There is a gap to be filled in British menswear, says Martin Parker. That is, there is a lack of considered, timeless, everyday designs, beautifully made to last in sustainable materials.
Now the Leeds designer is hoping to help fill that gap with Cut&Pin, a brand he has launched with his business partner Al Baker. In the past two years, Martin points out, both Jigsaw and Whistles announced the scrapping of their menswear ranges, leaving a hole in the premium high street offer for men in the UK. “Even before we started this journey, those brands were around and now they are not,” he says.
He feels that Cut&Pin can provide style-conscious men with the design detail they look for, but blurring the lines between smart and casual, creating a look that chimes perfectly with the way we live now, as the pandemic has brought about an enforced, but necessary, fresh approach to ease and versatility of wear, with quality and sustainability key requirements.
“Everyday clothes, designed for living, produced with a conscience, made to last,” says Martin, explaining Cut&Pin’s aims and ethos. “It’s a contemporary menswear collection aimed at – I don’t like to put an age on things because I don’t think it matters what age you are – but it appeals to guys who are 30-plus, offering casual and formal looks. This was all discussed pre-Covid. People’s sense of dress has changed dramatically and we already saw that trend happening.
“Buying fewer and better things has gathered momentum and become much more apparent since Covid. Those clothes need to work a lot harder.”
The first collection launched in December 2020, an edit including recycled cashmere sweaters, scarves, and jersey pieces made from deadstock fabric. It features knitwear in striking shades of yellow and red, and Martin says David Hockney has long been a major influence. “A painter, printmaker, stage designer and photographer and only the most influential artist of the 20th century,” he says. “Being born and bred in Yorkshire myself, I have always found Hockney’s work inspiring – the intense and vibrant combination of colours, the bold textures and his experimenting with different mediums have influenced my work from being an art and fashion student.”
Originally from Wakefield, Martin lives in north Leeds with his wife, JulyAnn, who works in finance, and their two young children. Now 47, he studied fashion at Epsom School of Art and Design, and has worked extensively in the fashion industry, including for Etam, Next, Marks & Spencer and Designers at Debenhams, before moving back to Yorkshire to join cashmere brand Pure Collection, where he was head of design for seven years. It was here that he met Al, 40, when he joined as head of global digital and e-commerce.
Al lives near Harrogate with his wife, Kelly, and their two young boys. Previously, he was a director at Onstate, working with brands such as Crockett & Jones and Alexa Chung, and he has also worked at Moda in Pelle and Daniel Footwear. He was founder and director of Roar Studios and Infinity Blue Group Marketplaces, and also of Maemara, a sustainable Yorkshire-based homeware brand.
Last year WoolOvers acquired Pure Collection after it was placed in administration and so Al and Martin decided to push ahead with their plans to develop a menswear collection based around using deadstock, organic fabric and recycled fabrics.
Their experience and pairing of different skills ensures that their new brand has a solid foundation, which was key to securing financial backing, meaning they could launch with the help of a Virgin start-up loan.
Martin says: “We want to keep it quite small and only do runs of garments that we think we can sell.”
For the cashmere pieces, Cut&Pin is using a factory in Mongolia that Martin dealt with while working with Pure Collection. “I built up quite a relationship with them, and they are a family business,” he says. “Cashmere from Mongolia is one of the best cashmeres you can get and I have admired the ways they have pioneered sustainability.”
Martin also already had experience of working with recycled cashmere. “I think to recycle pre-consumer goods, re-spin it and then make it into a new garment is quite fantastic,” he says. “We are also using deadstock – fabric which has never seen the cutting room floor, that’s left on a warehouse shelf.
“It’s an interesting one, deadstock, because the name doesn’t sound too enticing, but by no means does deadstock mean it is in any way faulty fabric – it could have been a fabric that a brand or a designer has bought and it’s been cancelled or they have never used it.”
They are working with another factory, too, in Portugal, again a family business. “We are really keen on making sure that our supply base is ethical,” adds Martin. “That has become more of an issue over this Covid time. They deal with independent designer and premium brands. What we admired about their ethos is the way in which they wanted to remain quite small. Everything is done in-house and all the fabric is sourced locally.”
Martin says part of the plan was to manufacture in the UK but then Covid hit and posed too many challenges. “We would like to start making in the UK,” he says. “But there are benefits to making off-shore as well because a lot of these countries are famous for making cashmere or cotton jersey or silk.”
Prices are similar to premium high street brands, with the cashmere sweaters and cardigans costing £180-185, T-shirts, £35, and jersey sweat pants, £75-£80.
“We would love to get it into Matches or Mr Porter and we are looking at pop-up shops,” says Martin. “Al would like to take it into Europe because it has a European feel.”
Meanwhile, the planned woven tailoring and shirting collection is on hold, owing to Covid, but it is very much part of the future for Cut&Pin. As Martin says: “I think people will want to dress up again and go out.”
Cut&Pin is available at www.cutandpin.com