Aloof aims to shine a light on the best brands and companies operating in the independent market right now, from all over the world. Those under the radar of the wider consciousness but with great stories to tell and a unique perspective on the nuts and bolts of building a brand.
We came across Dangerfield Mills recently, struck by their dedication to, and championing of, Scottish manufacturing. Their premise is simple - making a bag that lasts a lifetime. It's in the looking back to look forward that sets Dangerfield Mills apart from their competition, using heritage fabrics produced in Scotland to create a contemporary bag fit for day to day use. We pinged some questions over to head honcho Chris to find out some more.
Aloof Studio (AS):Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
Dangerfield Mills (DM): I'm Chris and I run Dangerfield Mills alongside my full time job.
AS: Were you working in the menswear/accessories industry before you started Dangerfield Mills?
DM: I ran a clothing label with my mate for 4 years but I've never been in the industry as such. That said, I've had a lifelong passion for clothing and trainers that has led me here.
AS: The Dangerfield Mills name comes from a now defunct factory in Scotland. Was there a personal connection that made you take up its name?
DM: It wasn’t personal as such, I just really wanted a name that would reflect the brands ethos of Scottish manufacturing and kept coming back to this name, it stuck in my head. There wasn’t really any other competition to be honest.
AS: Scotland, more so perhaps than anywhere else in the UK, is world renowned for its quality fabrics. What do you think makes the fabrics so popular?
DM: Manufacturing and Scotland used to be synonymous, we have a long, long history with it. I guess certain people like to know where things come from, and are willing to pay that bit extra for something that the workers are paid a fair wage for and the product is quality.
AS: British Manufacturing is often the reserve of large brands that can meet minimum orders and have an audience willing to pay a higher price for the item. Was there a difficulty getting the fabrics initially?
DM: Actually not at all, it did worry me at first! Halley Stevenson’s have been absolutely great at supplying us with the minimums we required. I cannot recommend them enough for brands large and small.
AS: The balance between heritage fabrics and modern design can be a hard one to strike. Was there a lot of R&D before the first bag made it off the production line?
I kept it simple with a waxed cotton tote for the first product. It was really just a case of getting some sizes down and designing the layout of the labels. The crossbody bags are much more intricate with custom materials and accessories manufactured to size. They took quite a lot more time to develop!
AS: Waxed Cotton is a really important fabric in British Manufacturing. How do you think it stands up compared to other fabrics like Ventile or modern ones like Gore-Tex?
DM: I much prefer how it looks, the way it ages and feels, I proper buzz off it! You can’t beat seeing those natural creases form. Ventile and Gore-Tex definitely have their place though, when it comes to outdoor performance they're unparalleled.
AS: Are there any fabrics you’re keen to work with that haven’t featured in the Dangerfield Mills range yet?
DM: I was recently put on to this incredible Japanese cotton by John from Whitehill Mercantile, which I'm excited to work with and put out in a very small run.
AS: Sustainability is a buzzword in the industry. In your opinion, what is the best way for shoppers to be more eco-conscious when it comes to consumerism?
DM: There's no real way to be sustainable when making clothing. The most sustainable way would be to not make anything at all to be honest. For us, if we can make a bag that lasts a lifetime so repeat purchases aren't necessary, then that’s as close as we can get.
AS: Looking back, is there a time when you wished you’d done something differently?
DM: Maybe not using energy on chasing potential stockists. I’ve made the decision going forward not to stock in any shops. It cuts out the need to chase them around and means we can give the best Dangerfield Mills experience we feel our customers deserve.
AS: Are there any plans to expand the range past bags or is it just a continuous cycle of making the best bags possible?
DM: I just want to keep it streamlined and focus on making the best bags we can.
AS: What’s next for Dangerfield Mills?
DM: The aforementioned Japanese fabric will be getting put to use very soon. Also, a larger more practical zipper tote bag is in the pipeline along with some other bits.