The Finest Cloths Known to Humanity: A Road Trip to Lear Brown and Dunsford

As a matter of course, we like to visit our suppliers once a year, to say thank you for services rendered and to take a look at what’s new. Last Friday, we took a drive down the M5 and visited cloth merchants Lear Brown and Dunsford in Exeter, to do just that – and what an exciting day we had to boot!

Located just at the end of the M5, not only is Lear Brown and Dunsford easily accessible for Brown in Town, it is also central to a number of Brown in Town’s patrons and so we took the opportunity to conduct some fitting appointments in LBD’s boardroom (thank you Carole), replete with historic tomes featuring some of the original cloths which formed the foundations of the Lear Brown and Dunsford business.

Founded in 1895, Lear Brown and Dunsford are the largest family owned cloth merchant in the country and are to many tailors from Savile Row to Brown in Town, a one stop shop for the finest cloths known to humanity.

Following the acquisition of some of our most renowned cloth mills and merchants, they have kept the age old tradition of weaving alive, not only in Huddersfield (England’s weaving mecca) but also further afield in Edinburgh (Porter & Harding) and also North Wales (W. Bill).

Harrisons of Edinburgh – founded in 1863 by one George Harrison, they would be the most renowned of all the cloths which LBD supply and, ergo, is the banner under which LBD now trades. And, if you are looking for a suiting cloth that is a little different, I can highly recommend Harrisons Frontier plain weave in 11oz.

Porter & Harding – also north of the border, P&H are responsible for commissioning the Harris Tweed which Brown in Town’s patrons have been enjoying so much this past year including Brown in Town muse, Jack Bevan of The Ethicurean.

H. Lesser & Sons of London – are purveyors of not only LBD’s most popular suiting cloths, but have a reputation for some of the finest quality suitings in the industry.

Pederson & Becker – whose cloths include the wonderful ‘Fine Classics’, which Brown in Town used for the suits of Bonhams auctioneers at last years Goodwood Revival, is now produced under the LBD name.

Smith Woollens – founded in 1921 by Herbert Smith and Claude Graham, was one of very few merchants to have offices and a warehouse spitting distance from Savile Row and continues to be one of the most sought after cloths in the industry.

W. Bill – with over 150 years of tweed and cashmere weaving under it’s hip-adjusters, LBD have not only acquired a stalwart of British tailoring but are offering new cloths to boot. Together with a re-brand – which just happens to be our favourite logo and colourway – W. Bill fills a gap in Brown in Town’s range with a lightweight, soft-handle cloth full of vibrant colour and pattern which we look forward to sharing with our patrons in due course.

And there is something quite romantic about conducting a fitting at the merchant’s who have provided the cloth used for the garments in-hand and all of those fitted that day were intrigued to see the cloths literally at our fingertips and Brown in Town were subsequently commissioned to make a waistcoat from the new W.Bill ‘Phoenix’ range of patterned 11oz cloths, not to mention a three piece in W.Bill’s 11oz ‘Super Fleece’. Super!

We also had the privilege of meeting fourth generation owner, James Dunsford. And, like the rest of the team at LBD, he extended a very warm welcome and was very supportive of Brown in Town’s sartorial efforts.

We were also treated to a tour a of the warehouse and introduced to new cloths and historical classics alike; imagine, if you will, visiting a tailor who, instead of keeping his cloths in bunches and books, kept the entire piece (60m) rolled and displayed on a shelf for all to see! Among some of the gems was some Irish Donegal tweed from W. Bill, as worn by Dr. Who and some used for the remake of The Great Gatsby, no less!

And as if this wasn’t enough excitement enough for one day, the highlight would have to be setting eyes on the most exquisite oatmeal coloured woollen cloth from W. Bill, which, I think we might be fashioning into a three piece for this years Goodwood Revival..

Vroom, vroom..!

Up the Apples and Pears..

Bristol’s itinerant tailor is on the move again, but this time it’s not up the M4 to the Hoxton Hotel, oh no. This time, we’ve moved our entire studio up the Christmas Steps to barber extraordinaire: Bangshanky!

Ever since the demise of Hotel du Vin’s cigar humidor, Brown in Town has been at odds to find just the right location to accommodate not only our atelier of  Fox umbrellaspocket squares, ties and, of course, handkerchiefs, but, obviously, to provide our patrons with comfortable surroundings befitting a traditional tailors. And it gives us enormous pleasure to announce that that search is now over, thanks to the collaboration and hospitality of our hosts.

