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We all know the special joy that comes from being complimented on your clothes and then asked what brand you’re wearing. But that pales in comparison to the smugness one feels when you can reply with a little-known label instead of a generic high street chain. (Bonus points if you can add that you “picked this up in a boutique in Florence.”)

Not only that, but the chance of showing up to the pub in the same outfit as your mates is drastically reduced when you’re shopping from an independent designer. Then – and this really is niche, so bear with us – there is the even more elusive thrill of having a fellow fan recognise said brand and start a conversation about it. It’s kind of like how drivers of rare cars will give each other The Nod when they pass on the road, or how owners of the same dog breed will stop and chat. It’s kinship, of sorts.

Now, we know that you might not have the time or the inclination to scour fashion websites, attend menswear shows, and chat with designers. But our stylists do. Which means that when it comes to discovering new brands, they’re always one step ahead of the game. So we asked them to battle it out amongst themselves and, after much heated debate, they managed to whittle it down to a list of three under-the-radar brands you need to know about.

Les Deux

“This brand does the Scandinavian feel with a bit of a French touch,” says Luke. “Great tactile fabrics and easy-to-wear colours make it super simple to slot into your wardrobe.”

Founded in 2011 by Mathias Jensen and Andreas von der Heide, the Danish menswear brand is where preppy Ivy League style meets streetwear. And if that sounds intriguing, you should really see the latest collection of button-downs and trainers.

What began as just a collection of t-shirts has evolved into a global brand and a charitable arm called the Les Deux Foundation. We can’t wait to see what’s next.


Founded in 2006 by Alastair Rae and James Shaw, who met at Manchester Metropolitan University, Albam is a Midlands brand at heart. They work with British and European factories, but what’s particularly lovely is that they still work with the Nottingham and Leicester factories that they first approached over ten years ago.

“The shapes and influences of the brand are super classic, rooted in military and utility clothing from the 20th century, but the use of premium fabrics and bold colours mean that it feels really contemporary,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “It’s perfect for the classic guy who wants to mix it up.”

They produce four collections a year, and their timeless designs mean that pieces can be worn season after season.

Native Youth

Something must be happening in the halls of Manchester Met uni because Native Youth founder, Ash Kumar, is another proud alumnus. Launched in 2013, the affordable luxury brand makes menswear, womenswear and unisex items. You’ll find corduroy co-ords, check shackets, and stripes tees aplenty.

“This brand takes youth-friendly shapes and applies creative fabrics and colours to stand out from high street basics,” says Luke. We particularly like their shirt and jacket offerings, all of which come in at under £100. Bargain.

Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Chris Howlett
Styling: Freddie Kemp and Luke McDonald