Thinking of buying this style? Interested in the FRAHM product design process? I thought I’d talk through my design rationale, from the why to the what, the ups and the downs.
I’ve been making Harringtons in various guises throughout my career in apparel. I’m proud to say I’ve won awards, best in tests and they’ve been featured in places like Esquire, Der Spiegel and Guardian Style. I think they’re THE fail safe men’s casual style that you can throw on easily. This suits my design preferences of making things with high practicality disguised within classic style. A Harrington is an urbane workhorse.
The four Harringtons I designed for my previous brand Vulpine, won international press & awards. I've taken what I learnt from these, and improved upon them. Image: Alexander Rhind
My problem has always been that there’s nothing out there with that self-fabled mix of toughness, detail & performance. A Harrington is usually a big piece of cotton with zip and some lining. It falls apart after one season. If I see that, I see where FRAHM can solve a problem.
This design brief was unusual for me, in that I’ve already made a tougher more technical Harrington, the Racer. This is a motorcycling influenced, armoured design, but quite different from the Hollywood archetype.
The FRAHM Harrington Racer Jacket is our other Harrington and was our second launch design
This was my brief: To sprinkle the ‘FRAHM’ magic (if I may) over a design but keeping it very VERY faithful to the original, rather than a clear rethink.
This is the most subtly innovated design I’ve ever worked on. To NOT outwardly innovate, but to very carefully up the quality, performance & detail, whilst making sure it adheres to what I see as an unbeatable style - the style that James Dean, Daniel Craig , Leonardo DiCaprio & Steve McQueen have all rocked wonderfully in their careers. I did a blog on Harrington style featuring these guys a while ago.
That’s harder than you think. Yet easier. The confines of this brief keep it very simple - just find better.
HOW TO MAKE A CLASSIC BETTER
Fabric choices for other Harringtons have tended to centre around either a shiny, noisy, smelly synthetic for lightness, fast drying & longevity, or a plain cotton that has no performance, but much nicer feel. Handily our main fabric collaborators British Millerain in Rochdale make a specific Harrington fabric - a cotton/synthetic blend, treated to make it showerproof. This combination gives the quiet soft hand-feel of cotton, with the light touch longevity and sheer smoothness of a synthetic. This makes for a Harrington that’s wonderfully comfortable but also last years, not a season. That’s a must.
Then, I went for a gorgeous red/blue tartan check for the lining. This is 100% cotton and is literally brushed, to create an extremely soft, luxurious flannel finish. It’s a showstopper!
I use our carefully researched custom hardened stainless steel gunmetal YKK zips, for reliability and beauty. Gunmetal is less ‘in your face’ and a bit more grow up than the bling of silver, gold or brass. The zip front is partly covered by fabric, to leave a smooth design to the eye, reducing the metal’s impact on the eye. This zip type is used again for the large inner chest phone pocket.
Button closures are a key facet of the original design, and I chose polished natural Italian horn, for toughness and hand feel. These are used at the hand pocket flaps, neck closure, hip adjuster, cuff adjusters and the inner ticket pocket (it’ll fit a big ticket or 10!).
Just about the only outward design change is those hip adjusters. I’m not a fan of elastic on most designs, so using hip tabs at the rear means you can nip in the waist/hips if you’re skinny, or leave them be. It also breaks up the back of the jacket fabric with some subtle design detail.
I love vents, as they are so good at keeping you comfortable. The rear shoulder vent is like the racer, a slim ‘jet’ like opening between the shoulder blades to dump moist warm air away.
As ever, I love to add articulation of the fabric to encourage it to shape correctly around the body rather than limply. We did this at the shoulders and elbows.
Add in a subtle, expensive, but vital component of all our jackets - they're twin needle (double) stitched. No seams coming undone here.
TESTING & ITERATION
As I gave myself such a restrictive design brief, the parameters felt very clear from day one. Just make all the materials we use far better and tweak it without showing it. So the level of research, development and iteration from testing was very low.
We got it almost exactly right first time. So much so that I felt quite unnerved, as I usually have a list of maybe 30-50 changes that are required on initial prototypes.
The first photo was beautiful from the start. We knew we’d got it. I wanted a more sturdy collar, with more easily used buttons, so we adjusted those.
The cuff adjusters needed a bit of beefing up and we nipped the corners off them and the hand pocket flaps to hint at FRAHM’s design language (on the Utility Field Jacket pocket flaps for instance).
Same again with the hip adjusters, with smaller buttons but wider tabs.
We tweaked the sizing a bit, raised the collar 1cm at rear and a sliver at the front.
That’s about it!
The FRAHM Classic Harrington Jacket is a lightweight, extremely comfortable and very well constructed casual jacket for work, pub and going out. It’s showerproof for a burst of unexpected rain and very breathable for warm active days. The design details, we think and hope, are beautiful. The fit has been carefully refined for real-world men and real use over the last 10 years.
Above all, I think we’ve moved an all time classic’s quality & detail into a far higher space. This is what gets me up in the morning. I can’t wait for you to receive it.