Baartmans And Siegel

London stands out among the major fashion cities as the one with youth and energy, harnessing new talent and pushing fresh designers to the foreground. Of the latest generation, design duo Baartmans and Siegel is a team paying particular attention to detail when it comes to fabric and quality over bells and whistles.

Their studio and factory are in East London, allowing them to work closely together on every stage of the process. Although young designers, there isn’t any sense of naivety in their work or practice. This is a team making conscious business decisions and with a focus on an international market.

Their business-like approach is evident in the factory as the designers sit down with the pattern cutters and management to discuss the upcoming season. Details like zippers and buttons and textile treatments are presented with precision and negotiated along the line between design dreams and practical reality. It’s was an impressive image given the company has only got a handful of collections under its belt.

Full names and job titles (Also name of the gorgeous doggy!)

Wouter Baartmans Joint founder & Designer, Amber Siegel  Joint founder & Designer
and Ms Noodle- miniature dachshund and the “AND” of Baartmans and Siegel

Tell us about the business

We are an emerging menswear label that creates ‘modern-classics’ focusing on tactile & innovative, indulgent garments that provide comfort and style to the discerning male. We launched at the end of 2010 with Harrods.

What’s your role in the business?

We are both designers and we start each season together, designing & creating the aesthetic of each garment. We then we continue to work on separate sections of the business – Wouter is very technical and focuses on the product construction & manufacturing- Amber works with the buyers, press and collaborations.

How did you get started?

We met while at Viktor & Rolf in Amsterdam, and since then have always been working together- combining ideas to make creative products and collections. It was a natural evolution to continue and create our own label.

What are the core values of the business?

Our first thought is always indulgence – this can be in a minimalist way- but the idea of personal indulgence through specialist craft & care of execution of construction, this is important. We take time to source beautiful materials and making bespoke components for each garment and always strive to deliver items that people enjoy wearing daily. With each garment we look to highlight the value of comfort and confidence for the wearer.

As such a young company it must be easy to be tempted to manufacture everything cheaply with a high margin overseas, why do you not take this route?

Our training and previous roles have been exclusively within large luxury houses and design companies who have always worked with independent & artisan factories and small sample units – so for us it was incomprehensible to go against our instincts & training of focused specialty. We are not about quantity – we stand for quality & care. Each piece is lovingly made, and delivered to the retailer or customer with pride and pleasure. There is such a satisfaction in seeing the journey & creation of an idea into a product.

How important is the UK-made and designed aspect of the product to you?

Supporting legendary industry is important. For us it is such a privilege to tap in to history & expertise knowledge. Some of the wool factories that we work with in the North of England have been creating their fabrics for over 200 years & are royal warrant appointed. It is not always the main deciding factory in our sourcing, but it is most definitely an element that we highlight to our international & domestic consumers – often creating special care-labels showing the particular machine, breed of sheep or factory where the item is made.

What do you gain from production here?

Being able to create items domestically is important for us to allow spontaneity and for us to be responsive to the market, to develop items quickly and also to work with machinists who are willing to take a chance and push boundaries. Not everything should be about speed & money.
You and Wouter have a great dynamic, how do the two of you fit together in terms of work life? How does Wouters Germanic approach fit with yours? Does this affect production ever?

Well Wouter is very Dutch – very pragmatic and wants the focus of every hour to be efficiency. I seek to balance this with pure hedonism – all about excess and pleasure. Somewhere in the middle our natural opposite instincts lies our hunger for everything and our synergy for creation. The best thing about us is that we are able to feed each others minds constantly and to be open to high & low aspects of culture – enjoying experiences and constantly problem solving.

You’re a London based company and you both studied here, what do you think makes a London education in fashion so desirable? Did you get anything additional from the city while studying? Why is London a fashion capital?

London is such a melting pot of cultures and is a wonderful place for access of visual stimulation – subcultural over-load. London has a specific blend of youth culture, street culture, music scene and panache for luxury eccentricity. For a country that is actually a small Island we haven’t done to badly – but the future now consists of outward thinking-driven and supported by internal generation of offering and applying it to a broader international community and digitally progressive culture.

The structure of the menswear courses that we were on at LCF were changing and evolving- this was appealing to us – learning craft and refinement – in a commercial setting and then adding dynamite to the fishbowl – a good diving board for launching creativity on top of technical excellence and achievement. Creativity needs substance and backbone!

How does it feel to focus on British craft? Is there something here you can’t get from international manufacturers?

British Craft & manufacturing has a very specific touch. It does naturally have an industrial & military feel. It feels much heavier than that of say the lightness of Italian manufacturing. It is not appropriate for everything – but knowing the strengths & weakness of each manufacturer is important and then it is up to the designer to push & manipulate the strengths and find solutions for the areas that need more refinement. English manufacturing used to be stuffy and not flexible…which led to some of the death & fall of some fantastic companies. Now the ones who have survived understand what they are good at, but are often open for a great challenge – to develop future signatures of strength and achievement.

How much of the collection is ‘made in the UK’?

Right now roughly 60% It varies depending on the product & season.

You’re a part of a new wave of menswear designers who are really taking over the industry, do you feel there’s a movement currently? What’s your view of men’s style? What’s particularly exciting about this at the moment?

London is a fantastic place for menswear at the moment – with all eyes on London Collection Men’s. We have seen such a great momentum since our label’s conception and launch in 2010 – being on schedule and evolving with the format and the exposure of the new-rise menswear scene.

London has always been a nucleus for artistic exploration with the University of the Arts channelling and harvesting the seeds of talent and international industry creative minds. It’s hard to ignore the energy.

You had a fantastic relationship with the factory workers when we went in – is this important to you? why?

We invest in the people we work with & the industry, not just our label – but the community as a whole. We are hugely loyal to the people we work with and sincerely care in their thoughts and advice.  We have been working with this factory since we were students – with us at every stage and mutual reliance and transparency (especially in tough & competitive economic times) is very important. In a storm you need those safety points that you can rely on.

Baartmans & Siegel