Nigel Cabourn is a British fashion designer known for his outerwear and vintage inspired clothing. He studied at Northumbria University between 1967 and 1971 and his studio and business is still based in the North East of England.
The collections are influenced by military clothing and vintage clothing, using fabrics such as Harris Tweed & Ventile.
The Army Gym is the Japanese shop for the Nigel Cabourn brands. In August 2008, Nigel Cabourn Marketing Ltd., was set up as a joint venture with Abahouse Holdings Co. Ltd., the joint owner of Outer Limits Co. Ltd., that makes the Nigel Cabourn ‘Main Line’ collection.
I don’t class myself as a ‘fashion designer’ as I don’t follow fashion. Everything I design comes from either a moment in history, an inspirational person or a vintage garment.For over 35 years I’ve been avidly collecting vintage military, sports, expedition and work wear clothing and books and have amassed thousands of pieces from all corners of the globe. I’m absolutely fascinated and excited by the fabric and details in these functional, comfortable and above all durable garments, which have on the whole, been created not by fashion designers but by technicians and scientists.For me product comes first. The fabrics and trims, the manufacturers we work with are all carefully chosen so we produce the best garments we can. At the end of the day my aim with each collection or collaboration is to create timeless styles that have the quality to last, get better with age and wear and that are still relevant in years to come. Clothing that people can wear for a lifetime then pass down to their children. – Nigel Cabourn
SEPTEMBER 21, 2012 by: Carola Long
Does that parka on the catwalk look familiar? Is that military jacket a dead ringer for the one in Bridge Over the River Kwai? It’s no secret that many of the designs shown during fashion week will have been inspired by – or even copied from – vintage looks.
Now, menswear brands will get another source of retrospective inspiration courtesy of new book Vintage Menswear: A Collection from the Vintage Showroom. It’s a compendium of images and descriptions of clothing collected by Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett, who run the Vintage Showroom, a service used by numerous designer and high street brands. Designers make appointments to visit the west London archive of historic menswear from around the world, or rent or buy clothes from the collection. The owners will also hunt down specific pieces – or do what co-owner Gunn calls inspiration work: “looking into a company’s history or buying up archive pieces”.
Though few brands will publicly admit to using the service, Gunn says, “If you are a menswear designer, chances are you have visited the Vintage Showroom or the website.”
“Certain designers and companies rely heavily on vintage pieces, sometimes from their own archives,” says Robert Leach, lecturer at Central Saint Martin’s College and the University of Westminster. “Think of companies like Burberry or Belstaff, with their long histories of trademark details that can be drawn on for inspiration.”
Indeed, pieces in the book – such as a 1930s striped boxing blazer, a 1950s mountain rucksack that wouldn’t look out of place in today’s Urban Outfitters, or a 1920s canvas parka that could have been plucked from Gap’s shelves – show how little menswear has changed.
The most the Vintage Showroom has spent on one item is £20,000 – on a submarine coat made in the 1930s for HMS Ursula. “The captain of the boat went to Barbour to get them to design a two-piece wax cotton suit,” says Gunn. “We spoke to Barbour but they didn’t want to sell theirs, and we spent a lot of time tracking one down.”
Nigel Cabourn, whose menswear line is based around British heritage clothing with a practical focus (for instance, the Everest parka, £2,200, in his current range is inspired by the one worn by Sir Edmund Hillary to scale Everest), is one of the few designers who will discuss his work with the Vintage Showroom. Indeed, he says he finds it invaluable. “For me it’s no secret because my brand is based around vintage designs, but some brands don’t want to expose how they got their ideas,” he says. “I quite often recognise the originals that inspired them.”
Cabourn says his designs are sometimes “very similar to historic pieces”, explaining that “actual clothing can tell you more [about a period] than a photo or film ... colour, fabric, weight, etc.”
Gunn says he has noticed that more brands are looking to build up their archives with early advertising books or fabrics in a bid to cultivate that all-important aura of heritage. After all, in the fashion industry, the past isn’t really a foreign country, and they don’t do things so differently there.
‘Vintage Menswear: a Collection from the Vintage Showroom’ by Josh Sims, Douglas Gunn, Roy Luckett (Laurence King, £30)