Designer Profile: S.E.H Kelly


As a writer, I find my most challenging conquests coming in the days before we publish our monthly edition. I often type, re-type, edit, re-edit, re-type, and debate over “how to perfectly craft what it is I am trying to get across” to our readers. I wonder if Van Gogh ever said to himself, ” What message will the viewer take from my painting? (I doubt it…)

Words, images, inspiration, and creativity often stem from one’s experiences through life. Mine, for example, continuously evolve and grow and are often collective from travels, music, and a handful of finely crafted journals and quarterly publications. I’ve had a passion for fashion, specifically menswear, for around five years now. I’ve seen designers come and go, fashion shows laced with celebrities, and of course, the ever-changing “street-style” game grow to a level in which it has begun to enter into areas in which I truly do not understand.

I’ve grown tired of the hype of shows and the standard “cat-walk”  (designers, please start thinking outside the box). I yearned for more; organic, in it’s means and hiding in the shadows of its fellow designers. I came across S.E.H Kelly (via Backyard Bill) and instantly feel in love with their simplistic take on classic outerwear  infused with some of the best fabrics in the world. It was a rare find and without a doubt one that I’ll continue to watch over the next few years. Sara and Paul have teamed up and created some of the best Fall and Winter pieces (and at price that’s eye catching at any budget.) Many of the pieces, notably their one-button rope-dyed indigo cotton blazer,  are a result of multiple trials and errors, each pass a new learning experience. Sara’s tailoring SEH KELLY3expertise adds the perfect touch of tailoring to the already near-perfect mix. I’m ecstatic to observe their growth and design maturing over the next few seasons.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Sara and Paul of S.E.H Kelly in this months designer profile.


A&H: Tell me a little bit about how you and Sara met and starting working together.

Paul: We started in 2009. Sara had just finished work on Savile Row, at a tailoring house. She was keen to start her own company, using the knowledge and acquaintances she had built up over the preceding few years.

However, rather than make formal or luxury clothing, she wanted to put her efforts into casual wear; the sort of things that can be worn day-in day-out — but which, because they would use high-quality materials and high-end factories, would be pleasurable to wear and last for many years.

I pitched in with a few suggestions, and that was that: we were a company. It has been the same ever since. We have known each other for just short of a decade, having met in east London in 2004.
A&H: Sara- Was there a reason for leaving Hardy Amies on Savile Row? What are some things you learned there they you’ve applied to your work now?

Sara: I had a sneaking suspicion that the time was right to go my own way. The things I learned there — well … the list is endless.

Probably most significant are the contacts that I acquired over those years. The old venerable houses on Savile Row carry a lot of weight in the British textile and garment trades, and have connections with mills and factories that go back many decades.

As such, when we began our own company, it helped to have prior knowledge of and relationships with these places. Without that, it would probably have been very difficult, for a new and completely unheard-of company, to work with them.

A&H: Paul- where did you interest in menswear come from?

Paul: Nowhere in particular. I’ve always been too interested in, and too willing to spend money on, clothes, ever since I was a child. Not in a showing-off sort of way; I’ve always just had an interest in the well-made and well-designed and the hard-to-come-by.

A&H :Where do you both look to for inspiration? Anything in particular that drives you to create?

Sara: In the first few years we were keen to fill the wardrobe — i.e. to have a garment to keep someone comfortably clothed for a week or two. That way, you get the essentials, the basics, as well as the more occasional wardrobe-filler, too.

Inspiration-wise, we look within, and try to improve or evolve what we currently have, rather than looking around elsewhere. It also comes from wearing the garments everyday, and taking feedback from our customers. That’s a source of inspiration in the literal sense, in that it drives us to change things and make improvements that would otherwise be overlooked.

Living in London it is impossible not to stumble across inspiring things, be they buildings, plants, shop windows, etc. But no — there are no sources that can be pinned down beyond that

A&H: What do you want your customers to know most about your garments?
Sara: That’s a good question. We do blather on all the time about the mills and factories we work with. We want to communicate how much work goes into things and the expertise of those we work with. And so, I suppose, the one thing above all else that we want customers to know is the work that goes into every garment. Nothing is left to chance and no short-cuts are taken. We would rather make very good garments and be paupers than make a fast buck with something easy and expected.CD:  You made an excellent point in Port Magazine’s article last month. You said, “We’re not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. A lot of blokes today know a lot of stuff” — Do you see a rise in the everyday gent’s knowledge of menswear of do you think it’s continuously passed down from father to son?.

I think the rise in people’s knowledge in specific things in a consequence of information being so readily accessible these days. 20 years ago you would have to go to the library to find out about pattern-cutting particulars. Or find a pattern-cutter and ask him or her. Now of course you can read someone’s blog or just Google it. People are armed with a depth of knowledge today that makes pulling the wool over their eyes, in garments or anything else, a foolish thing indeed.

To see their marvelous work and shop; click here



Christopher Dam

Christopher Dam is a senior writer/photographer with A&H Magazine