For our latest blog, we caught up with Jamie from 7L (Seven Layer), one of the most innovative and forward thinking outwear brands we’ve discovered in a very long time.
Hello Jamie, how are you?
Very well thank you Dan. Busy, but all good.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and also the history of 7L?
My background is actually in engineering design and manufacturing within a family run business, we spent the last 20 years upgrading the infrastructure for Network Rail around the UK.
After the business was sold and I had some time to reflect on my next step, I found a love for photography which then led to an old school friend asking me if I’d photograph some menswear clothing. It was a technical brand called 7L. I’d never heard of it, but when we went to the studio to take some product shots, I was blown away with the quality of the manufacturing and the technical fabrics. They had been made by one of the best factories in the world – KTC.
My friend, knowing my previous history and business experience, asked whether I’d be interested in coming on board – I said yes and worked alongside them for about six to 12 months. It brought everything that I’d done in the past together in one: design, manufacturing, project management and of now of course photography. I initially became the CEO of 7L then decided to invest – that was about three years ago.
What made you want to take your inspiration from the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS)?
Well, for a start I have a passion for vintage outer pieces, especially military garments, so I wanted to create a collection that captured the same sort of look and feel but with a modernised design.
The economy of the layering system means that every piece is purposeful and functional and can be introduced or taken-away dependent on the climate or situation and that has a huge resonance for me and designer Chris Vandrill.
Talk us through your releases so far – and the earlier generations?
When I came on board we had the more technical jackets with the Trek System with vibrant colour-ways of purple, pink and bright green and I would say perhaps a more definitive look and style – meaning, a less versatile target market. Don’t get me wrong, they were excellently made with the very best fabrics and design team the world over, but it wasn’t how I saw things going or moving toward. So with ORIGIN, which is the first release with new designer Chris Vandrill and myself at the helm, we have kept things simple, not lost the importance of innovation or quality, but made sure that everything is purposeful and transparent and made in the right way.
How has your decision making changed from generation to generation?
We have a process that works for us. It’s hard work and I’d expect nothing less, but we have to debate and try things out and most importantly, we have to listen to what one-another has to say and make decisions as a team. I don’t think that within that process there has been a shift, but there is a clear shared goal now with the whole team from design through to communications and our interiors guys.
Is it important to 7L that all your products are ethically sourced?
Yes of course. It’s the old concept of following seed to garment, which we do. Brands simply have to be responsible for the way in which they make their products and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We are also pleased that part of this new collection is being made on home turf in Manchester and the prestigious Tower Mill in Dukinfield, home of English Fine Cottons.
Do you think the general consumer is more aware of ethical issues now?
Absolutely, because they are. With the media landscape improving and access to news and world ‘issues’ at the touch of a button, the consumer has, for some time, had an interest in ethical issues and things being done in the right way. You can’t cut corners or be dishonest, it just doesn’t work. We have a savvy audience.
Who are you favourite designers and brands?
Apart from the old vintage military and workwear pieces I take inspiration from many brands and designers including Nigel Cabourn, Greg Lauren, Norse Projects, WTAP, Universal Works but of course I also admire Massimo Osti and became hooked on outerwear like many of us did in my age group with the rise of Stone Island and CP Company back in the Nineties – the growth has been amazing.
You want 7L to be a mix of fashion, life style and function – does this ideology come into every piece you design?
It has to. The importance of consistency is in everything we do. We aim and believe we are already achieving a fusion between functionality and fashion, a bridge that we don’t feel has been quite made yet – not in our way.
You’re opening your new flagship store later this year, tell us a bit about it?
We’re really excited to be opening the first SEVENLAYER shop in November. We have decided to pick and build from a more regional stand-point than within the confines of the city centre. We have a great space on the High Street in Alderly Edge, close to our home and we are working now with London based designers BusbyWebb to create the interior aesthetic. It’s amazing to think we are only a few weeks away.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak effected your plans and 7L as a brand?
It has been the strangest of times obviously. Of course, it has affected everyone in retail, more some than others, but we have kept a focus and devoted the time to working hard to get ORIGIN right and out there in the public domain. I think, and we have to be careful when saying this because I am very aware of the impact this disease has had on people and their families, but on reflection, it may have had a positive impact too, where people have been able to take stock, think about their lives and make some changes.
Moving away from clothing for a while, what other interests do you have?