We have spent the last two weeks frou-frouing the place-up and making it our home – Bangshanky has always been our spiritual home given that our respective businesses opened our respective doors on the same day, and, moreover, a great many of our grooms have been referred by Bangshanky – now, it actually is our home.

And it is fitting, we feel, that we should find ourselves in a basement – traditionally Savile Row’s tailors were to be found in the basement of their now salubrious addresses and many still are – but, moreover, I was reminded by the ever so talented Tara Darby, that my original idea for Brown in Town was to set-up a co-operative studio occupied by, in no particular order; a tailor, dressing the man, a barista, providing refreshments, Tara and Saffron Darby, making – I cannot reveal what yet but all will be revealed in due course – and last, but by no means least, providing the conversation, a barber!

A lot has happened since Brown in Town’s inception but it is rewarding to know that we are heading in the right direction – the direction of one’s initial hopes and dreams. I dare say that we will have some soiree to mark the occasion, but in the meantime, please do feel free to pay us a visit, before or after you’ve had a trim.

Bristol’s local tailor is now heading up the mountains for a week on the snow, but we look forward to seeing you upon our return.

In the meantime, feel free to pay us a visit at the Bristol Vintage Wedding Fair on the 8th March!

Bon voyage…!

 

Bristol Pound for Pound

Having made the decision to make Bristol our home, and moreover, the home of Brown in Town, we thought it fitting that we not only support as much local business as we are able, which we have sought to do from our inception and was one of the principles of Brown in Town, but we have also joined some of our fellow tradesmen in accepting the currency which talks louder than money: the Bristol Pound!

What I love about Bristol is that there is a sense of community among traders: from the new wave of independent cafes such as Small St. Espresso, Full Court PressDidn’t You Do Well and Za Zu’s, to craft beer breweries such as Small Bar Bristol, pop-up bars like Bar Buvette, Harts Bakery – which began life as a pop-up – speakeasies like Hyde & Co. and Red Light and restaurants like Pata Negra, The Ox and The Star & Dove, to butchers like Rare on North St., vinyl record stores like Payback Records in St. Nicholas Market, barbers like our beloved Bangshanky on Colston St. and, of course, our very own Zip Pin Alterations in Clifton Arcade, there is a wealth of talent, craftsmanship and passion to meet the needs of an increasingly discerning customer.

I will confess to having reservations about Bristol being the latest in a succession of towns and cities that believes it is deserved of it’s own currency – I have some experiences of the Lewes Pound, which, for all intent and purposes, seemingly encouraged only elitism and not the desired effect of keeping business local and seeing local trade flourish – I learned recently of a friend who had to close her beautiful shop exquisite homewares owing to over-inflated rates affordable only to the larger chains. And more’s the pity.

Bristol, however, has always been industrious. When trade and commerce literally sailed across the seven seas, more often than not, those ships docked here in Bristol Harbour at what was once one of the busiest ports in the country – in fact, it is owing the the fluctuation of the tide of the River Avon, which gave rise (no pun intended) to the term ‘Shipshape and Bristol Fashion’, referring to a ships ability to securely lash it’s cargo in order to sustain being stranded at low tide during unloading. You couldn’t make it up, could you.

Nowadays, of course, the harbour is a hive of activity once more but now with the hubbub of cafes, restaurants, art galleries and museums all vying for waterside prominence – a great many of whom accept the Bristol Pound as payment for their services and wares. And, likewise, Brown in Town is also proud to accept the Bristol Pound as payment for it’s sartorial services, ney, we’d encourage it!

And for those deliberating whether or not to pay in hard-earned Bristol Pounds for their wedding suit, business dudds, sports jacket, tailored shirts or even their Fox umbrellas or Skibinski pocket squares, you might be interested to learn that there is a sweetener for those choosing to abstain from using the plastic just this once. Enquire within..

Keep business local.

The Imbibe Awards: A Musing

To say that we have been busy at Brown in Town these past few weeks would be an understatement, but it hasn’t stopped us accepting the odd invitation or two in order to see some our work in action, break bread with friends and generally enjoy the fruits of our labour – we may also have found the time to smoke the odd cigar, but more of that later.

