Made In these Isles – Interview with John Brolly

Proper stockist Made in these Isles is a pretty refreshing concept. Over the atlantic, the patriotism and support for homegrown industry seems more prevalent than it is here. Sometimes it seems like blind patriotism rather than a genuine belief in superior product. Made in These Isles certainly follows the example of the latter but obviously from a UK perspective.  John Brolly is behind the whole thing, so we got in touch and asked him some questions.

Cheers for speaking to us John. Can you tell us about Made in these Isles?

Tis a pleasure chaps. Well Made in these Isles was an idea that my missus and myself had a couple of years ago after a trip to Antwerp on the hunt for vintage clothing. With both of us being into well thought and considered products we were discussing the amount of good products/brands that used to manufacturer here.

By coincidence a number of items picked up in Antwerp were British Made from the 70s & 80s and obviously well made and stood the test of time. Brands that people might not know had manufacturing facilities here such as Wrangler & Nike. So the idea started to take shape. Initially maybe a vintage clothes shop? In fact a shop stocking a greater range of products than just clothes? Yeah why not and that was the start of Made in these Isles.
What makes it important to you to do something homegrown?

Well we can’t ignore our history. The British Isles has such a strong heritage in manufacturing and always found it fascinating that certain geographical areas specialized in certain specific products. It’s got to be down to the raw materials from our environment to the people and even the weather.

We all should think about what we purchase and how we do so in such a tough economic climate. Just buying loads of tat from the Far East is no good and it’s not sustainable. There are numerous cases for showcasing what we can do here in the British Isles with socio-economic and sustainability concerns being at the fore. It’s also important to remember that we can produce quality goods here.

Which brands are you most excited about?

In terms of clothing I would say I’m looking forward to seeing the first collections from ŒCollective Noun, ŒMamnick and ŒRural, there’s also a new sportswear take from ŒThom Will Love. Whilst the detail & simplicity of ŒUtile hits home the classic smocks from ŒMerrow also have a less is more approach that I like. Do also love ŒPercival always delivering quality in my opinion.

In terms of furniture ŒYoung and Norgate and ŒBaines and Fricker are delivering some astounding pieces that are looking towards the future whilst having a foot firmly in the mid century modern style.

You were behind the ace trainer book Collective Disorder. At 280 pages it’s pretty hefty. How long did it take to put together?

Collective Disorder took almost 2 years to complete from start to finish. B (Bennett Martin) and myself had the idea when we were selling through loads of amazing vintage and DS trainers to guys all around the world. We got to know a lot of our customers and we knew they all had great trainers to show.

So we went for it ­ contacting people from around the globe and getting them involved.

Can you tell us a bit more about what led to Collective Disorder? Are you a bit of a trainer hoarder yourself?

In a nutshell yes. Have loved them ever since I got my first pair of G Vilas back in 1984 from Multisports in Nelson. My dissertation was about trainers way back in 1993 but at the time had no idea of where this passion would lead to.
It’s not as ridiculous now as it was a few years ago ­ I had a real passion for Runners (mid to late 80s mainly Adidas, Nike and Puma). Got the collection down to around 130 pairs + so a lot smaller than it used to be. I now only try to purchase vintage and deadstock green box Pumas.

Soleseek preceded the book. Is that right? Can you tell us more about that?

Soleseek started in 2005 by B and Myself as an online retail space for selling through vintage trainers. We spent 3 years doing that trawling shops, ebay, contacts and chance encounters to source the shoes. In later 2006 we started to formulate the CD concept.

It was self-published. Made in a limited edition of 100 with each contributor getting a free copy. A nice historical artefact. We gathered images from the contributors and basically let the shoes do the talking with words kept to a minimum. A short piece each from Kerso and Phil Thornton.

You lived in Manchester in 1990, when it was still the centre of the earth. How much of an effect has that had on you and your career?

Loved living there from 1990-95. One night would be watching the Real People at the boardwalk then sat night at Wiggly Worm at one of the Spinmasters all-nighters. Musically it was an amazing place to be ­ great venues, clubs, radio stations and record shops.

Not sure on the impact on my career as it was a very hedonistic time. I survived with a great baggy 12″ collection and a motto of Œless is more from Mies Van der Rohe.

Back to Made in These Isles, what plans do you have for the future?

There’s a couple of collaborations in the pipeline and hopefully they will see the light of day in 2013. As it stands the main focus is to keep the site moving along by bringing in new products and brands that are made within the British Isles and hopefully let it evolve. And who knows maybe one day a range of products designed by Made in these Isles ourselves including a chair, jacket, pair of shoes/boots/trainers and a flask and then I’d be a happy man.

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