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The WD Interview – Guy Hills & Kirsty McDougall, Dashing Tweeds

February 24th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Design & Fashion, The WD Interview

Wallflower Dispatches talks to Guy Hills from Dashing Tweeds about tweed in the 21st century, double yellow lines, iPad suit pockets and the joys of Savile Row

The first thing that came into view when meeting with Dashing Tweeds was a plum coloured tweed suit comprised of Plus 4’s (or knickerbockers) and matching jacket. Later I learn that the suit’s fabric is from company’s urban range, features a reflective stripe and is called St. James.

The man sporting this creation and disembarking a large Danish bike outside his London studio is one of the company’s founders, Guy Hills. He started Dashing Tweeds with weaver Kirsty McDougall in 2006.

Although it feels a little like stepping back in time to those days and imaginary world where Bertie Wooster, Noël Coward and Fred Astaire all hang out and a young Paul Weller drops in intermittently, Hills has decidedly 21st century grounding.

Hills who used to be a successful photographer, says he was “jaded by the whole photography scene”. Feeling just a salesman for brands, Hills thought of collaborating with a stylist to make his photography more interesting. He came across some of McDougall’s work at the Royal College of Art and says: “Meeting Kirsty,” he says. “That was a big lucky break that changed my life.”

Hills had always liked wearing tweeds and asked McDougall to weave some fabric for him. The result: the fabric made it onto cover of The Sunday Times Magazine.

While tweed is the perennial staple of country folk, Hills says: “My exposure to tweed was as an urban person: Vivienne Westwood, punk trousers… Punks wearing what was a totally established material – that was my early influence. Not growing up in the country I didn’t see tweed as a boring gatekeeper’s type of cloth.”

Consequently, he was intent on bringing the material into an urban setting: “I have been cycling in the Centre of London all my life, which gave me the idea of weaving the reflective yarn into the urban tweeds.” Other patterns include yarns woven to recall double yellow lines and tire marks.

“Kirsty is a seriously good designer,” explains Hills. “I would brief her in this very nebulous idea, saying: ‘I like this – can you weave it?’ And she would pushing out the boat in terms of weave structures.”

McDougall and Hills bought a loom, partly funded by the Arts Council and designed and made urban tweed. The result is Lumatwill, a fabric that combines reflective filament with a traditional worsted or tweed wool yarn. The cloth looks like traditional tweed but reflects light. Other influences include Bauhaus and modernist elements inspired by the German designer and artist Gunta Stölzl.

Guy Hills enthuses about what he calls “another lucky break”: being asked to be Savile Row’s image-maker. In the reorganisation of Savile Row Bespoke, a marketing co-operative of 13 tailors, Hills was commissioned take photographs for their website.

“I had this amazing carte blanche to walk into any tailor and photograph their archives and talk to everyone. And I had bartering deal where I got paid in Savile Rowe suits – the idea that I could get the best you can possibly get and in all the materials I wanted was really exciting. Savile Rowe touches total stardom, there is nothing mediocre about it.” Savile Row now carries Dashing Tweed’s fabrics.

Hills says that Dashing Tweeds is an organically growing company: “The plan is starting now – up to now it’s been pretty much about what I wanted to do and what I was learning about.”

Hills is clearly enamoured with the way in which people used to dress and he mentions his own tailor repeatedly throughout the interview: “Menswear was all about dressing individually as a man. The prescriptive details of menswear are very limiting in a way – it’s all about the details and the magazines would carry swatches of fabric. People would get their work suits cut and then get their off-time/fun suits as well and get their tweeds.”

His ideas for tweed for the 21st century include suits that have pockets for iPods or iPads.

But why tweeds? “Tweed is the original sportswear. In terms of the fabric it hasn’t really been bettered,” says Hills. “Wool absorbs more moisture than any other fibre. The water evaporated quicker, it dries faster than other material, it absorbs smells, and it is breathable and waterproof. Everyone got obsessed by hi-tech sporting fabrics, but wool was the original.”

He points out that early explorers climbed Mount Everest in tweed suits and companies such as Icebreaker and Ibex are now going back to these ideas.

“I would like to create sports couture,” concludes Hills. “I hate in general menswear is nostalgia – it’s always the same kind of, oh the golden 20s and 30s – we’ll never be as good as them. Well, it’s nonsense. You’ve got to live in the time and update the clothes you need for now.”

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Joy // Feb 25, 2011 at 4:27 am

    They look adorable.

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