. The course included Fashion design, pattern cutting, garment manufacture, business studies and textile science. I enjoyed the technical and three-dimensional thinking behind pattern cutting, but it was the textile element that I was fascinated by. I went on to study for my B.A. (Hons) Textiles degree at Manchester Metropolitan University, where I graduated in the late nineties. It was here where I first learned to weave.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your cloth enthusiasm)?
JM: I have a grown up daughter and two teenage sons. They don’t share my passion for textiles, but are very tolerant, understanding and supportive of it. Ever since I was a small child I’ve never been too far from a piece of fabric or a ball of wool, so when I became disillusioned with city life it came as no surprise to my family when I started to look towards relocating to somewhere where I could weave for a living. I was fortunate that my close family were also happy to make the move too.
VR: How did you first become interested in weaving, and when did you turn your eyes towards Harris tweed? Why these instead of regular cloths?
JM: My first memories of my love of Tweed came from my Grandmother. She was a tall, elegant woman who always wore Tweed Skirts and Coats during the winter months. I remember loving the little flecks of colour in the warm earthy tones she wore, what would appear a flat Brown from a distance would be an amazing array of shades close up. I always acknowledged the sewing and knitting skills she gave me, but what has become clear now is she also had a huge influence on my tastes in colour and texture. So, for me now Harris Tweed is the perfect cloth to be weaving.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of this area — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
JM: Shortly after moving to the Isle of Harris I was offered a place on a Harris Tweed weaving course. This was invaluable in teaching me how to operate a Hattersley Loom and also the specifications, rules and regulations surrounding the weaving of Harris Tweed.
After completing the course I had a loom shed built and was offered the lease on a Hattersley loom. I then wove my first test pieces of tweed. These were submitted to the Harris Tweed Authority for inspection. Glad to say, I passed and was issued with my own unique weaver number.
My default has always been for Interior fabrics, that was until a customer purchased one of my tweeds for a sports jacket. This opened up a conversation, which in turn unearthed an interest in Bespoke and MTM, especially in menswear.
VR: How would you describe the ‘house style’ of the cloths you make?
I find it difficult to describe my own ‘house style’, but others have described my tweeds as contemporary. I have my own ‘handwriting’ which seems to follow through on most things I create.
VR: Where do you source the wool and dyes for the fabrics?
The Act of Parliament governing the production of ‘Harris Tweed states that all yarn used must be of pure wool, dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides, so all my yarns are purchased from mills up in the Isle of Lewis.
VR: There are several weavers in the Outer Hebrides — why should my readers try you?
I am one of a growing number of Independent Harris Tweed weavers, but the tweed produced can be very different from weaver to weaver, the main difference being one of colour. The tones I use are consistent, they are quite personal to me, they are the colours that I am drawn too, that stand out to me in the landscape. Apart from the occasional pop of colour I always prefer to use a more subdued palette for my own designs. I generally gain customers who have a similar sense of aesthetics.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides weaving?
Haha, that’s a funny one! Textiles, textiles, textiles with an occasional appreciation of Architecture, Art and Gardening. Travel would be another one if only I had the time!
VR: Over the years you must have learned quite a bit about fabrics. Is there something you wish more men would know about Harris tweed in particular? Maybe something the PR-leaflets don’t mention.
What would I like more men to know about Harris Tweed? I often get enquiries as though I am a company of numerous employees, this isn’t the case. I am self-employed and work alone, as is the case for most independent weavers. Although for bigger commissions, independent weavers have worked together to fulfil a large order.
We are dependent upon the mills for our yarn and finishing and The Harris Tweed Authority for our Inspecting and stamping. The designing, warping, beaming and weaving and selling of a tweed is all done by ourselves. Along with loom maintenance, book keeping, administration, website, photography, social media etc. When things go wrong the loom shed can be a lonely place for an Independent weaver, but we all share a passion for what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.
I love the traceability of Harris Tweed which, in today’s world, is rare. It’s a very unique cloth, and one I’m very happy to be weaving and learning from.
November 30, 2018 by Ville Raivio
Heinrich Dinkelacker is a German shoe company with a different concept than most European makers. Many companies favour Goodyear-welting along with a benchmade production, but Dinkelacker is an artisanal maker. Each pair is hand-clicked, -sewn, -lasted, -welted, and -sewn on the company’s own set of 15 lasts and dozens of designs. The make, however, comes from Hungary and this explains the pricing. If the pairs were made in Germany, the prices would at least double. The company was founded in 1879 by the namesake, H.D., in the small German town of Sindelfingen, known at the time for its weaving industry. The gentle craft of making shoes continued there for more than a century, until the factory was moved to Budapest, Hungary, in 1960. Few German youths wanted to pursue shoemaking, so Dinkelacker had few recruits to replace the older cordwainers. Then again, the wage rates in Hungary surely helped in the transition.
In 2004, the family-owned company faced another transition: there was no heir to continue the business. Thus, three shoe hobbyists stepped in. Dr Wendelin Wiedeking, the former CEO of Porsche, Norbert Lehmann, a former Manager with IBM, and Anton Hunger, the former Head of PR at Porsche, took the reins. This phase continued to 2016, when the shoe retailer Shoepassion bought Dinkelacker’s operations. The production is still artisanal, with around two dozen cordwainers, and the workshop finishes some 25 pairs per day.
An example of this production is the lasting phase. Factory-made pairs spend a few hours, or less, on the lasts so that the leather adjusts to the contours of the last. At Dinkelacker, each pair takes the shape for several days. This puts less strain on the leather. Heinrich Dinkelacker uses uppers leathers from Horween, Weinheimer, Tanneries du Puy, Moretti, Russo di Asandrino, and sole leather from Rendenbach. A particular specialty is the braided Goyser-welt that the workshop uses on their burly leisure models. Dinkelacker finishes their pairs with inset steel toe guards and brass nails on the leather sole. The company offers a full repair service for their own goods. Few other companies still use triple leather soles, but Dinkelacker offers them on some of their models. Speaking of the models, most of the designs are extremely robust and heavy compared to Italian shoemakers.
The example pair below was sent over by Dinkelacker for Keikari’s anatomical series. This captoe oxford model is made on H.D.’s Luzern-last, which is among their dressier and contoured ones. The uppers are made from aniline calfskin and the pair is built with a double leather sole, with Dinkelacker’s signature toe guard and brass nails to protect it from wear. Starting from the last, which shall always be the first, I’d say the fit is surprisingly snug.
Most of Dinkelacker’s lasts are as burly as their designs, most suitable for wide and high feet. Luzern is definitely smarter by comparison, with an especially form-fitting heelcup. The oak bark leather sole is heavier than what most makers use on black oxfords, but the bonus side is durability. The upper stitching is straight and the width of the welt average. The heel disappears under the heel cleanly. The welt stitch is clean and as tight as most factory-sewn ones.
The toe looks very rounded and English. While the sides of the last don’t look as contoured, the fit is close. The sole feels stiff at first, as is common with double layer models, and the higher toe spring allows this thicker construction to roll better. The pair arrives with a German-language leaflet, extra laces, and shoe bags to boot. If anything, I’d say Dinkelacker’s pairs look and feel very durable as well as burly. Such is the craft of most Austro-Hungarian shoemakers.
Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio