At What Price Pride

The question is often asked “who we are?” or “what do we do?”.  Quite a bit of confusion abounds over how to get hold of one of our shirts, coats, or other splendid things we find along the way.  Sometimes the tone is more disgruntled. “Do you actually want to sell anything?  Why is it so difficult to get a shirt?”  Perhaps a favorite point of consternation is whether we are a clothing company that travels or travelers that create clothing?  Of course my response to this line of questioning is equally maddening.  Both.

Before we threaded a stitch or waded through bolts of shirting material we were travelers.  If you’ve read the older journal posts you can see that we aren’t playing around.  From the earliest of days travel has driven me just as it has touched others in our merry little group.  Ive always had to push a bit further, to see what was just around the bend, over the next ridge line, or to see first hand the shimmer on the horizon.  I suppose a therapist would say that I’m never satisfied with what I have, that something is missing that keeps me searching.  Who am I to argue?  I do know that the true explorers of our world of both the geographic and mental variety are incredibly worthy of my admiration.  I believe that humans have an innate curiosity, a wanderlust.  To dampen this is to go against our very nature.  The chap in the corner office looking at figures and tallies of why things cant be done, not so much of an inspiration.

So, we are travelers who have a good eye for things.  Fortunate enough to grow up in such a manner that we understand the intrinsic worth of something.  The lovely people that we occasionally partner up with aren’t culled from a business directory.  These are people that for one reason or another we have migrated towards.  I’m not sure there is a moment as powerful as when seemingly at random, two kindred spirits connect.  That combustion and instant drive can be overwhelming.  Yet that’s how it happens.  Its happened in Parma, in Lancashire, and in Buenos Aires.  All people so incredibly passionate about what they do that it is completely infectious.  You meet an older gentleman in Northampton and suddenly you are engaged by his version of the correct British sole.  As darkness falls you leave the leathery smells behind, shaking his worn hand and knowing that you will be doing something together in the future.  These are the people you want to surround yourself with.  Young or old, it doesn’t matter; but there must be that passion.

I know that terms such as curated, small batch, artisanal, and crafted are terrific buzz words at the moment.  Without attaching a label it’s what the people that make our goods (ok, attaching a label might be easier) have been doing for generations.  Its all they know how to do.  They have to run in small batches because they aren’t set up to run bigger.  Many things are hand stitched because they feel that this is the only correct way.  We stick things in our cases when we travel.  Some times we sell these things.  Other times we order more of these things.  I tell people  we make unique, hand made items, from some fairly out of the way places,  available to a select group.  Apparently I’m supposed to say we curate for a discerning market.

We are gone a significant amount.  Some of us more than others.  As a result,  our offerings have been sporadic at best.  We know this and frankly don’t know what we want to do about it.  Our shirts really are beautiful.  I love it when I receive emails and yes, letters (someones been paying attention to my ravings) about how much a shirt means to someone.  Its the same reason I had the shirts made for my self to begin with.  To have something in your wardrobe that you are so enthralled with that you wear it again and again with little regard to hygeine is a true testament.  I want you to feel that way about your shirt.  To be out of sorts when you are stuck wearing one of your other shirts that you thought was so grand (and pricier) until you received one of our chocolate coloured boxes in the post.

I want more people to experience the above.  I honestly do.  However, I’m not prepared to sit in a cubbyhole all day so that more people have more items to chose from.  Here is where pride tends to get in the way.  In order to provide an opportunity for more people to lay their hands on our cloth (I couldn’t resist) things would have to be dramatically different.  Ive been approached by groups who want to use our name and our style for shirts produced in fairly large factories in Eastern Europe and Asia.  Ive nothing against these places.  I travel there, Ive been to these factories but its just not the same.  There isn’t that connection or that sense of history and place.  Our shirts don’t have to be made in Italy but I like the family we work with.  There is a fantastic history of shirt making in Northern India that harkens back to the days of The Raj. A skilled family owned company that cut their teeth producing material and later finished goods for the British officers in the hill country.  At a later time I’d love to work with these charming people.  Its a perfect fit for us but I have an obligation to the fine hands that stitched that very first shirt.  This is relevant to me and it should be to you.

Objects with a true heritage and sense of place are incredibly important in this world.  Do you know that trout don’t live in ugly places?  Amazing shirts aren’t stitched there either….

I’m told that how we do things is not the correct way to run a profitable business.  Who said anything about a business, let alone a profitable one?  At this time we pass these items along and hope to clear enough to fund our trip and to make sure that the family is happy.  From time to time I do entertain the notion of “getting serious” and I do think it the correct thing to do in order to provide more of an offering to those that want.  I’m told that my pride gets in the way of some massive type expansion.  I’m okay with that but I know I need to give just a bit.   Rather than look at an operation that churns out goods for everyone under the sun I’d rather invest in the friends that we have made.  A couple of new machines in Italy, perhaps the same in Argentina.  Still not sure what we can do for George and his gang in Northampton but it will be something worthwhile when I think of it.

I realize this has done little to shed much light on us.   However,  I can promise that one of two things will happen down the road.  We will continue as we are, trickling out product as we see fit or we will get partly serious (never get completely serious about anything) and I won’t  let my pride get in the way of sharing more of our lovely treasures with more of you discerning people.

Until then. I have a flight to catch…..


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