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Behind the collection – Laurel Wreath Menswear Autumn 2014

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Pictured above, the Static Cable Knit Sweater

For autumn 2014, our men’s Laurel Wreath Collection has a sharp, defined aesthetic.

We spoke to collection designer John Tate to find out the background behind the collection, which was inspired by British New Wave and electronic music of the 1980s.

Hello John, tell me a bit about the story behind the collection.

The thinking behind the collection was that it took inspiration from an imaginary night out, probably in London’s Soho district. There is a good mix of dark tones and pops of colour running throughout – reflecting the dark of the night, and the bright lights of the area. I feel there is a hedonistic undertone running through the collection. My thoughts were about going out, losing myself in the nightlife and trying to visualise how everything can start to get a bit blurry...

Yeah, details in the collection seem to reflect a night out?

I took direct influence from patterns and images you might see on a night out. One of the main thoughts behind the knitwear this season was the idea of visualising static, or white noise. The knitwear pieces feature a blurred or fuzzed effect, woven in – the sort of thing you might imagine on a monitor at a gig or in a DJ booth, with sound levels going up and down.  

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Pictured above, the Static Knit Crew Neck Sweater

Lots of the shirts feature a ‘blown-up gingham’ effect; moving the traditional micro-check gingham shirt to something a new and different. My thinking here was to reflect the ‘pixelated’ sensory effect you sometimes feel from being surrounded by bright lights and loud music. I also used a speaker-grill print throughout the collection. It looks a lot like a fine polka dot initially, but when the reference is mentioned you can see how the print has evolved from looking at the inside of a speaker. It’s subtle, but effective.

Was music an inspiration when designing this collection?

Definitely! I took particular inspiration from British post-punk/new wave electronic music of the 1980s – the sort of music you would imagine played at a dark club hidden away in Soho. Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army were probably the biggest influence overall, they have that real raw industrial sound to their music. But also the early side of the Human League, when they were more electronic than vocal. Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret album was also a big influence. That Soft Cell album is dark and hedonistic, it was a great reference point. 

You mentioned Gary Numan’s industrial sound…

Yeah, alongside the imaginary night out narrative behind the collection, I would say there is also an element in the collection taken from industrial Northern British towns – particularly Sheffield. The Human League originated in Sheffield, and had a very gritty, electronic early sound on tracks like Being Boiled. Soft Cell also originated in Leeds, before settling in Soho – their early single  Memorabilia is again quite a tough, industrial sounding track so there is certainly a Northern context woven in too.

Were you involved in the photoshoot that accompanies the collection?

Yes I was - I actually helped choose the model. He had an element of David Sylvian from the band Japan about him. Japan were probably best known for the track, Ghosts – another track from the scene that inspired the collection, and I liked the idea of weaving this further into the visual presentation.

John, thanks for your time!

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Pictured above the Industrial Dot Print Shirt

See the men’s Laurel Wreath Collection for Autumn HERE

60 Second Guide - The Parka Jacket

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The parka jacket is both a subculture classic and a winter wardrobe staple. It first appeared on British shores when the Mods reclaimed them from army surplus stores in the 1950s – but the origins of the jacket can be traced back much further.

The first parka came from Canada. Invented by the native Caribou Inuit, it was originally crafted from the oiled skins of seal or reindeer. The hood of the jacket – one of its key features – helped to protect the wearer’s face from the freezing winter winds and sub-zero temperatures.

Later, the basic parka jacket style was adopted by the American Military, who used it to combat the freezing weather conditions faced by the US army in the Korean War of 1951. Taking reference from the Inuits’ version, it evolved into the more familiar fishtail parka, which is the shape that modern day variations are still based on.

There were four main styles of fishtail parka; the EX-48, M-48, M-51 and the M-65 (the M standing for military). The EX-48 and M-48 jackets were of extremely high quality and their high cost meant that they were only in production for about a year.

