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We’re pleased to welcome Blacksmith Store to Parade, a clothing brand and store based in South London. Blacksmith pride themselves on manufacturing high-quality product at an accessible price point, maintaining a focus on sustainability via product footprint, workers rights and creating long lasting goods. We spoke to Tom Chudley, the man behind the brand, to learn more.
If you could give us an introduction to yourself and how you came to start the Blacksmith Store?
Hey, I’m Tom, I run an online shop called Blacksmith Store in Peckham, South London. Blacksmith Store sells a selection of hand-picked menswear staples from across the globe, alongside our in-house brand Blacksmith. The brand has existed in various capacities for the last seven-ish years, I’ve jumped in and out of doing it due to working full-time in the past and having super ADHD. A year ago I quit my job following some unexpected brain surgery, I vowed to stop doing stuff I didn’t enjoy and to focus on Blacksmith full-time.
What is your relationship with skateboarding and has it had any influence on the direction Blacksmith?
I met all of my oldest and best friends through skateboarding and it pretty much introduced me to everything I’ve ever been passionate about, be it art, music, film or photography.
I don’t make a conscious effort to bring skateboarding to the forefront of what Blacksmith does, mainly because I think unless it’s a board or hardware company it’s corny and hard to do well. It’s ingrained in a more subtle way and is involved in everything I do, whether I like it or not.
Where do you take inspiration from for your designs and graphics? Are there are any particular brands or cultural references that you take inspiration from?
When it comes to graphics I take influences from all over the place, it’s the one area I can unapologetically back something just because I think it looks cool. Contrary to those type of people on Kickstarter raising millions of pounds to “recreate the t-shirt”, a tee or hoodie only has so much functionality and in my eyes is a canvas for a pleasing visual. My influences for graphics are often from 70s-90s political and editorial archives, record sleeves are another big influence.
We first came across you after being introduced by a few skaters who love wearing your clothes, especially your jeans. We heard they are super comfortable, well made, loose fitted with deep pockets and all for a reasonable price, i.e. a skater’s dream? Was this intentional? I heard at one point you might have been hooking up some skaters?
Those are the main points I was focusing on when making trousers, for sure, not strictly from a skateboarding perspective but the same sensibilities apply to anyone who wants rugged, well-made clothing which doesn’t fall apart after a few wears. I have a bunch of friends who are carpenters, labourers and do manual work every day - when I knew the jeans stood up to their standards I felt like that was the seal of approval.
The same goes for my friends who were able to make a living skateboarding and skate in them every day. The nature of what I, and the people around me, have always done means that I’m pretty unlikely to make flimsy trousers anytime soon! There’s plenty of people doing that already.
Your clothing appears to take inspiration from workwear?
It’s such a broad term, but workwear is one of the few styles which by definition doesn’t age. Clothing-wise, I feel like there’s a shortlist of trends throughout the 80s to now which haven’t aged badly and to me, it’s the ultimate test of what’s good.
I know things come and go but ask your average teenager what they thought of Osiris D3’s 2-years ago and now, post-ASAP rocky ripping them off with Under Armour. It’s super easy to start calling stuff O.G when it becomes cool again but no one from that generation would have backed them before the co-signs. I guess it all comes down to authenticity and inarguable function. I also still want a pair of D3’s as badly as I did when I was 12 but I wouldn’t wear the monsters.
They [Supreme] have a huge platform and they’re doing a good job of educating and introducing kids to the importance of authenticity.
In recent years workwear brands like Carharrt and Dickies have been making their mark in fashion. Supreme even recently collaborated with Ben Davis. Do you have any feelings or thoughts on this recent trend or a reason it's increasing in its appeal?
I think the recent, more widespread popularity of brands like Carhartt and Dickies is down to the natural swing of fashion and certain eras and subcultures becoming relevant to the masses again, for whatever reason. Someone sent me a photo of Justin Bieber wearing a Mudhoney tee the other day, it’s all pretty bonkers. Carhartt and Dickies have always been such a staple in skateboarding and came along for the journey when skateboarding was re-adopted into high-street culture in a big way a few years ago.
Regardless of what anyone thinks about the rise of Supreme and their current demographic, they’ve continued to collaborate with authentic players from every aspect of culture, Ben Davis being a perfect example. They have a huge platform and they’re doing a good job of educating and introducing kids to the importance of authenticity.
What are your thoughts on the future of workwear given its fresh association with fashion, or has this always been there to some extent?
It’s always been a part of fashion, whether people refer to is as utilitarian, workwear or whatever the latest buzzword is. It’s functional, pragmatically designed and hard-wearing clothing. It's the only “style” which has remained relevant for centuries, it’s design for purpose.
Different adaptations will come and go, but as a whole I can’t see practicality and durability in clothing going anywhere because fashion dictates so. If anything, I see a rise in people seeking longer-lasting, timeless clothes as the guilt and footprint of mass-consumerism continues to rise.
As we mentioned earlier, your jeans are very reasonably priced, which is ideal for skaters. Is there any specific reason for this lower price point, did you want to make them accessible to a certain market?
I’ve always wanted the products to sit at an accessible price-point, I try my best to reach a happy medium between manufacturer and consumer without either having to compromise. Wherever possible we work with upcycling garments and waste fabrics, it often means we can only make small runs but it helps keep the price down and deals with the ever-growing issues presented by the fashion industry.
I’ve worked for a bunch of brands in the past, seeing the unnecessary layers of people making money out of every stage of the process put me off the traditional wholesale route.
I don’t need a penthouse office in Zone 1, shooting a lookbook doesn’t need to cost £20k and I will never pay someone who’s not into the product to endorse it. Cut the fat and it doesn’t need to be that expensive.
As well as your own Blacksmith goods you also stock a heavy list of brands such as Champion USA and Pro Club. What was the influence for you to decide to bring on other brands to the Blacksmith Store and will we see more?
The reason I bought other brands on-board was because a lot of the product I, and my friends, wanted to buy wasn’t readily available in the UK. You can go into 20+ stores in London and find the same brands over and over again, which is cool but kind of boring.
The main thing that made me feel like I could bring in other brands, came from retail experiences in Japan. I remember being confused but so hyped walking into a Nanamica store in Tokyo where they were selling their own £1200 Gore-Tex macs alongside a rail of £15 Hanes beefy tees. You’d never see a “luxury” brand do that in their own store in Europe. Alignment is good and chances are, the brand who’ve been making t-shirts 100-years longer than you, are probably better at it.
Can you share some of your future plans for Blacksmith?
My only real plan is to keep the growth steady and natural, things have been expanding at a nice rate and I want to maintain that. I also really want to work towards making the ranges completely unisex.
Explore and shop the Blacksmith collection on Parade.
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