The debut collection of Afield’s Let’s Go Swimming takes us on a stroll along the seaside with a soft colour palette offset by bold, vintage-style prints and the absolute mark of summer: Breton striping. It’s relaxed and easy to wear, but will definitely get glances thrown your way and we have nearly every piece on our warm weather must-have list. Coming up to the release of our next print issue – The Art Issue, we were pleased to learn that a subtle 1960’s era David Hockney played a part in the narrative, as did the colourful, beach-hewn aerial photography of Gray Malin.
We sat down with Mark Scholes, founder of the new, contemporary menswear brand, to get the inside story on Afield’s early success – it’s already stocked in more than sixty stores – and what we can expect next.
Hi Mark, congratulations on Afield. What made you decide to launch a new menswear brand after fronting tropics-inspired brand, tuktuk for six years?
Hello…and thank you. tuktuk is a brand that I founded back in 2009 and have been manning the ship ever since. Previous to this, I had worked in various menswear retail jobs whilst at university in Manchester, where I also graduated with a degree in Marketing/Fashion.
In regards to launching Afield, this is actually the evolution and rebrand of tuktuk. After six very successful years, we felt that to take the brand forward it was time for a re-brand and a move in a more mature, contemporary direction. This has included a new name, logo, e-commerce site (due to launch February 2017), and a more rounded design philosophy; this is now what we know as Afield.
Your base is Brighton. Does headquartering outside of London give you more of an edge?
I’d say it certainly gives us a financial advantage. In Brighton, we have an office/warehouse, multi-brand store (Thread-Menswear), and we are – fingers crossed – opening a new Afield flagship store next year. I am pretty sure we couldn’t cover the rent on all those units if it was all London based!
A disadvantage would be that, although we are only one hour outside the hub, most international buyers don’t like to travel out when they land in London. We would love to have our own sales showroom one day, but if we did do that, it would have to be London based.
Can you walk us through your product mix for SS17?
Okay…first up is our jackets and suiting; we’ve got a range of tailored linen and cotton jackets, denim and twill shirt jackets, and a lightweight casual waterproof. All very classic in design, but with a few contemporary twists here and there, to give them an Afield signature.
Our knitwear covers a range of garments, including heavy knit fisherman-style crewnecks, classic polo shirts, contrast knits, raglan sweaters and knitted t-shirts. For the knitwear we used a variety of cotton yarns, gauges and knitting techniques to give the garments an interesting textured look and feel throughout. The Aaron Creep Polo’s are a personal favourite, and have a very ‘70’s, laidback, poolside feel to them.
For our shirts and t-shirts, all our prints are designed in-house, and are unique to us. I certainly feel that our prints are what make us stand out from other brands. We use only high quality fabrics from our mills, and for SS17 we have used a variety of cotton and linen, poplins, jacquards, dobby, twill, chambray’s, slub jersey…all sorts, really. All garments are finished with the best trims: corozo, shell, mother of pearl, ykk, etc.
We’ve also got classic drawstring swim shorts, in colourful geometric designs. There are tailored trousers and shorts, to match the aforementioned suit jackets, a small but jazzy selection of cotton socks and some basic raglan sweatshirts made from a super soft loop back cotton jersey.
Where do you source your fabrics and finishings and where is the collection made?
We manufacture in Turkey, India and Sri Lanka, and source the fabrics and trims from the same countries, mainly.
I’m actually based in Istanbul, where I oversee all our Turkey production and liaise with the factories directly. We also have a small office and sample room in Sri Lanka who also oversee all factory production in that district.
We know all the factories we work with very well, and have built good relationships over the years by regularly visiting and keeping in direct contact. I think it’s important to work like this, it gives you much more control, and you also know that nothing untoward is going on.
Who would you like to see wearing Afield?
A well-travelled, smartly dressed chap who has a penchant for good design and the finer things in life.
What does the name mean?
Afield is a play on ‘further afield’. As a brand we are heavily inspired by travel, and looking that little bit further for our inspiration. Our tag line is ‘Look Further’ and the brand name Afield, so all should make sense to the customer.
You’re going to be stocked in sixty plus stores for your debut collection. How did you pull that off?
Obviously, the collection has to be commercial, well-designed, and of good quality, but getting the right sales people behind you is essential to getting your brand out there.
We work with sales agents in Italy and Germany, and we have showroom space in Madrid, London, and New York. For a first season we are happy with sixty plus, but for AW17 we would like to be topping one hundred plus.
Will we be seeing you at London Fashion Week Men’s in January for the AW17 season?
Alas, no, we start the menswear trade shows in January. We will be showing in Las Vegas, Berlin, Florence, London and Copenhagen from January through to March.
Words by Courtney Blackman