The Adret store: Full-blown beauty

Friday, April 16th 2021
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This is the first of three articles celebrating menswear stores in London, following our call to arms earlier in the week urging readers to support the shops they love.

We’re starting with Adret, the achingly beautiful shop opened by Adam and Seto late last year (just in time for the November lockdown here in England). Two other pieces will follow on Monday and Wednesday.

I know some readers find the Adret style doesn’t work for them, being quite loose and drapey, and the clothes do tend to look best with others from the collection. 

But even if the style doesn’t work for you, it’s hard to deny the taste level in the materials, the textures and the colours. Every fabric seems to have something interesting in the weave or finish that makes it distinct: slubby, hand-spun cottons, vintage ikat prints.

And while the colour palette could seem narrow, that's just because everything is so soft: the greens, blues and yellows are washed-out, the browns and blacks decidedly dusty.   

I adore this aesthetic. Even though I, as mentioned previously, find the cut of some of the clothes isn’t for me, everything else about them is just beautiful. 

And the best thing about the new shop is seeing this beauty fully blown. 

Where there were slubby cottons in the shirts, there is rope weaving in the carpet. The vintage feel of the fabrics is matched by the patina on the vintage furniture. Everything is tactile.

I’d even go as far as to say the easy, flowing feel of the clothes is reflected in the atmosphere of the store. You feel like slipping your sandals off and sinking into one of the low mid-century armchairs. You’re surrounded by soft light and warm panelling.

My favourite space is downstairs, because it’s essentially one large fitting room. Long linen curtains are drawn across the seating area at the back, and when you’re changed, part so you can walk the length of the room to the mahogany-framed mirror on the far wall.  

None of this, of course, can be replicated online. It’s one more demonstration of what good retail gives us. You need to feel Adret clothing to appreciate it, to have the point of the cut carefully explained, and to see it in this context of every other design aspect.

When I posted an image on Instagram yesterday of Adret, five different readers asked me whether Adret did e-commerce, and if not, why not.

I understand it must be frustrating if you’re not in London, and can’t see all this first hand. But in a way it is also wonderful that such an analogue approach still exists. It makes physical retail truly special. 

To be honest, I was expecting all this when I visited. I remember when Adam first launched his collection, at our Savile Row pop-up back in February 2019. 

His space was by far the most curated. The handkerchiefs had their own rattan tray, the scarves were clasped on the wall by little brass hands. This was someone who clearly already knew what their shop would look like.

One thing I didn’t expect, actually, was for the Indonesian link to come across so strongly. 

Adret produces all its clothes in Indonesia, and Adam’s partner Seto is based there. In the past couple of years they have done amazing things there to build their own atelier, and moved in seven local artisans to do everything from cobble loafers to hand-dye fabrics.

I've included some images of the recent building work below. 

Being in the store, you realise how much of this south-east Asian craft informs the Adret style. 

Obvious things are the bamboo frames on the mirrors, the blue-China plant pots and rattan trays. But there is also, more subtly, the Indonesian incense in the air, even the ginger sweets offered at the till. 

The clothes are loose and flowing not just because that’s how Adam dresses, but because it's the style worn in Indonesia. Many of the textures of the materials come from local crafts, like the hand-spun cotton. The washed-out colours all fit with the wax-resist dying done by the local batik artists. 

This brand is a mix of many things, including mid-century design, musicians and Adam’s art background. But Indonesia is fundamental to it as well. 

Which of course makes a mockery of the suggestion that the clothes are made in Asia because it's cheap. 

One other point Adam made, late in our visit, made me think. 

A reason he said he wanted to make in Indonesia, and draw on local expertise, was that he wanted to avoid the menswear habit of making everything at the same factories in Italy. 

By making elsewhere, the clothes would always have a different flavour. They would be distinct and original. 

I’d never thought about that before, but it is true that many of the brands in high-end menswear use the same factories, whether in Scotland, Naples or Northampton. This is always going to place some kind of limit on the possibilities. 

There are some Adret clothes I love. 

They tend to be the ones with slightly neater silhouettes - like the single-pleat wide trousers, rather than the double-pleat ultra-wides. And they tend to have a strong collar or neckline, which helps a lot when there is little shape in the rest of the body. 

But I won’t go through a full rundown on the collection here. It is large and rapidly expanding (there are even boxer shorts now) but Adam is working on a catalogue that will set it all out better than I would. I’ll wait for that before I point out which pieces I like best. 

It also has to be said that the clothes are very expensive. The cream Riviera shirt shown at the top of this piece is £795 and the Jack green-linen jacket above £1255. The linen trousers are £655.

I won't get into whether the original materials, the shop and the atelier make these prices worth it, but it’s certainly something readers should be aware of as it will make them less accessible. 

Adret: 15c Clifford Street, @adret_official

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt