Patrick Grant: “Men want to wear interesting and fun clothes”
The man behind E. Tautz and Hammond & Co. is on a mission to make men dress better. In every sense.
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Just within the bounds of Blewbury, a village nestled at the foot of the Berkshire Downs, stands a barn emblazoned with the letters 'TWC', in an orange that's unexpectedly bright for somewhere this sleepy. It houses the showroom, design lab and archive of The Workers Club, a brand that's spent the last three years turning out the kind of beautifully crafted and intelligently designed clothes you don't normally find sandwiched between a garden centre, a croquet club, and seemingly endless fields.
But then, everything about The Workers Club is unexpected, in that quietly revolutionary way that the best clothing brands seem to share. There is no flash here. No sense of fashion for fashion's sake. Instead, you'll find an obsession with detail, with function, with clothes that look good but that also do a job. Which is understandable, since its founders launched their label largely to flesh out their own wardrobes.
"I wanted to build this brand that catered to all my needs," says Adam Cameron, who before founding The Workers Club with his wife, Charlotte, spent 15 years working for luxury British heritage brands such as Dunhill and DAKS. She'd put in a similar shift on the high street, designing trend-led womenswear, and the pair had been planning something collaborative for years before their move to the country gave them the impetus to make their vision a reality.
"Our backgrounds have really informed what we've created and how we've created it," Adam says. "I was luxury, Charlotte was high street, so there's the commercial versus the indulgent sometimes. We're meeting in the middle."
The first fruit of that partnership was The Works, a jacket that comprised a weatherproof shell, into which you could zip either a gilet or a down-filled bomber, depending on the forecast. You could wear all three individually, and the bomber is even reversible, offering yet more variety. Its success ensured its longevity – you'll find an updated, slightly improved, slightly adapted version in every new collection. Which is apt, because it's a product – or rather, a set of products – that encapsulates The Workers Club's approach to clothing; functionality, form and the best fabrics available.
To celebrate the brand's newest collection arriving on Thread, we took a trip up to the barn to explore its inspirations, road-test the pair's new designs, and spend some time with their dog, Monty.
The latest collection from The Workers Club, at the brand's barn in Oxfordshire
Why did you start The Workers Club?
Adam: It all relates to where we live. We’d left London and Charlotte was frustrated at the lack of clothing available to her living out here. She didn’t want to only dress in ‘country’ attire. It was like addressing the issue of wanting to wear practical clothing that doesn’t look fuddy duddy.
Charlotte: I think that’s quite new for women. For men, it’s always about practicality and functionality. It needs to deliver, keep me dry, but also look good if I went to London for a meeting. So I just wanted the ultimate coat. Adam had always done outerwear, so it was perfect.
Adam: We launched with one coat. But we didn’t believe in rushing out a full collection. That’s actually quite intrinsic to what we do. We’re not a fashion brand. We create products, we don’t create collections. We’re building a wardrobe of essential products.
Charlotte: Yeah. That was a reaction to the culture I came from. A dress I’d design, manufacture and sell would be the price of one of the zips that goes in our coat. That was hard for me to get my head around. And we fought a lot [laughs].
It feels like people are finally realising just how destructive really cheap clothing can be, psychologically and environmentally.
Adam: It’s a growing movement, hopefully.
Charlotte: It does feel right. I’m glad we went down that road.
Before founding The Workers Club with her husband, Adam, Charlotte Cameron worked as a womenswear designer for high street fashion brands. "I was doing six-week collections. Trends would come round so fast that you'd be knocking yourself off. It's tragic."
What’s interesting about The Workers Club is that it’s not just built to last, but it’s also designed to last. Everything you make is so timeless.
Charlotte: It’s true. I come from a trend background so I know that you need something to pull people in. But if it’s a ridiculous colour, or some crazy print that’s interesting for five minutes, no one will want to actually buy it. But we like to push the fashion element a bit. For spring 2019 we did pleat-front trousers and everyone loved it. A bit higher on the waist. And that’s all it took. OK, they’re not just this brand in the middle of nowhere that does this one coat.
Adam: We had an idea when we started three years ago and that’s still at the core of what we’re doing. But we’re evolving, and we’re evolving with the customers that we’ve got. We’ve got more of an identity from them, we know what’s working and what they like, who our guy is. He’s a more grown-up guy than he was three years ago. It’s funny.
