Bicester Village will be launching the first ever British Wool Collective at Bicester Village on 13th October. In association with The Campaign for Wool and the British Fashion Council, Bicester Village will be celebrating all things woolly with a quintessentially British boutique offering everything from gloves, scarves and hats to classic and elaborate knitted jumpers, capes and coats.
Established and emerging designers that are confirmed to showcase their collections in the boutique include renowned knitwear designers Chinti & Parker, Pringle of Scotland, Ross Barr, John Smedley, Brora, Crumpet, Johnstons of Elgin and Markus Lupfer. Additionally, perfumed candles from Cire Trudon complete the lineup, making the British Wool Collective the ideal boutique for finding the perfect piece for yourself and others.
We had the chance to sit with one of the Designers showcasing during the event, John Smedley.
Founded in 1784, John Smedley has a remarkable history of manufacturing and craftsmanship. Your brand must boast one of the oldest histories in woollen apparel?
We’re very proud to lay claim to having perhaps the world’s longest history in working with wool. When you consider that the John Smedley Mill in Derbyshire is the oldest manufacturing factory in the world that is still in operation, we have an unrivalled history of crafting beautiful, high-quality wool garments that are designed to last, made from a highly sustainable and natural fibre, right here in Britain and distributed globally. Throughout our history we’ve constantly pushed to use these age-old crafting techniques to innovate and push the boundaries of traditional knitwear.
What is the oldest item in your archive?
An incredibly precious pair of ’long johns’ dating from 1860. As you can imagine, they are kept in a very safe place! According to our archivist’s research, these may well be the very first pair and the name ‘long john’ itself is rumoured to be derived from our brand name.
Can you talk us through how you have been able to keep the brand so relevant for so long?
Continual innovation is key. Every season, we continue to innovate, through both our own collection and also by collaborating with some of Britain’s finest design talent. Recent innovations include the re-launch of our womenswear line at London Fashion Week and our contemporary new unisex capsule collection ‘Singular’ being the first-ever unisex knitwear collection launched within the UK. Some things, however, do not change and that is the quality that we as a brand, are renowned for. Each and every John Smedley garment is carefully created using 1.5 km of the finest yarn, 1.2 million stitches, more than 230 years of experience and the skilled hands of at least 50 British craftspeople. We continually strive to produce the highest quality garments with a contemporary look that will transcend generations. It is this world-renowned quality that allows us to innovate with new techniques and designs – our customers know that, however new or diverse the product offering, they can rely on the John Smedley seal of quality.
Why is the ‘The British Wool Collective’ campaign significant for you and the company?
We are immensely proud of our heritage, our history and our roots. Wool is central to all of our successes, just as is Britain, where we continue to design, craft and produce each and every piece of John Smedley knitwear. I cannot think of a more appropriate campaign on which to collaborate and through which we can collectively celebrate all that is good about wool in Britain
What do you hope to achieve from this partnership here at Bicester Village with The Campaign for Wool?
With a partner such as Bicester Village, the opportunity to showcase our luxury knitwear collection, albeit surrounded by many of our peers in the wool business, is one that should be seized with both hands. A John Smedley presence within Bicester Village has been an aspiration for some time, and the Campaign for Wool has provided the perfect platform on which to realise this ambition.
Can you share with us any of your better known fans of the brand and their favourite items?
In the 1950s and 60s we became the brand of choice for many famous faces, including Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and the Beatles amongst many others and by 1980 we had established ourselves as the go-to knitwear brand for British designers such as Dame Vivienne Westwood and Sir Paul Smith. In 2013, John Smedley were granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment as a ‘Manufacturer of Fine Knitwear’ by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a testament to our trusted quality. More recently, you have probably seen John Smedley being worn by musicians, sportsmen and women, commentators, and stars of theatre and film including a certain James Bond!
Winter will soon be round the corner – what trends do you forecast for next season?
We’re seeing texture, and tone-on-tone pattern as the biggest trend in menswear for the season, subtle colour differences paired with innovative new styles such as the full button shirt or knitted tailored jacket providing a great way for male consumers to engage with wool in new shapes but still very accessible patterns.
Within womenswear the trend continues for the full knitted looks and we’re seeing big demand for the knitted palazzo pant, alongside designs for a boxier, cape-like silhouette. Colour wise, across both men’s and womenswear, we’re predicting new shades of Bardot Grey – a pale dove grey – and Hepburn Smoke – an oil-like shade – will work extremely well alongside pops of deep Gardner Reds and a spectrum of blues from pale blue, grey-like shades through to the deepest midnights.