To coincide with the release of the SS11 range from Folk we have managed to get ourselves an interview with the brand’s creator Cathal McAteer. Our roving intern Sam went down to see Cathal at Folk’s London offices, and the interview is a great insight into how the brand came to be, their ethos and their design process.
We reckon it’s a quality read and the perfect way to whet your appetite for the very impressive, upcoming Folk collection, enjoy…
Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, what influence did your parents have on you, in terms of mind set?
I’m from Cumbernauld, about 14 miles from Glasgow, it’s a new town. A little like Milton Keynes, built in the last 30-35 years for the overspill of Glasgow. When it was brand new it looked quite nice, because it was well thought through, and modern, there was some good architecture there actually.
My parents were pretty mellow, they basically let me do whatever I wanted to do. I wasn’t very studious, they just said “That’s right, that’s wrong”, I wasn’t a bad kid but I wasn’t a big studying kid either, I pretty much played football night and day. I was semi-pro up until I was 18 or 19. By the time I got dropped though, I was already working in a clothes shop so I just continued doing…
And this job, was it your introduction to fashion?
No, I was always into it, I took a job as a milk boy when I was 12. I used to save and go to my local (shopping) centre and buy new gear. I always had to have great shoes, I think that’s quite common though, ‘never skimp on your shoes’, I just seemed to be more into it than most around me.
I got a job in Glasgow, in the ‘coolest shop in town’. They stocked ‘Helmut Lang’, ‘Vivienne Westwood’ those sorts of things, probably what ‘End’ would be in yesterday’s terms. It was an independent; it wasn’t one of the big guys selling the mega brands. My bosses were good people that treated me really well. As time went on they made me store manager and then co-buyer with them, they gave me opportunities. They were just happy to stay back home and let me go buying with a partner. It was good, a really good introduction [to fashion].
Was there a moment when it all clicked, realizing you wanted to be in fashion?
Well yeah I liked the idea of it but it wasn’t probably until I was about 20 and went “I’ve got to do something with myself”. I spent most of my time working in the shop and going to nightclubs.
I looked around my city and decided “Can I get a job here and be happy?” and I realized there was nothing for me unless I had money to open my own store. I didn’t have any money; so I came to London, to work my way up. It was a point I said [clicks fingers] “Fuck I’ve got to sort myself out”.I just came here [London] and worked my nuts off.
So, the brand, we’ve stocked Folk for four or so years now. When Folk started, the branding, or lack of branding was a noticeable difference in comparison to other labels on the market. Was this ‘unbranded brand image’ intentional or did it come about naturally?
Well we find it very difficult to brand something, when you spend so much time choosing the; fabric, the buttons, the thread colours, even our own labels, just using Arial size 10, to stick a fucking name on the outside feels like we’re spoiling it.
Every single thing is thought through. We consider every single design option, all the thought processes are so pain staking and laborious that when you get to branding it feels so difficult. We came about in a time when clothing was very over branded, but we’ve been doing this for ages now; it’s become second nature. However, in a time where minimal branding is in trend we’ve got to be careful. We’re not pretending we’re insular people, we’re aware of trends because we want to be good at our jobs. I’m in business to sell clothes in a popular way
Looking at the growth of the product, from when you initially started there seems to be a slightly more technical approach. You’ve always said you want to improve on current designs but do you think your becoming more technical with the brand?
There’s always been a desire to create a technical garment, the problem is when you’re small, no-one wants to work with you. The factories making technical garments are so hard, super specialist, they tend to work with the really big guys. For Winter ’11 we’ve knitted our own Polar-Fleece, in our own colours, so that’s exciting, we’re also trying to make an all in one bear suit for Bestival too.
I could produce a technical jacket, probably at the same price as a Visvim one but that wouldn’t be a very Folk thing to do. I’ve owned Patagonia technical jackets for years; it would be much nicer if I had my own Folk technical jacket, just to say, “I made that one”.
With the more technical garments and collaborations causing you to evolve as a brand, do you feel your learning on your feet all the time?
Yeah, that’s why we haven’t launched women’s yet because we’re taking our time. It’ll probably be winter ’12 [when we launch]. We’ve got the designers, and we have enough ideas for many collections, it’s just about balancing these collections, putting them out at the right quality, at the right time and servicing the people who got us too this stage. It’s a cliché to say “we must service our customers” but if we don’t do that we’re fucked. We’d love to do everything all at once; if that were the case we’d be designing houses next week. It’s a long, laborious process that takes patience.
So the growth of Folk has been a natural one, a natural process. Do you see Folk exceeding you?
I haven’t got a clue, it might do. There are many people involved in this business now and that’s exciting. I have a family, a growing family. My priorities will inevitably change just as everybody else’s does. I might want to take it easier but I doubt it. I might want to do something else, but the opportunities a business like Folk can give myself and the other people involved are exciting, there’s loads of fun to be had. There’s so many wicked people working here, it’d be stupid of me to think Folk would die without me.
So, from being a Saturday boy up to now, has your initial view of the fashion industry been in any way dampened by a harsh reality or has your seemingly natural growth as a brand caused you too side step that cut throat nature of the industry?
I think I’ve been through all the stages. First all the birds were hot and all the guys hit on me, it was a really exciting industry. It’s like any industry though, first you’re young, going at it hammer and tongs then you get a few disappointments.
I realized that all that’s important is me my family and my pals, and actually I don’t have to be pals with everyone.I love dreaming, designing, getting product made and putting it on the market place. It’s very fulfilling, but to some people it would be so dry, such a boring job, I think I just got lucky.
|Click Here to Read the Full Interview||Click Here to View All Sam’s Pictures in the End Flickr|