Today marked the start of London Collections: Men and unfortunately I had to watch and cheer on from the discomfort of my sick bed as the mouth watering lineup of Lou Dalton, Topman Design, Martine Rose, Spencer Hart and Oliver Spencer dazzled. Thank to the BFC's live steams and speedy coverage I didn't miss much but it's not the same as seeing it in person. Oh well. Having spent the last week bedridden I've not had a chance to update the 'Inspired' series but thankfully I do have a couple more SS13 studio visits to post. Given that E. Tautz start tomorrow's busy schedule, it makes sense to reveal the sights seen inside Patrick Grant's stunning Wapping based studio.
At the very heart of the House of E. Tautz is Savile Row cutting, elegant shoulders, suppressed waist, well proportioned, well balanced and unfussy in keeping with its sporting and military traditions but the opportunity to inject a bit of humour along with tasteful flag waving is rarely missed. Each season Patrick Grant and his design team explore different facets of what it means to be British. For SS13 the collection celebrates the amazing life of the truly great British explorer Wilfred Thesiger. Against the backdrop of a grey and damp June afternoon in Wapping, the collection samples positively glowed thanks to its vibrant hues as Patrick Grant excitedly talked through his inspirations. Following the varied and absorbing life of a truly exceptional British gentleman who had found his home abroad right through to a more contemporary look at Ethiopia, Grant's mood boards were a riotous mix of black and white photographs and kaleidoscopic celebrations of the native palette...
"Thesiger was someone who I had first found out about through a friend of mine who is obsessed with obituaries. He read all about Thesiger and put me on to him back in 2003. I read a couple of the obituaries that appeared at the time and he sounded like the man I wanted to be. He was a truly fascinating character, an extreme man who almost completely turned his back on the modern world and sought to live in a way that was simple and very hard. He enjoyed nothing better than putting himself through enormous difficult to achieve something. The more suffering, the greater the sense of achievement. In almost all of his travels he dealt with nothing but the simplest of means, aside from rifles which he enjoyed using. I completely understand that. I personally love the time that I spend in northern Scotland, away from it all, carrying my tent and pitching it up at the top of a mountain, away from it all. It is something that I personally enjoy enormously, I like those moments. There was that side of him that was instantly appealing. He's appeared in various collages that we've put together, he's been a character that I often go back to because I could never get bored of him. There was an exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford last year of his photographs which rekindled my awareness of him. There were some great photographs that I hadn't seen before, so I re-read his biography and just thought that this guy is just so cool on so many different levels and felt that it..."
"The more I researched the more amazing I discovered he was. Not only was he a pretty amazing man in all that he did but he was an incredible looking human being, incredibly tall with an incredible nose, bone structure and he was a wry, athletic man. The way he wore his clothes were breathtaking. Although born in Abyssinia, he started his life being schooled in England, he went to Eton and Magdalene College Oxford, at this time he was pure establishment and British aristocracy. Insert family. From this beginning he ended up living his life living in the clothes of the desert people that he lived with. He just looked absolutely amazing. We'd look at pictures of him and of those around him and was captivated by this world. We then really explored his time in Abyssinia, we looked at more contemporary photography and there's just this vibrancy of colour in Ethiopia, from the robes of priests in striking hues of pink and yellow. There are so many colour references and we wanted to take these extreme colours but we didn't want to make the collection feel ethnic because that's not our style so instead used these colours in quite chunky blocks and taken the military theme of Thesiger's early life - he served in the Sudan during the liberation of Abyssinia, he randomly bumped in to David Sterling and was invited to join the SAS, he personally fought Rommel - so the uniform and clothes of this period appear but in lightweight fabrics and in this fabulous colours. The shape, length, layering and volume of the native costume is worked in to the clothes and on top we've got this vibrant palette. It currently looks great against the grey backdrop of the Wapping sky that we're treated to today. When you put all of these things together, I'm hoping that you get a collection that is visually strong with quirky accents and one jolly print, it should be entertaining and cheerful.
We always try to create collections with an element of Britishness to them, it's nice to think about the way the British are when they're away from home. We have a great way of adopting and enjoying native clothes and customs and Thesinger is a great example - just perfect for a summer collection. There's a nice symmetry with his life and Halie Selassie, his father was a great friend of the Emperor. There's an interesting mirror between the two. Selassie starts his life in true Abyssinian garb and then when the italians take over, he's exiled to Britain and lives in British uniform and at the same time, Thesiger goes in the opposite way. There's this strange mirror. We found a great photo of the two of them standing in almost clothes, North African desert uniform, as they literal cross paths. I always try to anchor the collection in someone or something British and he was just an exceptional Brit."
Patrick Grant talks through E. Tautz SS13
Having had my sartorial appetite well and truly whet by this studio visit, I'm crossing everything that I'll be able to take my place at the colourful show tomorrow morning.