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Menswear issue 12/09/2014

Just opened in London, on Henrietta Street: Army Gym, a cool boutique filled with clothing and goods designed by British fashion veteran Nigel Cabourn. The store gets its name from Cabourn’s love for military history and the sporting life, which has defined his look since the 1970s.

Cabourn is known for his attention to detail, which is much in evidence at Army Gym: The curtain in the changing room is emblazoned with the front covers of the Army-issue Correspondent Book that Cabourn’s father kept as a British soldier during World War II, and a paint normally used for British tanks is what gives the storefront its deep green color.

This story first appeared in the December 9, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Cabourn’s designs are steeped in his expert knowledge of the functional, handsome uniforms from the first half of the 20th-century. While traveling four months a year, he scours the globe in his ongoing effort to add to his personal collection of vintage clothes and to inspire new designs. “New York, Tokyo, and London are the three best places for these sorts of clothes,” he said.

His favorites include the British uniforms from the first and second world wars and American uniforms from World War II.  “I love the United States Marine Corps,” he said. “It’s my favorite. I also love the Mountain Division. It’s all about the mountains for me.” But his favorites come from his home country: “It seems to be that my most treasured pieces are the World War I pieces, and I’ve just found recently an Irvin-style leather jacket, a First World War flying duffle coat, which is very rare and worth a lot of money.”

But who created the best uniforms, over all? “I hate to say it, but the Germans made the best, whether we like it or not,” Cabourn said. “It’s hard to sort of admit to that, but that’s the reality. They’re beautifully made—the tailoring and the attention to detail. I think they had some serious clothing people who are famous today that were making them. I can’t mention names as it’ll embarrass people.”

Based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Cabourn has collaborated with Eddie Bauer, Aigle, Fred Perry, Converse, and Filson. In 2003 he relaunched his Authentic line, which features British heritage fabrics stitched in U.K. factories; his Mainline collection, made for the Japanese market, is created with Japanese materials. In addition to his Army Gym boutique in London, he has six stores in Japan.

Cabourn considers the cameraman jacket and the Everest and Harris Mallory parkas his favorites from his latest collection. “They all have an individual story behind them,” he said, noting the inspiration he got from his careful study of garments by Sir Edmund Hillary and George Mallory during their Mt. Everest expeditions. “I always have a backdrop of a story for an item, so that’s what makes us tick as a company.”

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