9th April 2020

Craft / Featured / Paynter Jacket Co.

Slow Fashion, Paynter Jackets: An Original Interview with Some Good Ideas

71 15 mins 0

Founders of Paynter Jacket Co., Becky and Huw’s, relaxed yet careful approach to their business model is ingenious: releasing just four editions of their jackets to date on a pre-order basis and selling-out in a matter of minutes each time. Their model is stripped back. Production orders are guaranteed long before any cloth is cut, reducing risk across all areas of manufacturing. No fabric wasted; no machine hours wrongly spent, factory downtime made use of. It’s a win-win all-round.

The key to Paynter’s success is a stellar marketing plan. Becky and Huw’s personal approach to communication and storytelling and their keenness to be as transparent as possible allows the customer to create a deep connection with their clothing before having ever touched it.

This interview was conducted by Sarah Hellen, our wonderful curator of the Makers Row and all things craft at The Good Life Experience. Sarah studied Fashion Design and worked as a menswear designer before returning to her hometown in Wales to pursue her love of craft and making. She is passionate about sustainable fashion and the future of making in Britain. Who better to interview Paynter Jackets than her?

A continuous theme throughout this website showcases brands created with love. Often, they are started as a “side project” (for want of a better phrase), but because the idea is filled with passion, it cannot help but grow into something real and unique: a good idea worth sharing. 

Some Good Ideas:  Congratulations on your most recent launch Becky. You have such a refreshing approach to fashion and production. Would you call it fashion? Sometimes it can be seen as a bit of an ugly word.

Paynter Jacket Co.: Thank you! We don’t see ourselves as a traditional ‘fashion brand’. We admire companies like Patagonia more than Prada. We don’t make a whole collection, we just make jackets. One style at a time. We don’t show at Fashion Weeks or sell wholesale, we’re only available online three times a year. Our purpose is to bring meaning back to clothing.

I think we have a responsibility to help people understand what goes into their clothing, from a material and social perspective, so our jackets strike a balance of being made to order while also being affordable. Our customers see every stage of that making process behind the scenes, so by the time their jacket arrives, they’ve got a much deeper connection with it, not just a physical one.

SGI: It sounds like you guys did some serious research before launching into the design and sampling stage of your jacket. How important was this initial research stage for you? Do you think the research stage ever stops? 

PJ: The research never stops. Whether we’re researching fabrics or design details for a specific jacket, or looking into the impact our business has, there are only two of us, so it’s a cyclical process and keeps us fairly busy.

For example, for just one jacket, there’s research into the shape and style, tests to work on the fit, finding the right materials and always researching whether there are better alternatives, as well as looking at how we can make it in a way that has a low impact on the planet. Then there are components like labels, buttons and packaging. Meanwhile, we’ll be testing out ideas and experiments into our business model and the way we educate and inform our customers along their journey. We’re always learning.

We’re actually more of a research project than a brand, and we’re very happy with it being that way. We’re more motivated by the learning rather than the idea of having a big company. The benefits of only launching three times a year mean that we can spend 99% of our time learning and sharing our findings.

SGI: During your research process, had you considered making your garments in Britain?

PJ: We started by looking for factories in Britain and in all honesty, we didn’t find what we were looking for in terms of quality. The factories we found couldn’t finish the jackets in the way that we wanted.

We work with a small, family run Portuguese factory who we visit often and have a wonderful long-term relationship with. Saying that, running a business in this industry is collaborative and once you get going, your eyes widen to new opportunities to learn and develop. We’ve just started talking to a great British factory that we can get to on the bus in under an hour from home. That’s an incredibly exciting development we’re looking forward to exploring and sharing more about this year.

SGI: At what point in the production of the garments did the word ‘sustainability’ come up? Did this element come naturally to you both?

PJ: Before Paynter, we knew the worst thing we could do for our planet would be to make more stuff we don’t need.

Growing up in our generation, it’s impossible to ignore the importance of sustainability. We used to struggle with the concept of making a product, thinking we were adding to the problem, but actually it’s the opposite. If we can make just 1,500 jackets a year but have an impact on how many more people think about buying clothing, how long it lasts, how to care for it and who they buy from, then we’re doing a good job. I’d guess for every jacket we sell, we’re saving a fair few impulse buys from the high street, while opening our customers eyes to the people behind the products.

While designing our business we were thinking about our impact at every level and we’re always learning and identifying ways to improve.

