Mr. Simon Cathcart : A label after my own heart.

There are very few brands I come across now that I feel a strong desire to just sit down and mush over for hours, that was until I came across London-based label, Simon James Cathcart. When I came across S.J.C. (only about 6-months back), my first thoughts was that it was vintage clothing. However, after reading more on his site it just was not the case. the brand embodied so much of what I was working towards doing with the Scott Fraser Collection and therefore,
I felt it only right to contact him to find out more. To chat about his designs, vintage heritage and what he bases his collection on.
“I think you are a fool if you do not look back to the
success of the past…”
How and when did you start your label?
I guess like a lot of guys who are into fashion; be in contemporary or vintage I am a walking montage of labels old and new.  But to be specific I was at a crossroads in my life between writing and directing films as youtube was blowing up and destroying the film industry model as we know it.  The industry was dead, is dead, the rules changed over night to, “If it’s digital its free”.  Anyway I was on the Fedora Lounge and there was a thread discussing the best work shirt.  There seemed to be a block, a limit as to what the guys were able to communicate in regards to micro details, which is normally surprising as many of the guys in there can tell you the stitch count on particular pieces.  It was something I knew I could contribute to.  I didn’t know how but I knew I could.  In my previous life of film and production “delivery” was the only option, things were very specific and tightly scheduled but you had to deliver.  So it was second nature to me to compile my own list of features that I thought a great work shirt should contain; a good weight, herringbone denim, Japanese preferably, cats eye buttons, cream thread – not white, chambray lined cuff, collar and triple lined placket, contrasting internal fell seamed thread sewn on a Union Special if possible, it was just pouring out of me, and went on and on.  So I made a list, found the materials, found a shirt maker, and made the shirt.  I went back to the thread and said, “Here is what I think is the best work shirt” and then had about 25 orders within a day.  That was nearly a year ago, since then I set up and began making pieces since.  Although only about three weeks ago did I drop this collection.  I also set up where sartorial pedants like you and I can congregate and discuss pieces we need in our lives, break them down, and I get them made and make them.SJC+simon+james+cathcart+wabash+discharge+denim+yard+boss+jacket SJC+simon+james+cathcart+Wabash+Yard+Boss+Jacket+back+-+Copy
Was it something you always wanted to do?
Yes.  It was something I was very passionate about.  But I didn’t know what it was.  It was more a state of being.  I wouldn’t leave the house from an early age unless I was happy with everything on and about me.  It wasn’t precociousness it quite the opposite, more instinctive rebellion as to what my mother was making me wear.  Then when I was about ten years old and punk rock kicked in with its do-it-yourself ethic, I started silk screen printing tee shirts, making all sorts of stuff.  It was liberating.  It didn’t have to be perfect or clean or even.  I even made a Fila dressing gown with matching towel with its giant F logo on it for my dad’s birthday, since he played tennis.  I was making stuff these brands weren’t even making and giving them away, without a blind idea of what I wanted to do in life.  But in hindsight I guess that was it.Sjc+Simon+James+Cathcar,+bandana,+sjc+scarf,+sjc+neckerchief,+silk+bandana,+vintage+bandana,+old+bandana,
What is it about vintage clothing that makes you so interested in them?
Did you know Vincent Van Gogh was a gifted art dealer before starting to paint at 27?  Prior to that over the years he’d handled thousands of masterpieces with his brother, who together were the biggest picture fanboys of the day.  I guess once Vincent picked up the brush he either consciously knew or through osmosis employed the colouring, framing, lighting etc into his work from the classics he’d seen close at hand.  I think you are a fool if you do not look back to the success of the past.  Be it the designs and details of a period garment, a building, writing, lighting, thoughts, everything has been done, but re-mashing it, cross fertilizing it will always make things fresh.  But knowing where to dig is king.  Looking back has been a successful move since the Romans copied the Greeks.  But for me it was more survival as I grew up in the 70’s which got the 30’s so very badly wrong that it made moving around in public in some of the atrocities my mother would adorn me with painfully awkward.  So, when punk came along grabbing the 1950’s by the balls it captured the rebellion ethic with such brilliant Sprezzatura that it instantly rang true to me.  Punk understood kids did not want to be their parents, talk like them, look like them, move or think like them, in anyway shape or form and nor should any generation.  I didn’t like the snot and the dumbness of punk but I understood it was mocking authority which is a good thing.  At that time music began to raid the early part of the 20th century like a virus swarming through year and genre throwing up looks be it 20’s Jazz, 30’s blues, 40’s Swing etc with their own look and swagger, all of which was readily available to me at my local charity shops.  So I could get the look for next to nothing and avoid looking like Abba at the same time.  And there at the age of ten I started to learn.SJC+simon+james+cathcart+Wabash+Yard+Boss+Jacket+back+cinch
Any plans for the future, what are you working on at the moment?
