Sustainable British made shirts – We sit down with Grove & Co.
A couple of weeks ago we attended perhaps one of my favourite events so far. No flashy Fitzrovia venue, but super friendly people, amazingly crafted pieces and owners with passion channelled in all the right ways. This is why we run OTC!
The Grove & Co 2020 launch brought us back to our best of British roots and reminded us what good fashion is all about.
Co-Owner, Tristan greeted us with big smiles and bundles of energy, directing us to his pride and joys – the G&C shirts. There are so many fantastic stories and design details around each item that we thought it best to leave you in the capable hands of Tristan…
OTC LDN: Firstly, your website is so informative that it proved rather difficult to come up with original questions that haven’t already been answered (I realise some of the below have been, apologies) – so congrats on the fab site!
Grove & Co: Haha no worries at all and great to hear!
OTC LDN: We love that Grove & Co is your side release from your full-time jobs (as OTC is ours). What aspect of the business do you enjoy the most?
Grove & Co: It all started on a trip to Paris. While walking around fashionable areas such as the Marais, visiting different shops and looking to buy some nice shirts, we really struggled to find anything that wasn’t a mass-produced, ubiquitous shirt. There were plenty of big-name brands, but even when we sought out smaller brands, we found that they didn’t offer the quality or style we were looking for. So, we decided that we would start a business together, crafting shirts.
My sister Joss is a pattern maker, so we worked with her on the design of our first shirt. Developing the pattern for the very first shirt was a long process, because neither of us have a background in fashion; our backgrounds were in architecture and environmental law, so shirt making was a whole new thing for us. We are both passionate about getting into the intricate details of stuff, so we spent a year just trying to find out everything we could about shirts. Now we’ve grown a little both me and Ben have found ourselves at the company, I’ve really started to enjoy the creative side of the business, setting up all our shoots and the direction of the brand. Ben enjoys getting deep into the detail of the shirt making process and keeping the production running.
OTC LDN: The curved button-down collar compliments the curved hem and patch pocket shape perfectly. Please talk us through the decision-making process/es for deciding upon the classic design features of a Grove & Co shirt.
The key question with any business or opportunity, that you must ask yourself is: “what can I bring that is unique to the market?” – and for us it’s our take on the men’s shirt. There are hundreds of shirts out there, but it’s our unique take, and all the features that we’ve put into our shirt that make ours stand apart.
We aim to take something classic and make it contemporary, whilst retaining the character of the original piece. In that process we are imbuing the design with a little bit of history and updating a timeless piece. For example, we added an additional piece of fabric along the bottom of our shirts because we thought it would reduce wear on the inside of the shirt and also help it keep its shape. Although we added that fabric for practical purposes, we thought, why not use some contrasting fabrics and the only person that actually is aware of that is the wearer, because when the shirt is buttoned up it would be hidden on the inside. It’s those kinds of small touches which we get quite excited about. That’s the joy of designer pieces, that as a designer you can have that connection to the product and the wearer can see all the care and love that’s gone into the design as well.
OTC LDN: Your 2019/ 2020 launch was a great success. What can we expect from the brand in the coming months?
Grove & Co: Thank you! We’re glad you enjoyed it. This year we are trying to take Grove & Co to the next level! At the start of the year we focused on getting the quality of our production right (ensuring we can keep to our life time guarantee). Now it’s all about focusing on the growth of the brand and bringing people’s attention to it.
At our Launch Party we released our first ‘Day in the Life’ episode which is one part of a large series. This is where we talk to brands that share a similar ethos/aesthetic to us. We have a number of these organised with artists, artisans and crafters of great products. We are also about to launch with a new online retailer who’s aesthetic is very similar to ours. Lastly, we’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some independent retailers in Japan which we are trying to grow.
OTC LDN: Which is each of your favourite shirts and your chosen way to style it?
Grove & Co: I’ve just managed to steal two from our new range (sorry Ben), so I’m going to be cheeky and give you my two styles, the first one is business casual, second just casual.
