Monday 31 October 2011

The craft of Moon

Moon Feature Button

As mentioned just over a week ago, this season sees sees John Lewis unveil its fourth yet first full scale exclusive collection designed by the great Joe Casely-Hayford. Recognised for his innovation and ability to produce definitive future classics, Casely-Hayford's range celebrates the best of British sartorialism through a series of unique collaborations with some of the UK's leading heritage companies. For AWll, Casely-Hayford continues to build on the strong foundations laid in the three previous capsule collections. Having established a strong following through exclusive collaborations with some of the UK’s finest heritage manufacturers. From key seasonal outerwear created out of fabric woven in England by the Abraham Moon Mills in Yorkshire to a great Fair Isle pattern Yoke pullover that is knitted in 100% Wool by crafts people in the Donegal Mountains and shirting showcasing one of the first ever Liberty prints to be digitally created, the collaboration celebrates all that these islands have to offer. Through this series of collaborations with specialists and true craftsman, the range showcases unique cloths whilst reintroducing a few updated British classics to the wider audience of the high street. During my excited ramblings I mentioned the fact that I was invited to watch the Moons craftsmen at work at their Guiseley factory. I eagerly followed and snapped away at each well honed and practiced process from start to finish. 


Before I offer an abundance of 'factory porn' and talk you through the processes of what makes Moon fabric so special I have to acquaint you with the brand and give you a little background. The name might not feel that familiar on first reading but I'm quite sure that you've seen or indeed worn their work without even knowing it. In addition to apparel, its textiles are used for growing accessories and furnishings arms. Abraham Moon and Sons is a family owned company that assures luxurious quality whilst continuously evolving to meet the ever changing needs of the industry. The current Managing Director is John Walsh, the fourth generation of the family which succeeded the Moon dynasty. Since 1837 when Abraham Moon founded the company, bales of raw wool have been arriving at their factory to begin the process of creating beautiful fabrics. Located in Yorkshire, traditional home of the English cloth mills, the company is unique in being a fully vertical mill, with dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing processes all taking place on one site. State of the art manufacturing allied to a highly skilled workforce enable a wide diversity of fabrics to be manufactured at competitive price levels – a prerequisite to success in today’s market place. The craftsmanship and well honed skills are essential to the product and it was a pleasure to be able to watch it all unfold in a space that has seen the same processes come together for over two centuries. It is little wonder why Casely-Hayford partnered with them.

As a self confessed factory pervert, you can only imagine how many photographs I took as I was guided through the nooks and crannies of this well oiled assembly line of craftsmanship. I have managed to hone them down and will now use them to guide you through the main processes to turn fleece in to stunning fabric.

From fleece to fabric

The first stage begins with the delivery of the finest raw wool which is from sought across the globe and delivered to their site in Guiseley. The merino lambswool is predominantly from South Africa and the Shetland quality pure new wool is from New Zealand. The raw wool then goes to the dye house, to be dyed using precise combinations and a secret cocktail of dye, pressure, temperature and time. They can currently dye their wool in over five hundred different shades and colours. Within the Dye House they keep a library of shade standards and recipes to ensure continuity of each glorious colour year and year.

Huge bundles of tightly packed fur are delivered to Guiseley.

I was infatuated with the texture of the fleece as I watched the men unpack it before on embarking on the dyeing process.

Part of me wanted to throw myself in to the dyeing cauldrons.

Just one of the hues that caught my eye,

Now, the real secret to creating beautifully rich colour is in the blend. During this stage up to seven different coloured wools can be used in the recipe for each yarn. It is this process that gives tweeds, heathers and plaids their wonderfully unique and rich texture. Moons prides itself on its arsenal of hues and I was dazzled by the spectrum on offer...

Once dyed it is transferred in to the blending rooms by this giant vacuum.

The blending process is particularly beautiful

Once blended, the mix is then transferred to the carding area.

The next process, carding is essential in producing soft, smooth fabrics. The blended wool lubricated with a little water and oil is run through a series of combed rollers that tease the fibres one way and then the other. Whilst providing alignment and conformity, the process also rids the wool of any last impurities and ensures the finished fabrics are smooth and soft to the touch.

A close up of the blended wool before it is passed through the carding rollers...

The carding machine

A close up of the candy floss like excess.

The carding process in action.

A sea of rollers teasing the fibres each and every way.

The rich web of coloured wool is then spun in to a huge range of dazzling yarns. Their six frames draw out the wool and put a precise number of twists per inch in to the wool, resulting in a fine but ultimately strong thread ideal for fabrics used in clothing and furnishings alike. The yarn is then wound on to cones going through a check to ensure continuity. Any faults are cut out of the thread and the ends are thermally joined together to produce a yarn that will weave in to smooth fabrics. The cones, holding up to sixteen thousand metres of yarn are then ready to be sent to warping and weaving.