I’m a family man. I have five children, so they are an obvious focus for me. I love getting out into the fresh air and walking/hiking. My other passion is photography and my camera is with me wherever I go. I have a project to produce my own book of work in the not too distant future. But, as an entrepreneur there are some quirkier sides as well and in addition to 7L I am writing and directing a feature film and I also look after other interests across music and fashion.
Do you look for football and music for inspiration in your work?
Ooo nice question. Hmmmm. Look, music for a lad from Manchester in my age bracket is an obvious influence. The big coats and the baggy Manc look is duplicated across the country. I loved it. I loved Oasis and The Stone Roses before them for the music and the general vibe.
But I’m also a football fan and I grew up watching from the terraces at Manchester United and obviously saw the rise of the ‘Casuals’ so I get both references. Vintage, as I said, is also a big inspiration.
Being from Manchester you will be more than aware of the importance of jackets and shoes for the typical Northern football lad, would you say you’re now competing with Stone Island, CP Company and the like?
I would say we are doing well for a young brand and it’s building at a nice pace with increasing loyalty towards us, of which some customers have invested in 5-6 pieces already!
If we are attracting customers that also like Stone Island and CP Company then of course that is amazing, but we are also attracting a wide range of people from different industries. I’m sure our engineered design aesthetic, technical fabrics, quality and fit will attract many who snowboard, play or watch football or even fish.
Are you City, United or Stockport?
Just the three options, not throwing in Salford City? Ha ha. My old man was born in Middleton so I was brought up in a red family. It’s always been red.
How would you describe your own clothing style?
It’s changed over the years. In my early years my commitments were to a young family and I worked away from home a lot. Money was tight, so everything I earned just went back home. I was a lad that finished work at 6pm and went to the boozer with my work gear and steel toe cap boots, sunk a few beers and did it all again the next day. My priorities were different back then. The only piece of outerwear I had was a hi-vis coat with duck tape holding together the rips. Every time it pissed it down I just got wet.
After the 90’s I felt menswear sort of lost itself. Maybe the evolution of the internet had a lot to do with that, suddenly throwing all kinds of cultures and styles into the pot.
Over the years menswear has evolved and we have become loyal creatures and emotionally attached to brands. We started to become more savvy about fashion and how we looked, taking pride in our appearance and owning certain must have pieces (from whatever brand) limited edition this, limited edition that. Supreme and drops became a huge event and in crept the desire to have the next best thing, whether that be a PlayStation 5, a Stone Island jacket or a pair of Clints.co trainers!
These days I’m into wearing more relaxed garments that have that workwear or military aesthetic, like a heavyweight cotton twill trouser, pair of black converse, a T Shirt with a Crew Neck Sweat. Throw on a 7L Orange Modular Down Jacket and that’s me. The Origin System is pretty much me in a nutshell and is designed around what inspires me and what I like wearing.
We’re big fans of your AW20 Origins release – do you have any favourite pieces yourself?
That’s like asking if I have a favourite child… honestly, it has been such a personal journey with ups and downs that now, I look at each garment and they all have a reason to be a favourite. The Half Zip Smock is something I really wanted in the collection and took the bold move to make it orange with an off white fur hood. It was a risk. It’s our best seller. The field parka in 7L NIGHTCAM is another piece I love as I wanted the camo stealth like and discreet. ArkAir did an amazing job. Chris Vandrill, our designer has been revolutionary. He’s taken every inch of my vision and turned it into a reality. His Modular Down Outer design I never take off. Link zip that inside the 3L Hard Shells and you have 3 in 1. Genius.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
There have been many, probably more so on a personal level, but let’s live in the now and say that seeing the evolution of ORIGIN and 7L is right up there due to the amount of work that has gone in and seeing the reaction to the garments from people like yourself.
What’s the plans for 7L moving forward?
If you want my honesty, I want us to be one of the best brands on the planet, for all the right reasons. Quality, value for money, honesty, integrity, customer service. I want every customer not to just buy a 7L, but invest in a 7L experience. When I see someone, throw one of our jackets on for the first time, the expression of joy on they’re faces is priceless. I love it. I’ve had a rough time of it over the past 10 years or so but now I’m in a good place I can be passionate about making others feel good. It’s very important to me.
Finally, describe 7L in only 3 words…
Forward-thinking; Uncompromising; Quality