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The shirt: overview

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.

The shirt: DETAILS

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

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.

The design

"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.

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Blazer, Shirt and Trousers by Margaret Howell
Photography by Mr Michael Bodiam | Words by Mr Peter Henderson
"I am a hands-on designer and make is integral to my philosophy. It's crucial how a piece of clothing feels when worn. I've always wanted clothes to be the way I drew them - relaxed, lived in, a natural look"
Ms Margaret Howell

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