My first is our new Wigmore Blue overshirt. It’s a navy blue classic using our super thick Rye fabric. I’d wear with a Maison Cornichon Heavy weight white tee underneath, a pair of matching navy herringbone Bassa trouser from Native North (pinned up slightly) and a pair of cream Clarks Desert Treks.
The more casual look I love is our new Clerkenwell Copper overshirt with our Nunhead Noir polo neck, a pair of Hiut Denim Selvedge Denim Hack (again turned up), and a pair of beaten up Red Wing Classic Moc Boots.
OTC LDN: The video content you shared at the launch was awesome. What inspired you to begin the “day in the life of” feature?
Grove & Co: This is a pretty simple one, there are so many wonderful brands out there that we really like, wanted to learn about and share what we’ve learnt with our community. Our brand focuses heavily on ‘place’ – our company and our shirts are named after them and we wanted to explore this further. We work with local producers and manufactures which is an exciting part of our job ans we wanted to extend our knowledge on how other brands work so we started ‘The Day in the Life’.
OTC LDN: We are big advocates of the “Made in Britain” attribute. Why did you choose to go down this path with Grove & Co?
Grove & Co: We like to use a production method where we know we can put our hands on it and say: “Right, we know this has come from here and we know we can go and visit our factory”. We have a good relationship with our manufacturer, so we frequently visit our factory and spend the day there. The trust and relationship element are central to our business. It is grounding to know that you have that personal connection to the people who make your product and to be able to see the product being made. In the UK the incredible manufacturing industry we used to have almost seemed to have died out, although we’re really excited to see that there’s some momentum gathering around the whole British made thing – and we’re really excited to be a part of it.
OTC LDN: We love the lifetime guarantee you offer that proves the brand admirable prioritises quality over quantity – why was this important to you?
Grove & Co: Our manufacturer guarantee is that if there is any manufacturing fault, we’ll sort it out. If someone manages to rip their shirt, we’ll probably fix it too. We also decided to offer a discount to customers who repair their Grove & Co products themselves because we feel that if we can encourage one person to sew a button back on, and they think “Actually that wasn’t too bad, I can repair all my clothes rather than throw them away”, that seems like a really easy and positive way to do a small good in the world, don’t you think?
OTC LDN: At the event we had a really interesting conversation about your fabric sourcing and limited edition run, was this exclusivity important to you when forming Grove & Co?
Grove & Co: The main materials we use are high-quality end-of-line fabrics. And there’s two reasons for that, one is the sustainability element or reusing otherwise waste materials, and two is that the shirt becomes a limited-edition product. The editions we release really are limited because we can’t just buy more of the materials. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!
OTC LDN: How is it to work with one of your best friends? What has been the best moment for you so far on the journey?
Grove & Co: If you are going to set up a business with someone, make sure you know each other well enough and you can tell each other when they’re not pulling their weight or they need to be doing something and they’re not. Ben and I will mercilessly tell each other when we think the other one is doing something wrong but that’s part of the fun. I’d say our favourite moment so far was seeing the success of the collaboration from our first ‘Day in The Life’ episode at our launch party at White Collar Factory. It was beautiful to look around the room and realise that people really did care about what you were doing.
OTC LDN: Would you ever consider growing to include other garments?
Grove & Co: We really enjoy design so during the journey of making our overshirts we’ve sampled a number of other products that we feel bit our brand nicely. But we’ve always said to ourselves that we wanted to make our shirts are the very best quality before making anything else. That said, we do run a very small amount of polo necks each year (mainly for my office wear consumption) that we have never really released so we would like to grow this future and we have also developed a simple Chore Jacket that we would like to release next year.
OTC LDN: We also spoke about collaborations and aiding other British brands. If you could collaborate with any brand/ person fashion based or otherwise who/ which and why?
Grove & Co: This is a real tough one, its taken a couple of days to think about this. But there is a big resurgence in British textile mills making unbelievable fabrics that we would love to collaborate with like Dugdale Bros & Alfred Brown especially as we start to move into more outerwear it makes sense for us to move this way. On a personal note I would love to work with Gustavo Lins (who studied architecture) or Rem Koolhaas (architect) for their commitment to incredible design.
Enjoy our interview with Grove & Co? Check out more of our men’s fashion pieces here.