Video by Mr Pierre Debusschere | Styling by Ms Tanja Martin
Words by Mr Benjamin Seidler
In the ten years since its foundation, London-based label Folk has established itself as a purveyor of unpretentious and easy style. The brand's Scottish founder and designer Mr Cathal McAteer sums up Folk's ethos by quoting the legendary furniture designer Mr Charles Eames: "The details are not the details. They make the design."
What led you to start Folk?
I worked my socks off and found a way to do it. I started working in a shop, then for a brand, and then started an agency helping to produce clothes around the world. Instead of spending the money, I saved it for Folk. I had always wanted to start a clothing brand in my style and wasn't thinking of filling a gap in the market. At the time, things were a bit too sportswear influenced or too "designer" for my taste - you couldn't sell anything unless it had a really strong brand name and logos held such a huge value to the consumer. My love affair with the rag trade started with labels that had no obvious branding. If I was going to make clothes, they were going to be influenced by that type of designer.
What distinguishes Folk from other labels?
We've never had a theme. If there's a trend going on, we'll go the other way on purpose. It feels better to be out of the trend spotlight. We've got enough customers now, so we focus on taking care of them and then they take care of us.
How would you describe the Folk man?
We've noticed we're selling to media-savvy guys who have their fingers on the pulse. I wouldn't say they're trend makers, but they're guys who are very up on technology and what's cool. But I don't study it too much - people tell me those things. I think we're part of a group of companies that come to the forefront when people are interested in things beyond big brands, because we come across as local and nice.
Where did the name Folk come from?
My friend thought it was the perfect name for something I was going to do, as it's a term that Scottish people [like me] use a lot. It also references folk music and the camaraderie and wholesomeness associated with that world.
Who, living or dead, do you think represents the Folk style?
We would have liked to have dressed Samuel Beckett.
What's your favourite piece in the winter collection?
I really like the wool and cotton waistcoat. It's got a buckle in the back and it feels really toasty for the winter. This season our buckles are cast and filed down by hand, so they're not too perfect and have quite a nice feeling.
What items do you think make for the backbone of a man's wardrobe today?
Personally, I rely on knitwear, shirts and a great pair of shoes. I like John Lobb and Folk shoes. I also found a pair of jeans I like, so I have four pairs of them and wear them every day.
How did you come up with the idea for the rollneck sweater whose collar doubles up as a Balaclava?
That was a "hey, let's do this" moment. That was designed over a cup of tea and some chocolate at 4 o'clock when we were getting tired, and it was fun and has worked quite well for us. We've always been a bit daring with our knitwear.
Is there something particularly British about the Folk label?
We don't produce everything in England, but we are a British company and our whole team lives and has fun in London. A lot of our enjoyment at living here comes across in what we design.
So what's your favourite part of London?
I spend a lot of time during the weekend on Hampstead Heath with my children. It's the best urban park in Britain. I like to swim in the ponds up there and try to do it for as much of the year as possible, even though they're getting quite cold.
Folk is an independent business which you started on your own. What advice do you have for someone starting a clothing business today?
It takes a long time. Our brand didn't become a business until I met Fraser, our managing director. He's like a black-belt in business, and before he came along Folk was creatively very strong, but we needed someone who was an expert in commerce. The numbers do make a difference and allow you to grow and get to the next level. Fraser gave us a stable plan in a fashion world that can be quite erratic.