In his white-bricked Duke Street shop, London scenester Patrick Grant has been perusing colourful fabrics all day. Polished, with an ever-so-slight coif, he stands tall in a sharp charcoal jacket. But the fit of his suit stands apart from the shrunken, gentlemanly ensemble that has become a uniform of our time. Instead, Grant’s is loose. There’s a sculpted body to it and breathing room, too. His trousers are low-hanging, wide.
“There comes a point when you get tired of looking like everyone else,” the designer, 44, laughs. And this relaxed shape has become an emblem of sorts for Grant’s menswear line, E. Tautz, an antidote to the skinny silhouette that has dominated men’s style for more than two decades.
Founded by Edward Tautz in 1867, the tailoring house originally specialized in off-duty formal wear, dressing the likes of Cary Grant and Winston Churchill. But when Grant relaunched it in 2009 (after purchasing its owner, Norton & Sons, four years earlier), he began to toy with convention.
“We started with straight-legged and then moved over to even wider, tapered trousers,” he tells Alexa. “Then we started working on jackets that could be done bigger, cut longer — softer fabrics.
“There was a very distinct feeling of the 80’s,” the designer continues, “the decade I grew up loving fashion.”
Born in Edinburgh, Grant had zero fashion experience when he acquired the brand. He’d just finished an MBA at Oxford and discovered that the Norton & Sons group was up for grabs (via a classified in the Financial Times). He nurtured the brand back to its former status as a globally respected maker of suits and retooled the E. Tautz ready-to-wear line as its star, trading stringent tailoring for the relaxed coolness of a new generation.
From there, Grant’s ideas — and proportions — only swelled. His revamped label soon became a cult favourite, winning the British Fashion Council’s Menswear Fund award in 2015. Its influential silhouette has popped up in recent collections from Ralph Lauren to Bottega Veneta and Gucci.
But as Grant finessed his wide-legged agenda, a question nagged at him: How could his product help those who made it? Britain’s local fashion industry — displaced by foreign factories and disrupted by lengthy hiatuses between seasonal demands — has been struggling to survive.
“Fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have worked in the same industry,” he says. “Now, the world has decided it wants to buy cheap, disposable clothing and, as a result, these factories have had ever-dwindling sales. It was really saddening to think they might disappear.”
To help counter that demise, Grant launched Community Clothing, a cooperative that utilizes factories’ slack time to create direct-to-consumer pieces sold via an online store and at pop-up spaces in Selfridges stores this spring. The first styles on offer — two jeans, a jacket and a coat — were produced by a network of E. Tautz factories across England, Scotland and Wales (including that of a former army uniform manufacturer that was slated for the chopping block in February 2015).
“It makes me very happy to know that we’re part of something that is important,” Grant says.
For E. Tautz’s spring line, Grant says he was inspired by European football culture and its tiny-town devotees. The collection offers a tailored take on industrial workwear: Stripes (a nod to formality and uniform) line boxy separates, while trousers loom larger than ever. A new wide-hipped style called “Chore” is rendered in beautiful indigo denim from North Carolina.
“Having worn things for 15 years that were on the verge of cutting my circulation off, it feels very liberating to wear clothes you can move in,” the designer says with a smile.