Tied up: Gieves & Hawkes’ Rope Motif

Creative director John Harrison explains to Josh Sims how Gieves & Hawkes’ seafaring heritage inspired one of this season’s key motifs.

John Harrison, creative director of Gieves & Hawkes, was working on some archival research when he was struck by a piece of paper. ‘It was a document or maybe some kind of invitation,’ he recalls, ‘but it was framed by this great rope pattern. Of course, that speaks to Gieves & Hawkes’ naval heritage – rigging on boats, knot-work and the like. But it also felt very right for this season.'

Certainly, while the company’s new crown motif may be here to stay (see separate blog post), for Autumn / Winter 2018 Harrison has got his sea legs on with some shipshape detailing. You can expect to see the rope and/or knot motif appear in the jacquard pattern that runs through a scarf, round the edge of a handkerchief, in the lining of a jacket, through the horizontal stripes of a Breton top, even – in what is one of the statement pieces of the new season – as a vertical “cable stripe” through a suit, the fabric specially woven for Gieves & Hawkes by Dormeuil.

‘It’s the kind of motif that allows us to be a little bit more playful,’ says Harrison. ‘We’ll just use it as and when, engineered into the pattern of a garment in a fun way. Of course, Gieves & Hawkes has a history of outfitting navy men so using the rope and knot imagery isn’t using something we’re not, as would be the case if we used some very modernist graphic, for example. But it’s also something that’s very British – the rope and knots have all those resonances of Henley Royal Regatta, Cowes Week and the like.

It’s not the only seafaring motif that Harrison is having fun with for Autumn / Winter. Look closely at a midnight blue, shawl collar cocktail jacket, for example, and you'll see that its pattern actually comprises seahorses and jelly fish (the same can be found on ties and scarves). A similar jacket in black has a big bold blue octopus print over its lower half, as if the cephalopod was threatening to pull its wearer under.

It all suits a company that once had a store right on Portsmouth harbour. Indeed, founder James Watson Gieves got his first big break there in 1835, employed by one “Old Mel” Meredith, the tailor who fitted Admiral Nelson for his fateful command on HMS Victory. These days, thankfully, most of Gieves & Hawkes’ clients will see action only at work or play and, with a nod to the briny dark, will do so rather stylishly.

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