Woolrich and Griffin on its sustainable outerwear collection
Six years ago, Andrea Canè, creative brand director of Woolrich, sat down for dinner with British performance-wear designer-turned- farmer Jeff Griffin. ‘“I need a tractor.” That was the first thing he said to me,’ says Canè. It was the start of a fruitful relationship and A/W19 marks Woolrich and Devon-based Griffin Studio’s third capsule collection, a unisex offering of vivid and environmentally conscious outerwear that brings together the outdoor aesthetics of both brands. This includes Woolrich’s Buffalo check, introduced in 1850 and soon adopted by lumberjacks near the company’s wool mill in Pennsylvania, and its ‘Arctic’ parka, designed in 1972 for Alaskan pipeline workers, alongside Griffin’s military motifs, functional reversible forms and upcycled aesthetic.
Griffin started getting green-fingered in 2001. That year, the designer decamped – with his wife and creative partner, and their three sons – from London’s bustling Ladbroke Grove; first to a converted cowshed on the edge of Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, then to Loveland Farm, six acres of remote sprawling farmland in Hartland, Devon. Bordered by oak and apple trees, it is not just a farm and creative studio, but also an eco-retreat with a recycled woodchip biomass energy source and Griffin-built domed eco-pods – high-end huts, complete with composting toilets, insulated floors and beds made up with cosy Griffin x Woolrich quilts.
‘I used to cut our hedges in London with nail clippers,’ Griffin laughs. His transition from nature novice to countryside connoisseur is one that really chimes with Canè. ‘This collaboration encapsulates the real outdoors,’ he says. ‘A kind of Anglo-American product.’ Griffin concurs: ‘So often, active lifestyle brands are housed inside massive buildings in cities. We love the rawness of our location.’
Waterproof, windproof and breathable pieces are made using sustainable materials, including Eco Ramar cloth, which contains 60 per cent organic cotton and 40 per cent recycled nylon. Woolrich’s ‘Arctic’ parka has been reimagined in this fabric and, in a water-saving solution, it is printed, instead of dyed, with the brand’s Buffalo check. A sleeping bag coat is made in recycled ripstop polyester, produced by an Italian military fabric maker. High-tech details abound, such as zips that turn a parka into a poncho, smart reversibility, and oversized pockets inspired by archive Woolrich poacher’s coats. A series of ‘Second Life’ coats, limited to 120 pieces, are made from deadstock fabrics, including three-year-old Woolrich wool and waxed cotton Griffin found in a stockroom at Scottish mill Halley Stevensons.
Loveland Farm is a hub of experimentation. It’s where Griffin learnt to cultivate soil, rear livestock and dam a stream. He channelled his anger about the 2016 Brexit referendum result into learning brickwork and building an outdoor pizza oven. ‘Our sustainability starts at the farm,’ he says. Griffin and Woolrich’s collaboration too is a microcosmic testing ground for sustainable manufacturing approaches. In time, Canè hopes to apply these to the brand as whole. ‘It’s a way to try out new ideas,’ he says. In Jeff’s vegetable patch, cardboard Woolrich packaging is seen composting into the soil, next to chilli plants, pumpkins and courgettes. It’s a symbol of two brands truly immersed in nature, cultivating impressive outerwear results. §