With its personality-led approach and directional credentials, Folk is making an impact both at home and away.
Folk is an infectiously likeable brand. For a start its owners, McAteer siblings Cathal and Maggie, have a laid-back charm that belies an insatiable passion for product.
Then there is the witty handcrafted aesthetic that informs the casual men’s and women’s collection – a design personality with enough flair to spark conversations, but with an off-the-rail wearability generally reserved for long-established wardrobe favourites. And to cap it all, Folk is guided by an ethical approach that helps to influence its choice of suppliers.
“We’re not as ethically aware as some people claim to be,” says Maggie. “But it costs a lot to be ethically aware and it’s dangerous, because by making bold claims you invite people to knock you down.” That said, Folk’s cottons are organic and its suppliers include a fair trade Bolivian outfit; even its cardigan buttons are second-hand.
Folk, and its footwear stablemate Shöfolk, were not born by chance. In 2001, while Cathal was immersed in life as an agent, he decided to turn his aspiration – to create a contemporary casualwear collection that his friends would like to wear – into reality.
He made his mark on the UK fashion map after establishing agency Macandi, which first brought Dutch denim brand Blue Blood to UK shores. The agency still exists, now representing fashion-forward brands Closed, Morphine Generation, Humanoid, footwear brand Nicholas Deakins and the BSA range of clothing and footwear, which the McAteers also produce under licence.
Macandi’s dialogue with buyers has not only helped Folk to establish a presence in some of the UK’s premier boutiques – from Manchester’s Oi Polloi to online player Oki-Ni – but it also keeps the brand tuned into the trading climate.
“Folk isn’t so much trend-led, but it pays to know what’s happening,” Cathal explains.
“I have the feeling we’ll see the rise of the boutique again, with people buying more into investment pieces. Last season we had a bright pink alpaca cardigan for men priced at more than £300 and it sold well, which shows people aren’t afraid to spend.”
The Folk shop, which opened last March on Lamb’s Conduit Street in central London, has also proved an invaluable barometer for popular styles. “We’ve learned about categories,” says Cathal.
“Last season we sold out of shirts, for example, so each season we learn more about the parts of our ranges that people respond to. We find out so much by working on the shop floor.”
The most refreshing part of the McAteers’ distribution mantra – which stretches beyond the UK to Japan, Denmark, Italy, Australia and the US – is their reluctance to steamroll through the market. “People keep telling us we have to build our own brand, but it would be so cool to sell £15,000 of stock every season to our 23 accounts,” says Cathal.
“If we had five stockists in each of our new territories and opened a few stores in the UK that would be sweet. That’s a business in itself.”
Folk 020 7831 1688
1991: The year Folk was established
23: Number of UK accounts
70: Number of pieces in Folk’s collection