When we first started writing The Holborn one of our key aims was to highlight the work of those who set out to make things and do it well. The more we’ve explored and gotten to know about those skilled, practical individuals the more we feel encouraged that there is a positive momentum towards a more ‘hands-on’ economy, shaped by the hard graft and plentiful imaginations of our creative industries. Another person who sets out to champion such efforts is Daniel Jenkins, founder of Daniel Jenkins Ltd. Based in Swansea in South Wales, Daniel’s store sets out to highlight a range of smaller, innovative brands that he feels often aren’t given the opportunity to flourish. His focus on the British Isles has taken a step forward recently with the launch of his own in house label; Purposeful Activity.
We thought it would be interesting to hear from the other side of the shop counter and give Daniel the opportunity to tell you about his passion for well made garments, why it is that he sources such items for his store and his new label.
Daniel Jenkins, Daniel Jenkins Ltd:
The last Six months have been interesting ones at Daniel Jenkins LTD. We have moved from working primarily as a retail organisation which dealt with other people’s clothing to a company which whilst still supporting new talent is also looking to produce our own clothing.
I believe that what we are proposing with Purposeful Activity is the future for UK manufacturing and small scale brands. It is my belief that grass-roots, self-funded growth will always, in my experience lead to longer term secure success. We operate and live in difficult and challenging times and whilst it might be appealing to chase fast finance, this road very rarely leads to nirvana. Although a change in direction it is not that far removed from how we have always looked to approach fashion.
Six years ago I opened a menswear store with corresponding website called Daniel Jenkins. From the start I made the conscious decision to support young talent so after a season working with Raf Simons & Acne we concentrated solely upon young British talent. I am proud of the fact we stocked most of the young British labels making waves at the recent London Collections before anyone else.
What drives our buying policy (apart from selling young British talent) is the desire to sell something interesting. Something you would want to wear even when trends had long past their sell by date. Fashion yes, but an individual take on it. I have always bought with me in mind, if I wouldn’t wear it why should I expect others to buy it? I am interested in refined takes on established styles. My day to day uniform is quite simple, shoes from Crockett & Jones, black Acne jeans. I have been wearing them daily for six years alongside a purposeful activity shirt or a plain white T-shirt and a coat. My favourite heavy winter coat is first thing we ever sold in store, for me nothing has come out that’s bettered that style, so I have not bought another like it.
Some brands are ready for the market straight away, others took a little time to build and some lost their way after a season or two. That’s the beauty of making a creative product it’s ever evolving. I still wear the first pieces of Lou Dalton we bought, same with Carolyn Massey. Those two probably stand out as the labels who had the most initial potential which thankfully has been turned into something interesting five years on. It is best to ignore the hype around a lot of brands, I am always impressed when you go into a tiny traditional womenswear boutique and you see a brand you’ve never heard of that receives no press, but that when you chat with the sales assistant it turns out to be their best seller. People will continually go back to brands that make quality items regardless of the press other things receive. I feel that sometimes this has been lost from menswear; lots of stores look quite similar. I understand the temptation but now that we sell worldwide surely we need to define a niche just for ourselves? There is no point trying to ape the ‘big boys’ as they have the money and power to influence the market.
Some of the highlights form the Daniel Jenkins online store (from top left to bottom right: Caroline Massey, Lou Dalton, Tender Co. & Martine Rose) – click the image to be re-directed.
About twelve months ago I had a number of meetings regarding UK production. Labels came to us unable to meet production minimums and were therefore being charged a premium even if they produced abroad. This led to increased wholesale prices and the pitfalls that ensue. I decided that I ought to do something public about it rather than just carry comfortably along.
Therefore along came Purposeful Activity. It is my slight “up yours” to the notion that you cannot design and manufacture in the UK’s best factories using the best material possible, pay everyone a fair price and not have to ask the consumer to forgo a month’s mortgage payment to purchase. We don’t wholesale preferring to grow gradually and self-funded through our site.
I believe that what we are proposing with Purposeful Activity is the future for UK manufacturing and small scale brands. Organic, self-funded growth will always lead to longer term secure success. We operate and live in difficult and challenging times and whilst it might be appealing to chase fast finance that road very rarely leads to nirvana.
In terms of a look we were aiming for Antonioni’s (Michelanglo Antonioni director ‘Blow Up’, ‘La Notte’ and ‘Beyond The Clouds’) take on British swagger, blown up for today. We removed superfluous menswear details and concentrated on the fabric, cut & manufacturing. Garments you would wear to compliment your style rather than to stand out like a sore thumb.
All of our items (hopefully) follow my initial buying strategy to offer things which improved upon the best out there. For the next installment a slight change of direction. London made Boxer shorts.
There ought to be no reason why these can’t, along with our ‘Byron’ shirt become a wardrobe staple in the years to come. Made by the best underwear factory in the UK and using super soft cotton Marlowe is a deceptively simple product executed to the highest possible standards. I feel that it fills the gap in the market for reasonably priced, British made (rather than, say thought about in the UK and made elsewhere) boxer shorts in grown up colourways. Designed to be as comfortable as possible – representing understated, elegant essentials made that are in the UK.