In a soft cotton fabric with a fine gingham check, this garment is cut by hand (a shirt comprises of around 30 different pieces), before being sewn together by a single machinist (in mass production facilities, several people work on each shirt). The shirt is constructed in such a way that the pattern aligns at every seam and intersection.
There is no fusing or gluing: everything is sewn with 16 stitches per inch for durability, and the collar, cuffs and placket are created with the "under pressing" method which ensures they keep their shape and won't "bubble" after cleaning. A worker, who also creates the buttonholes, attaches the mother-of-pearl buttons.
The jacket is constructed from heavy herringbone tweed sourced from Scotland, and has a fully canvassed construction. This ensures the jacket will hang well and mould to the shape of the wearer. The jacket is partially lined and has a two-button front and a single vent. The factory produces just a few jackets per day.
"I enjoy pulling strands of British tradition, quality and skill together in clothes that are meant to be worn in the real world, where good design is about living with thoughtful style," says Ms Howell. The designer takes inspiration from the clothes and fabrics, and looks to art, 20th-century design and landscapes for ideas.
Designer Ms Margaret Howell established her eponymous label in London in 1972, initially producing men's shirts. Inspired by a finely stitched vintage one which she had chanced upon in a jumble sale, Ms Howell set about creating "loosened up" versions of traditional Jermyn Street shirts, retaining their quality and meticulous construction, but making the designs more fluid and contemporary. In many respects, this sums up the Margaret Howell design philosophy which remains the same today, even though the range has expanded to include full men's and women's collections. Margaret Howell clothes are renowned for their understated, intelligent design, and are known equally for being extremely well-made from superior materials, many of which are sourced from specialist British fabric mills. Ms Howell frequently takes inspiration from fabrics and garments themselves ("I work from the product up," explains the designer), rather than following trends or espousing grand narratives in her collections, which explains the clothes' subtle, timeless appeal. Indeed, "clothes not fashion" is a motto that the brand has unofficially adopted, although that is not to discount the serious design and manufacturing considerations behind each piece of the collection.
margaret howell in pictures
THE MODERN CLASSICS
"I loosened up traditional Jermyn Street shirts and Harris tweed jackets, did the deconstructed bit, and freshened it up," Ms Howell explains
In the 1980 cult classic, Mr Jack Nicholson insisted on wearing his own Margaret Howell corduroy jacket in the famous door axing scene among others
THE MID-CENTURY DESIGN
Margaret Howell stores sell mid-century British design, such as the Anglepoise lamp and Ercol furniture, alongside the clothes, often in special collaborative reissues