This week our Menswear Dialogue Series features Mr. Darius Pocha of the upstart British bespoke haberdasher BLAKE London. Mr. Pocha has a unique take on what it means to a man and how he approaches his work throwing around punch words like masculine, grown up, and swag. We've been fortunate to catch him on his upswing on the heels of his first look book. Then again, that's what we're here for.
Image Granted -What was the genesis of BLAKE London? Where did the idea come from? What was the inspiration behind the business?
Darius Pocha - Just over a year ago I was looking for an idea for my next business. My background is in graphic design and I've previously owned creative and digital design agencies, working for clients like Chanel, Nicole Farhi and LVMH so I know a lot about luxury brands but I've never made clothes before. The natural thing would have been to start another services business but I felt a deep desire to make something tangible and particularly something that would last.
I was inspired by an old jacket I found in the back of my fathers wardrobe - I know it's at least 30 years old but it still looked great and it was full of memories. The construction was amazing but it was way too warm (a heavy Harris Tweed) and it struck me that a reboot of the blazer with some sort of fabric technology would be an interesting design challenge.
So I set to work finding out how you design, make and sell structured clothes. The design and making process were a joy to discover but the sales aspect frankly depressed the hell out of me. The problem is that by the time you factor in retail margins and the cost of traditional brand marketing it's almost impossible to make very well-made clothes without them being ridiculously expensive. Or conversely, if you want to make clothes affordable you have to cut corners everywhere.
So as well as designing the best clothes possible - which included working with a Savile Row master cutter on the block for the jackets - and using the highest quality materials, we've used technology and innovation to go direct to our customers and engineer a lot of the cost out of the sales channel. So pop-up shops instead of high street stores, made to order instead of lots of inventory and digital word-of-mouth instead of expensive ad campaigns. All the money that we save by not doing this stuff has gone back into making the clothes in the best way possible.
IG -You recently attended the Best of Britannia event. What was it like being part of such an event in its inaugural showing?
DP - Best of Britannia was an excellent showcase for us. I know the curator Antony Wallis and it was his vision of how British brands can present themselves in an authentic way that sold me into being there.
IG -We hear you have incorporated technical elements from NASA into your work. How did this idea come about? What was the process like from start to finish?
DS - From the off I wanted to do something completely different with Blake blazers. Something innovative that allowed the wearer to get the most out the amazing materials being used.
The obvious thing to me was fabric technology. Mens tailored outerwear hasn't changed in 200 years. Stylistic details have come and gone, the standard of materials and manufacture has (generally) got worse but basically it's the same construction. What has changed is weather and central heating. So half the time you're jacket is too damn hot to wear. Walking into the office. Going into a shop. Getting on the Subway. Britain has insanely changeable weather so strategic wardrobe choices are tough. You may have bought a beautiful jacket that makes you look like Cary Grant but how often is actually comfortable to keep on? So it ends up staying in your wardrobe or thrown over the back of a seat, losing it's shape.
It turns out that NASA have faced a similar (although slightly more intense) problem. Space is very cold. Or if you’re in direct sunlight, very, very hot. So NASA developed a special kind of fabric for use in spacesuits that dramatically evens out temperature differentials by pulling heat away from the body and retaining it until the temperature drops below a comfortable level, when it returns it.
The prospect of putting space technology literally next to British heritage fabrics in a 21st Century reboot of the blazer was too exciting to pass up. It was quite a lengthy affair to licence the technology as you have to produce prototypes and go through a product approval process but I'm glad to say the eagle finally landed!
IG -Where is your product made and how is it manufactured? When and where can customers expect to be able to purchase your offerings?
DP - Blake blazers are artisan made in the UK and feature hand-stitched chest canvas and hand-rolled lapels to give them outstanding shape and dimensionality. The fully canvassed construction is also more breathable and means the jacket will look better the more you wear it.
There are two outstanding tweed fabrics in the first collection. The first one is a bespoke tweed woven by Fox Bros which was inspired by a hundred year old ghillie jacket I found at the Fox factory. I'm only weaving enough to make 100 jackets from so it's going to be very exclusive. The other is a Harris Tweed woven on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland on a rare single-width loom. These looms are literally pedal-powered and the fabric feels completely different to anything produced by machine.
Products will be available online by the end of November at blakelondon.co.uk. The first collection of Blazers is being made-to-order in very limited editions so I recommend trying them on at one of our pop-up stores if you're visiting London. We hope to come to the USA with pop-up stores early next year but as a new brand it's very difficult for us to do that without finding the right partner.
IG - Why would a consumer choose to purchase a Blake garment from any other? Is there anything else we should know about you or your brand?
DS - Blake blazers should be the perfect canvas to create your personal style against. They’ll have a very graphic look, they’ll fit a certain way and that’s your platform on which you can make something that’s all your own. I hate rules in most things but especially in how you dress, so one of the reasons I wanted to make clothes that you’ll want to keep is that I think it takes time for you to find your own way to wear them.
Blake products are going to be about creativity, innovation and being made in Britain. But most of all they’re going to be about individuality. Not mine. Yours.