Interview with Iggi from Workhouse England

We spoke to Iggi from Workhouse England to find out more about the brand, what his inspirations are and what the future holds… 
How did Workhouse get started? 
Workhouse was brought to life in a disused and dilapidated Nineteenth Century Slaughterhouse in Suffolk – bought to house our studio. Working alongside the independent craftsmen who helped us restore the very stones of the building, we found renewed appreciation for the hidden beauty in old things. The Company was already set up as I had been trading under various other disguises, it’s been twenty years since I first started to design and make clothes.

Where do you find your influences/inspiration? 
At the root of a Workhouse garment is the time and expertise that has been taken to master its fit. Trained at Huntsman on Savile Row, our pattern cutter comes to the studio; we relish this process, exploring which methods work for a particular design, how best to combine traditional methods and new.
Drawn to images of the Victorian street, we became particularly interested in unposed photographs of street traders and musicians. Whether a distinctive jacket, or a favourite hat, the garments in the images were handmade, made to last – and often made for someone else. Formal worn informally, old with new, contrasting fabrics and textures – all with a certain swagger. We wanted to craft garments that captured this.

What are your favourite materials to work with? 
Whist much of our fabric is sourced from British mills – often in loomstate – we also take the greatest pleasure in wheeling and dealing in deadstock. We embrace contradiction, and our focus is above all on tracking down fabrics that will suit the spirit of Workhouse. So whilst we love to make outstanding garments with outstanding cloth, we are also driven to make them with fabrics that were destined for other things, and never expected to find themselves in a great elephant’s graveyard of a warehouse in East London. These journeys are important to us.

How important is it to have a brand that uses quality, well sourced materials?
Our garments draw upon tradition, made with the upmost care and attention with the hope that it will stay with the customer for life. We regularly visit the makers, we have decided to work with just two and they are based in the East End of London. It has proved to be very worth while to do this as you build emotional continuity and commitment by keeping the same makers. They have started to become stakeholders in our business. Workhouse prizes sustainability and building local supply chains that sit outside the traditional model. More than just a business, we strive to forge relationships with like minded individuals, and believe that such commitments are what make our garments unique.

What countries is the brand currently stocked in? 
We have been developing our business with OuterLimits in Japan one of the most famous showrooms in Tokyo. Together we have started to grow our sales in Japan . We are also selling in Hong Kong and Switzerland . We have not chased for new customers as we wanted to get our garments right and the making of them. We believe we are ready now.

What are your plans for Workhouse in the future? 
A collection that has garments that work together. We have specialised in Jackets and coats and last season we made a shirt. We sold it very well and it has become turning point. We now have finished the AW16 collection with 4 shirts, 2 trousers and 4 jackets and 2 coats as well as our unique hats… It is the basis of what we hope will be the WORKHOUSE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION.

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