At this time of year the linen shirt is a wardrobe staple. But why is it limited to the summer months? Challenging the perception that the fabric is just a fair-weather friend, Flax London decided to play with the weights and weaves to create a shirt that can be worn year round. After launching in January 2018 and with 2 sell-out collections under their belts, founders Callum McCall and George Rutherford-Jones now face the good problem of keeping up with demand. Here we speak to Callum about launching a brand, where to find the best men’s shopping in London and his favourite local haunts:
I live in Camberwell and I love it. If you’re in the area, grab coffee at Daily Goods, the best pizza in London at Theo’s, a craft beer at The Stormbird, Turkish grill at FM Mangal, or a 10/10 rotisserie chicken and chips at The Camberwell Arms. You won’t be disappointed. There are some amazing streets and parks off the main drag too.
George, my Flax London co-founder, lives just down the road in Queen’s Road Peckham. Another area that seems to have a great new restaurant or café opening every week. I often find myself diverting via Bellenden Road on my way down to his place. Try Artusi for great Mediterranean food and Ganapati for delicious South Indian curry.
What led you to found Flax London?
George and I have always shared a love for quality, artisanal men’s clothing. Every summer, a few linen staples would reappear in both our wardrobes, looking better and better each time. It was with a slight sadness that we put them away to hibernate each year. One day, discussing linen’s short season, we had an idea. Could we do more with it? Flax London was born on the premise that the creative use of different weights, weaves, and colours could bring out so much more from linen.
But isn’t linen a little chilly in winter?
Most people know that linen is more breathable than cotton, but few realise it’s also more insulating. We chose the heavier, more opaque 238gsm linen for our signature shirts (typical linen shirts are around 170gsm). The reception has been amazing. Most people say they’ve never felt a linen like it, and there’s been enough repeat business to assure us the idea is catching on!
You source your linen from Baird McNutt in Northern Ireland. Why there?
Northern Ireland has a long history of making top quality linens. We have built a great relationship with Baird McNutt who have a factory near Belfast. We’re keen to keep our production chain short because it gives us more control and tends to be better for the environment.
Throughout history who’s worn the classic linen shirt the best?
This shot of Steve McQueen from the Thomas Crown Affair was one of the first things on the Flax London inspiration board. It’s a fierce look in that orange and the texture in his shirt is what it’s all about:
If we’re talking about current style icons, model and photographer Richard Biedul has been showing us how to wear linen this year:
Can you share your favourite London haunts?
Bar – Ain’t Nothing But, Soho. Live blues, not much space. A lot of fun.
Pub – The Stormbird, Camberwell. Especially in summer when you can sit outside.
Restaurant – St. John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields. We’re looking forward to hosting a small Flax London Christmas party there.
Which podcasts are you loving at the moment?
What’s the best street in London for men’s clothes shopping?
Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury– it’s a tiny stretch of road with a few of my favourite brands. It’s unassuming, but it’s a real focal point for understated men’s style. There’s also a great wine bar called Noble Rot. Berwick Street, Soho is another must-visit for men’s style.
What’s in the pipeline for Flax?
We’re really excited about how much potential there is with linen. We’ve only scratched the surface so we’ll be testing lots of things in the next six months – we’re working on producing a chore jacket, and we’ve had a lot of requests for more structured linen trousers and shorts, both of which we think we can do really well. We’re moving slowly to make sure we get everything bang on.
And finally, where are you going on holiday this summer? Which 3 items will you be packing in your suitcase?
Portugal, Amsterdam, and Puglia are all on the menu for me this summer. The three items I’ll be taking to all three places: the Flax London short-sleeved Linen Smock (above), my new Cubitts sunglasses and a bag of Monmouth coffee.