Next week will mark an important date for many here at Pickings & Parry and Heffernan & Haire, it is the first time Nigel Cabourn has visited the stores - both old and new – and the first time he has been to Australia in 15 years. Considering he spends most of his time traversing the globe we are fortunate to have him, and Nigel Cabourn Womenswear Designer Emilie Casiez, for a whole night! His work runs through the fibre of what we do (pun intended) so it is great to have him here in person to reinforce that.
As we approach 6 years as a company this is the perfect way to celebrate, After my brief tenure of two and a half years, I thought I would take the opportunity to give a voice to the owners on their own thoughts and musings on the matter…
For those of you who don’t know, Chris Pickings (proprietor) used his surname and his mother’s maiden name ‘Parry’ to name the business. Through a lovely alliterative accident, his wife Carlan’s maiden name is Heffernan; and her mother’s maiden name is Haire. So when naming our sister store this was an obvious choice. Though slightly more of a mouthful – especially after a few drinks - the H&H looks eloquent on paper too.
This being said, now they are married they have the same initials of CP, so for the purpose of this interview Carlan will revert to maiden status of ‘CH’ and Chris will remain unswervingly ‘CP’.
What excites you about Nigel and his clothing?
CH: It hits the mark in style and construction consistently season to season. The brand is truly unique compared to anything else in the market and their range can give a nod to historic garments while being very contemporary and unique in it's own right. It just excites us!
CP: I think the main thing is the historical context that surrounds every collection. Nigel's obsession over vintage military, sports and outdoor clothing, and his increasingly vast vintage collection, set him apart from almost everyone else in his league. He has a wonderful ability to create collections that remain relevant to current trends, whilst also being completely anchored to a time and place in the past. His personal energy is also something that brings life to the Cabourn brand, which is quite difficult for anyone else to replicate. Turning 70 this year, he is unstoppable and arguably fitter than ever. His genuine excitement seems to rub off on the clothing and everyone involved with the brand.
How much of the shop's aesthetic and DNA is made up from Nigel Cabourn?
CP: Nigel is from Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire, UK, but moved to Newcastle for design college in the 1970's and never left. I grew up in East Boldon, not far from Newcastle, and my good friend's mother, Judith Douthwaite, actually lectured Nigel when he was at University. Growing up in the late 1980's and early 1990's I spent lots of time at the Douthwaite house where father and son both had wardrobes full of Nigel Cabourn clothing; needless to say my interest was spiked at an early age and it may have even been the earliest foundation of P&P as we know it.
When we began planning the shop Nigel Cabourn was top of the list for brands we wanted to represent in the Melbourne market. The connection to home was obviously important to me, but it was the clothing and style that was even more vital to the success of P&P. Nigel's Japan based Army Gym stores were, among many others, a source of inspiration for the shop interior and, without Nigel on the roster, it may have been much harder to convince others to work with us going forward.
Why did you decide to buy the women's line for H&H?
CH: Personally, I have always 'borrowed' from Chris's wardrobe and I found myself consistently reaching for the Cabourn pieces over everything. We had a lot of women ask for the brand when we were purely dealing in menswear, so we knew a market existed for it. Quite simply, I could say 'They had me at their dungarees', but realistically it's the beautiful design and construction that Emilie has brought to the brand that blew me away. The clothing has the perfect blend of masculinity and femininity that appeals to me and continues to surprise us with every season on what they bring to the table.
What does his visit to the store mean to you both?
CH: In a word - everything. Although it's been years in the making, I feel quite honoured to have Nigel and Emilie come visit our little world and be equally excited. Nigel hasn't been to Melbourne in 15 years and Emilie has never been to Australia, so I feel EXTREME pressure to make sure they have the best time possible here - I promised them kangaroos sightings - but at the end of the day, to have them be present in our stores is literally a dream come true.
CP: Aside from the obvious, it's really great that Nigel values our store enough to make the trip and spend some time with us, and our customers, at the store. He really appreciates his following and position in the clothing world after all these years and, hopefully, we have been partly responsible for helping support that position in the Australian market since 2013. It will be a lot of fun and his energy will rub off on the whole occasion, I'm sure of that!
What is your craziest Nigel story that can be repeated?
CH: The best ones can't be repeated. I'm so sorry, but that’s true. Put it this way, any time with Nigel in Tokyo is a wild, wild ride. His energy is always at peak level in that town and it's just awesome to be around - it's like being sucked into a tornado fuelled by Whisky Highballs and I love it!
CP: I heard a great one about a night in the 1980's at NYC fashion week when Nigel was presenting his collection to some high profile buyers in a swanky hotel room. Apparently Nigel hadn't slept much (hmmm) and was full of crazy energy as usual. The buyers were all sitting on the floor with the collection spread out as Nigel moved around talking them through each piece. As the head buyer from Barney's asked a question, Nigel swiftly leapt across the floor to show her something, landing directly on her foot and breaking her ankle!
The photographer, sent from a UK magazine to cover Nigel at NYC fashion week for a story, was none other than Men's File Magazine's Nick Clements, who kindly relayed this story over Ramen after the Clutch show in Japan a couple of years ago.
Please join us on Thursday 8th August for an evening of food, drink and talk with Nigel Cabourn and head designer Emilie Casiez. From 6pm onwards…