James Shaw and Alastair Rae’s Albam is an East Midlands gem. A little testament to the things that the post-industrial non-South can produce. (Non-South, here, is a catch-all for the Midlands and North; it’s necessary because I, as a Lincolnshire Yellowbelly, am consistently called a Northerner by Southerners and a Southerner by Northerners. If the Midlands isn’t going to be regarded as a place, at least let me take solace in being a non-Southerner. My chip shop sells scraps, for god’s sake.) Back to the clothes: Albam’s first t-shirt was knitted in Loughborough, dyed in Leicester and produced in a factory in Derbyshire. Building on the wealth of old factories in the East Midlands, the brand was able to tap into a supply chain that was – and still is – undervalued.
The 5th Store has curated and shot a few of Albam’s AW21 pieces in a nice spot of woodland, somewhere deep in West Yorkshire. Key items are a sherpa fleece, a smock and a tactical sweatshirt. Each item’s prowess is demonstrated on a model who does outdoorsy things like picking mushrooms and squatting in shrubs, armed in a pair of well styled Gramicci cargos. Long before it was the height of fashion, Albam was focussing on wearability. In an interview with Oi Polloi, Rae declares: “it’s always been about making things that you can buy and still be happy to wear in five years’ time.” This naturally extends to items that are appropriate for the season they’re being sold in, and then the season following. While it seems obvious to point out that timelessness is a virtue, the fashion world, broadly, is devoid of it. Emphasis on functionality is changing that. Albam are celebrating their 15th year of trade – which suggests their consistent output is a success. Understated and hard wearing clothes that don’t lose relevance are their bread and butter.
Their products are still made in the UK, but many of them are now made in Portugal. We can’t blame them; Portugal has a reputation as one of the world’s best textile industries, built on solid craftsmanship with social and ecological intentions. It’s a rational decision.
While the Midlands has Branston Pickle, pork pies and a wealth of cheese, Portugal does have cheap vino and pastel de natas. I guess that’s enough motivation for an impromptu trip. Just to check on the state of the manufacturing, you know. They don’t have scraps though, do they.
All of the items shot below, and a wealth of Albam’s other pieces, are available at 5th Store.