Brand and shopping advice

Why Far Afield wants to take you on a trip

Why Far Afield wants to take you on a trip

Brothers Mark and Chris Scholes grew up in Manchester wearing “very dubious clothes and ridiculously long hair.” Two decades on, younger brother Chris has ditched the flares and now cuts a far cooler figure in head-to-toe Far Afield. It helps that he’s accessorising with a tan, earned on a recent jaunt around Africa. For the co-founder of a brand inspired by travel, it's an apposite look.

We’re talking Manchester because, despite their global outlook, the Scholes are still as inspired by where they came from as where they’re going. Specifically, the city’s buzzing football, music and art scenes, as well as its role in kick-starting the Industrial Revolution. Keen-eyed Mancunians might even be able to spot how the brand has interpreted the Transport for Greater Manchester logo in their latest collection.

Though Far Afield is admirably anti-capital-F fashion – you’ll find no logo-all-over hoodies here – they have tapped into a certain menswear mood, one heavy on a workwear aesthetic and which celebrates the hardy beauty of natural materials. That their stance is particularly on-trend is more by happy accident than design. “We'd always wear cord back in Manchester, it was just a staple part of our wardrobe,” says Chis. “But everyone seems to be loving cord at the moment."

Far Afield's story began in 2016. Well, sort of. A decade earlier, Mark was working in Sri Lanka when he realised that the shirts he was commissioning for himself were so well-made, and keenly priced, that folks back home would want them too. He set up his label, Tuktuk, as a nod to his daily commute, and his online store soon earned a cult following around the world. A few years later, Tuktuk evolved into Far Afield. It’s a fitting rebrand, which expands the brand’s travel-inspired horizons even further.

There’s also a literality to the brand’s name; creative director Mark is based in Porto, his brother who runs the business side of things in Brighton, which is where we joined Chris to talk inspiration, craft and, naturally, Manchester.

So, Mark's in Portugal and you're here in Brighton. How come?

Yeah, he's based in Porto which is a beautiful place. He's not lived in the UK for about 10 years. As for me, I was based in London and we were thinking about opening a shop there but it's just too expensive. We didn't want to go back to the north because we'd kind of been there and done that, so Brighton was the next logical city. Brighton is so colourful and fun, and it ties in well with what we're doing.

You mentioned your dubious fashion choices when you were younger. Far Afield's really got a retro vibe to it. Is that a deliberate throwback?

I mean, sort of. In our recent summer collections you'll see some of the polos, which are very 60s- and 70s-inspired, with muted colour palettes as well. That still seems to be popular with consumers, [the idea of] going a little bit more vintage but with a contemporary fit. If you look at vintage stuff, there's a lot of polyester and what-not in there, so we've updated the fabrics as well.

Craftsmanship is obviously very important to you guys. How does that manifest itself in your products?

We've started exploring organic cotton now, so hopefully, we're going to introduce that into the next couple of collections. We still produce our shirting and jersey in Sri Lanka, but for our knitwear and outerwear, it's predominantly Turkey. We always source locally to our manufacturers and we always look for the best quality cotton and wools.

We just try and incorporate craftsmanship into our design and our aesthetic and I think it all comes together really well. That, alongside the quality and the price point, is what makes us stand out. Because our quality is great and our price point is spot-on. It's accessible considering you're not buying mass-produced goods. Our clothes are very unique, using our own designs, and there's a bit of a story behind it.

Photographed: Far Afield Pocket Pop Pover Shirt (£70)

Who is the Far Afield man?

We cater to pretty much everyone. In the UK, that could be a 21 to 35-year-old man, but then we'll have 60-year-old guys buying shirts, so it's a really difficult question to answer. Initially, on paper, we would say a football, casual, music-loving man who likes to spend money on clothing.

What's been the highlight of the journey so far for you?

I think seeing the progression of the brand. I do all the trade shows, so if I go out to New York and I'm dealing with a store from Albuquerque and St. Louis – places that I'd never even heard of before really – and they're wanting to stock our brand, it kind of shows the progression of how far we've come. Now, we're having enquiries from stores in Singapore and Hong Kong and Australia, and it's nice that we're such a small team who seem to be resonating throughout the world. Slowly but surely.

A big moment was when a guy from The National wore our shirt while headlining this festival in London. One which isn't as cool for us, but is also quite big, is that Niall Horan from One Direction wore five or six of our shirts on tour in the US. We've not sent these guys those shirts, so the fact that they're choosing to wear them on-stage is quite complimentary. The National's great, because that's the kind of stuff we like, but Niall Horan is kind of like – you know, he's a superstar, but not really our ideal.

What was the last trip you went on, that wasn't work-related?

Africa, I just got back from a month there. So that was Tanzania predominantly, and the Zanzibar safari. Then South Africa: Cape Town and the wine region. I saw a giraffe – I saw millions of them. They're my favourite things ever.

Are we going to be seeing giraffes making their way into future collections?

You know what? Possibly. My business partner and I were saying while we were on the trip that you could be hugely inspired. If you look at our summer collections, a lot of it is flora and fauna and you're surrounded by that kind of thing on safari. I could see us doing a repeat print of all sorts of safari animals. It could be quite childish, but I think our clientele will quite like that. But Mark is the creative director, so he'll have to decide.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY: ANGUS WILLIAMS