The north of England and the French countryside has few things in common. As expected, the language, food and culture differ; generally speaking the two represent completely opposite lifestyles. But, despite that gap, there are a few appreciations that bind them together. Both English and French workwear traditions are well established and supreme in terms of quality and design. Nigel Cabourn
, two brands that have pursued that proud ambition, albeit in very different ways, represent two different national approaches to the concept of utilitarian clothing.
Cabourn, the designer behind the famous Cameraman jacket, has over the years carved out a sartorial niche for his fine fabrics and skilled craftsmanship by applying them on his specific and characteristic style. Aigle, on the other hand, has been creating qualitative rubber outerwear since 1853, but for more of a mainstream market. Both brands take pride in the refined manufacturing process, drawing inspiration from British and French workwear traditions, respectively.
The collaborative collection from Nigel Cabourn and Aigle, which includes jackets, bags and boots, is interesting as it not only marries two brands, but also two countries. The fine French approach to fabrics, compared to the British’s sturdy choice of material, creates a tension in the clothes. Designed in Britain, made in France, the collection – most notably the tweaked donkey jacket and leather duck boots – indicates a “best of both worlds’ approach to multi-national workwear. Here, Nigel Cabourn discusses the two different takes on utilitarian clothing and this specific Fall/Winter 2014 capsule collection.
How did you and Aigle hook up?
I have a longstanding relationship with Gideon Day [Aigle’s Artistic Director] and he approached me with the idea of the collaboration. I was immediately interested because it meant we would have the opportunity to make a genuine rubber boot in France, which fits my general philosophy of producing in the UK and Europe only.
You’re two outerwear specialists – what are the biggest differences in your approach to design and manufacturing?
Obviously Aigle is a much more mass-produced product whereas Nigel Cabourn Authentic makes a much smaller unique type of product. Our priority is always on design and concept, and using British fabric, which is what we’ve done with the Aigle project.
And the biggest similarities?
We are both heritage companies who have a longstanding history of making real and functional products in our own countries of origin, where possible.
How does French and UK workwear differ?
I think there is a distinct difference in that French workwear tends to be very tough industrial fabric based on heavy corduroy and moleskins, while the workwear is based more on oilcloths, which are uniquely made in the UK.
What styles of jackets did you go with?
The jackets were a combination of French workwear and hunting and fishing styles.
Are the styles yours and the manufacturing process Aigle’s – or the other way around? Who brought what to the collaboration?
The point of the collaboration is to use the best of both company’s design aspects and that is what we have done. Aigle have taken over the manufacturing process but we have used typical Nigel Cabourn ideas within the collaboration. Nigel Cabourn has brought the design and the fabric knowledge and Aigle has brought the production and functional fitting to the project.
What, according to you, defines a good collaboration?
A good collaboration, to me, means that both are represented equally in the actual garments. Generally, the design side of the collaboration brings something to the partner that is more special and unique to their particular size of company.
What’s your favorite piece from this capsule collection?
The fishing jacket, which is inspired from a 1930 Hardy’s fishing jacket with a detachable vest in bright orange.