Evening brothers & 10% sisters (according to stats)
Hope today is treating you like the kings and queens you are. I’ve had a mad one today, been to visit the Trickers shoes factory in Northampton, England.
Amazing day and loads to tell you but now’s not quite the time! I’ve just blasted back up the M1, quick shower, few stories for bedtime, garlic bread in oven, shitty processed spag bol in the microwave and (finally) beer in hand. So, now I’m ready to introduce my buddy to the 10@10 series!
This evening we speak to a dude named John Francomb. John is the Owner and Founder of UK based Alde Custom Clothing which specialises in raw denim and is currently one of our best selling brands in store.
When hearing of the Supply Co. getting set up, John reached out via email to offer his services and after a quick Google I couldn’t believe my luck (but that’s another story). Of course, a meet was arranged and within weeks CLOBBER-CALM SUPPLY CO. was able to offer UK-made premium denim product and a made-to-order jeans service!
On the opening day (alone) we achieved the sale of 5 M-T-O denims due to John’s services. He’s a master tailor (30 years) and expert in pattern cutting, a perfectionist when it comes to his product, but most importantly my mate and a solid part of the clobber-calm fam!
It’s been a pleasure getting his thoughts here on the 10@10 and I hope you guys enjoy the read as much as I did…
…dudes, it’s time to sit back, relax, crack open a beer of your own and listen to the thoughts of brother John Francomb as Alde CC answers the @clobbercalm 10@10.
MEET THE BRAND BEHIND THE MENSWEAR
NAME: John Francomb
BRAND NAME: Alde Custom Clothing Company
LOCATION: Suffolk, England
SIZE OF TEAM: One!
SPECIALITY/COMPANY FOCUS: Japanese Selvedge Denim
1. Straight forward, please tell us, how did your company Alde Custom Clothing Company start out? (For people that don’t already know)
I started Alde Custom Clothing for three key reasons: First and foremost, I wanted to make clothes that were built to last, then I wanted to use beautiful fabrics and finally, I wanted to create a garment that people could have an emotional attachment to and want to keep. I came up with the idea that denim would fit the bill. I then set about building the perfect jean.
I had a bit of a head start as this is my second menswear business: the first I started over thirty years ago, which too, was once a small business. It grew over the years into a large multi-chanel, global menswear brand. The growth and success had been an amazing journey but the time had come for me to hand it over and to get back to a hands-on approach to clothing. I wanted to focus on small-scale clothing production, cut and made in England using traditional sewing methods and machinery.
I moved from London to set up shop in Suffolk on east coast of England and named the company after a river there. The ‘Alde’ (pronounced ‘old’), once part of a major port of significant importance during Tudor times, brought wealth, prosperity and culture to the region. ‘Custom’ of course references the made-to-order element of the business, but also suggests a sense of a ‘social norm’. The combination of these two words seemed to sum up the essence and concept of the business.
I describe Alde Custom Clothing as a ‘micro’ clothing brand (think of a micro-brewery). It’s just me making the jeans and other products. I design, cut and make everything by hand in the traditional way. It’s an ethically conscious and ‘slow’ style of fashion that mirrors my own decision to downshift my former hectic career and nomadic lifestyle.
2. Tell us. What does a day in the life of yourself look like? What’s your daily work routine?
I normally start my day around 6.30am. Over a couple of cups of tea, I’ll check emails, do some admin and make a plan for what needs to be done that day. As I work a lot with Japan, it’s a great time of day to get emails out before they pack up for the day. I also don’t have any internet access at my studio – a deliberate decision as I find it too much of a distraction.
Weather permitting, I’ll try to go out for a run before breakfast, or do some kind of exercise – I find this really sets me up for the day.
I’ll try to get to the studio at about 9.30-10am and start on whatever’s on my to-do list. I usually try to organise my week into segments of cutting, making and development. When I’m not making custom denim orders I’ll work on some production to top up my ready-to-wear stock.
Sometimes customers will come over to the studio to either place an order or bring in their jeans in for hemming or a quick repair – or just simply swing by for a chat! It’s great to stop for a bit and talk raw denim over coffee and a Hobnob! It breaks up the day nicely. Otherwise I’m kept entertained during the day, by BBC’s radio 6 music, radio 4 or some amazing playlists on Spotify.
There are times though when I’m away from the studio – sometimes for a few days when out visiting stockists or at trade shows. But, I’m always happy to get back to my denim-den.
When I have a studio day, I try to not to stay too late (though that does happen occasionally). Working with denim is quite physically demanding. Shifting bundles of jeans from machine to machine, and lifting heavy rolls of denim or boxes of stock can be knackering!
At the end of the day there is always more to do. When I get back into Wi-fi coverage there’ll be more admin, more emails and of course, catching up with social media.
3. What are your top 3 bestselling items? And why do you think this is?
It’s difficult to say what my best selling items are as a lot of my work is Made-to-Order. On the ready-made side I generally sell two fits in two denim weights. It’s pretty much equal between the fits (Slim Fit v Straight Fit) and I would say the lighter weights (12.5oz v 13.5oz) out sells the heavier weight. I have found it a struggle to get some guys into the heavier weights (15oz upwards). They are generally the chaps who are fairly new to raw denim and they think it is always going to be stiff and uncomfortable. My regular hard-core denimheads on the other hand, can’t get enough of the stuff!
4. What’s your personal favourite garment when it comes to the items you manufacture?
I like new development projects best. I feel it’s really important for me to try new fits and new fabrics so I can see for myself how they behave: I can be more informed and can advise the customer with first hand knowledge. I’m also hypercritical on fit so if there’s anything that’s not quite right on the first sample I will identify it and correct it before it gets to the customer. I think it’s also really important to try stuff out myself because if I’m excited about it then I hope others will be as well.
