Ethically produced and perfectly crafted, Wax London is our new hero brand.
Scandi style has hit the UK in a big way, and riding the wave of obsession for clean, minimal design are Wax London. The trio, made up of Steffy (a native of Sweden), Tom and Rich (Brits) are dedicated to combining Scandi sensibility with traditional British craftsmanship and a strong emphasis on genuinely ethical production.
Less Mum-on-a-dog-walk and more deliciously norm-core their technical fabrics and functional outerwear are modern reinventions of classic styles. Good practice is just as important to the brand ethos as great design; still only in their second season, Wax London select a “hero piece” to give something back to the community who manufactured the garment, and the profits from this piece are donated to a carefully chosen charity.
As their AW16 collection is about to drop, we find out more about the brand, how it was born and where it’s going.
Rich, Tom and Steffy, hello! Can you tell us how you all came to meet?
Tom: Well Steffy and I are a couple, we met at a menswear show and the rest is history, ha. Rich and I are old friends and have been working on projects together for the last couple of years.
How did you know you wanted to work together?
Steffy: It all happened quite organically; Tom and Rich worked on several projects together prior to Wax, creating prints for various fashion companies. Tom, with his graphic design background would do the prints whilst Rich with his business degree, managed the business side of things. They always talked about starting their own brand and so when it finally happened, I was the one with the fashion degree from Central Saint Martins so it only came natural that I would design our pieces. It worked out pretty well.
Who were the designers you looked up to growing up?
Tom: Well, my background is in graphic design and growing up I was always a fan of Stefan Sagmeister. I liked how he worked across different mediums, blending design and music.
Steffy: One of my biggest all-time inspirations and also first memories of realising you could make clothes for a living was when my sister showed me Baz Luhrmanns Romeo+Juliet. I was a kid and didn’t understand much but the clothes in that movie just blew me away; the boys aloha shirts and pink hair, the Capulets hand painted leather vests and the ‘sword’ guns. I obsessed so much about that movie that my best friend had specially made a pink neon cross-light for me in homage of the scene when Leo finds his Juliet dead in the church. That movie had such an impact on me, I think it singlehandedly made me want to be a designer.
Who else, other than yourselves, do you think is defining London style right now?
Steffy: I don’t think we see ourselves as defining ‘the London style’, nor any other brand for that matter either. Designing and making clothes is quite a privileged position, we pick and choose what we like, however the ones who truly define the London style are, and always will be, its people. This city is dense with people with original style and most of them don’t have much money or care about fashion, yet they look so cool. Where we manufacture our Made in England jackets in London there’s a strong jewish community and the other day I saw this boy running, he was probably late for school, about 12, with his hat and curls, he was wearing a white shirt and dark suit with trainers and a big keychain but everything looked so undone and disheveled- I thought he was the coolest.
Who do you design for? Who’s the customer in your head?
Steffy: Our aim was always to make clothes which are wearable, honest and of premium quality, without costing like a luxury brand. We see ourselves as a global brand, without specifically turning to one gender or age, but someone who cares about where the clothes come from, who wants a brand with a conscience. All of which sounds very democratic and possibly Scandi, however I can’t take credit for this (I’m Swedish) -this was Tom’s and Rich’s vision from the beginning (who are both British).
Let’s talk AW16: which piece did you start with?
Steffy: For AW16 we wanted to continue to work with wax coated fabrics, naturally, and work with manufactures in London.
We started with The Navarino Mac, which comes in a khaki hue, black press studs and a contrast collar cut from Japanese cotton, in a monochrome rainbow print, which is visible when turned up. The shell fabric is a dry wax coated cotton, the waxing takes place in Dundee, Scotland, at a cotton waxer established in the mid 19th century. And the mac is all cut and made in London. It’s named after a street in East London, close to a pub where Tom always seemed to forget his coat.
A percentage of the profits from the coat will go to the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society in India.
Which piece is your favourite?
Steffy: The mustard Bamberg corduroy Coach Jacket. It’s awesome to be able to say this is an all British product – the fabric is British and the jacket is made in London, how great is that? We are very proud of this piece.
The corduroy makes the colour very vibrant, the jacket has matte button down press-studs and royal blue piping, we liked it so much we made it in an olive-shade as well. It’s being made as we speak and is available later this autumn.
Rich: For me, it’s the Khaki Skipton Bomber Jacket, I have been waiting a long time to get it on, we are all about perfecting the basics which I believe this bomber is a testament to.
Where did you take your main reference points from?
Tom: Nordic winters and British tradition, essentially. Taking in to consideration that Steffy is Swedish and both myself and Rich are British we started with the concept of what a British person would wear if they were to experience Scandinavian winters. We really wanted to focus on fabrics and the touch of the collection.
You’re all about ethical treatment of workers on the supply chain, wonderful to hear. Can you tell us about your relationships with the factories and charities you’ve worked with this season?
Rich: We aspire to bring about change through good practice, but most importantly through learning from and listening to our community of producers. We visit all our factories regularly, it’s important to us to build a good relationship with them. Every season we talk with a worker from one of our factories and feature the interview in our printed publication called the Wax Journal as well as online. We are proud of our workers and want to show off I guess. This season you can read about Metin, our sample maker, from our London factory.
In Istanbul, we work with a factory that has excellent standards, we want to feel good about where our pieces come from -we’ve been to factories in Turkey where we’ve all agreed we shouldn’t use just to get a cheaper price as it just didn’t sit right.
As for the charity part of the brand: it is important for us to give back so each season we create a Hero piece from which a proportion of the profits is donated to a charity.
This seasons hero piece is the Navarino Mac, made in England. The charity is the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society in India, where I have family roots. The organisation supports the education of 640 girls; from transportation to scholarships and teacher salaries.
Before we know it, next season will be upon us, any secrets you can share?
Steffy: We will continue to experiment with origami cut pieces like T-shirts made entirely from one piece of fabric, sweatshirts with hidden slope pockets and split-cut hoodies.
Our favourite shades for spring are dusty green and ghost pink; we are trying to achieve that feeling cloth only gets in summer when it’s left lying around on the beach; softened by the sandy wind and faded by the sun.
Photos: Naomi Akvama, Copenhagen, Denmark