The intricate movement of the yarn as it is fed from one machine to another is quite breathtaking.

The wool begins to take on a more familiar appearance.

The cones of yarn are then wound over a swift and a warp is made for weaving. This can be a complicated process depending upon the intricacy of the pattern in the finished fabric. I was treated to a to a variety during my time in the mill. Precise lengths of different coloured yarn can be required in a single vertical thread and up to two thousand threads may be required for a width of fabric. Mind blowing. These have to all be held in exact order to ensure accurate and uniform patterns and designs. The warping process is one of the most beautiful...

Feeding the yarn over the drum or swift.

The precise lengths of different yarn are fed on to the drum.

A spiderweb of yarn.

A close up of the warping process.

Exacting standards.

Warped fabric ready to be weaved.

The weaving process is the loudest and is where the real magic happens. The space is filled with a percussion of machinery. The work here might be less hands on than it once would’ve been but it is no less impressive and bewildering to the eye. It is here where many different yarns are woven together in intricate weaves to create stunning fabrics. The mill uses Rapier looms, to take the weft (horizontal thread) across the warp threads and they are capable of weaving up to thirty thousand metres of cloth per week. The machines work at a dizzying pace and volume but the below shots document the process in a much more peaceful light...

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An array of fabrics were being weaved during my time in the mill.

Now, we are almost there. Newly woven fabric is then scoured, milled and dried. The oils that were used to aid manufacture of the fabric are removed. This is when the wonderful and luxurious feel of these fabrics begins to become apparent. The final step sees each length of fabric finished by careful pressing, using steam and specialised equipment to remove any shrinkage and complete the process of creating remarkable fabrics.

A selection of heritage fabrics on display.

As I walked through and looked on at each process of construction, the balance between old but proven techniques and machinery from various eras since the industrial revolution, really left a lasting impression on me. Quality begins on the sheep farms, the water used in the mill and Moons' honed processes from dye house to finishing. Each inch of fabric is inspected at the three main stages of the manufacturing process, when it comes off the loom, after finishing and again before it leaves the factory. With Moon you can be sure that you get nothing less than quality wool. I'll leave you a few close up shots of the finished lambswool fabrics used in the collaboration...


Moon is a company that continues to learn and strive for the highest quality. It was a real pleasure to watch them work and after spending a few hours there, it is obvious why Joe Casely-Hayford and John Lewis chose to work with them once again for this project. Next year Moon celebrates its one hundred and seventy fifth birthday, here's hoping to many more successful years of great British fabric production.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Details... Mr Hare's Idolescence

There's no better ambassador for Mr Hare's shoes than the man himself. Here, he teams up his Hannibal XI Black's from his Idolescent collection with a pair of well but perfectly worn Levi's.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Treasured items... Tommy

Our blog roll is constantly evolving as we discover new favourite reads and bid a fond farewell to the ones which are sadly no longer with us. This is Naive, thankfully, is one which has been an ever present fixture. As stated on the blog itself, Tommy lives in London and she likes the beautiful and the good things. Her pictures and accompanying musings have been a constant source of jealousy and admiration for us and her eye for detail really cannot be overstated. With this in mind, it was only a matter of time before we asked her to to take part in our Treasured items series. Here, she reminds us that is far more pleasant glancing down at a well crafted watch face that tells its own story as well as the time than fishing out a mobile phone...


Tommy and the Rolex Air King


"My watch, a Rolex Air-King from the 1970s, is one of my treasured items because it is practical and goes with everything I want to wear. It has belonged to others before me but I guess it is mine now. Like many, I believed that phones have made watches irrelevant; I started wearing this watch purely because I like how it looks. After spending some time with the watch, however, I thought I had rediscovered its functional worth: there is something pleasant and polite about keeping time by checking one's wrist rather than fishing for the phone. Perhaps this is still an aesthetic reason. It will be nice to wear the watch on its original bracelet but a bent edge on one of the links gives me a rash whenever I attempt to. Instead I use a dark brown crocodile-embossed leather strap made by Japanese clothing brand, Neighborhood. It is not official Rolex merchandise although it fastens with a vintage Rolex buckle. Last year I cracked the crystal face in an accident involving a ferret and bathroom tiles. Much fretting ensued: I was hunting on the Internet for an exact matching part but decided to go with the Rolex service centre in St. James. Other than the cracked crystal, the watch was diagnosed with water damage and I was recommended a full service. "No, please don't replace the hands or the dial! I really don't need it fresh and shiny!" A bit of negotiation and a few months' wait later, the watch was returned with the cracked crystal face replaced and a new case back to prevent further water damage. Relief! At least it still looks like how I remembered it to be. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the edges of the crystal now seem sharper than the watch in my memory. Oh well! Typically this is the sort of thing that can drive me crazy but I think age has relaxed my once-pedantic nature. After all, the process of using and repairing only brings out the character in a manufactured item. And it is only with the passing of time that we come to understand what we treasure and why."

