At Raft we believe in doing the right thing. And doing it yourself if necessary. We look out for people with the same ethic and, when we get a few moments, we ask them to share a few thoughts with us. SIRPLUS is a clothing company with a difference – they use surplus fabrics to produce fabulous menswear that's made to last. We met founder Henry Hales... By Terry Stiastny From Portobello market stall to Paris and Princes Arcade in Piccadilly, SIRPLUS has had a rapid rise over the last decade. But for its founder Henry Hales, fashion shouldn’t be about speed but about creating clothes that last.
Henry Hales, Founder of SIRPLUSHenry started out wanting to create a new brand of boxer shorts — he thought there was a gap in the market for boxers with witty prints and patterns. But as he investigated a bit more, he found out that setting up screenprinting for fabrics could be both costly and wasteful. His eureka moment happened one day as he passed the old-school tailors of the West End. Henry says, ‘I’d been visiting various factories and speaking to people in the industry when, one day, I was walking down Jermyn Street. I noticed that a lot of the shirtmakers had rolls of fabric underneath their cutting tables that were almost finished, and soon came to learn that these were ends of rolls too small to make shirts but plenty to make boxers.’ Henry began selling his boxers on market stalls in Spitalfields and Notting Hill. Next came waistcoats and Nehru jackets. SIRPLUS now has two stores, in Portobello, near the old market pitch, and in Islington, and the range of products has grown to encompass a full range of classic menswear. Shirts, jackets, trousers — take your pick.
Image: SIRPLUSHenry Hales says that sustainability is considered in every decision that he and his company make. ‘The biggest problem with our industry is the practice of fast fashion – things that are designed to be worn a few times and then thrown away. I’d love to see more brands focusing on items that are made to last. We want our customers to hold on to our garments for years to come, which is why we place such an emphasis on quality and try not to follow trends.’ Henry takes his inspiration from the utility and durability of traditional workwear.
Rust Chore Jacket. Image: SIRPLUSAlthough SIRPLUS still sources much of its fabric from surplus at mills in Britain and Italy, they also now buy other responsibly-sourced fabric like organic cotton and recycled cashmere. But as Henry says, not every fabric is right for their products, and he’s faced with some tricky choices. ‘We often get people telling us that they have a few metres of an amazing fabric in their loft, and asking would we like to buy it. But the truth is that we buy our surplus from mills and factories that we have ongoing relationships with – that way we’re able to source say enough wool to make 15 bomber jackets or 20 pairs of trousers. By working with trusted partners there’s an inbuilt level of quality control – we test everything ourselves, but it’s a great place of trust from which to start.’
Image: SIRPLUSWhat’s next? Well, Henry was excited by recent pop-up stores in London and Paris and hopes to see more — SIRPLUS may be popping up in other cities and countries before too long. See more about SIRPLUS and shop their clothing and accessories at www.sirplus.co.uk. At Raft we craft furniture from reclaimed teak and hand-make sofas in our own London factory. Read about our founders Mick & Heinz here.