Connolly: Style and fashion meet on Clifford Street

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Connolly, which opened on Clifford Street at the end of last year, is one of the most interesting new menswear stores London has had for a while.

It offers luxury clothing, both under its own name and a few European brands (Charvet, Car Shoe, Stile Latino), covering everything from knitwear to tailoring, shoes to leather goods.

It is best understood, however as three different collections: the Driving Collection, the Classic Collection, and the leather goods.

It’s important to understand the differences, as each has a distinct outlook, and seeing just one (for example, by not visiting the lower-ground floor) could mean missing out on what is a very rich and original contribution to menswear.

The first, and easiest to get excited about, is the Driving Collection.

Although everything is overseen by founder Isabel Ettedgui, the collections have different designers - in this case, Adam Cameron, who readers will know from The Workers Club.

The collection is a mix of knitwear, soft tailoring, outerwear and accessories. All are beautifully made (by the best manufacturers I know), are good value by luxury standards, and often have small and original design quirks.

There is a cashmere knitted jacket, for example, which has piped seams and is slightly felted to give it a little more of the feel and drape of cloth. There is a cream-canvas tote with the most subtle white leather binding (above).

And there are some beautiful suede jackets. The Autumn/Winter collection had a full-length, hooded coat in unlined navy suede; it was sensational. Spring/Summer has a collarless biker jacket in the same soft stuff (pictured below, £2600).

There aren’t many pieces in each category. This is not where you go to fill up on navy ties or pale-blue shirts. But each piece has an interesting aesthetic without becoming too fashion-y.

For example, the key summer shirt is in a broad blue-and-cream stripe, linen/cotton mix, and relaxed cut. That’s it in the image below, far left.

Next to it is a herringbone-linen jacket made by Stile Latino, wonderfully slubby and softly structured. Further down the rail are that blue-suede biker and the cashmere-jersey jacket.

The Driving Collection is well-curated and highly wearable, and readers will have no problem finding things they love. It even contains the only cotton drawstring trousers I’ve ever been tempted by (deliberately in a trouser cut, rather than baggy in the thigh and pegged at the ankles).

The Classic Collection (upstairs, at the back) is a different kettle of fish.

Designed by Marc Audibet - of Hermes, Prada, Ferragamo and others - it is a more fashion-forward collection, with more unusual cuts, materials and proportions.

But the colour palette is still very restrained (mostly navy, cream and brown), and it is this that I think keeps a lot of it very relevant - in fact, exciting - for a Permanent Style reader.

To take an example, consider the ribbed cream sweater I’m wearing in the image above (£550). The colour, the knit and the materials are the same as a classic piece we’d expect from one of the Scottish knitters we know and love.

But the neck is scooped and high. The body is voluminous, high in the waist and then expanding in the chest. And the cuff is very long - 2 or 3 times the length of a classic piece.

None of these design points are extreme. This is not a showy piece of fashion (you’d struggle to pick them out coming down a runway). But the overall effect is very distinctive.

Isabel and retail director Ivan (above, who some readers might remember from Trunk) agree that the aim here is to mix the best qualities and classic menswear styles with touches of originality and fashion.

“It’s refreshing to mix these ideas, while remaining faithful to the best makers and best traditions of quality,” Isabel says.

Some pieces in the Classic Collection are less unusual - eg a beige-suede safari jacket (above, left). Others are more so - such as the floor-length liquette overshirts (fourth from left, £550).

But there are always pieces at a perfect, wearable point in the middle.

For example, the Spring/Summer collection has knitted polo shirts in either cream with navy ribbing, or navy with cream, that have extended sleeves finishing just above the elbow (pictured above, third from the right, £285). The effect is quite subtle, and the navy/cream version was my first purchase.

And there is the staggeringly wonderful shawl-collar cardigan pictured above (£1700).

(Deliberately slouchy, but not as oversized as pictured - I am wearing a large/extra-large, though I would actually be a small/medium.)

