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Cathal McAteer

The founder of Folk tells Gemma Dunn about opening the detail-rich premium brand’s first standalone women’s store

When did you first realise you wanted to work in fashion?

From an early age I was always a pain getting myself dressed, and I couldn’t wait to earn so I could spend. At 15, I worked in Glasgow designer boutique Ichi Ni San, which is where I got my first taste of the industry. From this point I knew I liked being a part of it, but I didn’t realise I would make a career out of fashion.

Could you sum up how the consumer perceives Folk?

Charles Eames, the iconic designer, defines our ethos in his philosophy: “The details are not the details, they make the design.” At Folk the details we use in our products are rich, we take a long time dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. The shapes we use are not spectacular and the patterns are simple, but our focus on the quality, textures and details of the fabrication is what makes the difference.

You’ve described Folk as a stylish and affordable collection for your friends. What aspects of it are inspired by those close to you? We tend to build collections on our own experiences. We wanted to create a fashionable yet wearable collection for our friends who find it hard to dress in fashionable wear without feeling uncomfortable. It was a big challenge to create classic but stylish garments that normal blokes would want to dress in.

What distinguishes the brand from others in the market?

We tend not to focus on other brands. We’re just proud of the garments we’ve been making. After six seasons, the improvement is vast. Our team works so hard to ensure consistency in our collections and as a result we’ve seen clear improvements in the quality and delivery [of our clothes] and our design process as a whole.

How important to you is the manufacturing process?

At Folk we’re always looking for new ways to improve and to find new factories and suppliers who could produce [our pieces] better. We would much rather redesign a garment and continually own it than to just design a completely new one.

What other brands or designers do you admire?

I really like Nigel Cabourn as a designer. He is doing some really exciting things. I also admire Swedish brand Our Legacy.

Folk has diversified into footwear and womenswear. How else will you grow the business? We’re opening our first women’s standalone store next month, two doors down from our original store on Lamb’s Conduit Street in London. The multi-brand store will house Folk Shoes [formerly called Shöfolk] as the focal point, with womenswear slotting in alongside.

Folk now has more than 150 accounts worldwide. Our preference would be to do incredibly well in the accounts we already hold and continue to improve within these, rather than opening up many more.

What was the last thing you bought?

I recently bought skittles from [antiques and furniture etailer] Fears and Kahn. I don’t really buy clothes, but if I was going to, I’d buy a double-layered Nigel Cabourn (pictured) shirt.

What book are you reading?

I’ve just finished The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Which is your favourite city?

Bologna. It’s the little traditional places in Europe which create the sense of real community.

Where is your favourite place to shop?

The website There’s also a brilliant flower shop called Scarlet Violet near my house in London.

Cathal McAteer is founder of premium brand Folk

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