5. What are your thoughts on the rise of Instagram fashion and the chaps that post their clothing on there to help spread the word of their fave brands?
Having been in the business of selling men’s clothes for 30+ years, I know how difficult it is to persuade some chaps to try something new. Let’s face it, most of us gentlemen are quite lazy when it comes to fashion! It’s all too easy to put on that same pair of jeans, sweatshirt and sneakers right? However, we can be influenced by what other gents are wearing – even if we don’t realise it. Instagram is great for that. It’s not like high pressure advertising – it’s just regular blokes wearing regular gear, but putting it all together really well. It makes it easy to say to ourselves “yep, I’ve got those boots but I never thought of wearing my jeans like that with them…I think I’ll give that a try!”
Fashion is all about feeling comfortable with your look. It’s a great seal of approval to see other guys wearing an outfit well and feeling you can copy it.
6. Has it made an impact on your business at all, do you think?
Most definitely. Apart from the obvious exposure of the brand to people you might not otherwise reach, it’s the community aspect that I find most fascinating. For me it’s especially important to feel connected to a community as I work on my own so much of the time. It’s incredible how you can get to know people from their day-to-day posts. I have subsequently met so many wonderful people in real life who I’d followed, including customers, suppliers and fellow denim makers. It makes it very easy to walk up to people you know through IG and just say hello!
Testament to that is the connection I made with Ben @clobbercalm through IG… and here I am!
7. Is there any feeds on IG that you particularly like to check-in on regular. What brands are you fond of on there? What menswear feeds to you like to peruse?
Being a visual person I really relate to IG. I had a go at twitter but never really got on with it! I love posts that are well considered and have a story to tell: there are some wonderful IG’ers out there that do it very well. I also look forward to feeds that educate me – about the making or behind the scenes stuff.
The Real McCoy’s @therealmccoyslondon is a brand I truly admire. I love the way they take a historic garment and not only faithfully recreate it, but elevate it to the next level. Their take on the MA-1 jacket is to die for. Here in the UK I admire Old Town @oldtownengland in neighbouring Norfolk and Workhouse England @workhousengland – both have great styling and and design, and all garments are made in England.
I seem to be strangely drawn to follow a lot of denim dudes from The Netherlands, notably
Robin of @robin.meijerink and @robindenim is great at pulling an outfit together with the beautiful backdrop of Amsterdam.
@bootsandsuits Bas van Tilborg – Another from The Netherlands. Lovely photos of coffee and Amsterdam
@jordanbunker – Great story telling and beautifully photographed
@snakeoilprovisions – Californian take on denim
@illcutz – Awsome looks from London
@tibods – photographer – just jaw dropping photos
@laermkulisse – great photographs, nice outfits
There are just so many more I could list of course!
I really like the way you can follow hashtags now – I discover some many cool feeds that way.
8. A quick one about you. Other than the business, what passions do you have in life? What flicks your switch and helps you relax?
We’re lucky to live in a beautiful part of the country with strikingly big skies: it’s drawn artists here for centuries. In the longer days of the summer there’s nothing better than to go for a lovely coastal walk ending with a tasty pub meal. We have great local ingredients here in Suffolk – notably the fish which is so incredibly fresh. When I have spare time I also like to use some of these fantastic ingredients to cook up something special to share with friends.
My main passion is theatre and film. I’m often found in London’s Westend, either at the theatre or cinema. I went to see ‘Network’ at the National Theatre the other week – an amazing production with Brian Cranston (aka Breaking Bad).
9. What do you consider to be the best thing about your business and why?
Running your own business is hard work! Especially if, like mine, it’s a one-man-band. You have to be expert in all fields and if you expect working for yourself is going to give you loads of free time – forget it! It’s a 24/7 experience. So why do it? Well, when it goes right it is massively rewarding. To see a product develop from and idea in my head to finally see someone wearing and enjoying it as much as me – you can’t get better satisfaction than that.
10. And Lucky Last, You’re going to be stranded on a desert island and you can take 1 outfit (4 items) only with you. And 1 choice of drink.
I’d have to take an outfit that included a fair amount of denim so it’s going to kick off with a pair of my jeans – probably a pair of SlimFit 12.5oz. A desert island sounds like it’s going to be reasonably hot, so I’d team the jeans up with a good tee shirt – ideally an ecru Henley style from Merz b Schwanen, I’d wear it with my vintage Levi’s type III trucker jacket when necessary. One item left so either a hat or shoes… I’d probably go for a hat – my favourite is my home-made bucket hat I made out of scraps of selvedge denim – used for years in the summer sun, so it’s well faded and worn. If it gets too hot, I may have to cut-off my jeans at the knee so it’d be great to take my Union Special 43200G machine to chain stitch the hems – but that’s probably not allowed – so I’ll just have to go for the Robinson Crusoe look!
To drink I’m temped to say a nice cuppa tea – but I won’t! I’ll go for a refreshing pint of Victoria (our local brew) made by Earl Soham Brewery. I love the story that it was originally brewed in Maurice’s old chicken shed at the back of the Victoria pub here in the village (hence it’s name). It’s a damn fine pint.
Cheers for that John. Top man! We’ll have to go for a “damn fine pint” next time you’re up in Sheffield mate? It’s been great getting you in the 10@10 chair and long overdue…great read!
Loads coming up in next couple of weeks including divulging all about my Trickers trip so stay tuned and watch out for a post from @denimhound in next couple of days. So much going off clobbsy!
Much love people.