We explore the fashion revolution that is happening right here in Cornwall.
You don’t have to peruse the trendy boutiques of Carnaby Street or follow the catwalks of Milan to experience the latest trends in fashion. Deep in the heart of the south west, there’s a silent revolution going on, with a string of top brands cropping up over the last generation that have well and truly put Cornwall on the map. For the clothing companies that have made Cornwall their home, the county has become ingrained in their very fabric. Whether designed or manufactured here in Cornwall, their Autumn Winter 2017 collections are inspired by coastal and country living.
Many have built an ethos and identity born from their waterside locations and Cornwall’s unique climate; whether that be its warm summers, wild and wet winters or cold water surf. All have produced collections that are ultimately wearable,durable and stylish.
Celtic & Co
It’s clear that Cornwall not only has its own climate but also its own wardrobe. Many of us are shedding the Monday to Friday suit in favour of clothes that are more relaxed and this is being reflected by many of the clothing brands in Cornwall, not least at Celtic & Co in Newquay. Steering away from the corporate, city feel is a key aim for the company that makes fabulous boots and clothing in the north coast surf town. The company was originally called UGG, which the owner Nick Whitworth sold to the Australian UGG boot company in a savvy move. Nick says that the footwear and clothes they make reflect the relaxed lifestyle. “It’s about making clothes that you can take the kids for a walk on the beach or Bodmin Moor in.” Their range is all about statement pieces that can be accessorised in different ways to be worn year after year.
Their orginal, iconic, British-made boots and slippers, which are still handcrafted in the factory in Newquay from finest British sheepskin, have been joined by a range of knitwear, luxurious outerwear and soft home furnishings. The new season’s range, inspired by the Cornish landscape, has a colour palette of neutral, wearable tones and includes gorgeous, chunky and fine knit jumpers that will envelope you in extra fine baby-merino wool. Team one of these with a pair of their stretch leather leggings and a to-die-for sheepskin coat and you have an outfit that’s both stylish and practical.
Celtic fans include Pippa Middleton and Kate Humble and myself – my own boots, proudly bearing the original UGG label, are still going strong some 25 years on, testament to the quality of the sheepskin and the workmanship of Celtic and Co’s talented manufacturing team.
From humble beginnings this iconic Cornish brand has become a staple when it comes to coastal fashion. Don Chadwick and his family used to come to Cornwall in the 1970s on holiday, staying in a local bed and breakfast next to the St Ives School of Painting. One wet August day in 1981 the Chadwick family were shopping for waterproof jackets at a little shop in Adelaide Street, Penzance, and ended up buying the business from the owner, Mrs Strutt! I can remember as a child, long before outdoor clothes became trendy on the high street, that this was the go to shop for warm clothes and woolly socks.
The company has come a long way from just selling waterproofs but the family is still very much a part of the everyday running of the business. Seasalt now creates beautiful and useful women’s clothing, footwear and accessories that reflect a life by the sea. Their clothes speak of their landscape, people and heritage of Cornwall; it’s what makes them different. Seasalt’s design studio, led by Sophie Chadwick, overlooks Falmouth bay and St Anthony’s lighthouse and their small design team delight us each season with an array of beautiful new prints inspired by Cornwall.
Each Seasalt print is unique: “Living in Cornwall, we’re inspired every day. The flora and fauna found all around Cornwall provide a constant source of inspiration – you’ll often find pretty foliage, anemones, leaves and seed heads within our prints. With our design studio overlooking the bay, we also find ourselves constantly sketching the sailing boats, and the Falmouth Working Boats racing, with their distinctive, brightly coloured topsails, are a wonderful sight,” explains Sophie. The new collection is awash with bold print dresses for autumn, nautical Breton stripes and stylish waterproof coats. Always stylish and infinitely practical, Seasalt clothing has long since been a staple of my own wardrobe.
Rooted in the coastal village of St Agnes, with offices overlooking the ocean, Finisterre’s clothing range has a real focus on lifestyle, sustainability and a respect for environment. Born from a love of cold-water surfing, the Finisterre brand has grown a huge reputation for the quality and style of its product as well being an ethical and sustainable brand that researches its fabrics and supply chains, only working with suppliers who share the same beliefs. Founder, Tom Kay is passionate about the beliefs that make the Finisterre brand so special. It all began in Tom’s bedroom in St Agnes developing product that suited the reality of cold-water surfing. Anyone who surfs Cornwall all year round knows the commitment needed to brave the elements, waiting for conditions to change on windy, wet clifftops, and so Tom set about creating a range of wind and waterproof jackets, insulation layers and chunky knits.