We cater to more advanced sartorialists by making hard-to-get pieces like RL but we make them affordable.  I want everyone to wear SJC.  So we are making leather jackets in early aviator styles, 1940’s sportster leather jackets, elegant knitwear inspired by the jazz era of the early 20’s, a range of shirts using dobby cotton to amazing brushed flannel, we are making a summer collection for next year based on European 30’s styles.  We’re making suits.  There is a series of Gang Jackets about to drop based on gangs from the USA from 1930’s-1950 both boy and girl gangs in melton and leather.  There is currently denim on the SJC shop that is cut in shapes that you just won’t have seen on mainstream sites.  Its meticulously researched and assembled, but more so cut as it was meant to be worn.  Tough elegance is what I like.  It seems that modern design has forgotten that the waist is actually located under the last rib, not down by the butt crack.P1040401
Let us know about where you get you pieces made, is it all in one place? Or all over the world?
There is this bullshit theory being spread about how you have to get your denim made in Japan as its ethical, the real deal, the best etc, largely spread by western co-owned Japanese brands to over-inflate the price of their produce and sell product.  Unlike many I’ve lived in Japan, yes I know what they make is good, copying is what the Japanese do and have always done.  Indeed I think the only thing they have invented is the Karaoke machine.  But I’d argue denim made in USA or the UK or Italy is just as great.  It is down to the designer to do his or her job first and get it right.  After all it is just two pieces of cloth right?
I am fortunate to live in UK where every Monday I get out and visit factories all over the place and talk to people, look at machines and discuss what they can do.  There is a huge history of weavers, and craftspeople here.  I always listen and learn about what they do, not necessarily what I want, its another way to create.  On my travels I pass abandoned factories all the time and ponder the what ifs.  I dream of owning such a place.  Indeed over the centuries entire regions of the UK have been specifically built and shaped by the produce in certain areas; wool, cotton, tanneries, or specific types of finished items like jewelry, shoes, tailoring, etc much of which is on its knees.  Supporting local growth is of great concern to me.  Some of these regions are barely alive and I am super keen to support their local economy to help maintain these traditions.  Not because I am charitable or even able to, but because they’ve worked for centuries with a certain material or product and the tools and traditions are still alive there.  I don’t want that to die, if that happens part of my talents and reach will die with that.  For example, I am working with a shoe company in Northampton (a region where all shoes in the UK were made for years) this factory has original 1920’s lasts that I need for Balmoral boots.  I am making these boots to go with the 1918 suits I am producing for this winter.  They were burning the lasts to fuel the boilers.  I stopped that.  And now I have a boot that I don’t have to change.  No copying involved.  Sewn on Puritan 1900 machines.  The real deal.  Who needs to reproduce or copy anything?  Go to the source.   Don’t invent it.
On the other hand I am totally happy to work with developing nations.  Yes China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the poorer the better.  Indeed I would much rather support a factory in a poor developing nation, because that is a good thing and here is why: I see supporting a poor nation as a way of providing much needed growth in that region.  I see it as creating desperately needed jobs, providing money to fuel families, I see training for generations of development, a future, a boost for those economies to bring them up to our standard of life.  For the closet snob I suggest one reads, “Doing Good Better; Effective Altruism and a Radical way to make a Difference by William MacAskill.  He cites how for-profit technology and innovation have done more good than any charity has ever done.  For example, did you know most African banking is done by phone, this means having a phone now people there can communicate and trade easily and quickly and get shit done and make money and change their lives than holding their hands out for free money.  I lived in Chelsea for many years, richest part of London, and the biggest house in the square was owned by a family who ran the biggest charity in India.  Wave after wave of chauffeur driven cars would arrive and ferry this fat family around festooned with shopping bags.  I am repulsed by the “Made in Switzerland or Tokyo” bullshit used to empty customer’s pocket, by thinking pure highly evolved hands have touched their jeans or shirts.  I think it’s one thing to use your local economy but another to loudly market your brand as being made only in 1st world nations because it’s better and purer and more authentic.  It is not.  I see that as thinly veiled racism.  Don’t you?  Our responsibility in the west is to help support poorer nations by giving them work and training and thus helping them grow and develop, and stand on their own two feet.  I also think go to where it’s made.  So if I want Kimono’s guess where you should really be going.
What does Retrospective Modernism mean to you?
I think Goethe said it perfectly, “Always perform with one eye on yourself and one eye on your audience.  What he meant was, act in a way so that you and your audience are connected together in the moment, behave in your own time, relate to society now not ahead not before.  I think retrospectivemodernism does this.  Fashion is based on trading old for new so to be successful it has to relate aesthetically, on trend and ethically with the world around it today.  That is what SJC is doing.
This entry was published on October 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm. It’s filed under Blog post and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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