Charlotte: We get so many repeat customers now and there’s so much value in that. Not just monetary value, but building up that relationship and once they’ve tried on something and loved it, they know they can trust you. We’ve got the guy who bought seven pairs of jeans, a guy who bought 20 pairs of socks. But it’s amazing because they’re out there.
The couple's dog, Monty, is an energetic fixture at the barn.
Where does the inspiration come from, to keep pushing things that little bit each season?
Charlotte: Adam, I think, a lot of the drivers are what you want to wear.
Adam: The dream – and it’s much more of a reality now – but when we started out I was like, ‘I don’t want to wear anyone else’s clothes.’ It sounds a bit crazy, but you want to build this brand where it’s catering for all of your needs. So we’re working our way through the list in terms of the key items. The outerwear was first, then it was the jeans.
Charlotte: Well, the jeans was first. You worked on the jeans for about a year.
Adam: The jeans were already kind of in process before the brand. It sounds silly but I’d just started playing with developing a jean with this guy that I was working with in Japan, so we’d had a headstart on that by six months when we first developed the outerwear.
What took so long?
Adam: Just getting the fit right and all of the details. When I was at Dunhill, we’d go to Japan probably a couple of times a year and Charlotte would be waiting for me to come back with another three pairs of Japanese jeans. But the fit was always a bit, not strange, but not quite right. So I knew I wanted to create my ultimate jeans and I wanted the fit to be right, but I wanted them to be made in Japan so they’d be 100% authentic. Then it was working on all the little details, the washes took ages.
Charlotte: It’s all done by hand, isn’t it? All the specific markings.
Adam: There was quite a lot. So inspiration, it’s going through the list and thinking about those really key items. I say me, but luckily there are other guys that want the same things. The other inspiration is fabric. That’s always been my ultimate inspiration. I get more inspiration from fabric development, working with mills, than anything else. I hope that’s really evident when you look at our clothes and people try stuff on and they feel it, the first thing that hits you is the fabric is great. We never compromise on the fabric.
Charlotte: The fabric guys we work with are like scientists, they come up with these different processes of weaving and dyeing and textures. So it does get a bit geeky.
Adam's perfect jeans, here in off-white, took a year to design. "It sounds quite self-indulgent, but I wanted something with exactly the right fit."
It’s where the value of a garment is, ultimately. A £100 coat can look very similar to a £500 coat, but when it’s made from a fabric that will last a couple of decades, you’re getting far more than five times the value.
Charlotte: It’s true. I’ve seen some pretty scary things working for high street brands. Fabric that’s so, so cheap, right at the bottom of the food chain. So now, we know that when we develop a fabric or print we work with those mills and we’ve developed something. Everything’s a relationship. But having said that, we have grown quite quickly.
Adam: That’s become the latest challenge for us; actually pulling back from how much we’ve grown in terms of the range. Because it’s very – it’s a dangerous step. You suddenly are like, ‘Wow, I’ve got so much stuff. Have I focused as much as I did when I had one coat?’
Charlotte: You haven’t talked about your endless, smelly military stuff.
Adam: One of the best things about having the barn is it’s the first time I could have all of my vintage out. I’ve been collecting military since I was a teenager. It's really my toolkit, I suppose.
The Workers Club's signature camo, in blue and green. The parka packs away into a carry pouch, for those days when it turns out nicer than you expected.
You can definitely see the military influences. But it feels more like your clothes are inspired by them, rather than trying to just remake them, like some brands.
Charlotte: It’s something we debated, because Adam loves military, but I didn’t want to just recreate it.
Adam: If it was up to me it would probably have been much more a direct recreation. So it’s good that we’ve got the combination of both of us.
Charlotte: We wanted it to be clean, to be modern. Not battered and washed and looking like it was a decade old. But Adam can’t go anywhere without coming back with more military stuff.
Adam: One of my favourites, which I’ve had for the longest, is a tank suit that I bought at the Reading Festival when I was 16. Some random military dealer there.
Charlotte: That’s not what you want your 16-year-old child to bring home from the Reading Festival.
Adam: But I love it. It’s got RiRI zips on it, and they're the same RiRI zips that we use now. Camo is another thing that we love and we came up with our own camo. We were inspired by all of the different camos, other references, but we wanted to create something that wasn’t a heritage thing. We wanted it to look quite modern. So we worked with this print designer who came up with a new camo, effectively.
Charlotte: It’s inspired by the landscape but not too literally. We worked with a print designer because we wanted it to look like brush marks. It’s become our signature thing.
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