Cathal McAteer, Founder of Folk, a clothing brand known for stylish, modern separates with an eclectic twist is based in London, where Folk has five bricks and mortar stores.
The Glaswegian, who is passionate about the brand he has developed over the past 18 years to pioneer sustainable, durable casualwear, has launched new brand, It’s All Good Folk, in partnership with John Lewis & Partners as the exclusive retailer.
The collection combines archival Folk styles with principled production, from buttons made from upcycled corozo nutshells to fully traceable cotton and eco printed logos, and each piece has been created with low impact in mind, made with sustainable fabrics that stand the test of time. And if you love them so much you wear them to the max, Folk will repair, upcycle and recycle, which means you’re eco-conscious and stylish too.
What’s a typical day for you?
Up early and start working from home.
Then, there’s the wave of the family getting up – we have three kids, all at school. After that, if time allows, get on my bike and go boxing or for a swim at the ponds in Hampstead Heath.
From there, it’s to the office where no day is the same, but will involve all aspects of Folk: design, retail, marketing, image making… new projects. Lots of planning.
I finish my day with a cycle home to the family. I often stop off on the way depending on what’s going on – exercise, pub, visiting friends… but more than ever its home to the bairns.
What is your training/background?
My main training in the fashion business came when I was 16-21 years old working for a store in Glasgow – Ichi Ni San. Looking back, the owners, Linda, Michael and Stephen, had a rare groove which made for an exciting workplace filled with treasure, and for me the perfect tonic to feed my energy. From there it was on to London to find a way to begin on my own.
Why did you decide to set up the company and when?
Being surrounded by excellent designers during my time in Glasgow made me really want to do it for myself. Folk was founded in 2002, pioneering the category for well-made contemporary casualwear.
2019 marks the introduction of It’s All Good Folk, which is the next stage in our journey.
What is your aim?
To create timeless pieces that stand the test of time. We want to continue to learn and move forward on our journey. It’s All Good Folk is an evolution of our thinking – the partnership with John Lewis & Partners has allowed us to take a more practical approach to something that has always been important to us and to accelerate our investment in this area.
What’s different about your product?
It’s All Good Folk was developed with a 360 approach, looking at every detail in the collection. Sustainable fabrics, durability and timeless design are at its heart. For example, the collection is created with BCI cottons that are fully traceable, using eco labels rather than printing material ones and upcycling nutshells as buttons. Underpinning this all is the concept of “Wear It Out” – the idea that the range really stands the test of time. This goes beyond durability, so if a garment is faulty we will replace it and once they are really worn out, items can be returned to us to be recycled or upcycled.
It’s All Good Folk is about a mindset as much as individual garments – it’s about the wearer and how they feel when they’re enjoying life and appreciating the goodness in the everyday. Making the most it, doing the best we can, with care.
What challenges have you faced?
A lot of challenges have been financial sadly. It’s the nature of the world. But if it had all been easy I would have capitulated at 18 I reckon.
What was the biggest surprise along the way?
Not sure if this is a surprise but it is so much fun week to week, year to year… And of course, there are trials and tribulations, but this is all part of it.
What is the fun part of your business?
Designing, dreaming – dreaming and designing… going to factories, meeting people all over the world and working and sharing their knowledge. Picking the fruit that grows from this.
What is your most popular product? Is there something that’s more popular in Scotland than elsewhere?
We have always designed collections, complete looks. So, one year it’s a particular shirt, then a trouser. At the moment, the multi-colour leaf print short-sleeve shirt (pictured left).
I don’t see it being that different in Scotland. But I am hoping trousers will be embraced. I feel these are excellent.
What have you learned along the way?
We constantly improve and learn new techniques by collaborating with a range of different experts and working in different product categories. We share a lot of values with John Lewis & Partners, but we’ve also learnt a lot from each other in our approach to sustainability.
Who are your customers and who do you like to see wearing your clothes?
All ages of guys and girls who wear their clothes to live their life. The kind of person who loves to buy quality, timeless design.
Which items do you have at home from your range?
Trousers in stone cut raw at the bottom, worn with a white tee and the short sleeve chambray shirt.
What are your goals now?
Keep moving, keep doing things better, enjoying myself, smelling the roses.
And dancing a lot…
What’s your style philosophy?
I don’t spend time thinking about such things, as the style is instinctive.
Made to look balanced and wearable, rich in design and non-restrictive. Made for the wearer to wear.
Where are your products made?
We work with four It’s All Good Folk factories who are long-term, trusted suppliers. All our suppliers are independently assessed to make sure the highest possible workplace standards are met. Basically, all over the world in independent factories that meet the high standards necessary.
Who has influenced your style, what are your inspirations?
Ichi Ni San in Glasgow was the first big influence but the latest one was yesterday – my partner Ac nicked my trousers to run down to the lake (we’re on holiday in Bavaria) for a swim. The point is, I’m influenced constantly. She often tells me not to stare but it’s too interesting not to. We are F’in fascinating.
Who are your style icons?
Sam Hardaker, Samuel Beckett, Michael Johnson, Father Beckett (no relation to Samuel) Jonnie Wilkes, Walter Morris – all people who have been some part of my life, big or small, and they all have or had effortless style.
It’s All Good Folk, available in John Lewis & Partners and Folk’s own stores (www.folkclothing.com, www.johnlewis.com/brand/its-all-good-folk)