All of the pieces in the Classic Collection also seem to have nice manufacturing details - such as the full-length pleats in the liquette (below), or a strip of herringbone knitting just before the end of the cuff in the polo shirts.

Overlaying all of this in the Classic Collection is the idea that this is a shared wardrobe, with pieces that can be worn by either men or women.

I can see this putting off some Permanent Style readers, but I think it’s a little bit of a red herring.

Some materials will be too effeminate, such as silks and gauzy cottons. But these are easily avoided, and the cuts of the other pieces are perfectly masculine: more suited to women borrowing from their partner’s wardrobe than the other way around, in my opinion.

Elsewhere in the beautiful Connolly building are some unique leather bags and accessories, and a collection of vintage pieces on the top floor.

Connolly was originally a leather business, founded in 1879, and it made the interiors for some of the world’s best-known cars as well as for the British Houses of Parliament.

There is also backstory to the clothing, as readers may be aware. The original shop was opened in 1995, in a crescent just off Belgrave Square. Isabel was responsible for bringing many luxury brands to London for the first time, including Charvet and Car Shoe.

It was the best curated luxury shop in the city, and had a real loyalty among men in Mayfair, as well as a great clubby atmosphere. (In many ways, a forerunner to shops like The Armoury that we celebrate today.)

It expanded and moved to Conduit Street in 2000, before closing in 2010 with the death of Isabel’s husband (and founder of Joseph), Joseph Ettedgui.

Isabel opened again last year after a long time of looking for the right location, and the right partners.

The location on Clifford Street was perfect (Isabel also lives above the store) and the partners turned out to be both as brands and manufacturers - the key way the new shop is different from the old one is the amount of 'Connolly' product rather than just curated brands.

I’ll cover more of the ethos of Connolly in a separate interview with Isabel, but it is notable how much of the online menswear philosophy - which we discuss and analyse here on Permanent Style - has always been at the heart of Connolly.

To pick a few things from its mission statement:

“Connolly believes we don’t need more stuff, just good stuff”

“Connolly champions craftsmanship, not something designed by machine”

“Connolly thinks less is more, and more is less”

“Connolly provides truly personal service, not lip-service”

They’re all things that could have been lifted from this very site over the years. And they are still a rarity today among fashion companies.

Here’s to another great shop in London - alongside Trunk, Anderson & Sheppard, Anglo-Italian and others. It will be fascinating to see how this small but endlessly variable shop evolves.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

connollyengland.com

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Mike

The dude abides

Peter B

That’s it.
Something about that cardigan was making me crave a white russian…

Michael

Anyone for bowling?

Richard

Valid point about personal service

I visited Anglo Italian a few weeks ago to purchase a suede jacket, some shirts and one or two other items. Whilst pinning the suede jacket for alteration Alex walked off to deal with someone else who had just walked in and called out for a jacket. He then came back to me and continued then went off to look for stock downstairs when another guy walked in and called out. In the end I put my jacket on and politely said I’d return when he was less busy. So surprised was I at this level of service I sent an email to Alex to offer some feedback… he didn’t even bother to reply

Clearly many think these days it’s enough to be cool and have an instagram account. I would urge any entrepreneurs in this sector to pop into A&S and experience the fantastic service from Audie and co… that the way to do it!

Anonymous

How right you are.
It is completely amazing how completely unfocused the majority are on their customers. It’s like a disease. They claim to have an understanding of service but frankly when it comes to the art of looking after people they don’t know if they are Arthur or Martha.
A combination of ignorance and vanity is often the root cause of the problem and of course, the issue always stems from the top. As the boss does, so does the rest.
A&S Haberdashery are undoubtably the gold standard and of course it all comes from Anda & Audie – they think it’s cool to serve people well !

Richard

…Agreed…I think many of these “cools” stores need to learn from some of the good service that does still exist…If you can be “cool” on Instagram you could also be “cool” and respond to client feedback.