The M-51 is the classic fishtail parka jacket, and the shape that still inspires most versions today. It’s an iconic piece of outerwear, and key features that still appear on modern interpretations include a detachable lining, a fur-trim detachable hood and a long ‘fishtail at the back – hence the name.

Nobody knows exactly why this technical military jacket became adopted by the British Mod movement in the late 1950s and early 60s, but there are many theories. The most likely seems to be that the jacket was actually very practical for riding scooters. Available at a cheap price from army surplus stores, the M-51 parka jacket was an exceptionally high-quality jacket, designed to brave the elements. 

Another major appeal in the M-51 Parka was that they were worn by nobody else. Image was integral to the Mod movement, and wearing something entirely different from the crowd held strong appeal.

The jackets quickly became customised – Union Jack flags, scooter-club patches and badges, music references and RAF targets were pinned, stitched and ironed on. Stamping a very British element to a military piece evolved the parka into a subculture staple.

The jacket is an iconic piece of Mod uniform, gaining notoriety after the news reports of the infamous seaside riots of 1964, and then later appearing on the cover of The Who’s defining ‘Quadrophenia’ album and the classic British film of the same name.

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Image above - still from "Quadrophenia"

The parka remains a winter wardrobe staple to this day and remains a key shape throughout our own jacket collection this season. 

Thanks to Alain Bibal

Elliot James Langridge from Northern Soul

John Clark in "Northern Soul" is Elliot James Langridge's first lead role in a feature film. Directed by Elaine Constantine, the film opened across the UK in October 2014 to rave reviews and sold out cinema showings.

We met up with Elliot to find out how his participation in the film came about, and how it feels to finally have the film showing on screens all over the nation...

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Elliot in Northern Soul

Hello Elliot. How did you come to be involved in the Northern Soul film project?

I met Elaine when I was 19; she was the photographer on one of my first modelling jobs. She kept saying I look like John Clarke and I didn’t really understand. She explained that he was the lead character in this script she had been writing. I didn’t give it much thought, then a year later she sent me the script to read. Reading through, I couldn’t believe I was getting a chance to look at it. Over the course of a couple of years I went through various screen tests and auditions to get the part. It was a very slow process.

The film is set in the 1970s – did you have an existing interest in the Northern Soul scene before you got the part?

To be completely honest, being a Southerner I’d heard of it but I didn’t know anything about it. I tried asking my Dad, because he’s of the right age (he’ll hate me saying that), but he had no idea either. So I really had to take in everything Elaine said to me and do my homework. I relied on Elaine and the people that taught me to dance like Kev Dodge, Frannie Franklin and Paul Sodot. Those guys know everything – they were there and experienced it, it was like having a database of the scene ready to tap into.

From speaking to Elaine and your co-star Josh, it feels like the film had a bit of a family vibe to it. How did you research your role?

For the project we had the luxury of time – it was a completely different process to anything else I’d ever worked on. We had the time to research, and learn the dancing properly. One of the hardest aspects for me was learning the accent…

I can imagine…

Doing a generic Northern accent is fine. However when you have a Northern director who is from the place the film is set, you can’t slip up – and you can’t get it wrong.  If my accent was off we did it over and over.  It was quite daunting being one of the only Southerners on set - a lot of people involved in the film are from up North, so it had to be right.

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I’m really interested in the dancing…

…Yeah the dancing was amazing! As somebody that had never experienced it before, the closest thing I can describe it as is a cross between breakdancing and Saturday Night Fever.

Did you feel self-conscious doing it? 

Not really, but by the time we came around to filming it I had been doing dance training for nearly two years. So it becomes second nature. As soon as you hear one of the songs, dancing just feels like the right thing to do. Kev Dodge was my main teacher. Starting with the foundations was so difficult. I’ve had no formal dance training – although I’d done gymnastics in the past, which kind of helped. Once I got the basics and found my confidence, it became quite easy to do. The things that look quite impressive such as the tricks, became the easier part of the dance to learn.

