Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let it rain on Mount Street

We all grumble about the wet weather but rarely do anything about it aside from getting all wet and bothered. Thankfully, in 1823, Charles Macintosh developed the process of spreading rubber onto cotton to create the worldʼs first formal waterproof fabric, signaling the arrival of the original Mackintosh coat. Since then it has dedicated itself to keep the world stylishly dry. Today, Mackintosh is a firmly established brand with an almost cult status, especially in the Japanese market. Recognised for its unique hand made authenticity, the great British label produce outerwear for a diverse range of clients in Paris, Milan and Tokyo; including high profile luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, Dior, YSL and fashion designers Erdem, Junya Watanabe and Nigel Cabourn to name but a meaty mouthful.  

Thankfully, the brand resisted temptation from Japan and has opted to open its maiden store in the aptly, drizzly British capital.  The fabulously located Mount Street store officially opens its doors this evening but I was extremely fortunate to have Daniel Dunko, UK managing director of Mackintosh Ltd, as my store guide and brand enlightener earlier this afternoon.

I could not have had a better guide to talk me through the beautiful two story space than Mackintosh's very own Daniel Dunko. As he talked me through the latest designs, I was amazed to learn that he began his working life with Mackintosh as an apprentice on the factory floor back in 1983 and has since worked his way up to the position he hold now. He has worked for Mackintosh for twenty eight years come May. Following the three year apprenticeship he then served on the Cumbernauld floor for two years before embarking on a sales and marketing position at the company, then a directorship in 1996 and he never looked back. It was an absolute pleasure to hear about Dunko's experiences right from the craftsmanship of the factory floor to buyouts and investments. Unsurprisingly, he was hugely excited by the latest development in his brand's rich history. It was contagious.  

104 Mount Street is Mackintosh's flagship store. Prior to that they have enjoyed a strong concession presence, particularly in Japan and the rest of Asia but the brand began to put the plans together for their own space two years ago. Thankfully they only had their sights on London. Previously, the only retail presence they had in the capital was a shared store with Globetrotter located in Burlington Arcade which was forced to close following changes of ownership. Soon after they decided that they needed their own flagship store and, as they are a relatively niche brand, Mayfair and Mount Street were the perfect fit.

World famous interior designers and architects Wonderwall created the two floor, 90sqm state-of-the-art store and key features include an interior in tune with the modern Mackintosh brand and is truly inspired by its British craftsmanship. The design sought to showcase the brand's rich history, fruitful archives and latest ranges in a welcoming consumer friendly environment. For me, the design highlight has to be the three display cases showing iconic pieces from the Mackintosh's history. Since its inception, the brand has always been at the forefront of outerwear design and these display cases are a welcome reminded. From the Army coat from the 1930s which was a very heavy, rubberised bonded twill, to the a Dispatch Riders coat worn in the second World War to help deliver on deliver messages to the troops via motorcycles on the front line, on to to the British Rail days and outfitting rail staff in the 70s.

Mackintosh is undoubtedly a brand of modern heritage built on true craftsmanship and a two hundred year history. If you were in any doubt, the Mount Street store gently reminds you at every turn, from  the encased vintage pieces to the feel of their latest garments which hang invitingly on hooks and rails. Every genuine Mackintosh garment is carefully hand made by skilled craftsmen who serve a three-year apprenticeship to perfect the techniques required to make a true mackintosh. With its factory in Cumbernauld, Scotland focused on hand made outerwear, Mackintosh also owns a second factory in Nelson, England producing the machine made side of its collections. The brand have sixty people in the Lancashire factory and about sixty seven in the factory in Scotland. Production wise it is similarly equally split. The Scottish factory creates all of he handmade pieces, and the factory in England concentrates on the machine work with cashmeres, wools, gabardines. I was amazed to learn that the label produce around thirty five thousand garments apiece at these pillars of British manufacturing.

In terms of design, the brand's archive pieces are hugely important and the teams in both Glasgow and Japan continue to rework, renew and reinvigorate items of yesteryear for the future generation of Mackintosh wearers. The archive is approximately five hundred pieces strong, many of which are the results of collaborations, from catwalk piece for Louis Vuitton to Balenciaga, Comme des Garcons to Yohji Yamaoto and shortly the fruits of the design partnership with Kitsune. Having had my interest in the latest collaboration piqued after the Voyageur collection received a fair amount of blog coverage in the run up Christmas, this was the first opportunity I had to see it in the cloth and I was not left disappointed.  This is a happy marriage of two like minded brands, one from a manufacturing background and one from a design perspective combining to create truly covetable outerwear. Fittingly, I was particularly taken with the London. Stunning.

The unveiling of this impressive store, coupled with the brand’s British heritage and modern cuts, truly confirms the resurgence of the brand. Mackintosh will never forget that the rubberised coat was one of the most creative and revolutionary innovations that changed the lives of so many during that era.  However, most interestingly the brand keeps evolving and offering timeless contemporay collections. Mackintosh is the original British rainwear brand, long may it continue. Let it rain.

(Pleased with myself as I managed to make it through to the end of the post without bursting in to Mark Morrisons' classic)

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