Bristol is nothing if not a hotbed for young talent; pop-ups abound and our restaurant and cafe’s are some of the best in the world: I can say this as I traversed a large part of the globe in my ex-pat days and took my morning coffee, lunch and dinner out everyday. But an invitation to the Imbibe Awards to be Brown in Town muse and one of The Ethicurean founders, Jack Bevan’s, plus one, really was quite a treat.

Our Jack was up for an award and Brown in Town was commissioned to make something for the evening befitting of such a ceremony, but also in keeping with his own brand of town and country style – something that Ethicurean patrons will be only too familiar with, not to mention readers of the Independent who will have witnessed Jack between it’s pages when they featured the cream of today’s eateries and the clothes which these restaurants choose to wear for service. The Ethicurean, it is worth mentioning, was the only restaurant to be featured which is located outside of London.

To compliment Jack’s signature Brown in Town waistcoat, Brown in Town fashioned him a jacket to match. Cut from the same 15oz herringbone Harris Tweed cloth, we completed the look by replacing Jack’s navy blue fishtail linen trousers with some autumnal coloured 16 wale needlecord trousers instead. B.e.a.utiful.

And not only did Jack win the award for Innovator of the Year, both The Ethicurean and their recently launched elixir, The Collector Vermouth, being cited as reasons for his being nominated, but also his ‘eccentric style’ were all part and parcel of his crowning glory. Hoorah!

As if this were not excitement enough for one night, we were also invited to dine at the historical Quality Chop House by head chef, friend and Brown in Town patron, Shaun Searley. And what a dining it was too; bread crumbed bone marrow amuse bouche was followed by sole and chicken skin in onion tea – served from a glass genie lamp, no less – culminating with mallard – only the third bit of game one has been afforded this season but by far and away the best.

And perhaps this is why Brown in Town has chosen to partner the eateries which it patronises to promote its services. I find that they are filled with like-minded people, passionate about their craft and with an understanding of why presentation is of the utmost importance. They also know how to eat and drink!

But no evening and no meal of such quality and flavour would be complete without a cigar but, given the late hour, we decided that a saunter back to our digs at the immensely accommodating Hoxton Hotel, would provide just time enough to smoke one Davidoff robusto. And we were right, too.

And what could be a more perfect way to end a perfect evening than with a nightcap of The Collector Vermouth, naturally.

Cheers..!

Roll Up, Roll up.. for The Chosen Vintage and Bespoke Wedding Fair

While the majority of grooms (those with any sense, anyway) are acutely aware that they they are only in attendance on the big day to make up numbers and that it is in no uncertain terms the brides special day, I meet an increasing number of grooms who have been afforded some portion of the wedding kitty to invest in what may be the only luxury no groom should be denied; to wear a tailor made suit on the most important day of his life.

And the vintage lovers know better than most that the best looking suits are those which our forefathers wore on their wedding day; invariably a three piece suit made of grey flannel or a tweed of some description. It is little wonder that such suits have stood the test of time, given they would have been tailor made and, ergo, would not have had the inlay trimmed out as off-the-rail garments do, meaning that they can be altered both by being taken-in or let-out, to suit the subsequent keeper.

However, the nature of bespoke tailoring is that a suit is tailored to fit the individual who has commissioned the suit and for whom the cloth is said to be ’bespoken for’. So, while we may be fortunate enough to find a suit which either fits first time, or can be tailored to fit future wearers, we may not be so lucky, or, indeed, unlucky, enough to have the same shape and proportions as the previous wearer – tailor made suits are not just a some of their made-to-measure parts, but are fashioned to the contours and shape of the customer.

Finding just the right colour, pattern and weight of cloth which we’re hoping to wear on what should be the best day of our lives, however, can also prove to be time consuming and disappointing. Moreover, it can often prove difficult to find a suit which has not had the life dry-cleaned out of it, which is not itchy, which does not lack lustre or which is not moth-eaten and not a little stale.

But, owing to the sartorial revolution of the past 10 years or so, British tailoring has been enjoying something of a renaissance and tailoring abounds, as do our wonderful cloth mills and merchants from Scotland to Huddersfield and even right on our doorstep here in the South West, which is home to none other than Fox Brothers\, makers of the some of the world’s finest flannel, and also Harrisons, H. Lesser and Porter & Harding to name but a few of the heritage brands housed under one roof at Lear Browne and Dunsford in Exeter.

So, if you are allowed just one luxury on your wedding day, please do seek us out at the Chosen Bespoke and Vintage Wedding Fair this Sunday 1st February.

Best of luck..!