Monday 24 October 2011

A visit to Anthem

Anthem Feature Button

Britain used to be described as 'a nation of shopkeepers' but somewhere along the way this island of ours has lost its retail heart. I can honestly count the number of exciting London stores on one hand. However, the arrival of Anthem on Calvert Avenue has forced me to stretch out one more finger. Nestled nicely in to this area of East London and within a short walking distance from Present and the recently moved 3939, the store opened its doors at the end of August to widespread acclaim. Always preferring to let a store settle before making the first excited trip down, I finally visited the last week. Entering with high expectations, I left anything but disappointed. Occupying a space once home to a bookies, now, with its rug scattered concrete floor, bare brick walls and eclectic artworks not forgetting its mix of covetable design talent, it has been totally transformed in to a truly new independent store.

Anthem is the brainchild of Simon Spiteri, the award-winning fashion buyer credited with launching Liberty’s internationally renowned menswear department over seven years ago and his business partner Jeremy Baron. The shared vision for Anthem is one based firmly on handpicked quality from across the globe. As both were working behind the counter, it was an absolute pleasure to be talked through the store's offering by the men themselves. "I've just always wanted to open a shop basically. Of course, I set up the menswear department at Liberty which was really interesting to me because at the beginning I had creative control and could bring on all of the brands that I loved. This is a chance to do it again but make it that bit more pure." This time round it is all about working with nice people and trying to find the best product that they can. 

The moment you walk through the door and look around the welcoming space, it is clear that Anthem is not concerned with fashion but instead focusses on style. Spiteri was keen to mix established and lesser known international brands whilst introducing some of the great stuff that he's seen in Japan, to form one coherent look. For its first season this sees the likes of established international labels including Marni, Our Legacy and Comme des Garcons Homme Plus sitting next to emerging U.S. brands such as Save Khaki, Hillside and Raleigh Denim, alongside local stalwarts Folk and Oliver Spencer and not forgetting the odd vintage find. It is an eclectic mix but everything sits effortlessly next to one another. "It doesn't matter if it is exclusive or not, the focus is on having great stuff that people want to wear. I think it works. I can't think of another store in the world that has Marni sitting next to Coasels, Rag and Bone and Folk." Neither can I.

As we walk through the store Spiteri points out a mannequin and excitedly describes its ensemble. "Rag and Bone top with a Comme Homme Plus peacoat and then a pair of Raleigh selvedge denim jeans. It all just looks so nice." It is a natural, simple look and one of many possibilities to be found throughout the store. In fact, it echoes any well dressed man's wardrobe. It is a little bit of this, a little of that, at various price points whilst it all makes sense together. For Spirteri and Baron, it is important to remove any intimidation from shopping. "The shop is meant to be relaxed yet of course it is still curated. I want people to touch the garments, texture is so important for this season and people have been coming in and picking everything up. Customers have really engaged with the product and the whole space for that matter which has been great." 

It should be noted that the entire space, fixtures, fittings and all are all up for sale. "I've been collecting things for many years, so a lot of the items scattered throughout the store are things I've picked up over the years. We've already sold a rug and one of the rails who were put together by Anthony Gormley's welder" Spiteri proudly reveals. From a picture he picked up in Mexico City, vases brought back from Denmark and handmade rugs from Turkmenistan, everything has a story behind it and indeed a price. The store is carefully curated and just oozes personality. Now, I could wax lyrical about the store but I'd only bore you, the best way to get a feel of the place is to explore it. Anthem is a store to get lost in. It affords discoveries at every turn and below are a few of the items that caught my eye...

Anthem is a shop to get lost in, many hours could be spent discovering labels and unearthing gems from Spiteri's travels. 

With its solid backbone of brands, Spiteri hopes the store will grow slowly and steadily. "I'm hoping that the product we currently have gives a flavour of where we are going with Anthem." It undoubtedly does and I'm sold already. I would happily move in to Anthem and I'm as excited as the duo themselves regarding the future. Next season's brand list is heart racingly good. "We've got Dries Van Noten, 45rpm, Barena Venezia, Nike NSW and all these other amazing things. At the end of the day we just want to sell amazing things." It sound so simple but it is anything but.

The store on Calvert Avenue is certainly important to the duo. It is Anthem's showroom after all but the pair are already in the process of launching a website. The great difficulty for them is ensuring that there is a flavour of what they have in the physical store online. "We've spoken to so many people with regards to its design and the whole process has been frustrating because it seems all that people want to offer is a white background. A white background works well for someone like Mr Porter but it really isn't us. There is not any warmth with a white background. The argument is that it allows the product to breathe but it just homogenises everything. Aside from a bit more personality and great product shots I want it to be as simple as possible for users to buy product. I love the idea of curating an outfit in much the same way as we do in store." I'm backing Anthem to pull it off.


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