Paynter Jacket Co.

SGI: Paynter jackets are made to last forever. Can you talk us through some of the design details you’ve added to make your garments so durable?

PJ: Our jackets are made to last, to be loved and to be worn into the ground. A big part of our research this year will be on doing a life cycle analysis of all our jackets. Looking at how we can make a jacket as sustainable as possible, last for as long as possible, but when the day comes and the jacket is too battered to wear and is beyond repair, it can be buried in the garden and biodegrade.

Imagine being able to nurture the soil by burying your worn-out jacket!

What if you sow seeds into the cuffs and collar so when you bury your worn-out jacket, wildflowers grow? Disclaimer – wildflowers don’t grow from our jackets just yet, but hopefully one day they will. 

Anyway, as for making jackets to last a long time, the first thing we have to consider is the raw materials. The longer the cotton fibres that we use, the stronger the fabric and the flexible it will be. The slower the weaving, the stronger it becomes. Then, we look at how to finish the fabrics in a way to minimises tearing. Every decision matters. And a lot of them happen from the ground up. You can’t see every detail, but you’ll know it’s there. We have always chosen tough but soft and wearable fabrics that suit the style of jacket we’re making. The style has to be timeless, not of the moment, so they can be worn for multiple seasons, not just one. Then the way it’s made matters too, for instance choosing twin needle stitching over single. And I’m sure as we continue to learn we’ll find there’s a lot more we can do to make them last even longer.

SGI: The transparency of your garment making process is such a key part of what you do. How has this element of your branding been accepted by the key roles within the manufacturing process? Have you found manufacturers are happy for you to share this information?

PJ: Our manufacturers love to share, for example, Courtney and Co are an incredible button maker based in the UK and they actively involve us in their button making process, from carving to dying each button. We’re celebrating and sharing the stories of the people and processes so our customers can see the quality on a new level. In turn, customers are demanding better quality and more brands are choosing to use better components, which benefits the makers. It’s a great loop that we love being part of.

SGI: The fashion industry is one of -if not the- biggest contributors to climate change. How do we, as consumers, do our bit to change this?

PJ: Big question. There is so much that needs to be done, and individually none of us can fix the problem we’re faced with. Instead, it’s about looking at the options, picking your lane, researching deeply and being strong in your actions. Talking from a fashion perspective, look at who you’re buying from, don’t strive for cheap, avoid synthetic materials and care for your clothes by avoiding unnecessary washing, and mending when you need to. As a society, we’ve all got to change our production and consumption habits.

Another way of making small changes could be something super simple, for example I’ve got an Instagram ‘direct message’ group with friends, when any of us go to an occasion/wedding or party and need a new dress, we’ll message the group and see who we could borrow from. No money is exchanged, and we trust our pieces will come back clean. It’s not world-changing but you’d be surprised how many people want to do their bit. Once you dip your toe in, you’ll start seeing more opportunities to do more.

SGI: For those wanting to keep track of new and interesting conscious clothing, do you have any hints or tips? Any go-to Instagram accounts or brands to keep an eye on?

PJ: Knowing where to start is hard when we’re bombarded by messages of consumption. The first thing I’d say is, think about buying fewer quality pieces. What might appear expensive upfront might just end up being ‘cheap’ over the long run if it’s something you love and get a lot of wear out of it. Then, get used to looking at labels, avoid the obvious like polyester and acrylic. Try to buy natural and organic where possible – organic/recycled cotton/wools from responsible brands and Tencel or Lyocell as an alternative man-made fabric.

A few brands to keep in mind when you’re looking for well-made quality clothing would be: Community Clothing, Genevieve Sweeney, Hiut Denim, and us if you’re looking for a jacket and want to see behind the scenes as it’s made for you!

SGI: And finally, what else do we have to look forward to from Paynter this year?

PJ: We’re putting a lot of thought and time into sustainability right now. From a people, product and business perspective. Luckily since we only sell for 3 days a year, we can afford to spend a lot of time looking at how we can leave a smaller trace while having a big impact. We’ll be sharing our learnings as we go, on the stories page of our website as well as our newsletter.

From a product side, we’ll have another batch of jackets for sale this year (around September) and we’re both incredibly excited about them.

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Advocates for Slow Fashion, Becky and Huw -founders of Paynter jackets- take iconic jacket styles and re-make them using the best materials they can find. Each jacket they make is part of a limited edition run, and hand numbered in the order it’s sold.

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