There is something to be said about men’s outerwear that is built to stand the test of time, while also maturing with age, the more you wear it. English Utopia is a label built on these values, combined with the English eccentricity and heritage of the countryside, but with an aim to bring Country style to a wider audience – The English Countryside belongs to all of us and therefore you don’t need to be a Fly Fisherman or shoot Game to wear it.
Based in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate, English Utopia is the brainchild of Gary Newbold, who set up E.U in 2012 after working as a designer at Barbour and designing for luxury and high end brands who have a strong heritage going back to the 1800s. Prior to his 25 years of ‘learning the trade’, Newbold’s career began as an international racing cyclist based in France and representing team GB on several occasions. A College dropout, self-taught pattern cutter, knitwear dabbler, fluent French speaker, published poet and dresser of Royalty… Newbold isn’t your typical ‘fashion’ export, far from it. His work has taken him all over the world and has included collaborations with Mongolian Herdsman, Austrian Olympic skiers and aristocratic signature brands.
Mark O’ Connor caught up with designer and founder Gary Newbold to talk about the new collection and his love of good quality menswear.
M.O What inspired you to set up English Utopia? What does the name symbolise?
Having worked with some of the oldest heritage brands in the world, I felt there was an opportunity to reinterpret the traditional notion of what is meant by ‘country clothing’. I believe in an egalitarian enjoyment of the countryside – whilst we have many customers that come from that traditionally defined group, it isn’t solely defined by people that ride, fish or shoot and doesn’t require an elitist dress code. English Utopia has broader appeal – covetable garments in unrivalled fabrics that are all made in England and deliberately don’t look like conventional country clothing.The name is an amalgamation of two passions. Firstly my love of what it means to enjoy the English landscape – from the Cotswolds to Cornwall and Glastonbury to Glyndebourne – English Utopia is a brand firmly rooted in the countryside. Secondly as a designer, the initial vision for a collection is often distorted during the production and marketing process. This ‘utopia’, the original sentiment behind a creation, is something I do my utmost to preserve. I believe every garment has an emotional currency – it’s what compels us to buy the clothes we enjoy wearing most and is the role of the designer to safeguard.
M.O Who or what is your idea of the typical English Utopia man?
A patron of independent labels and honestly crafted products, the English Utopia man is a free thinker and quietly confident dresser. My customers are vocal and varied – from freelance designers and artists, to teachers and doctors, they all share a love of the genuine article; something intelligently designed and built to last without compromising in the style stakes.
M.O Having designed for Barbour, what knowledge and skills did you bring to your own label?
My time as head of design at Barbour gave me great insight in to the commercial realities of making creativity pay. I’m able to focus on the design details that set English Utopia apart because I have the right corporate structure around my creative process. You can’t just design in isolation – commercial success means having a good supply chain, expert financial administration and tightly managed manufacturing so that your creativity can turn a profit.
M.O Why do you think the Waxed Jacket is such a much loved garment in menswear?
A great wax jacket straddles the ubiquitous ‘smart-casual’ dress code that most men’s wardrobes need to cover. Although it’s a staple item, a wax jacket is more than simply a utility garment. The finest wax jackets are fashioned from premium two-ply Egyptian cotton which ages beautifully and details such as contrast collars, funnel necklines and bold shades can seamlessly take you from country lane to city street.
M.O What were your creative ideas behind the current collection?
The trigger for a new collection can start in a number of ways – for example I sourced a technical fabric that features a vintage, aged patina that I haven’t seen anyone use. It’s now exclusive to English Utopia. Alternatively, I might look through my archive for an idea or be inspired by other clothing sectors such as sportswear or tailoring. Men often get a raw deal when it comes to detail so I pay special attention to creating the best possible silhouette, regardless of the size of my customer.
M.O What does the Ballooning emblem mean?
In the summer months I often see hot air balloons taking off from York races, near to my studio. But in addition to this beautiful spectacle, for me the balloon symbolises creative freedom. In an age of corporate restraint where there isn’t a place for the unmeasurable, allowing ideas the space ‘see where they go’ is a precious thing.
M.O What is your favourite item in the collection?
I really like Puck in bronze. It’s lightweight but can be worn year-round, it’s fashioned from an exclusive fabric and it has a sporty aesthetic. It’s not what springs to mind when you think ‘country clothing’, which makes it the perfect jacket to convert the uninitiated!
M.O How do you see your designs worn and can you offer any style tips?
There are no rules when it comes to how you want to style your English Utopia and my customers constantly surprise and delight me. On the one hand I’ve seen my tweed jackets paired with premium selvedge jeans and handmade English made boots. But on the other my wax Robin Hood jacket looks great worn with marl sweatpants and sneakers for a preppy, sporty, vibe. My advice is always style it your way.
M.O What qualities in the fabrics make these jackets so special
I refuse to compromise on quality and I don’t ever use cheaper fabrics. Buying from smaller, artisan producers means I can access unique fabrics and components that you simply won’t find on the high street. For example English Utopia zips have an antique brass finish with an extra lacquered coating so they look and perform brilliantly. Quilted garments often have a tight fit but my Stanley jacket has a concealed knitted panel in the arm and back that gives it more room. This combination of exclusive fabrics and thoughtful design is often overlooked in country clothing.
Gary has steered the creative vision for heritage brands including Farlows of Pall Mall, Kneissl (the world’s oldest Ski brand), John Partridge, a perennial favourite of HRH The Prince of Wales. The outerwear collection is priced from £225 – £425 and is now available to buy through leading independent retailers in the UK, USA and mainland Europe. www.englishutopia.com
Photographer – NICK MAROUDIAS
Stylist: MARK O’CONNOR