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LFW: Toogood talk gender, sustainability and the beauty of ageing

Tucked away on a quiet corner of Redchurch street, Shoreditch, the Toogood sisters sit quite unassumingly in the small courtyard of their studios, as fashion troupes file past them.

Fueled by tea infused with wildflowers, we edged our way around the presentation- a collection that celebrates layers. Layers of clothing we ‘envelop our frames with, to warm and to protect and to sculpt’ and also the layers of the land and earth itself.

From the tones of peat, clay and slate, through to the highland wools and waxed cotton, the latest offering from Toogood certainly seems to wear the landscape on its sleeves.

I joined Erica and Faye Toogood in their small courtyard after the presentation, to talk unisex clothing, their rejection of ‘the unsustainable turnover of flighty fashionistas’ and the beauty of ageing.

What are the major influences for this latest Toogood collection? 

We grew up in the rural countryside – and, obviously, the British countryside is definitely the starting point behind this collection. But it’s sort of more than that- it’s about the layers of time and the layers of geology and the terrain.

The layers of time is something that influenced our using of much older models this time around. We’re celebrating the beauty of age and the beauty of time.

We’ve concentrated on essential ingredients in terms of the collection. From industrial felt to rich, cashmere knit – trying to find those primal ingredients that really represent us and the British countryside.

 

From New York Fashion Week bringing men and womenswear together, to crossovers across individual shows- gender lines are becoming more relaxed than ever. How important is the unisex element of Toogood?

 

It’s essential isn’t it. It wasn’t a thing that we explicitly wanted to do at first- we just knew that we wanted to make coats in the first collection.

To make coats that would work for both men and women just felt like the most natural way to do that. We didn’t intentionally take that unisex step straightaway – so it’s been interesting watching that trend develop.

We started making clothes for our friends – our artist, designer and architect friends – irrespective of age and gender- but it’s become a lot more considered as time has gone on.

 

What is ‘unisex’ to you both? What can it encompass?

 

 For men to wear a smock is fine – a dress, however? It’s perceived totally differently, despite the only real difference being the label. Where does a smock or tunic end and a dress begin? Men also seem really excited by fashion, at the moment- it’s great to see menswear shows becoming more and more extravagant. We think they’re leaving women behind, really!

 

 

At WGSN, we’re seeing a real step-up in consumer demand for sustainable, ethically-sourced fashion. How important is it to you? How early does it come into play in regards to each collection?

 

We surround ourselves entirely, from furniture that [Faye] has created in the past, through to our clothing now with materials that are locally-sourced and British-made. That’s essentially where it starts and stops. Where we can, we always try to use British fabrics. For instance, we’re using British cashmere – there’s only two mills left in Britain making cashmere. We could go to Italy but we choose to keep it as local and as authentic as we can.

We recently just launched a denim collection, which is the first denim to come off machines in Lancashire for well over one hundred years. We believe we’re one of the first making entirely British jeans. There are brands that make their jeans in Britain– but their denim isn’t British.

When people are buying from a farmer’s market, they pay ten pounds for a chicken and not two, and they understand its worth– I think it’s the same with clothes.

Also, it’s worth noting that all of our clothes come with their own passport- the names of the individuals that have made it – it’s this idea of provenance that we’re really keen to reinforce.

Everyone is as important in the process as each other- from the wearer to the cutter.

 

Designers often walk the line between commerciality and staying true to their own design aesthetic. How do Toogood get the balance?

 

 As soon as we design it we say, ‘would you wear it’? If neither of us would wear it ourselves, it won’t make it into the collection. We do have slightly different tastes, aesthetically speaking, and we’re different shapes, too. That aside, if one of us won’t wear it, we can’t move forward with it. Wearability is key.

We’re all about the future at WGSN. What’s next for Toogood?

 

We ask ourselves that after every collection! We always have a kind of ‘now what’ moment. For us, it’s about really communicating what we’re doing – and explaining the difference between mass-produced clothes and clothing designed and made in the UK. We’ll be making greater effort to get that across.

 

Interested in sustainable fashion? Head to our sustainability section on WGSN.

Like this author? Follow WGSN Associate Editor Alice Gividen here: @alicegividen

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