Today I have the great honour of welcoming Chris from Loft Trading in Belfast to Heritage Standard. The superb Ivy inspired classic accessories are in their own words ‘Belfast born and bred’ and carry strong ethics from the appearance of their vibrant, clean adornments right to the core of the business. I’ve been following Loft for a while and first spotted their great colours in madras cotton plaid ties. After a while I invested in a couple of bandanas from them and began to discover more about the man behind the Loft Trading name, his ethics and his drive.
When and why did you decide to start Loft and how did it develop in the early stages?
Having always had a passion for quality clothes I thought it was time I contributed something of my own to the world of style. Loft Trading was born December 2012, you could say a bit earlier as it took me quite a few months to come up with the name. Applying my first trade, which is graphic design helped me a lot in the early days with branding, web store and everything else in between. Belfast was once the largest producer of Irish Linen worldwide and I thought that with a history so strong I could supply and produce quality made Irish Linen pieces to the world again, obviously on a much smaller scale. So far on my journey I have got to meet some amazing people, in particular some of the few remaining Irish Linen weavers (a labour intensive job which requires patience and determination along with skill), Daniel Giacopelli producer at Monocle 24 and Alan Maleh Publisher and Editor in Chief of Man of the World magazine and not forgetting the thousands of contacts the world over with our favourite App Instagram.
Why accessories and in particular neckwear?
Neckties would be a favourite of mine but I really got bored wearing them because they all seemed to come from the same factory… silk, nylon, too fat or too skinny. I have designed my neckties right in the middle not too fat or skinny, giving them a much more classic appearance and adding longevity for the wearer.
Bandanas seem to have a community of wearers, which we wanted to reach out to. Since we started making bandanas I have quite enjoyed wearing mine round my neck or even placing it in my back pocket of my denim jeans at the weekends, a nice piece to accessorise, adding a subtle finish to ones look.
Can you explain a bit about Loft’s ethics and how you go about sourcing your Madras cotton?
When we wanted to get our hands on Madras cotton we thought where else to go other than Madras, India, the place where it was born. I started making inroads and found a source in India and from there we were able to purchase our first rolls of cloth. One of the main concerns we had was ethically produced cloth, as we have strong views on mass production and bad working conditions.
Some of your scarves are made using the finest Irish Linen, can you give a brief idea of its quality and manufacture?
Where to start, well without being over confident our Irish Linen is in a league of its own. Grown, woven and dyed in Ireland – a real rarity these days, simply because of the amount of labour and skill required, but its well worth it when you get to see and feel the fabric. This is something I have became very passionate about and one of the main reasons for starting Loft Trading, after all Irish Linen is an integral part of Belfast’s history.
How do you see the brand developing / plans for the future?
We always planned on taking our time with Loft, growing it organically. Reaching our target audience and building up a following of like-minded people worldwide. As we already have stockists in Belfast, Dublin and Seoul, we would ideally love to add New York, London and Tokyo, stretching our wings to the style capitals of the world.
Describe your personal style?
A combination of traditional and workwear, a similar style to many of the management and shipbuilders who lived and worked in Belfast over 100 years ago. In particular I love to wear a vest (waistcoat) with my daily attire, and it usually includes Japanese raw denim.
Family time at the weekends requires a more casual approach to keep up with my three young daughters… New Balance trainers, raw denim, button down shirt, wool cardigan, liner or vest, overcoat and not forgetting the essentials – a few Loft Trading accessories; pocket square, bandana or scarf. If I have a hot date with my wife or I’m catching up with friends, then I generally revert back to a necktie.
What are your 3 favourite things to wear?
1. A Loft Trading necktie of course
2. Raw denim, red or white Japanese selvage
3. A pair of fine English made Tricker’s, Long Wings (Galosh)
What item of clothing means the most to you?
It would have to be either of my chambray button down shirts by orSlow, Engineered Garments or Gitman Vintage. Simply because they work so well with everything I wear, I feel they are a staple piece of who and what I am.
Do you think men are taking a greater interest in accessories these days?
Yes, we seem to be getting traditional values back into our lives from days gone by. In particular we see men accessorising with pocket squares, scarves, pocket watches, hats and quality made umbrellas. It’s good to see these things coming back into a man’s wardrobe. The most important thing for any man accessorising his wares is to feel confident and comfortable.
I’ve noticed from your web site that you’ve done some collaborations, if you could work / design one accessory with one particular person, what would you design and who with?
I’m really not sure, as I like to keep myself under the radar so I’ve never really given it much thought. Although, I suppose designing an Irish Linen shirt with Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments would be up there!
Finally, how do you like your eggs?
Kept in the box.