Given the fanfare of fashion, the cacophony of collections and the seemingly incessant stack of stories it can be all too easy to neglect the labels and designers that do things quietly. Folk is one of the finest examples of a label that has successfully grown whilst existing on the periphery of it all. Ignoring everything that doesn't quite fit in its focused gaze and only doing things at the right time and in the right space, Cathal McAteer and his like minded team have carved out a well designed niche in the menswear market. After working in the coolest independent shop in Glasgow as a youth and acknowledging his own retail aspirations, McAteer set out to create a label that his friends would like to wear. A decade on and this humble ambition has been sartorially realised, with meticulously designed everyday, detail rich casual clothes and footwear created from the simple design manifesto that still sits at the heart of the brand today. Everything is considered. McAteer and his like minded team deliberately disregard seasonal fashion trends. Instead the focus is on the subtle, innovative and playful details that are hallmarks of the label, including splashes of colour, contrasting patchworks and corozo nut buttons to name just a few. It is all too easy to fall for its charms.
With an ever growing band of followers, an enviable stockist list alongside its own stores scattered throughout the capital and beyond, Folk is ever evolving. Following the success of the last ten years, AW12 welcomes their launch in to womenswear. "The ethos has always been the same and since Elbe (Lealman) has joined, almost eight years ago now, she has picked up that baton and run with it. We've wanted to do women's for a while but we don't rush things, we started with women's footwear and AW12 felt like the right time, we had the right team in place," explained McAteer inside the label's showroom in Holborn. One gets the impression that everything is meticulously planned yet the label is anything but sterile or dull. "Since we opened our first store about six years ago, things have moved pretty fast for us - the men's grew really quickly. Seeing our customers firsthand in the shop was a real learning curve for us, seeing what they like and how they bought. It grew tremendously after that," adds McAteer before taking another sip of his coffee and he looks back on the remarkable (quiet) rise of Folk. "We've grown from offering just two shirts in men's and we've worked with just ten retailers and grown naturally."
"Between Elbe and myself, we both know what we like and what we like to design and she has a strong vision of where she'd like both the men's and women's line to go and we continuously discuss it. We know what we want to do and if we get lucky, it will have a good response and it will grow gradually and flower."
There are similar fabrics to an extent but we were conscious of not using the same factories and being forced in to using the same fabrics. I think that's a common problem, potentially at least, when someone designs both menswear and womenswear. It's a simpler route but the results are rarely as strong. We consciously went ahead and made a women's collection for the women we had in our head. Part of the learning curve was opening our women's shop without a full women's collection. We wanted to see the women who bought our shoes. The shoes sell so well in the standalone store but trying to sell them in to boutiques is really difficult. It was nice to see who were buying them, it gave us a chance to see who we would want to design for. The womenswear was introduced to the store a couple of weeks ago and the first lady who came in bought a jumper and a cagoule - it was really exciting. It's the beginning."
Cathal McAteer on the womenswear.
To mark the launch and snatching up the opportunity to have a good nose around Folk's latest offering, myself and Susie hosted an event at their Shepherd Market store and played dress up in the AW12 collection. Time for a Folk off (it's not a fair fight given the depth and breadth of Susie's wardrobe)...
Folk dress worn with Fleet Ilya visor, Rachel Antonoff x G.H. Bass shoes
Susie wears a menswear bomber and a womenswear cardigan and white shirt by Folk with a Balenciaga skirt. I've teamed up the same reversible bomber with a shirt by Folk, trousers by Comme des Garcons and shoes by H? Katsukawa from Tokyo.
After we recovered from our Folk off we ventured to have a good nose around the latest retail acquisition, a beautiful little space on Shepherd Market...
"The Shepherd Market store is Georgina Goodman's old store. For me, it was the best space on the market by far. There were quite a few people in for it and fortunately we got it. I love the area, I used to have an office nearby and I've long enjoyed the cinema and pubs and I just really fell for the charms of the store. Things come up. We opened a shop in Munich because we met the right person at the right time. My girlfriend is from there and I know the city well. A good friend has a store there and he's been buying us for years. We often went on holiday and then the store came up. American Apparel had the space before and it's a beautiful area of Munich. So things come up and if we can, we take advantage of them. Hopefully there will be a few more but it has to feel right. We are not actively searching for stores in specific places..."
A selection of in store curiosities that caught my roving eye.
Folk might go about their business away from the glare of the fashion spotlight but everything it does, from store openings to new lines, it does so with thought and plenty of character. It is a quiet brand that needs to be heard.