30/06/17
————

Dear Alex Kounis (Anglo Italian),

I dropped by this morning from my office in Mayfair with the intention of ordering several items – including the suede jacket I was trying on.

Whilst I admire your enthusiasm to serve all the potential clients that walk thru the door, you can bet your bottom dollar the likes of Audie & her team at A&S, Lorenzo Cifonelli or Gennaro Solito would never start serving two other clients whilst in the middle of a fitting then leave the client standing there whilst off hunting an item in the stock room for someone else. We both know it would never happen. I’m actually amazed that people walk into a store and make requests when they see someone busy fitting another customer. But that’s another story.

Like you, I’m an entrepreneur, and have learnt that interaction with clients is everything.

Best wishes with the new venture.

Richard

David

Hopefully the ‘too cool for school’ crowd will be reading this and will learn.
A lifetime ago there was a fabulous shop in Newcastle named after its founder, Marcus Price.
Marcus was cool when the adjective really stood for something . He was a polite and very knowledgable man.
One Saturday, his phone rang when he was serving me.
He quickly picked it up and said ‘please call back I’m busy serving’ and put the receiver down.
His assistant was out and I asked him why he hadn’t taken a message.
He said; ‘I’m looking after you – hopefully he’ll call back but this way, I only risk to upset one customer’.
Smart guy. These days they’d probably answer a call, send a text and take a selfie while you wait!
Education is the answer. Good customer service is simple. Great customer service is an art form.

Ian

Your right I went to A&S the other day looking for heavyweight Flannel trousers in Grey or Tan for the winter. Unfortunately I was seasonally a little too early and their stock was low, but the guy in the shop was very helpful and not at all upset that I did not buy any of the offerings I tried on and he tried to make fit. The first time I’ve been there but I’d definitely return there later as it is an amazing shop.

S

This is an experience I’ve had from several of these smaller shops. The staff seem so be too “cool” to actually interacting with the customer (or perhap it’s just me).

Given the outrageous prices demanded personal service should be front and centre, but as Richard points out, perhaps the business model is more based on a social media presence (form over substance once again).

S

Anonymous

I struggle with brand creep. Connolly leather has put a shine on my trousers during many years owning cars whose seats were clad in their leather, and somewhere I’ve got a plastic tub of their leather food. I’ve seen Jaguar aftershave, a Bulgari hotel, and a Porsche ballpen. To me, none of it makes sense. Good forbid Aston ever bring out a range of branded coffee cups

Anonymous

Think you could give the guys at the very recently opened Anglo Italian a break. I had very good service there. Sounds like Alex was working his proverbials off.

Wooster2

I have a completely different experience. One of the AI guys reached out to me by email after I purchased one of the cheapest items in their webshop. He was wondering if it had arrived OK and whether I was happy with it. He then offered me a partial refund since they had forgotten to deduct VAT at the time of my purchase (I live outside the EU). I think that’s extraordinarily good service.

David Sole

You’re out of your element Donnie!

Actually, the cardigan reminded me of the one Paul Michael Glaser wears in the opening credits of Starsky and Hutch….

David

Correct David – the cardigan is 100% Starsky.
Personally I’m awaiting a full Jason King revival.

Anon

“Connolly believes we don’t need more stuff, just good stuff”.

But at £500 for a pullover and close to £300 for a shirt will the good stuff last significantly longer?

Rups

Yes, the ‘don’t need more stuff’ seems to be a clever marketing line created by upscale retailers to justify very expensive clothing. It goes hand in hand with ‘this will last a lifetime’.

Phil

Absolutely. I visited Connolly about six months ago and was given a tour by the charming manageress, Olivia (?). The term ‘gender fluid’ was mentioned, which did worry me slightly, but, as you say, it’s not really an issue. I eventually came away with a gorgeous brown casmere sweater, perhaps the best piece of knitwear I’ve ever bought. Olivia dealt with my mild embarrassment when I tried it on the wrong way round, with grace and tact. Service. A gem of a shop in what must now be one of the best street’s in the world for ready to wear menswear.

