Drake’s has been making some of the best ties, scarves, and pocket squares you can get your hands on since Michael Drake launched the brand in the late ’70s. But it wasn’t until 2010 and the opening of the company’s flagship store in its native London that the team was able to expand its horizons by venturing into the world of apparel. Now, under the creative direction of Michael Hill—who worked alongside Drake for a decade—that expansion continues apace. Fall 2016 sees the first collection of trousers and denim from the haberdashers, shot through with a signature blend of English refinement and the best materials the team can get its hands on.
To mark the occasion, Drake’s teamed up with model Eshan Kali and creative multi-hyphenate Jason Jules to create a lookbook. Here, Michael Hill explains why he wanted to work with those men, how he’s moving the brand’s point of view forward, and why the Drake’s customer is coming along for the ride.
Esquire.com: Do you feel the brand is coming into its own as the collection expands?
Michael Hill: I’ve certainly always felt Drake’s has had its own point of view. Now that we have a broader collection it’s definitely easier to demonstrate that; we can put it all together and make our suggestion to the customer, and that’s a very nice position to be in. But we’ve also always had great products and that’s something we’d never want to compromise—making something the right way is integral to what we do, and I believe we’re as dedicated with any new product as we are with something we’ve been making for years. The other thing that I think has helped is that we’ve done it all at a good pace…not too quickly.
How do you balance that desire to branch out with the heritage of the core business?
It’s something that feels very natural for us. We’ve never felt like we’re branching out for the sake of it, or because we have to. We branch out in areas we believe in and feel we can offer something special. And I always go back to my time spent with Michael Drake—our product was always very considered but it was also always thought of as part of a broader aesthetic. Thankfully we’re now in a place now where we can manifest that.
Why did you choose to feature Jason and Eshan?
Jason’s a friend and a really interesting guy. He’s also a customer, so working together feels easy—nothing is forced and hopefully that resonates. But we wanted to add someone else to the frame and that was something of a challenge, in terms of finding someone who could hold their own. Happily we found that guy in Eshan. He might be half Jason’s age, but I don’t think that’s the first thing that’s hits you when you see them together. It just felt very natural.
Texture is a key element of this collection. Why did you decide to focus there?
It’s autumn/winter and although there are undoubtedly great fall colors, the importance or utility of texture should never be overlooked. It’s great to wear both. And how can you not enjoy that possibility when there’s tweed from the Outer Hebrides, west of England Flannel, brushed Shetland knitwear, waxed cotton from Dundee? The list is endless and made for this season.
Denim is notoriously difficult to get right. How did you approach starting to make jeans?
We researched very carefully with a beautiful young factory that’s very close to our own factory on Haberdasher Street. So we have ties made in Hackney and now jeans made in Hackney as well! It’s great selvedge denim and a fit that’s not overly slim, with a gentle taper and a higher rise than you’d find on most denim—so of course they work casually but they’re also great with tailoring.
Who is the Drake’s guy now? Is that different that a few years ago?
I suppose we were somewhat in the dark on that one in the past, given we were selling to other shops. When we started retailing we were very happy to meet a young customer. We’re very happy to have a customer that varies so much in age, that doesn’t define us in a young or an old box. And thankfully we also have a customer that is slowly but surely trusting us with the new things we’ve been introducing.