James Eden, the great-grandson of Private Jack White, has kept true to the fundamentals that White founded Private White V.C. onmanufacturing solely British-made goods with a focus on tradition and quality in the garments. We spent some time with James Eden to learn more about the background of the brand, and what they're working on for AW13.
Do you have a New Years resolution? What is it?
JE: To eat/drink/work less and play more. Cant see it happening though!
So, you went from being a businessman to reviving the factory your grandfather started, and helping many local craftspeople in the process. How has your experience in the fashion world been so far?
JE: Ive always had a heavy emotional investment in my great grandfathers factory, having worked here when on holiday or not in school. It is now a couple of years since I made a financial investment and I have never looked back. There has a lot more fun to be in the fashion world compared to finance but theres a lot more work and far more complexities involved in a factory than on any trading floor.
Most fashion start-ups are run by designers and lack someone with the financial know-how to build a viable business. What financial advice would you give a designer just starting out?
JE: Make sure the numbers stack up!! The easiest thing is to overdesign and under-price but that will only get you so far. Nobody wants to be a busy fool. The levels of effort, dedication, commitment and time (not to mention money) are huge and so you want to ensure that it all goes towards creating a viable and most importantly sustainable business that offers value to everyone.
How would you describe the design direction for Private White?
JE: PW is all about functional, practical, British menswear that can be worn all day every day. We strive to use only the finest locally sourced materials and take great pride in the fact that all our garments are made in our own factory. Nick is a big fan of what he likes to call, Techno Retro. A great example would be our Ventile SB Mac which pays homage to the cotton SB rain mac that has been a factory staple for nearly a century. An extremely classic piece but by using Ventile (developed 4km up the road in Manchester incidentally) and taping the seams we have created a more technical, functional (waterproof), and modern update.
Who designs it?
JE: Our designer is Nick Ashley, former head of menswear at Dunhill who was also Creative Director at Laura Ashley, his family business for 12 years. (The late, great Laura Ashley was his mother). Nick has done it all from working in a tailor on Savile Row where he kitted out the likes of The Stones and The Beatles to finishing 3rd place in the Paris-Dakar Rally. Hes a great guy with impeccable taste and so his designs, which are conceived first and foremost with himself in mind, tend to appeal to most men out there.
Tell us about your commitment to local production and sourcing.
JE: If we cant produce the garments ourselves then we will not offer them. Its as simple as that.
Do you think a major part of your clientele looks for locally made products? Or is it just an added benefit for people who like the styling and quality of your products?
JE: its a case of different strokes for different folks. I think the most important thing is the quality and styling. The fact that we are an English factory brand that handcrafts all its own pieces in the same family factory (same building even!) where our founder cut his first pattern after the First World War is an added bonus.
Do you think that more brands can / should start making their collections locally? Is there a sustainable business model for that? Does one have to stay small to make it work?
JE: The sad reality is that there are simply not enough English factories out there and we are pretty much the last remaining factory who does everything from design, pattern making, fabric weaving, stitching and finishing all in house. In an ideal world, everyone would want to make everything in house or in the house next door but its not just possible. We are very proud to have such a fantastic and unique factory, background, experience and infrastructure and we hope this comes across in our garments.
Whats new for AW13?
JE: Given that we have only ever sold our garments in our own factory, our own standalone London Stores and in Harrods & Japan all our products are all brand new to the US. I know our Twin Track Biker Jacket is going to be received extremely well. At the Pop Up Flea in NYC last month, we sold 14 pieces in the first day and a half!
How was your experience popping up in NYC in December?
JE: I have been an avid follower of A Continuous Lean for a long time and so it was an honour to be invited to attend the Pop Up Flea in December. The interest and attention that we were faced with were staggering and it left us in no doubt that the US is hungry for a high integrity and high quality English factory label.
Do you think finance guys in general need style upgrades?
JE: Yes and nobut more yes than no!! Most guys that I used to work with actually didnt care about their own appearance whilst there was a portion that would simply try to buy their own style which they would do with tragic effects by only shopping the most expensive stores and labels and hoping for the best! Walking round the City of London or Canary Wharf you see some tragic fashion faux pas day in and day out. Having said all that, some of the best dressers I know, work in finance. These are discerning inquisitive guys who have a keen attention to detail. They take their appearance extremely seriously and so tend to be well read, well researched and so well turned out.
James Eden inside Private White V.C.'s factory, where every product is made in Manchester. Learn more about the factory here.
Where do you live: Manchester, England (8mins walk from the factory)
Currently reading: The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
Currently listening to: Anything by Bowie, Petty, The Stones, or Tom Petty
Favorite restaurant: Wings in Manchester. Best Chinese in the UK if not the world!
Favorite possession: Brutus, my 7 month year old bulldog, British of course!