Doing things the ALBAM way

Walk around London, or infact anywhere in the uk and you will spot, amongst the scruffy and Superdried, the hipsters and the provincials, a certain type of man; a man who looks immediately different. Not because he is over dressed or attempting to make a spectacle of himself but rather because of his subtlety. His overcoat is navy blue, he wears a button down white shirt and a fine knit jumper. His jeans are made from japanese denim, turned up at the ankle to reveal the selvedge hidden underneath. His shoes-tan brogues, are leather soled, naturally and although well maintained, they bare the scuffs and stains that indicate they are his favorite. This man is different from the rest for two reasons. The first is that for him, there is no such thing as casual. He would feel underdressed in a sweatshirt and trainers. He prefers proper shoes. Real jumpers. Clothing that will take him from Homebase to the White Horse and on to The Gaucho without anyone blinking an eye. The second is that he cares a great deal about the quality, production and origin of his clothing. Whilst it might not have occurred to him until the shop assistant pointed it out, the fact that his clothing is made and sourced in or as close to the UK as possible has become a point in which he takes great pride. This is the Albam man.

Starting life in 2006 as so many clothing labels do, Albam was the result of two men James and Alistair, looking for clothes they wanted to wear and not being able to find them.

“We wanted to have a challenge and work for ourselves, clothes made sense as a starting point. Alastair and I decided to leave our jobs and see where we would get. The first year was learning everything from scratch, how to get clothes made, how to start a business, how to get people to buy what you make and so on.”

Four years later and Albam have grown from a small office in Nottingham to owning three stores in Soho, Islington and Spitalfields and they don’t look like stopping. They’ve been both fortunate and shrewd enough to exploit the demand for well made, classic items that straddlechic and geography teacher, and they’ve also managed to appeal to everyone from blouson wearing Shoreditch nob heads to proper naughty Manc bastards. No mean feat.

“We made what we wanted to wear and I think that we hit the right groove. From there we are moving with our customers, hopefully a half step ahead. We are as much influenced by geography teachers as we are by explorers or icons like Steve McQueen. They all wear clothes but the person inside the clothes surely makes the look.”

Albam are also keen to avoid the ubiquitous ‘heritage tag’, preferring instead to focus on their slogan Modern Crafted Clothing.

“There is a lot of talk about heritage but we have always wanted to create something that looks to tomorrow without being futuristic. Our heritage element we would prefer to call craft, an awful lot of skill, time and effort goes into making clothes that many people take for granted.”

There is just one problem. Albam are almost a victim of their own success and especially the way in which the smart casual trend has taken off in the UK. Oi Polloi, Oliver Spencer, YMC, APC and even Topman and Asos are all now tapping into the market for crafted clothing with British origins. The look that they promote has become synonymous with a certain type of creative professional. But at least it’s not all v neck t shirts and sailor tatts.

“Albam will find its natural pace in the system and that will determine the size it can grow to whilst staying true to what we started out to do, which is make great clothes. We want to be ambitious but that manifests itself in different ways to different people, our ambitions are in the product, the service and the brand, if we keep making these better and better then we will keep the ambition.”

– Matthew Hambley