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Industry Talks – Richard Illingworth Hawkwood Mercantile

Our Industry Talks interviews return, this time with a recent brand – Hawkwood Mercantile.

Hawkwood Mercantile is a recent British brand founded by Richard Illingworth. Originally from North East England, he relocated to India with his family a few years ago and started to put his ideas into practice. Clearly influenced by vintage, workwear and military garments, he has a small team of local tailors working with him and producing everything in-house.

Let’s hear what Richard has to say in our Industry Talks Q&A.

hawkwood richard

1. What type of music do you listen to?

Anything good really. I love soul, punk, reggae, hip hop, indie & everything in between. Growing up I liked the Sex Pistols & The Clash, then The Specials & the whole 2 Tone thing, but the first band I really loved were The Smiths. I find more & more that I’m working backwards & listening to older music, like MC5, The Stooges, Velvet Underground, The Small Faces & The Supremes. The bands of my teenage years like Talking Heads, Pixies & The Stone Roses always be close to my heart, hang on, I haven’t even mentioned Joy Division! Sorry, I could go on for days. I’ve just checked iTunes & I’ve played ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’ by R. Dean Taylor more times than any other song, although I think I should point out, I have also played ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton 91 times apparently. Don’t judge me.

2. How’s a typical day for you?

I get up about 6am & make coffee while getting the kids (we’ve got 5 year old twins) ready, then I do the school run. I come back & have breakfast, then feed the dogs, we’ve got 3 & I also feed about 15 street dogs who live on & around our block. I’ll get into work & set the tailoring schedule. As well as all the design, I still bag & tag each garment myself & give it a final check while doing so. Quite often I’ll be working on new samples or taking photos to put on Instagram. After that it’s back home to do bedtime for the kids & then maybe watch an episode of Narcos or Westworld whilst catching up on emails (I still deal with all clients directly & I’m often up late doing that because of the time difference) before falling asleep. It’s really very unglamorous, but I’m happy & feel extremely lucky.

3. What is your Hawkwood Mercantile team like?

I‘ve got 4 tailors & a master tailor & we make everything in house, making to order & cutting & sewing each piece one at a time. It’s made from start to finish by one tailor which is quite old fashioned & increasingly rare these days. They’re a good bunch & we have a laugh, despite or perhaps because they don’t speak much English & I speak very little Hindi. I also share a studio with my wife who has her own company doing production (it must have been her playing Dolly Parton while I was out doing stuff, yes that’s it, honest).

4. Workwear, heritage, sportswear, streetwear, Ivy League… what is your cup of tea?

Probably none of them, but all of them at the same time. I love workwear, vintage military & outdoor clothing, but don’t really feel comfortable with labelling things like that. I was living in New York in the mid-Nineties round the corner from Supreme & Alife during the birth of what became know as streetwear. It was pretty exciting but I’ve always hated the term if I’m honest, a bit like the term ‘heritage’ too, which just sounds retro & a bit like dressing up if you know what I mean?. I still like to do the Ivy thing every now & then, but I think it’s something you need to do obsessively to get spot on. It’s great if you can carry it off mind.

5. What brands have you been wearing lately? And which brands from the past would you give a round of applause?

If I’m not wearing my own stuff or vintage then I might be wearing Engineered Garments or maybe Post Overalls, although I do happily mix in pieces from high street stores like H&M as that’s all you can get in Delhi & I’m not a snob. I love Nigel Cabourn’s stuff & also a whole load of Japanese brands, especially Corona. With regards to the past, The Duffer of St. George was probably the single most important label to me & I even wrote my college thesis on them. As part of that I interviewed Kenneth MacKenzie who was their head of sales at the time & I have a huge amount of respect for what he’s done with 6876, not only in terms of design, but also in his approach to business.

6. What would you change in the menswear industry?

I don’t think I’ve seen enough of it to find anything negative & see it as something quite distinct from fashion, which is pretty loathsome. I’m pretty isolated out here in India, but I’ve actually been amazed by how nice & helpful people from other companies have been. Hopefully once I start doing trade shows & the like I’ll be able to start some feuds with other labels & find things to bitch about. I’ll keep you posted.