It’s sheeting it down today. Allll day. Heavy rain means I need to get out and test. Lily the Jack Russell has mixed feelings - a long walk, but a drippy fur one. Comme ci, comme ca.
Testing isn't glamourous. (Unless you're testing a smart coat in a cocktail bar, so, err, it can be glamourous).
I’m always shocked how little actual testing is done in the clothing industry, let alone apparel. Maybe you, like me, have often thought “did they ever actually try this on?!” The problem is when a product development team have to create 300 new garments as season, all different, from pants to rain jackets, there is no way you’ll be able to test it, even if you wanted to. Get it done. Next. Repeat.
Their pressure is our shared frustration and FRAHM’s advantage. We only make jackets. We don’t do seasons - each style is created to be the same, year on year. We might tweak it to improve it, but the garment should be released as good as it could possibly be. This means a lot of upfront cost, time & stress, but once it’s done, it should be (and of course I’m deeply biased!) way better than its competitors.
I have rules that I adhere too, and over time I’ve built on my instincts with experience via a lot of mistakes you don’t see. A lot.
There’s a lot more samples getting made. Our R&D costs are high, but I’m building a long-term reputation, so it pays to do this, eventually. Luckily, being my own boss, I can make expensive (in the short term) decisions like that. It will pay off, I’m convinced. I wanted better designed, longer lasting garments. So do you.
In this photo I’m wearing a garment that I decided not to make. It’s a simple long coat made from a lovely new twill (it has a rougher, more textured surface) from your mates and mine, British Millerain, the original creators of waxed fabric. It doesn’t quite work. It’s a 7/10. I don’t do ‘good’ jackets. I still find okayish samples useful. They remind you of what’s right. They keep you on your toes. Give you a slap. Stay sharp, don't lose your edge Nick!
What’s wrong with it? Well, it’s not quite smart enough for work and not quite relaxed/outdoors for dog walks (which I’m doing here). It’s not quietly innovative enough for FRAHM. Maybe it should be lined, but then it’s warmer and less breathable. So less width of use. Essentially, it is tough, but it isn’t beautiful.
What wearing it again does is give me ideas. What if I changed this? What if I retained that, moved those, added that. Why is it wrong? I made this for a reason, after all.
I apply this thinking elsewhere. I rewatch movies over and over again - I think I’m interested in what makes great films great and good films less great. Every cut, frame, lighting, cracking quip, raised eyebrow or pursed lip. It all makes an immensely complicated thing, that is consumed simply by the viewer, because it just WORKS.
Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, one of my most rewatched movies. A comedy & satirical masterclass. Still. The greatest comedy film ever? I think so.
This is how I see jackets. Hundreds of tiny decisions that make one simple, beautiful whole. My job is to keep making those decisions, without buggering it all up, by doing things like over-complicating the result or letting okay stuff through. I hate okay.
It’s tricky. I need to be confident in my abilities, but paranoid I’m doing it wrong. I walk that tightrope, to what I think is something I love, yet I worry could be better. I never stop worrying whether any of my designs could be better. I’ve just decided there’s nothing more I can currently think of, months down the line.
In the photo you can also see me wearing a hoody and cap. Which might give you a pointer to my long term thinking….! At this early stage I’m wearing lots of all kinds of clothing. Stuff I’ve always had. Stuff that’s perceived as leading the market - does it? Stuff that’s just in the middle (most things). How do each of these items perform? Do they perform at all? What’s the fit like? What would I change? What annoys me? Could I grab the zips with cold hands? Did I sweat like a peeg (sorry). So many questions. It’s fun. I like questions.
But you have to get out there and do it. Theory is important. Reality wins.
That’s why heavy rain is my friend. It’s a proper test. Not just of rain jackets, but of jackets with wide utility use, built for showers, because non-waterproof jackets are far more breathable. How long did it take to wet out? Did it at all? Where? The seams, or some pressure point I wasn’t aware of until now? Does the rain go down the back of my neck? Are the cuffs too wide or two tight in freezing winds? Does the lining get wet? And so so much more.
Today I learnt or have been reminded of these things. I’m now thinking more intensely about them, which will lead to designs and new releases, in 2022 perhaps:
- In driving rain, you need a really long coat to cover your legs - so I’m thinking about full length riding coats a lot. Thing is, long coats can be very impractical - how do I improve that?
- A turn-up collar is great, but it must snap down, not have a soft fold.
- Does it keep its shape, after the rain?
- Can I repeatedly machine wash it?
- Can I drag it through brambles (my favourite)?
- How fast does it dry?
- Linings - would I go down a lightweight route for more use throughout the year, or go for a specific warmer, likely merino wool lining, in cold weather? Thus, am I going to widen or specify its range of use?
- Hood, or not to hood?
- Caps - most are rubbish. I like a baseball cap. Do you?
- Deerstalkers, practical, but not so stylish, I feel. I don’t mind wet, or even cold ears. But it’s not just for me…
- I love a hoody. But wearing it over my head looks silly. A Man Bonnet. This hoody got wet, and it’ll stay wet. What could I use that won’t do that? Merino? What about snagging? A blend?
- What weight? What zips? It goes on….and on...
I make jackets for myself first. I know I’m intolerably fussy about clothing (Emmalou can tell you about that another time) and every aspect of design. So I use that obsession as a positive, then hope you agree with my decisions.
If I have faith in what I make, I love it. If I love it, it shows. I can’t fake passion and confidence. I don’t want to. I am what I am. So I have to sell what I believe in. So I have to make the best that I can.
I hope you agree.