Michael B. Murray

I love these posts as they highlight stores we might otherwise not be aware of. Living in the U.S. I hope we continue to see a resurgence of these independent shops that cater to quality over quantity. With a move by many in our world to seek to have less things, it stands to reason that purchasing more quality items, made responsibly, has a lot of great momentum going forward. As always, a fantastic post!

Anonymous

Simon, I’ve noticed (maybe because its Summer) that you are increasingly wearing tieless outfits. Given the relaxing of standards in Westminster (it is no longer strict form that MPs must wear a tie) and a call to relax the dress code of CofE clergy could you comment on how one might retain an element of style whilst not appearing out of step with increasingly casual dress codes.

Additionally I need to get some shoes made (wide feet) but do not have the funds to extend to the prices of the excellent UK shoemakers featured here; could you advise of any visiting shoemakers where costs might be lower (or somewhere a short plane ride away)? I understand Trickers make to around £1k plus (lasts through Springline) but am unsure as to quality – thank you.

Marvin Chankowsky

Hello Simon, very nice article.
I love the way you describe garments, you have a knack for being able to zero in on what matters. Often opening my eyes to details that are for me, just beyond the grasp of immediate awareness. Thank you!

Ps: what is the blue jacket you are wearing in the main/opening picture of this article?

Anonymous

Hi Simon, about suede jackets, I’m wondering do they lose shape over time? Also, is there a risk the leather might stain the shirt you’re wearing?

Winot

It’s a truly beautiful store, with some beautiful stock. Some good art on the walls when I visited too. The clothing reminded me of Loro Piana, and I was told that Isobel was the first to bring LP to London.

Ed

It is a beautiful shop and the service is very friendly. I bought a pair of the desert boots which are in the softest and most comfortable suede. Agree with comments about A&S haberdashery also having great service.

Kev Fidler

Almost £300 for a shirt. No doubt we’ll made in attractive cloth but it is still RTW and the fit may not be brilliant. So at that price is it not better to go for bespoke? (Instant gratification apart.) Meant as an open question, Ijust wondered if people have a cut off point between the two or is it more complicated than that?

Nick

I am glad Connolly is back – I spent ages hunting for a fine, distinctive handbag for my wife and, after discounting so many samey, shiny, overpriced ones all through Bond St and the department stores, happened across the perfect item in the Conduit St store. The Megabag, we called it…

Paul

I was surprised to see that Richard had experienced poor service at Anglo-Italian. I’m used to a fine level at Trunk and Drake’s (a major factor in regularly returning) but have to say that the service so far at Anglo-Italian has been the best I’ve encountered.

Kamil Licko

Nice article. Conolly is and always was a bit special.

Paul

I’m sorry to hear about a poor customer experience at Anglo-Italian and, based on my own experience, very surprised.

I’m used to good service at stores like Trunk and Drake’s but the level I’ve received from Jake and Alex at Anglo-Italian has been among the best I’ve ever encountered. And very far indeed from the ‘too cool for school’ set that can be irritating but more often – for me – amusing.

Anonymous

Great post, Simon!

Just asking, what cloth is your shirt? It looks very nice in the cashmere jumper.

Rob

Nice shop, charming service, but having spent nearly two grand on items which I’ve now worn several times I’m afraid I won’t be returning. I take good care of my clothes but the washing instructions on some items were confusing ‘dry clean only’ on the same label as ‘wash at 30 degs’. Moreover three strikes at wearing some items (knitwear in particular) and you’re looking at retiring them. The car shoes have irritating leather bows which never stay tied when you’re walking. It’s back to Jermyn Street for me. Connolly should have stuck to leather bags and accessories IMHO.