Founder of London-based casualwear brand, Folk, Scotsman Cathal McAteer talks to us about his growth in retail, ongoing collaboration with a certain Japanese brand and an ambitious expansion into furniture design.

Cathal McAteer founded Folk in 2001. Before setting up the label, he worked for the likes of Nicole Farhi and YMC, but the journey began at iconic Glasgow store of the ’80s, Ichi Ni San.  Co-owner Stephen Flannery approached McAteer to model for the store, which in turn led to him working on the shop floor. Ichi Ni San was his first foray into the fashion world and it was there that he was introduced to designers Dries Van Noten and Helmut Lang. McAteer observed the quality of the brands and witnessed how they evolved: “Some got better, some stagnated and some faded away,” he says.

Folk’s design ethos focuses on a combination of quality fabrics, a fearless use of color and an obsession with detail, a notion spearheaded by Head of Design, Elbe Lealman who joined the team 10 years later in 2011.

Photo: Cosmo Smallpiece

The History of Folk

“The first Folk store opened in March 2007 in one of London’s last bastions of independent shopping, Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury. In August, 2010 we opened a dedicated women’s space next to the original store, which allowed Folk to expand and display a much larger menswear collection.

Liberty currently hosts a Folk shop-in-shop and the new Great Windmill Street store in Soho is the latest addition to the Folk monopoly.”

New London Store

“The new store is based in the heart of Soho, in a location that’s slightly off the beaten track. It feels like the best place for Folk to be; we’re right next door to Soho Radio, which adds a little extra to the location.

The store is quite unusual in that it offers its shoppers the opportunity to buy everything inside, from the lighting, ceramics, tables and chairs, as well as the clothes on display. We design all of the interiors in-house and source the right makers for each piece.  This was a natural progression for Folk. In the early days, we would always use offshoots of products in creative ways to dress our studio, and when we moved into retail we would always design and make our own display cabinets, cases and lighting. Going the extra mile to source something more unusual and beautiful is the way we are compelled to work.”

Folk and Hobo’s Ongoing Collaboration

“We have a series of crossbody bags and rucksacks available online at the moment from our collaboration with the Japanese label Hobo. We have taken Hobo classics and reworked them with our new leaf print design that features in our Spring/Summer 2015 collection. The inspiration behind the print and collection is drawn from the works of surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim. The new Hobo collection will be dropping online any day.”

The Future of Folk

“We have some beautiful furniture pieces that will be launching in various places online very soon. Particular pieces of interest are the lamps, which are made with carefully sourced materials, including wood from the UK, scrap marble and wax cast metal.

All the materials we use to create the lamps are stored together in a studio in London under Somerset House. This meticulous method is typical of the way we work at Folk, searching far and wide and bringing different elements together to create something beautiful. At the moment, we offer a made-to-order installation service as well.

With the Great Windmill Street store acting as more of a lifestyle destination, we’re planning on developing our furniture and ceramics to further compliment the clothing, and offer a complete Folk “way of life.”

Later this year, we will be a part of a new concept Store in Glasgow called 18 Montrose Street. I’m excited to be involved with the curation of the store, which opens on September 2 and will have everything from books, music, cameras and film as well as the best handpicked brands. Folk will proudly sit alongside Stone Island, Barena, Common Projects, Our Legacy and YMC. As a Glaswegian, I am really looking forward to heading home to be a part of the concept store and launch Folk on its home turf!”

Interview: Lydia Garnett/

Words by Staff
What To Read Next