American Style / British Made

March 2021 | Written by Nicholas Sarnella

Perhaps more so than ever, in the aftermath of a global pandemic and amongst persistent concerns surrounding climate change, the virtues of small business, local manufacturing and sustainability are hot topics of discussion. The same is true at John Simons, where over ninety percent of our own brand label, John Simons Apparel, is produced by independent, London- based manufacturers. Whilst these terms are often used flippantly, as little more than a marketing- ploy for large corporations, what are the realities of a commitment to such values for a small, family-owned business, such as John Simons? We sat down with Paul Simons and Sean O’Byrne to unpack these concepts and get to the heart of the matter.

1. By way of a brief introduction, could you outline for the readers at home, which of the John Simons Apparel own brand items are produced in London?

Paul: Good question! Our Harrington Jackets, Overcoats, Ivy League Jackets and trousers, as well as our new Made in London Ivy League Shirts, are all produced in North London by a manufacturer who we have been working closely with for several years now.

Interesting, could you tell us a little bit about these new shirts? What separates them from the standard JSA button downs?

Paul: The new Made in London shirts are a collection of many of our favourite details from the classic shirt-makers of the Ivy League boom years. The primary difference lies in the collar; we have extended our collar points to 3.5″ and all shirts come with unlined collars, plackets and cuffs.

Factory 2

2. Can you describe how your commitment to local manufacturing came about, was this a decision that was influenced predominantly by practical or ethical considerations?

Paul: I believe it is a combination of both. Perhaps the most important factor for us is that it allows for a greater level of control over the finished product. When working locally you can oversee every part of the manufacturing. If you outsource to a manufacturer overseas, you run the risk of decisions being made on your behalf and often mistakes can be made which could have been avoided.

Sean: We have faced such problems in the past, for example an old line of Harringtons we produced had to be disregarded and recycled as there was a fault with the zippers. As Paul has said, these are the types of issues which we can avoid through local manufacturing.

Paul: I should add, I like to know that the people who we are manufacturing our clothes are being paid a fair wage, as well as supporting the local economy.

3. Much of what is produced under the JSA brand is influenced by designs and pieces which harken back some sixty or so years. Have you encountered any difficulties, whilst working with local manufacturers, in replicating designs from the Ivy League Boom Years?

Paul: We have had a lot of issues over the years with trying to replicate the Natural Shoulder line which is so important to the traditional American Sack Jacket. A lot of the time when manufacturers are used to making a particular style they find it difficult to get their head around executing a soft shoulder.

4. How has your experience of working with local manufacturers been affected by the advent of the Covid-19 Pandemic?

Paul: This time round manufacturing has carried on, which has been somewhat of a relief as we have a lot of new and exciting products in the pipeline, which fortunately did not have to be delayed. But certainly the first time around it was a difficult obstacle. In someways we managed to circumnavigate this by switching our focus to the face masks, which were at the time produced by Saville Row tailor, Jake Wigham.

Sean: When you deal with local manufacturers it allows you to be somewhat more reactive and respond to what is going on in the world. It also gives you an opportunity to recycle fabrics from garments which may not be of use or be relevant at that particular time. As Paul has said, the face masks are a good example of this as they were constructed from dead stock madras shirts, which in turn ties in to our ethos of sustainability.

5. How involved do you tend to be in the design process of the garments?

Paul: One hundred percent! From design to production to fabric sourcing. We are involved in literally every step along the way.

6. Do you have a favourite article of clothing produced under the JSA Brand?

Paul: Our overcoats. It recreates a coat worn by my father, which in turn started off his love for clothing. It encapsulates a lot of history in one garment.

Sean: Don’t forget about the shoulder! No matter what size or shape you are, the one-piece raglan flatters. Along with the A-line cut of the coat, the shoulder has meant that the overcoat is a unisex garment, and it has proven to be a best seller thus far.

7. Finally, are there any new and exciting projects, or pieces, which you would like to divulge to the reader?

Paul: Yes, The Mingus! The Mingus is an adaptation of another jacket which we are quite well known for, namely the Golfer Jacket, which we have combined with the shoulder and collar of our overcoat, creating the hybrid that is The Mingus!

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