LONDON — His factories are still pumping out PPE for local hospitals and vaccination centers in the northwest of England, but that hasn’t stopped clothing entrepreneur Patrick Grant from striking a retail deal for a post-lockdown world.
Grant’s men’s wear businesses include the Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons, the ready-to-wear brand E. Tautz and Community Clothing, a collection of 100 percent made-in-the U.K. staples. His latest deal is with John Lewis, which will be selling Community Clothing at 12 of its stores and online, starting this week.
The deal with John Lewis is an exclusive, and marks the first time that Community Clothing will sell in a physical store, once nonessential retail is allowed to open again on April 12. The collection will sit in the independent brands concession area of the store.
The 29-piece spring collection features organic cotton T-shirts, hoodies, rugby shirts, denim and outerwear. Items are made from yarn that was spun in Manchester and pieces of fabric cut and sewn in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, where Grant’s manufacturing hub is based.
Community Clothing was initially made at the Cookson & Clegg factory in Blackburn, England, which Grant purchased in 2015 after it revealed plans to close. Today, it’s made across 28 factories in the northwest of England.
In an interview, Grant said that he’d been talking to John Lewis for a while about a partnership. He said both companies’ fundamental philosophies, and consumer bases, are “well aligned,” both want to promote local business and talent, and offer products at democratic price points.
John Lewis operates more than 40 department stores around the U.K. and is also the owner of Waitrose supermarkets. The retail chain is beloved of Britons seeking products ranging from dishwashers and tumble dryers to children’s school uniforms, baby strollers, TVs and computers. The store also offers men’s and women’s fashion and beauty, and its offer is practical and comforting, rather than cutting-edge.
Grant said he’s eager to have John Lewis as a showcase for the brand, and believes there is “a big hole in the high street for simple, well-designed, high-quality clothing that lasts.” The tie-up with John Lewis will also broaden the reach, and visibility, of Community Clothing, thereby supporting and creating local jobs, “where people are paid fairly,” he said.
Prices for the collection range from 22 pounds for a T-shirt to 169 pounds for a parka. Hoodies and sweatshirts start at 39 pounds, while the brand’s chore jacket costs 89 pounds.
Grant founded Community Clothing in 2016 as a not-for-profit label with a direct-to-consumer approach. At the time, Grant said he wanted to avoid the usual wholesale and retail mark-ups and ensure he could set competitive price points.
His aim was to use factories’ slow periods for production in order to generate jobs and answer to some of the key structural issues the country’s clothing and textile businesses are facing, such as seasonality of demand. Money raised from sales is used to support the local communities, skills training and apprenticeships.
“Community is in our name, it’s central to everything we do, as it is at John Lewis,” said Grant, adding that the aim of the collection continues to be “positive social change and helping restore economic prosperity in the U.K. textile communities in which we work, many of them in the most deprived regions.”
Beth Pettet, head of men’s wear at John Lewis, said “supporting the clothing sector and its wider communities are the values that sit at the heart of the brand. More than ever before, those values are key to our customers and to our brand mission at John Lewis.”
Pettet described the range as “incredibly well-priced, thoughtfully designed and supportive of the clothing sector. Additionally, the passion that Patrick brings to the brand, as well as the fact that British manufacturing is championed through the product, makes it even more appealing.”
She believes “it will appeal to all customers. It does not compromise in any way on style, and we see the brand as a perfect fit for our customers who are looking for incredible value and style in equal combination.”
Grant is no stranger to a department store deal: In 2013, he launched Hammond & Co. by Patrick Grant, a full men’s wear line at Debenhams. The multi-million pounds licensing deal came to an end after Debenhams collapsed and its website was later sold to Boohoo. During the interview, Grant said he’s in talks with other potential partners and is hoping to find a new home for Hammond & Co.
Norton & Sons on Savile Row will reopen along with other nonessential retailers next month, while E. Tautz continues to sell online, direct-to-consumer and through stockists including Matchesfashion and United Arrows in Japan.
As reported earlier this year, Grant was quick to start making PPE from his factories in northern England, and is currently making scrubs for vaccination centers, and reusable gowns for England’s National Health Service.