PROVENANCE. There’s a lot of talk these days about knowing which particular pig your pork sausages came from, what farm grew your turnips, which baker lovingly kneaded and proved your artisan bread.
It’s much more than simply a trend, of course. It’s about quality and care and supporting local industry. And it’s not just about food either. Increasingly, fashion designers are wearing their suppliers on their sleeves, enthusiastically informing us which particular craftsmen, weavers and leather workers contributed to the clothes we wear.
It’s something that matters a great deal to Kestin Hare. The former head of design at Nigel Cabourn, now striking out on his own with Common People, he describes his customer as the sort of man who visits the local farmers’ market on a Saturday, “someone who appreciates premium and locally sourced products, whether it’s food or art or whatever”.
So in his autumn/winter collection you’ll find Lochcarron tweeds, leather from Galashiels-based Aero and waxed cotton from Halley Stevensons in Dundee. “It’s very important to be supporting local industry,” he says. “Scotland’s a small place and I’m trying to work with as many Scottish manufacturers as possible.”
The deep navy trousers he’s wearing when he meet, however, are made from Italian tweed. Apparently Scottish tweeds are too heavy for trews.
Aged 34, Hare was brought up in East Lothian and was very dyslexic, making his school years a troublesome, frustrating experience. “I really struggled with GCSEs,” he says, “but I always knew I was creative. My dad was an architect and my mum was an interior designer so that was always there. I just needed someone to draw it out of me.”
Fortunately, a year at Leith School of Art proved inspirational, and his tutors there persuaded him to apply for a fashion degree at Northumbria University in Newcastle, where he excelled. “I was never the greatest at pattern-cutting. So a tutor explained that the best way to understand garments is to go to a second-hand shop. I used to buy Christian Dior tailored jackets, take them apart, take the lining out, steam them flat, and there was your pattern.
“If you wanted to make the arms longer or the body longer, you just adjusted that. You found a great pocket from a vintage garment here, a great shape from another vintage garment there, and you put them together.”
It sounds simple, but his skill must have impressed his tutors because he soon won a competition to work for Reiss in London. “That was quite tough at such a young age, earning, I think, about £150 a week. But it was the big smoke, it was on Kings Road in Chelsea, so it was amazing. I really felt I had arrived.”
After Hare’s year’s placement, Reiss went on to sponsor his final show and offered the youngster a job designing menswear following graduation. “It was always menswear,” he says. “If you wear it, I feel you understand it. Womenswear, although I love looking at it, is almost like another plant.”
After Reiss, he moved on to work with Nigel Cabourn, where he honed his passion for UK manufacturing. “We were based in an old windmill in Newcastle and we used Scottish knitwear, bag manufacturers in Carlisle ... that’s still very important to me, and I try to make everything in the UK.”
But, with his wife Gemma pregnant with their daughter Skye (“we’ve got a place up in Waternish, near Dunvegan, where we spend a lot of time, so she’s named after there), Scotland started calling the couple home. Both their parents live here, they have family and friends here and they hankered after a better standard of living, “just being able to get a decent house, not a one-bedroom box in Notting Hill”.
Which is how Common People was born. A range of casual, contemporary men’s clothing, its focus is on quality craftsmanship and tasteful little details. “It’s almost timeless classics,” he says. “Hopefully it’s the sort of thing your grandfather hands down to you.”
And while the move back to Scotland has improved family life no end, business dictates that Hare must still spend time in London. “I have two partners who are based there – they are in the finance and the manufactur side of things – and I spend at least one day a week in London. The hard part is the red-eye down,” he says.
“I get in and out as quickly as I possibly can. I want to wake up to my daughter the next morning, not in a hotel room somewhere. So it’s tough but it’s very do-able.”
But while he’s keeping manufacturing local, the vision is global. Common People is currently sold in Cruise, Glasgow, and Goodstead, Edinburgh, as well as in stores in Japan, South Korea, Scandinavia, Paris and London. Next season it will also be in Hong Kong, Shanghai and the US. “They love the fact that we make in the UK,” he says.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 10 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east