It’s always great when you find someone on instagram who’s as into Action Man as we are and even better when they make proper ace clothes that are exactly the kind of the aforementioned grippy handed hero would be wearing if he ran a menswear magazine based in Ancoats. I’m talking about the exciting new label Hawkwood Mercantile which is the brainchild of Delhi based British designer Richard Illingworth who we asked to stop being a jacket making genius for a minute and to do us a favourite five.
Hatful of Hollow – The Smiths
‘The rain falls hard on a hum drum town’. So starts Hatful of Hollow and it probably did as I listened to those words for the first time when I was 13, in Peterlee on a tinny sounding blue double tape machine my mam had bought from Makro on a C-90 tape that my next door neighbour David Johnson had recorded for me using the technological marvel of hi-speed dubbing. I’d loved other albums before, I’d nearly worn out my sister’s copy of London Calling & used to pogo around the front room to Sex Pistols singles when everyone was out but Hatful of Hollow was different and I got it and they got me, even if there were bits that I didn’t understand then and still don’t know if I’m entirely honest. I know it’s not even technically an album, having been cobbled together from BBC Radio 1 sessions for John Peel & David ‘Kid’ Jensen (of all people), but I actually prefer the slightly rawer and more immediate sound of these versions to the more polished ones on The Smiths. It even had ‘How Soon is Now?’ on it, a song with no direct comparison before or since, like The Smiths themselves.
Watchmen – Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
I’d love to say that my favourite book is some highbrow work by Milan Kundera or Albert Camus, but in truth, I actually prefer reading factual books about music or war for some reason, although the book that I return to again and again is Watchmen by Alan Moore (with art by Dave Gibbons and colouring by John Higgins). I find new things each time I read it and the way the multi-layered story, back story and sub-story draw parallels with each other and the lyrics of Bob Dylan amongst other things is amazingly intricate & complex. Intelligent, dark and grimly funny, with stunning art work, cleverly echoing repeated symbols throughout to reinforce the sense of time being non-linear, it deconstructs the superhero genre and puts it back together (like it does with the only actual superhero on the book, Dr. Manhattan), simultaneously turning the comic book into something capable of taking on ‘real’ literature on its own terms.
The Battle of San Romano – Paolo Uccello
My tastes in art are usually a lot more modern, abstract expressionism and Pop Art as well as a load of contemporary artists (including the brilliant Gary Hume who owns no fewer than 6 of our Artisan smocks and stuffs the pockets full of paints, crayons and masking fluid). Every time I’m in the National Gallery in London though, where my favourite part of this triptych resides (the others being in Paris and Florence) I’m drawn to this painting with its early attempt at perspective, the broken lances and debris of battle carefully arranged to direct the eye and rather stiff looking combatants, with the mercenary commander in the natty red hat marshalling his troops from his white horse. Paolo Uccello also painted the funerary monument to another mercenary, Sir John Hawkwood, whose name I pinched for the company name. A mad bad and extremely dangerous to know Englishman who fought his way across Europe in the 14th century.
US M1943 Parka
It’s almost impossible to pick one favourite item of clothing, but this parka has to be in with a shout. It’s an anorak style for a start, not everyone’s cup of tea but I love them. It’s made out a thick cotton sateen which is in great condition for something which is nearly 70 years old (this particular one is dated 1948), has buttons big enough to fasten with gloved hands and has that amazing front pocket. This parka has influenced a load of menswear designer including Nigel Cabourn and Daiki Suzuki who’ve both done their own versions in the past. I don’t get to wear a coat very often being based in such a hot country (two weeks of the year if I’m lucky and even then only when I’m walking the dogs at night), but I must admit that I’ve turned the air con up full in the studio when everyone’s out and strutted about in this. I’m not proud of it and I know it’s not environmentally friendly, but I know those who really love jackets will understand & forgive me.
Apollo Pavilion – Victor Pasmore
Sitting uncomfortably somewhere between sculpture and architecture and literally between the two halves of the Sunny Blunts estate in Peterlee, the ‘Pav’ as it was known locally, was completed in 1970 the same as me and was hated by many of the locals, again like me, possibly. We’d go there and eat chips after slipping out of school at lunch time, scrawling nicknames and the names of our favourite bands on its concrete. I couldn’t wait to get out of Peterlee at the time and thought Pasmore’s Pavilion and his boxy and cantilevered houses with their car ports were hideous, but looking back at them now I think those modernist lines have left an indelible mark on my psyche. Funnily enough, even though I’ve lived in London, New York & New Delhi in the last 25 years, about half of my first months orders came from within spitting distance of Peterlee, so it must’ve left its mark on others too.