Turning Formalwear on Its Head

Favourbrook’s new flagship store in Pall Mall perfectly captures their unique combination of tradition and bold innovation

Article by Steve Edwards of Edwards London Photography by Andy Barnham

Pall Mall, with its grand aesthetic, stands as impressively today as it did three centuries ago with a stunning, old-world splendour. Originally known for high-class shopping and later its gentleman’s clubs, it has a long and rich history. New to join the ranks of this famous district is Favourbrook, a classic menswear retailer founded by Oliver Spencer in 1993.

The building they’ve chosen for their new flagship store perfectly reflects Favourbrook’s unique style; both formal and traditional, with a fine 17th century façade but with modern, eccentric twists – such as a toy train climbing the spiral staircase and bright bowties ascending the walls. I sat down with Oliver to find out more about what makes Favourbrook so unique and how the company got to where it is today.

Favourbrook was established in 1993, when Oliver, plying his trade selling second hand clothes on Portobello Road, got the chance to experiment with a batch of leftover ecclesiastical silks, which he promptly fashioned into waistcoats. Setting up shop in London’s famous Piccadilly Arcade, the Favourbrook brand was born.

Its journey has been a fittingly unusual one, Oliver says this is the defining concept which Favourbrook is based around – a passion for textiles and inventiveness. The company had a stroke of luck when the stylist of Four Weddings and a Funeral “popped in and said hi.” Favourbrook got the fantastic opportunity to design costumes for a number of lead characters in the hit 1990s film, including Hugh Grant. Their unique style can be seen most clearly with the bold waistcoats of Simon Callow’s character, bringing bright and individual personality to the formalwear of the film. From there the business has metamorphosed and has expanded exponentially, now designing and stocking both menswear and womenswear collections, all of which are made in the UK from the finest materials, all the while maintaining an ethos of fun and creativity.

From Oliver’s perspective, that’s really what Favourbrook is all about; he describes their unique selling point as “Fun. Just fun.” He made the decision to take formalwear and turn it on its head, adding eccentric, exciting patterns and designs to an otherwise traditional and dignified category of clothing. Oliver chose to hold onto the tradition of formalwear, but wasn’t afraid to experiment with it. He knew from the start that you can be both ceremonially appropriate and boldly individual; their clothing is all about bringing your own personality and style to formalwear. Oliver says that while Favourbrook’s customers are of different ages, genders and backgrounds, they share an eclectic taste, where they want to be “seen and not heard” and hope to “express themselves” through their clothing. That is part of why Favourbrook ignores trends and instead follows their creative instincts and the requests of their customers. They make a mix of ready-to-wear items which change each season – particular for their women’s collection – as well as keeping more timeless and classic pieces throughout the seasons. All their items are made in small quantities to avoid veering too close to anything mass-produced and to preserve the individuality and originality of their pieces and customers.

It is because of Favourbrook’s aim to provide customers with such individuality that their service naturally offers a more personal experience than many other formalwear stores. To find or create the right piece for a customer, Favourbrook’s staff begin by getting to get to know them. The process always begins with asking the customer what they’re preferred colours are, how they feel about what they want to wear, and what their personal taste is. When asked which pieces he’d recommend for a wedding suit, Oliver’s first answer is that it “wholly depends on the customer and who they are.” Oliver by no means shuns a conventional suit; for the traditionalist he’d recommend a double-breasted waistcoat and a beautifully fitted black morning coat, but equally believes a double breasted suit in a Prince of Wales Check is a wonderfully elegant choice for a wedding. He has a personal affection for velvet jackets, believing them to be one of the most versatile formal items you can own. He shows me a bottle green velvet jacket with a grosgrain lapel, paired with a bowtie – but until he knows your personality and taste he won’t recommend a thing. Instead, the staff will guide you through all the elements of formalwear to help you find something bold and elegant, suited your tastes.

This personalised service also extends to the bespoke side of the business. Not only does Oliver put a great emphasis on personal style, he also stresses the importance of textiles and quality craftsmanship. All their materials and items are made in the UK, other than velvet which they import from Germany, velvet being one of the few materials the UK no longer crafts. They offer a full made to order service; with their unique collection of finery in so many different colours and textiles, their bespoke services go a long way to creating something well and truly individual and personal. Excitingly, now they’ve established the new, spacious flagship store on Pall Mall, they’re installing specialist cutting areas downstairs, so more of their fine tailoring can be done directly on site.

The new cutting areas are just one of the many things for Favourbrook customers to look forward to. Although Oliver adore the small shop in the Piccadilly Arcade, he and his team completely fell in love with their grand new site on Pall Mall. Now they’re in their new environment Oliver is hoping to give customers “a big experience.” As soon as you walk in it certainly feels like a big experience, with treble-barrelled changing rooms, fine hardwood floors and a marble checkout desk, there’s now plenty of room for both the womenswear and menswear at number 16 and 17 Pall Mall. Oliver proudly believes in taking risks, both in his design and his business – this penchant for risk-taking has been paying off for the last 25 years, so why change now? As ever, Favourbrook combines quality craftsmanship and heritage with daring and distinctive design. This new store encapsulates the vibrancy and enduring appeal of Favourbrook, taking traditional English formalwear and exploring how it can be made both eclectic and sophisticated. Oliver’s advice to anyone shopping for formalwear: “Be brave!” riddle_stop 2

 

Enquires: Favourbrook, 16 – 17 Pall Mall, St James’s, London SW1Y 5LU / 0207 4935060, women’s 0203 9119318 / https://favourbrook.com/

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