For Cabourn fans around the world, the new Cabourn x Lybro collaboration might have popped up on the radar this year. Designer Nigel Cabourn himself has quite a special relationship with the classic British workwear label since a young fashion student in his early 20s. Thinking back, Nigel actually remembered that he won a Lybro competition which funded his work, and placed him in the spotlight so early on in his long career. Although British workwear hasn’t had the same global cult obsession as American brands like Hercules, Levi Strauss, or Carhartt, it totally deserves every bit of acknowledgement. Labels like Lybro clothed British factory workers following WW1 (Lybro establishing itself in 1927) producing iconic pieces that characterised a chapter of history that was the industrial revolution.
To me, the British fashion scene has long rooted itself in popular culture and influenced the world time over. It’s a unique sartorial flavour that has always stood strong, especially in the menswear world. Though looking back to the history books, WW2 saw ladies taking their turn, moving into the workforce and armed forces to even up the playing field, supporting war efforts too – a huge moment in time for women and a big source of inspiration for us here at Ponytail Journal.
So when Nigel Cabourn bought rights to Lybro, that iconic yet deceased piece of British workwear history, we got really excited about the prospects of breathing life back into this great giant. Yes, he’s chosen to manufacture in Hong Kong, once under British rule, and Portugal to essentially address the Cabourn brand’s issue of affordability for the younger customer. I can see that there have been a few rash attacks at Cabourn for the decision to move Lybro production offshore (although there didn’t seem to be as many when we saw his Japan line beginning production) but to me, biased or not, I see why it was a necessary move. The fact is, manufacturing in Britain is romantic as hell, a fantastic story, and Cabourn’s noble efforts to keep UK manufacturing alive. This won’t change, and Cabourn Authentic products will probably always be made this way, but from a business perspective it’s a bit of a game of blindfolded chess. You just can’t make enough of a margin to remain affordable while making a slither of profit.
Out of the recent comeback for the Cabourn brand in 2003, we’ve seen Nigel move his business forward full steam ahead, and a newer, younger customer (thanks internet) is aware and aspiring to buy Cabourn product – which is totally out of budget and out of reach. The Everest Parka, a prime example, is one of the greatest parkas on the market. It kicks Canada Goose aside, and leaves your Moncler dead in the water… it’s a BEAST and it’s inspired by that great juju from history, a Cabourn recreation of Sir Edmund Hillary’s outerwear on his Antarctic and Everest expeditions. It also retails for 3k and totally out of range for someone in his 20-somethings, who would splurge on a Cabourn beanie at best.
Enter the Lybro collaboration, workwear, made to an excellent quality, made from Nigel’s pool of great fabrics and hardware that he’s such a master curator of. I myself have witnessed a Cabourn textile buying trip, and I can say through and through, that the industry really respects him for his thorough knowledge of every relevant fibre on the market. Look at his buttons, trimmings, and clasps and you’ll see the big bold and beautiful monsters he fits to his garments. In observation, we should look at this as a diffusion line, another thoughtful accommodation to his new customers, but not a re-structuring in his manufacturing plan… rather a needed addition. My message to the hot-headed internet dudes who make moves to attack the label’s new range, thinking they know what they’re talking about, you’ve completely missed the point.
/ Shot by Ben Benoliel / Featuring Sofia Jergner Ekervik / Styled by Lauren Yates /