Who Is Archie Foal?
“Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake.” ― Richard Sennett, The Craftsman
If you went back to 2010 and took a walk down Northcote Road in Clapham, you’d find a market stall selling socks made from some of the world’s finest yarns. You’d also find friends Julian and Tessa, the founders of Archie Foal. Now, nine years later, the company has shops in both Stoke Newington and Fulham offering a full collection of contemporary and sustainable menswear and womenswear, employing the best of British and European craftsmanship.
Britain’s most expensive market stall
Yorkshire-born Julian was at a large country house shooting party when he had the idea of launching his own brand. He noticed how beautifully knitted the shooting socks were and this planted the seed behind an idea: “I contacted the British manufacturers who had been making the socks for the past 100 years. The technique and knitting standards were incredible but even
the most expensive socks were being made out of wool and acrylic. I thought if these old school techniques could be used in combination with more luxurious yarns, these socks could become a fashion item for women.” And that’s what he did.
Julian had many years experience in the fashion industry, including senior positions at Versace, Triumph and Ralph Lauren. “He felt that there was a place in the luxury apparel market for a product that had more authenticity and integrity, rather than concentrating on the illusion of luxury and the largest margins,” says Tessa.
In 2005, in his position as Sales Director at one of London’s leading luxury apparel distributors, Julian met Tessa, a summer intern during her study of Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins.
Their friendship bloomed over quite a few drinks (“our summer of fun”, they both laugh) and they discovered a shared appreciation for well made, beautifully cut clothing.
A market stall in Clapham became available, from which they sold socks and their own range of cashmere sweaters. Before long they gained a reputation as being the most expensive market stall in Britain. Soon after, the socks were sold in Harrods, Selfridges and Fenwick of Bond Street.
Sustainability in Business
“Global domination is our aim” smiles Julian “but I’d like to reach that goal by creating a company that ensures its supply chain is sustainable and responsibly sourced and fairly paid”. It’s apparent that fairness is at the heart of what Archie Foal does, informing every part of the design process. Archie Foal creates stylish but enduring wardrobe staples. “By manufacturing high-quality clothing our aim is for every garment to last and look good for at least ten years. We strive to create clothes that improve with every wear and wash, focussing on a ‘buy better, buy less’ approach”.
Chatting in the cosy back room of the Archie Foal Fulham store, it’s clear that laid back luxury plays a huge part in the Archie Foal style. Tessa and Julian refer to it as “lustrous utility”, in that it should look good and be useful. They describe their customer base as individuals who like a cool, pared-down, almost Scandinavian aesthetic, who aren’t really led by seasonal fashion brands but tend to be well informed with their own definitive, confident sense of style.
The Archie Foal brand was summed up beautifully by Lisa Armstrong of The Telegraph as “trad meets farmer meets edgy meets cool”. Typically urban-dwellers with an appreciation for country living and the great outdoors, the Archie Foal customer is “the type of person who is as likely to spend a weekend at Soho Farmhouse as they are working on an actual farm, someone who appreciates traditional quality and value but who also has a bit of a rebellious streak.” Archie Foal is a true, ‘look good go anywhere’ brand.
The company has developed a reputation for their beautifully cut wax cotton coats. The heavyweight, antique finish qualities of the wax cotton that they use “develop a patina over time so that every garment becomes as unique as a fingerprint,” explains Tessa. Julian continues: “it is the perfect fabric for both town and country as it's waterproof and durable but it breathes, unlike man-made fibres. In a similar way, we specialise in merino wool knitwear because of its wickable, breathable and anti-bacterial characteristics.
All Archie Foal clothing is made with craftsmanship, care, quality and clever design. If you would like to learn more about our story, or see the quality of our clothing for yourself, come in and chat to Julian and Tessa in one of our stores.