For 15 years British label Folk have been staging a quiet revolution in the world of menswear. Taking the principles of good design, they have made a name for themselves through crafting clothing with intricate detailing and sumptuous materials. This, combined with their use of unusual patterns and bold colours, has garnered them many fans over the years whilst at the same time spawning countless imitators.
Founder and designer Cathal McAteer has been a long time friend of the store ever since we began stocking his label over 10 years ago. As his brand celebrate an important milestone, we thought it high time to sit down with the man to discuss the history of Folk, where he finds his inspiration and what the future has in store…
Folk was founded some 15 years ago; can you tell us a bit about the origins of the label?
Cathal: The origins are simply my desire to make my own clothes and all the notes I had squirrelled away on how I would do it if I could. I’ve been lucky to have gotten around a bit and all my life experiences have also assisted what we do here at Folk.
You’ve had a long history with menswear, starting in Glasgow I believe?
It started with a Saturday job I had in the shop Ichi Ni San. I was 16 and we sold many many magic brands: Dries Van Noten, Joe Casely Hayford, Costume National, Helmut Lang, Vivienne Westwood. From that moment I was involved. Knee deep. At 21 I moved to London to continue learning.
Without a pot to piss in I had to bide my time and save my pennies, learn and wait for the right opportunities to fall.
You’ve become known for your detail driven design aesthetic, so much so that is has turned into somewhat of a signature. Can you explain your obsession with the minutiae?
When I first started Folk the numbers were tiny. This meant we did not reach minimums for fabrics and had to buy everything from stock houses. With these slim pickings it was of course not the most exciting range so we had to add the spark, the something else that would get us noticed.
Using colour and detail we shaped our aesthetic. This has evolved throughout the 15 years and has become something we now do very well. That extra, the discovery after purchase.
Your ambitions to design and create extend beyond just creating clothing, you have also made furniture in the past. What is it about furniture design that fascinates you?
I love all forms of design and furniture raised its head young for me. I was completely incompetent at school so going to Art/Design School was not option. I have never really wondered what it is about furniture design that I love, I just happen to draw a lot of furniture pieces. Hopefully one day I can get more of them made.
In the past you’ve also talked about Folk becoming a design house. Do you feel you have more to say beyond the confines of clothing design?
For sure, but that is ambitious – which I am. But my first responsibility is to insure my fashion business is working. We have so much more to give in this area.
There seems to be a conscious effort to have a cohesive voice for Folk, how much importance do you put on things like shop fits, visual merchandising and social media all fitting with the ‘Folk’ way of doing things?
From the get go we have just gotten on with making product and opening stores, but in recent years we have been careful to bring it all together. This is a constant process and as it’s not my field we enrolled someone to assist us with a singular voice. The result is that we got more fucking focused and I am hoping everyone will benefit from this. I on the other hand get a bit twitchy…
What do we have to look forward to in AW17?
A reversible, metallic hooded, wadded jacket. A magic sheepskin, some great sweats. We also have a collaborative project involving Nick & Phil Goss two very lovely and talented artists.
What does the future hold for Folk?
More and more great product. Independence. Protesting with my family. Having fun… lots and lots of fun…
Many thanks to Cathal for taking the time to do this interview. You can see our latest Folk selection in store and online now.