We often hear the phrase ‘do one thing and do it really well’, the idea that focusing all your creative thinking and time on a single craft will yield the best results. The thought of committing a large amount of time and energy is often very daunting, with unpredictable results and slight possibility of failure it’s not uncommon for people to fold under the pressure. However Huw and Becky from Paynter have shown what is possible when hard work meets incredible story telling and transparency.
Ahead of the release of Batch No.3.5 (available on the 30th of May at 9AM 2020) we caught up with Huw and Becky to see how the current global Covid situation has affected them and to learn a bit more about their unique brand and journey that is Paynter.
Paynter is a very unique project, how would you best describe the business to someone who has not heard of you guys yet?
We make jackets, just three times a year, in limited edition Batches that are made to order. We like making to order because it allowed us to take our customers through every step that happens from the fabric being cut, to buttons being dyed, to their jackets being assembled and everything in between. It means that when our jackets finally arrive with their new owners, people have a deep connection to that piece of clothing.
Ultimately that’s what we’re all about, bringing meaning back to clothing.
What initially encouraged you to found Paynter?
Well, we both had backgrounds in clothing before we met. Huw was working on product development and marketing at Hiut Denim, while I’d been at Nike after graduating from Central St Martins.
When we met, we got talking about the kinds of companies we respected and wanted to see more of in the world, which led us to starting Paynter only 2 months into a brand new (long distance) relationship…! (Pretty nuts, for the full story, visit this page).
While Huw was working at Hiut, he’d started collecting the offcuts of gorgeous denims from the floor, underneath the cutting table, and making things. His first piece was a tiny noragi jacket made from 14oz selvedge which was only big enough for his 2 year old nephew to wear! And too stiff for him to move his arms in…!
He started buying vintage jackets on eBay to figure out the construction, and re-make them. Then there was one that was too good to take apart, because it fit so well. And we started a project to re-make that iconic jacket, it was a bright blue, the exact shade worn by photographer Bill Cunningham.
9 months later, we had a jacket we were really proud of, and a waiting list of 2500 people who wanted to buy one, and that’s when Paynter really began.
All of the jackets have a consistent utilitarian design approach, with classic silhouettes and influences. When it comes to design is function above all?
We start by working with vintage garments that have already stood their ground for years. We’ll visit archives and work out what’s central to that piece, and what can be taken away that doesn’t suit a modern lifestyle. Working from iconic classics and timeless staples is a great starting point because we want to make jackets that last for years, so we look at everything from fabrics to stitching and fine details that really make the difference.
Then we add heart and a bit of fun, like our care label that’s gone pretty viral lately.
Batch 4 is the next jacket in line to release, what was the inspiration behind the jacket?
Well… Batch No.4 was supposed to be our next release, but we’ve just broken our own rule of only making 3 jackets a year by sneaking in Batch No.3.5…
With the world going crazy right now, we have wanted to help for a while but with the factory being closed, we couldn't make anything.
Until this week. Sergio and the team are back in the factory, and the sewing machines are humming again.
And that got us thinking. What if we released a jacket that would support our factory, after so many brands have cancelled orders? What if that jacket could also support our National Health Service?
This is Batch No.3.5.
It wasn't in our plan for the year. But neither was the year that we're all having. Things change. And we all adapt. We just wanted to make sure the change was positive. For Batch No.3.5 we're bringing back the three-pocket chore jacket from Batch No.1. In only one colour. Bills Blue. The colour of the jacket that sparked this whole thing. There will be a new limited edition label, featuring artwork by Carl Godfrey And 100% of the profits will go to charity. Batch No.3.5 will be available on the 30th of May at 9AM.
"Ultimately that’s what we’re all about, bringing meaning back to clothing."
How has the current situation affected the release and production of Batch 4?
Covid has had a big impact on our production capabilities, since we have a small supply chain but one that’s spread across Europe. For Batch No.4, our fabric is woven for us in Italy, and our buttons made in Italy too. Then there’s our factory, based in Portugal.
We first realised the impact that Covid would have on Paynter when things got serious in Italy, when their lockdown begun, it was just a few weeks before production of non essential items was forced to close. Our factory followed soon after that.
We knew that with our factory closed, and our fabric not quite finished, there was no way we wanted to sell anything, without knowing when we could deliver (since our jackets are made to order). Plus, it’s a very tough time for freelancers and creatives, and small business owners at the moment. Creatives make up a huge portion of our customers, so we didn’t want to be selling to them at a difficult time.
All in all, the production situation meant us deciding to postpone our launch until September this year. It’s a while, but it gives us time to get deep into next year’s samples and plan ahead.
What have you been doing to keep busy while at home?
Lately we’ve been talking to our mills and makers a lot, figuring out what’s possible for Batch No.3.5 and future jackets we’re working on. We’ve been making tweaks to existing patterns, planning photoshoots and shooting our own flat shots at home.
There’s been a lot more time for reading which had been so good, and I’ve been learning Qi Gong via Instagram Live! Huw has been making his own T Shirts, and we’ve both cooked plenty.
Oh, and we moved house last week. We’d only seen the new place via Zoom, so that was an experience we’ll never forget!
And lastly a tough one. Which has been your favourite jacket so far?
Ooooh, tough one.
Becky - Bill’s Blue from Batch No.1, closely followed by our upcoming Corduroy jacket in Oat, a super soft Italian cord paired with metal buttons.
Huw - Batch No.2, the 4 pocket chore jacket in deep navy, with navy embroidery on the back. Subtle.
Via Paynter Jacket