Coronation Street was a constant companion when Edward Crutchley was a child. “It was always on,” he says. “Sometimes we even watched it during the week and then the omnibus. It just percolates into the brain.”
Bet Lynch, Hilda Ogden, these no-nonsense, gutsy characters reflected the women Edward himself knew as a child, growing up in the Yorkshire Dales, and their influence is immediately recognisable in his new collection, Florizel AW21, named after the soap’s original title.
“You saw these people around,” Edward says. “When do you see these people now, that generation that always dressed up to go and buy a couple of slices of ham? As that moves away, it becomes more attractive.”
His own nana, Lorna, was another inspiration for this sartorial character study of Northern grit and glamour. Edward laughs. “She was from Featherstone – quite a typical Yorkshire woman of her generation, I think. Never stopped. She had only worn high heels since she was 16 so by the time she was older she had to wear wedge slippers – her Achilles tendon had shrunk so she couldn’t walk on flat feet. She always had a tailored skirt and a big fur-collared coat and always heels, always in patent leather.
“Milliner Stephen Jones created the headwear for the collection. As soon as I said to him, it’s about that Northern woman who wears a headscarf, he said ‘I’ve got it’.”
Edward grew up in Clapham, near Settle, with his parents, both teachers, and his two brothers. He went to Settle High School, where he discovered his fashion flair during a design project. After A-levels, he went to London to do a foundation course and then a degree in womenswear at Central Saint Martins. He got a job at Betty Jackson, then moved to Pringle of Scotland, specialising in fabric buying and development and working with Yorkshire weavers including Bower Roebuck, who made the tailoring for Florizel AW21.
In 2007 he moved to Louis Vuitton in Paris, and in 2018 went to Dior, where he is director of fabric and graphic development and soft accessories for the menswear department. For the past two months, he has been living in London (and shot the collection there, shown at London Fashion Week) but he will be moving back to Paris soon. “With Brexit, it’s just so difficult to get anything done,” he says.
Working with such great British manufacturers is, he says, “the core of what I do”, adding: “It’s what I’m about – transparency, sustainability, buying the best that I can afford to buy and knowing that, from start to finish, everyone is taken care of and fairly paid and not exploited.
“It’s going back to paying what clothes are actually worth. My clothes are expensive, I’m well aware that they are expensive, but they are the best quality and they will last you forever.”
His own take on Northern style has always peppered his work, but is “solidified” in this collection. “People always talk about English style and British style but that is always hunting, shooting, fishing,” he says. There is something distinctive about Northern style, he adds. “Something that is in a way more real but, at the same time, more about dressing up. It’s more glamour-focused than this upper-class, weekend-in-the-country, tweedy, going-to-shoot-the-pheasant kind of look.”
There is also a nod to Keitel jackets, a shape familiar to Edward from his youth. He says: “A Keitel is a very straight-cut jacket with patch pockets. I remember growing up on the farm and farmers coming round, or going to the auction, and seeing these jackets. They are very simple.”
The designs blend hardiness with luxury, British northernness with intriguing glimpses from around the world. As well as the micro-textured tailoring from Bower Roebuck, there is a cashmere tweed and leopard merino jacquard from Johnstons of Elgin; ornithological print referencing the naturalist John James Audubo; and a collage print from photos of temple frescos on Liugong Island, China. Judith Leiber in New York has made three jewelled animal-shape clutch bags – a leopard, sausage dog and a snail. Patent leather loafers with a frilled upper are made by ROKER.
The terms “womenswear” and “menswear” are becoming irrelevant. Edward says: “I am a realist and I do not expect to be seeing fleets of men walking down Kirkgate in mini skirts. That’s not the world we are talking about, but it is offering people a choice.
“We never say, this is for a man, this is for a woman. Everything goes on a rail and the store buyers can choose what they think is appropriate for their customer. I just don’t think it’s modern to say ‘this coat has a gender’. I don’t think it’s how we should be talking about clothes – or people. Wear what you like.”
Edward has not been back to the Dales for more than a year and says this is “probably the reason why this collection was so based on home”, adding: “I really hate autobiographical fashion and this idea that you can only talk about your lived experience. I find it so boring, but this was all of those things.”
Combining “work work” for Dior with creating his own collections must be pretty time consuming? “I’m not going to complain about being busy because I know there’s plenty of people who aren’t,” he says.
Edward, who won two Woolmark Prize awards in 2019, has also in the past collaborated with Kanye West on the rapper’s own label fashion collections. Does he have any more big name news coming up? It seems there might be. “TBC, I’ll let you know,” he teases. But he does have one big name he can tell me about right now. And it’s a Yorkshire name.
“There may be some Nora Batty coming in next season,” he says. “I’m trying to work out how to rhinestone a wrinkly stocking.”
* Visit www.edwardcrutchley.com for stockists.