22 Mar 2014
I recently received not one, but two unsolicited emails from a company based in France offering their services to us. This is far from unusual: as a small, newly established business we eagerly check our emails a dozen times a day awaiting feedback and orders from our customers and clients only to be bombarded by offers to 'help' our business in one way or the other. While this can at times prove quite amusing reading the awful generic sales pitches of the vast majority, it is also very frustrating when it is obvious that these businesses haven't even looked at our brand to grasp the fundementals of what we do: Menswear for men, entirely made in the UK, either in our studio or with a select number of local manufacturers. Nor the ethos behind our brand: to ensure that we ethically produce desireable eco-friendly /green / sustainable clothing that men want to continue to wear for years (not simply for a season). So it was most frustrating to receive the mail from a French company (with 222 stores in France) offering to buy our 'clearance', 'end of lines', 'overstocks', 'cancelled orders', 'etc'. (read: to take anything we deemed no longer worthy of offering to our customers and clients). But this was not the most anoying thing about this offer; what was quite shocking was the fact that they offered to keep the products and lines in their stores for just 4 weeks, before then going on to destroy the products so that they 'will not end up somewhere else'!!!
For around 7 weeks every 6 months Europe & USA becomes a hive of activity with designers and design houses presenting their collections on the catwalk and at exhibitions. Buyers from around the world attend to spot the latest trends and source the most desirable items for their stores and customers. There is a huge industry comprising of growers, mills, colourists, spinners, weavers, CMT units, printers, agents, distributors, exhibitors, Public Relation specialists, creative media experts, marketing analysts, pricing experts, factorers, stylists, make-up artists, models, photographers, magazines, editors, bloggers, etc. all involved with the industry of sell-by-date fashion.
While in some ways we position ourselves alongside other UK based menswear brands and fashion labels, we are fundementally different in our approach to production: we make items by the dozen as opposed to by the 10 or 100 dozen. We make items that are trans-seasonal rather than obsolete in less than 6 months and we choose fabrics and colours from a palette that we find beautiful, pleasing and exciting rather than what may be the latest trends. So if you have set your heart on a waistcoat with ginger and terracotta tones or an 8 piece tweed cap in lichen or sage hues then the Cock & Bull Menswear line will deliver.
I was bought up to view 'wastefulness' almost as a crime. My parents were from a quite rural and remote countryside where resourcefulness was the name of the game (and the plethora of choices we are presented with today for our choice of coffee was only a far off dream). They passed their values about valuing things onto me so that my consumer paradigm has almost always been one of 'less is more' and quality over quantity. The shift to austerity measures and purposeful and considered consumption over the last 8 years has been less painful for me than many, and also a useful opportunity to assess what really matters. It is this ethos that is a guiding principal of everything that we do as a menswear brand.
We will continue to design and deliver items and lines that have longevity designed and built in to them. In the meantime, no doubt the fashion industry will continue to try to convince you of your worthlessness unless you sport that canary yellow striped cashmere jumper next season, and destroy all those items left on the shelves as they move onto the next colour of the next season.