With retail outlets in both St Agnes and Falmouth, a store in Bristol and a flagship store in London, Finisterre has become an essential part of the wardrobe of lovers of the outdoors, style seekers and those who want their clothing to be both practical yet stylish.
The autumn collection includes the softest knits in autumnal colours, a new and improved Nimbus jacket made from recycled fabric alongside some great merino wool base layers. Finisterre also launched a collection in collaboration with the RNLI. Combining the company’s three commitments to product, environment and people the clothes are designed to take on the elements while supporting the work of the RNLI – of which Tom has been a part for 15 years.
They say that ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ and this couldn’t be more true of Cornwall’s very successful organic children’s brand. After the birth of their first son Tom, Lucy and Kurt searched in vain for baby clothing that would fit over Tom’s cloth nappies – somewhat bigger than the disposable kind! Trying to strike a work-life balance with a young baby, and being of an entrepreneurial nature, they decided to design their own range, so Cut4Cloth was born. Four years, another son, and a rebrand later, the range now included children’s clothing and a breastfeeding range – and so Frugi was born.
Lucy and Kurt’s ethical standards have always been at the forefront and their children’s clothes are made from the softest organic cotton, sustainably farmed and free from harmful chemicals. They also donate 1% of their turnover to three environmental charities every year so you know that buying Frugi clothing for your children is not just benefiting your own child but helping others too. However, it’s not just the ethical production that puts the feel good factor into Frugi clothing. From babygrows and rompers to jeans and hoodies Frugi clothes are vibrant and fun, as well as being very durable.
Quirky characters and brightly coloured patterns adorn gorgeous girls’ wear while the boys get bombproof jeans in the softest denim to team with cool hoodies, sporting bold graphics. Mums aren’t left out either, with a breastfeeding range that is practical yet stylish, a combination that’s often hard to find in the world of nursing clothing.
A recently revived Cornish brand is back with some great casual wear perfect for relaxing on the beach or warming up post surf. Family-owned since 1992, daughter Leah has now re-launched the business that her parents started from a small-holding on Bodmin Moor. The funky brand became known across the county for its vibrantly dyed and printed sweats and snug fleeces.
Leah is now bringing the Dodo back from extinction adding to their current collection and manufacturing more products locally. “The ethos behind the Cornish Flying Dodo brand is to create clothes for people to love, wear and keep – no throwaway fashion here! The new range includes hard-wearing, organic tees, beach-styled sweatshirts and hoodies in fresh colours with a fun range of kids’ tops that are perfect for both rest and play. Perhaps the most exciting news is that they will be bringing out a new line of women’s clothing that will be made to order, using sustainable fabrics, by Leah and a small team of talented seamstresses.
The team always pair comfort with style when designing, while at the same time considering sustainability. Re-connecting with their customers from when they were in business before has been a real highlight: “We love the brand and so it’s great to hear people saying they love it too. The night the new website launched was overwhelming, with many more sales and hits than we had ever imagined!” enthuses Leah.
Earth Kind Originals
The lure of the Cornish lifestyle proved too much for EKO founder, Helen Davies, who left a successful London career as a fashion designer for the sound of the surf. Originally from St Just, Helen wanted to create clothes that reflected her passion and interests as well as promoting wellbeing and natural living. Helen is a keen surfer and loves to do yoga. As a result the EKO collection includes clothes you can throw on after surfing or a workout, and they are all made from organic material. For commuters, Helen also ensures that the clothes are great for travelling in.
If you have an active lifestyle and love a capsule wardrobe that takes the effort out of looking good then the 2017 EKO collection is ideal. Cosy, everyday styles combine with effortless organic basics and winter essentials. A personal favourite is their weekend style bundle – a combination of perfect fit leggings with a cotton dress that drapes beautifully. EKO clothing is a reminder that style doesn’t need to be complicated.
They also have a uniform range, produced here in Cornwall, with clients including the The Scarlet Spa and Naturally Learning, all companies pushing the boundaries to natural wellbeing. The collection is available to buy in ULA shops in St Ives, Hayle and Truro.