Let’s take a deep dive into the design process and inspirations behind the Far Afield AW18 collection, ‘Cotton Town’, with founder and creative director, Mark. Shop the full collection now.
So, ‘Cotton Town’, where does that title come from?
It’s inspired by my home city, Manchester, where I was born, raised, studied, worked – and some 10+ years ago eventually left. The name Cotton Town is a reference to Manchester’s industrial revolution heritage, which I am sure everyone already knows about.
Far Afield is inspired by travel, and looking that little bit further for our inspiration. However, following the terrorist attack in 2017, my emotional attachment to the City made me want to celebrate all the things I love about Manchester and look back at home. This AW18 collection is an ode to Manchester and some of the things that have made it great over the years.
What does Manchester mean to you? Is it the history of the place, the people, the music, the industrial heritage that continues to inspire you?
Family, friends, and memories are the first thing that I think of when I think of home. And then I suppose on a more cultural level, it’s the music, the night clubs, the friendliness of the people (that excludes the chap who tried to mug me once in Hulme), the subtle but great modernist architecture, the great pub and bar culture. And not so much these days, as Jose Mourinho does my head in, Manchester United.
There are some great prints in this collection, how were they developed?
Inspiration comes from all directions, we research until we can’t research no more, put the research on a moodboard, make sense of it all, and let the natural design process take over.
In terms of the prints, there is a nod to the graphic designer, Peter Saville, and a wink to the emblematic music scene and Factory Records. The industrial revolution is subtly acknowledged, along with the pastimes of that era; drinking beer, football, and pigeon racing. Proper northern pastimes.
Our ‘Dale Floral’ shirt is actually inspired by some old tiles we found on Rochdale Town Hall, which apparently represent the cotton leaf. And one of the most enjoyable parts of creating this collection was trawling through some online archives to find old textile prints from Manchester mills back in the early 1920’s and 30’s.
Another source of inspiration was a magazine we love, The Modernist Magazine. After reading a recent copy, I was reintroduced to the old GM Buses insignia (Greater Manchester). This brought back great memories for me, and we went on to use it on our GM shirt, GM socks, and GM Knit – which is the stand out piece of knitwear in the collection for me. We also reference some of the lesser known modernist architecture in Manchester, like the Renold building.
We also proudly reference Manchester’s “Worker Bee” on a selection of the shirting and sock designs, where we have promised to donate 50% of sales from all “Worker Bee” designs to the WE LOVE MCR Emergency Fund, supporting those affected by the 2017 attack.
Besides the city, are there any other inspirations that led you to this collection?
Also, the names of the pieces of knitwear were inspired by the great British soap opera, Coronation Street. For the savvy Mancunians reading this, you may recognise the names Tanner, Sharples, Cropper & Barlow.
The brand and your design process are linked to your love of music – what are your top 3 bands to come out of Manchester?
I am terrible at these type of questions. I am going to break it down to make my life easier …
Aged 13 – 17 – This is quite easy, there were three big bands that I loved at this age; The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, Oasis. All very influential in enabling my early Manc’ swagger, questionable hair cuts and dodgy clothes. I still love the Happy Mondays, ‘Bobs Yer Uncle’ being a firm favourite, and everytime I hear The Stone Roses whilst out and about I get pangs of nostalgia. Oasis, however, I have happily left in the past.
Aged 17+ – It was about this age I started “going out” in Manchester so musical horizons naturally start to broaden. As well as bands, DJ’s, producers & club nights started to become much more important to me, which is what I am much more interested in these days. As for bands, it is impossible to name three, so here is a list of decent Manchester related bands that I have enjoyed over the years; ACR, Elbow, The Fall, New Order, The Durutti Column, Autechre, The Chemical Brothers, Doves, Lamb, Andy Votel … even Simply Red, Bee Gees.
The colour palette is muted and earthy, how did you settle on these tones?
Along with classic AW textures including wool and flannel, there is lots of cord and heavy cotton, how did you pick the fabrics and how important is the quality to you?
Cord screams Manchester to me. I don’t know why, but when I think of Manchester I think of a heavy 6 wale cord. Obviously quality is always important, and we source our fabrics from some of the leading mills across Europe and Asia. I would say the collections fabric choices certainly suites the environment it is inspired by.
What are the 3 key Far Afield pieces you would recommend any gent to have in his Autumn/Winter wardrobe?
GM Knit – This is a mega piece of knitwear and is indescribably soft to touch. We are nearly sold out in this already too, has been very well received.
Fleece Station Jacket – Great layering piece, super soft, and comes in a brick, navy or mustard colour.
Pigeon Shirt – Button down shirt and full of pigeons. What more do you want?