On top of all this, everybody thinks I’m wearing a wig in the film – I’m not. That is my real hair. I also went from 11 stone to just under 9. I lost a lot of weight. I looked like I’d been doing a lot of drugs and a lot of dancing. I’d spent so many years trying to bulk up, and once I got this part I realised I’d have to lose all this weight.

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How long did you have that image for?

Quite a while, because the film kept getting delayed, and the delays were only by small amounts like three months. So it was never long enough to allow me to put the weight back on. I was about 9 stone for a year and a half, with a long mullet! I kept going to other auditions, and people were looking at me like I was crazy. It was difficult, because I knew I couldn’t change how I looked because of the film, so once we had finished it was so nice to start eating properly, and cut my hair. When the film finished it was a massive sigh of relief because we had done it, and we’d done it well. It was such a sense of achievement for everybody involved in the project.    

Were you involved in the Northern Soul dance clubs that Elaine set up?

Yeah, they were great. By the time the clubs came around I’d had enough training to learn to dance a bit, and in the clubs we did group lessons. We had people coming from all over the place to attend, with different degrees of ability – some of them had never danced before, some were experts. There was a family environment, and a healthy element of competition and rivalry. I’ve never experienced anything like it on any other job. The group lessons went on for over a year, and by the end we had so many people – we had dance lessons up North and in London because it had grown so much. It was amazing to see so many people do it for free because they believed in the project.

It sounds amazing. I really like the story behind the film itself. How do you feel about Northern Soul music, is it something you’ve grown to love?

Definitely. You can’t be involved in a project like this and walk away not feeling the music. I think that’s probably an impossibility. Learning to dance alongside the music, you hear the songs in a different way – the breaks in the song are where you do your tricks. You learn the beat and how you’re supposed to dance to it, so if a Northern Soul track comes on I start shuffling my feet. When I listen to the soundtrack it just brings back all the memories of everything I was involved in to make the film.   

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Elliot on-set with co-star Ricky Tomlinson 

Alongside Josh and Antonia, who were your main co-stars, you also worked with some fantastic British talent in the film. How was that? Did it make you feel nervous?

It was crazy! I mean Steve Coogan – I never thought I’d work with somebody like that. I’m going to say this now, he’s one of my idols. He’s somebody I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. So to be able to do a scene with him was a real pinch-yourself moment. To work with all those people, and in one film as well – what an experience.  

This was your first lead role in a film – how much pressure did you feel to deliver?

I didn’t at first realise I was being considered for a lead role, and as the process went on it became more apparent. One day it all clicked and I was like oh my god this is it – I’ve got to shoulder this film otherwise my career is over. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking realisation when you walk onto set and everybody is looking at you like who is this guy - why does he have the lead role? And you have to pull it off.

The film has taken a while to get to get to cinema – how does it feel for it to be on general release?

To finally have it out there, and to have people to be seeing it, and that it’s doing well, and that it’s got good reviews - it’s beyond my expectations. I always thought the project was special, but you’re obviously biased when working on something, but reaction confirms it. It’s amazing to see the audience enjoying the film as much as we enjoyed making it.

What’s next for you as an actor?

It felt a bit weird when I went to my next part after this – I wasn’t playing John Clarke anymore.  Although I’ve started to realise I’m going up for a lot of Northern parts now – I’m getting typecast and I’m not even Northern, haha. I have a few really exciting projects coming up in the pipeline and I’ve written a script about a dyslexic boy at a special needs school. It’s called The No Hopers and being dyslexic myself it’s roughly based on my own experiences.

Good luck! Finally, one of the girls that works in our London stores is a huge Northern Soul fan, and she loved the film. She wanted to know whether you had a favourite track to dance to?

Yeah! It’s briefly in the film, “You Don’t Mean It” by Towanda Barnes. It’s got such a good beat. It’s the song that made me want to hear more about Northern Soul when I heard it, it’s really good to stomp to!           

Elliot, thank you very much

Northern Soul Quad

Northern Soul is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD

 

Elliot on Twitter

 

Find out more about "Northern Soul" online/Facebook/Twitter