There are some brands that you take for granted because you know you can rely on them and they'll always be there for you through the good times and the bad. When I first walked into Folk's store on Lamb's Conduit Street maybe six or seven years ago, that's how I felt about their then-solely menswear offering and their solid shoe range for both men and women. Their clothes are quiet but absolutely not sterile. They come and give you a gentle hug as you reach out and touch their knitwear, their lovely shirts or a well-formed pair of camel ankle boots. There are also quirks that they've built up over the years thanks to their obsession with crafty elements. In addition to caring about the fabrications and the quality of their clothes, they don't short change you on aesthetic treats for the eye – a detailing on the pockets, a tiny pair of people embroidered on a shirt (one of Folk's little emblems), the inside of a jacket being just as nice as the outside – all things that have contributed to a hardcore group of Folksters who appreciate Folk's blend of quirkiness and functionality.
Folk have clocked in just over ten years of being in business and have six standalone stores under the belt with a ton of stockists but instead of making a loud shout about that achievement, they've plodded on and recently launched their womenswear for A/W 12-3 in the quiet and assured way that I'd expect them to do. Cathal McAteer, founder of Folk together with designer Folk designer Elbe Lealman always knew that womenswear was on the cards but saw no reason to rush it or lazily rehash their menswear styles in womenswear sizing. Lealman originally came from a womenswear background but drew influences from the androgynous style of Japanese/Antwerp designers. That led her to designing the menswear for Folk and now she gets to return to her original field of interest. "It's hard to describe what we do but it's very instinctive to us and so it's been quite easy to apply that to womenswear." explained Lealman when I met her at the a little Folk shindig that myself and Steve hosted on Tuesday night at the Shepherd Market store.
For A/W 12, we get a taster for Folk womenswear that incorporates some elements of the menswear but with a freer hand when it comes to pieces such as the painted silk dress that I'm wearing below "The first collection was piece together the masculinity of the menswear and adding in what I felt was a good capsule collection for women that still want to look feminine but not ridiculous. It's a balance between aesthetics and things looking beautiful and the practical element." Lealman says the word "practical" almost with an apologetic tone. I'm not sure it's necessary because there is real merit and skill in creating clothes that people fall back on time and time again. The very fruition of the womenswear came about partly because there was intense customer demand for it. It will be interesting to see if the women who buy Folk shoes on a regular basis will also buy into the womenswear.
For a first time Folkster like myself who has always admired the ethos and infrastructure of the menswear business, leaping about in the new A/W 12-3 collection has been a real joy of discovering that I do indeed have a real need for a brownish tweed coat with huuuuuge pockets that can fit two paperbacks in each. Or a chambray shirt that has a maroon diamond on the elbows (Folk have a real addiction to primary colours and primary shapes, which lends a pleasingly childish undertone to their pieces). Pieces like this flighty silk dress with exaggerated batwing sleeves, printed with one of Lealman's paintings or a red dress with wooden toggles are Folk's more overtly feminine pieces that will shape up as an exciting prospect for future collections. I've already spied lovely Indian-influenced embroidery and bright pink fuschia pink in the new S/S 13 collection.
Despite Folk's foray into womenswear, I still couldn't help stealing a few things from Steve's Folk menswear pile. For A/W 12 menswear, pieces like the reversible knitted sleeved bombers, fleecy trousers and no-brainer sweatshirts and tees are ripe for picking. It's easy to see how the two collections are playing off against each other too. "We made a conscious decision that we just didn't want to be pigeon holed in to doing a women's fit of the menswear. They've got to appreciate each other. It's got to stay focused in the same direction."