A morning with Nigel Cabourn. (He’s a bit of a fun guy)
On my brief stay in London, I spent a merry moment with designer (and ambassador of the funnest life possible) Nigel Cabourn, in his new Army Gym store. To say the least, the space is exciting for a W’Menswear nerd like me, coloured by Harris tweed, puffy Everest parkas, radiating the warmth of timber and vintage goodness. I’ve always been inspired by Cabourn’s work because it suspends itself in a timeless space that isn’t necessarily dictated by trend, no matter what direction the fast moving world decides to evolve. His collections explore the Universe, defined by moments of the past, inspired by adventurers, explorers, and the triumph of creation. It’s work like this that expresses the delicate balance between research, experience, and a bit of brilliant craziness. I have also come to understand that he places great importance on the working relationship between himself and his team, because they bridge the cracks between idea and existence. It is art, and it’s why I see much romance in these pieces, that are ultimately made to be passed down for generations to come. The thought of a garment as your own heritage is romantic too, passing down something that has walked through your experiences, worn tears, and repairs, contain memory and History itself.
It gives me much faith in the world to meet such spirited and dynamic people like Nigel who live to be their very best. Living the funnest life possible is a powerful energy, and I’m convinced that fun can be an infectious thing. I’m writing this while riding backwards on a fast moving train through the British countryside, spotted by those fluffy clouds with legs (bah), thinking about my morning at the Army Gym. It was energising, even for an active little lady like myself. To me, the experience of time is something that we individuals have control over. It’s what we do with ‘time’ that determines how we feel about the world, and how we perceive growth – something I believe is a symptom of time.
My interview with Nigel just kind of put into play this hypothesis of mine. To be in this mode, is the most engaged way to experience the Universe, and nurtures goodness. It’s a way to draw energy from the world around you. Nigel’s daily morning combo of boxing, training with leather medicine balls, table tennis (something that his dad taught him), and tennis, is a big-ball-o-fun regime complemented by a good classic breakfast like porridge or kippers. Much delicious. In my short experience of existence, to be in tip top condition and motivated by a life that we love, is the most powerful form of goodness, and Nigel is a testament to the policy. At 65 he continues to conquer by doing what he loves with an energy that catches onto others, inspiring, and mushrooming fun. It’s a richness that’s much more valuable than money, and is something that can only stem from one’s own will. This is why you might find Nigel riding his Surly bikes around the globe, and why the Army Gym stores are really an extension of his funnest-life-possible. Why not put a gym horse in the middle of your store?
Besides the four-month-a-year travel where Cabourn gets to dig for treasure and bounce off other great minds of the vintage world, he has had access to invaluable resources from British archives, like the Scott Polar Research Institute that inspired him to create garments that honoured the explorers from the most renowned British Arctic voyage of the turn of the century: that great Terra Nova expedition lead by Captain Robert F. Scott. Having free reign of such a unique resource is why we see such incredible detail and specially made textiles for his garments. I see respect for provenance across the board, from collection to collection, like the narrow-weave Harris tweed from the Isle of Lewis that you’ll find currently, or the British Broad arrow that tips it’s hat off to great people who fought and innovated during the World Wars. These considerations are what continue the story of exploration to a new context, they are the romance in every garment, and are the marks of great-grandaddy textile factories. This is what makes every Cabourn piece just so gosh darn right, and when you see a garment living out it’s owner’s day-to-day life, it’s even cooler to see.
One of my favourite jackets would be the classic Everest jacket in bright orange (though I quite enjoyed the camo version this season!) I guess I have to talk about how it feels like you’re wrapped up in bed when you’re wearing one, or how it was inspired by the greatness of the 50s, with it’s iconic explorers like Sir Edmund Hillary. I think Nigel wanted me to understand that people who had the courage to trust their own ability, ended up achieving greatness. Believe it or not, this intangible greatness can indeed be translated into tactile form, romantic as the journey and triumph is written in history. I think this is also why when I asked about Nigel’s idea of goodness, he simply said it was to see his children live out lush and fulfilling lives by doing things they have passion for. This takes guts.
All of this inspired greatness, all kind of come together in a wonderful yet unexpectedly uncluttered store, a kind of trophy display cabinet for all of this historical magic. While I now see the Army Gym as a museum for greatness, goodness, and chivalry, all of this effortless style comes from passion, research, and brilliant crazy. [YES!]
Nigel Cabourn Army Gym Store, London
28 Henrietta Street,