One of the aspects I enjoy most about being a blogger is getting to know interesting people and this week I had a long chat with the chap behind new label “Lane Fortyfive“. The chat, as it turned out, was very much a coming together of minds, as Tan is ticking a huge number of checkboxes when it comes to going about things the right way in todays garment industry. And he is as derisive of fast fashion as I am.
Tan recently released his first collection and with the help of friends he has put together a hugely impressive array of photos showcasing what is by all accounts a very fine looking selection of clothes. The unusual part of it though is that you can’t actually place an order and have it shipped overnight to you. Unless the exact garment you want is hanging on the rack, you have to place your order for the style, size and fabric you would like, and then you have to wait. Up to a month.
A month, you say? Well, 3-4 weeks at least. Why on earth is there no instant gratification? Because right now there is just Tan and 2 seamstresses at work. And almost nothing it made to stock, so there is no surplus and no waste.
There are at least two ways in which this way of working makes incredible sense:
- Imagine how a traditional factory will produce a selection of garments in an array of pre-selected sizes, of which there will quite certainly be some left over at the end of the season. They will go on sale, or even end up as landfill.
- By keeping it small and direct there are fewer links that need to make a profit underway. In traditional retail the cost for a shop to buy in stock is multiplied by 3-5 times to give the retail price, and before that there is probably a distributor doing similar sums. By going direct from maker to wearer though, the actual retail price much more accurately reflects what it costs to make you a pair of trousers, in wages, materials and margin.
It is clear Tan is coming to this with fine skills, laudable ethics and a something of a master plan and I was terribly curious about his background . As it turns out, Tan doesn’t have half a lifetime in the garment industry, or a background from St Martins or the like. He is purely driven by enthusiasm and creative lust. So over the past two years he has learnt the craft by reading books, watching YouTube, and copious amounts of trial and error. This just reinforces my thought that someone that really wants to learn something will be a lot more successful than trying to force learning onto a reluctant party. Carpe Diem and all that, remember?
Style. I can’t fail to mention that the Lane Fortyfive style fits nicely into the aesthetic that includes brands such as Tender, Old Town, SEH Kelly and so forth. Think vintage, retro, workwear, practical, long-lasting, quality fabrics, well made and, outside fashion or even anti-fashion. I love the pleated high trousers, relaxed fit collarless shirts, sharp waistcoats, braces and great selection of fabrics.
Oh, I almost forgot. Another point that sets LaneFortyfive apart from almost everyone else is this: All garments are unisex. I’m not sure how this will work in practical terms (some of the ladies trousers seem very flatteringly tailored, which probably means they wouldn’t fit a lad quite as endearingly), but it’s a nice gesture. It also finally gives me an answer to a question I’m frequently asked: “You write about all these wonderful clothes for men, why isn’t there anything like it for women?”.
It will be interesting to see if enough people can break the “see it – buy it” scenario to see the greater value in what Tan is doing. From what I can tell, the response so far has been great. This means that to a certain extent production can be scaled up by engaging more sewers, though I get the clear idea that Tan isn’t in this to become the next Primark.
For now, I’m experiencing how long it is to wait for my custom garments to be made. Yes, of course I had to place an order, and yes, I did spend a long time mulling over the styles, fabrics and options, and yes, I did send over my measurements to make sure it all fits right. And right now I think that the process and waiting actually adds to the experience.
What did I order? Wait and see, all will be revealed in due time.
More info: LaneFortyfive.com