Over the past few months I have written several articles focusing on the influence of French flair which has been breaching our fair island’s shores recently, with labels such as Sandro and The Kooples becoming popular with stores popping up all over our capital and beyond. I thought it was time for a British label to fight back and show the fashion world exactly how great the influence of British style can be, and none display their unashamed British influences quite so proudly as the feature of this article; Aubin and Wills.
Launched in 2008, Aubin and Wills, was developed as the sophisticated sibling spin-off brand to British cult collegiate brand Jack Wills which was originally aimed at university students. I know that collegiate-style brands such as Jack Wills and Abercrombie and Fitch really divide opinion amongst regular Fashionbeans readers and attract a lot of haters – but Aubin and Wills was originally designed to break away from its sibling brand and appeal to customers slightly older than university-age (25-35 years old), and I think this shows both in the clothing collection itself, as well as the message and ethos behind the brand.
An A&W spokesperson describes the inspiration behind the brand as follows:
Our clothing draws heavily on the British heritage and culture, which is created by our designers. Design inspiration follows British military history, British sporting traditions, British country pursuits and living with quirky product / fabric details to reflect eccentric British style.”
What makes Aubin and Wills stand out from its competitors is its unashamed love for Great Britain and its eagerness to remain loyal to the great country that spawned it. Aubin and Wills prides itself on its British heritage and roots and the majority of the pieces from the collection are manufactured in the UK using local British suppliers. This means the British influence is authentic and real, and in a fashion climate where tweed and fair-isle are re-establishing themselves as fashion staples, Aubin and Wills is excelling.
Going to the Aubin and Wills website (www.aubinandwills.com) demonstrates that it is much more than simply a clothing brand – a more apt description would be a lifestyle brand. Alongside the clothing collection, the website features various different aspects of media, social interests and activities, and interactive social networking links to Facebook and Twitter. Aubin and Wills have their own blog, ‘The Swift Red Fox’ which doesn’t only concern itself with fashion-related items, there are also cinema reviews and music tracks of the week. In addition, there is access to the Aubin and Wills film archive, which features video evidence of the A&W sponsorship of the annual London Tweed Run (very on trend and classically British), as well as film versions of seasonal look books and collections.
The website provides links to the Aubin Gallery and Aubin Cinema – both located at the flagship A&W store in Shoreditch, London, and shows that the brand is about more than simply fashion – it also has a thirst for the arts and creativity. The Aubin Gallery, located on top of the flagship store, was launched last year as a collaborative effort between A&W and British artist Stuart Semple, and showcases collections from up-and-coming artists, photographers and sculptors. The Aubin cinema is found in the basement of the same building and is run in collaboration with renowned London members-only club, Shoreditch House. The website also features a section called ‘Lifestyle Photography’ which features a series of look book photographs of the current A&W collection as modelled by the ever-dapper Alex James of Blur fame, and stunning Canadian model Heather Marks.
This leads us nicely onto the collection itself. In my humble opinion, where Aubin and Wills really excel is in their outerwear, knitwear and suiting. The outerwear collection features timeless 100% wool pea coats and blazers with an emphasis on tweed which, historically, A&W do so well. For a more casual look, check out the Durnington Rubber coat (not as fetish as it sounds!) and Nolton coat which offer an alternative to the smarter double-breasted overcoats. There is also a selection of quilted gilets and jackets – a style which is inundating the high street right now for a rural, countrified look.
The knitwear is made up of classic pieces such as v-neck and round neck jumpers and cardigans. My personal knitwear highlight is the chunky, vintage-style knit, 100% lambswool Haverford cardigan with chunky pockets and turned-up cuffs. I actually saw this garment in store recently and can vouch that the quality of the craftsmanship totally supports the Aubin and Wills strapline – ‘Second to none.’
Another highlight from the online suit collection is the 3-piece, soft grey Sandbank suit which was designed in collaboration with British mill Fox Brothers and Alex James himself. The suit is extremely well cut for an effective contemporary look which retains an evident vintage influence. Several video chapters showing the journey of the design of the Sandbank from inspiration, to production, to the final product, can be viewed in the Aubin and Wills film archive online.
The accessories offered by Aubin and Wills are also worth a browse, with a classic and tasteful range of socks, belts, sunglasses, and every dandy’s must-have, the handkerchief. Particularly outstanding is the Oakes range of bags in navy canvas with tan detailing. The Oakes collection features a classic canvas rucksack and weekend holdall bag, as well as a suit bag, shoe bag and wash bag. Another highlight – the corduroy ties which have a textured, vintage-feel and were recently featured in the fashion pages of Esquire magazine.
So there we have it – Aubin and Wills is truly a brand to compete with the Gallic influences which have been spreading to the UK of late. With four stores across London (Shoreditch, Covent Garden, Marylebone and Notting Hill), as well as stores in Brighton, Manchester and Edinburgh and concessions in Selfridges branches, Aubin and Wills and its championing of British design and influence is a brand which I think could go a long way – particularly in the current fashion climate where British eccentricity seems to be reasserting itself as a popular concept.
With support from sources such as high-end fashion site Mr Porter and publications such as GQ and Esquire, Aubin and Wills is really making its mark, and Mr Porter describes it as ‘perfect for town and country.’ In fact, the A&W logo – a red fox wearing a top hat – acts as a perfect dual symbol for town and country living, British style. Simply put – you cannot get more British than Aubin and Wills.
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