The role of the cloth merchant is often under-rated in the fashion world. At their most basic function, they provide a vital service for the bespoke tailors as they will sell “cut lengths” for bespoke suits or for smaller brands who do not have the capacity to buy full pieces direct from mills. But a proper merchant is much more than that. They will work with and manage the whole supply chain from yarn to finished cloth with a freedom to select the best raw materials and processes from start to finish. Dugdale Bros & Co. are definitely a proper merchant. Founded in 1896, Henry Percy and Frederick Herbert Dugdale established their cloth merchant’s business in Huddersfield, the centre of Britain’s fine worsted industry. Dugdale remained in the family for two generations, through prosperous times and perilous war years until it was later acquired by Keith Charnock and now chairman Rob Charnock.
They are the last remaining, independently owned cloth merchant in Huddersfield, supplying classic, contemporary and luxury fabrics to tailoring houses and brands around the world. I have had the pleasure to work with Dugdale all my tailoring career and they have always supported my ambitions whether I was working with a start-up or, as I have done, the oldest tailoring brand in the world. Their collections are comprehensive and there is definitely a Dugdale cloth for everyone. I have too many favourites; New Fine Worsted is an Edwardian topical-weave travel cloth that was once used to dress the staff at Raffles hotel in Singapore. Town Classics is everything you would expect from a British cloth and has the best selection of classics from glen checks to chalk-stripes as well as a few unexpected colour combinations, such as a nifty mid-blue houndstooth that I have never had the courage to order for myself. Yet! Royal Pagaent is their 9oz (260g) clear-cut all-wool gaberdine. It is cool to the touch and light to wear yet surprisingly resilient due to the two-fold construction and the longer staple merino yarn. It is the Kit Blake philosophy to personally trial and wear every cloth before it is put in the collection. I had a pair made in the 6208 cream and I knew it would be good but I never expected it to be this good. For a start, the colour was absolutely spot-on, that perfect English cream that is neither too yellow nor too beige. The Kit Blake Aleksandar model is full-pleated and the cloth draped to perfection and handled as if it was a lot heavier than 9oz, yet they are so cool to wear and feel fresh against the skin on even the most humid days. The pleats and front-crease remain sharp all-day, yet the unsightly creases at the back of the knee, soon fall away. Clever cloth.
A pair of cream “gabs” lifts your summer wardrobe with endless, elegant possibilities. A simple combination of cream gabs and knitted polo shirt and you are straight off the pages of Apparel Arts-(the 1930s version of The Rake). If you happen to own a pair of co-respondent loafers (and if you haven’t-buy the Crockett & Jones pair), now is the time to wear them, but espadrilles, Belgian loafers or sand shoes also look great underneath the recommended deep cuff. If you have not tried a pair of proper pleated trousers before (or for a while) this is a great place to start. The skinny look is dead and this is a great way to try more fluid, drapey tailoring. You can wear with easy-fitting unstructured jackets or more formal brass-buttoned boating jackets. Striped Regatta blazers scream out to be worn with gaberdine trousers. For the more confident dresser, I would suggest trying the “reverse tuxedo” at your next summer black tie event. Wearing cream trousers with a black or midnight-blue tropical dinner jacket is a play on the more expected cream dinner jacket and dark trousers. Keep accessories simple but substitute your dress pumps for a pair of velvet Albert slippers playfully embroidered. Of course, once you have tried the cream, you will want more and there is a fantastic range of shades to suit your style from elegant drab olives that evoke the late David Niven to brighter hues that would not be out of place in Robert De Niro’s wardrobe for Casino. I am currently wrestling with which colours to offer for next spring collection of Kit Blake-maybe all 36?
Creative, Stylist & Consultant