LONDON — Stubbornness runs bone-deep in Patrick Grant, whose E. Tautz label won the British Fashion Council/GQ Designer Men’s Wear Fund last month after years of applications, making the shortlist — and watching his competitors walk away with the spoils.
“We were shortlisted — and didn’t win — three times,” said Grant, who years ago began applying for the prize when it was still under the aegis of the BFC and British Vogue. Run by GQ since 2013, the fund is the U.K.’s largest men’s wear prize, and Christopher Shannon was the winner last year.
In May, Grant — designer, Savile Row tailor and entrepreneur — secured 150,000 pounds, or $230,000, and 12 months of business mentoring, beating fellow candidates Astrid Andersen, Christopher Raeburn, Matthew Miller and Sibling.
All the shortlisted designers were involved in a mentoring program with industry experts providing guidance on branding, planning, strategy, leadership, technology, distribution, law and finance.
Grant said he plans to use the prize money to “lift” the brand with help from his small, multitasking team, which is used to operating on tight rations.
“We have never retouched an image — they could look so much better. Just look at Christopher’s look book — it’s immaculate,” said the designer, referring to fellow designer Christopher Kane.
“We could lift the whole thing up a little bit. We’re playing in the luxury sportswear field and our competitors are brilliant. We’re little — there are nine of us — it’s a small business, and we shoot our own Web shop images in the studio — it’s a 1,000 pound ($1,530) production.”
He’ll drive the new funds into product development, expand the commercial offer, and fine-tune best-sellers such as field trousers, with plans to offer them in four more fabrics.
As he readies for London Collections: Men, which starts Friday and sets the European spring 2016 season into motion, Grant has also been thinking about what’s working, what isn’t, and how his customer wants to dress.
“It’s been seven months since we’ve opened the store [at 71 Duke Street in London’s Mayfair], and it’s been transformative for us. All of a sudden, we know who our guy is, how and when he shops, what sells and what doesn’t,” said Grant.
“Heavy stuff does not sell. Instead, men want season-less, trans-national clothing with a technical, sporty feel. And it has to be lightweight.” By contrast, he’s finding cotton Ventile, a hefty, densely woven fabric that is naturally waterproof, a hard sell.
Fabric weights, he said, have come down over the past four to five seasons with blends like wool and nylon or polyester with wool and silk proving ever more popular.
Separates are big too, said Grant, whose customers like to mix the contemporary and traditional, the casual and formal.
“We see customers wearing very expensive, hand-burnished shoes with denim, or a technical anorak with beautifully tailored trousers. Men are no longer wedded to the idea of ‘just formal’ or ‘just casual.’ The boundaries have broken down,” he said.
Grant’s collection for spring was inspired by Martin Parr’s book, “Boring Postcards.” “There are bus stations and roundabouts, and shopping centers and other wondrous stuff. And there are holiday camps. Rows of muted pastel-colored modernist villas, cantilevered steel delights, glazed modernist holiday-ers delights. They sprang up all over the U.K. in a period when Britain was venturing forth into a brave, new post-War world, intensely modernist in outlook,” said the designer, who’s eager to shape a new world of his own.