Interview with Aloof Studio
We answered some questions from Robbie from Aloof Studios about the Brand and some of the background behind it.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
Hi, We’re Darren and Jessica Seymour and together we run HAAR, which is a menswear clothing company which operates from our home in Scotland. In terms of what we do, basically everything apart from the sewing. From designing the clothes, sourcing fabrics, bookkeeping, working with manufacturers and suppliers, to building the website, photographing the products, doing the social media etc. Other brands outsource a lot of this work, not that that is a bad thing, but we had limited funds when we started this project and found our Marketing and Design background helped us achieve what we wanted from the get go. That said, our clothing is constructed by some of the most talented and brilliant tailors/seamstresses we could have hoped to work with. We have built some really great relationships and it makes for what we believe are the finest garments. We challenge each other and constantly find ways to improve our products in order to provide the most value to our customers.
Starting a brand has been something we had dreamt of doing for a long time and in 2016 we decided to go for it properly. We have an 11 month old baby and at the moment we both work full time at our ‘day jobs’ so some days it's difficult to find the time to fit everything in. But it's our passion and we work on HAAR at every opportunity we get.
A HAAR garment is hand crafted in Scotland with care and attention. Everything is built with quality and longevity in mind and our designs are clean, classic, and practical with a contemporary twist. We are passionate about championing local mills, makers, suppliers and businesses to help support and rejuvenate the UK manufacturing industry which is on the verge of being lost to a mass-produced global fashion industry.
This may well be an unusual question and not one we’ve asked a brand before, but where did the name come from?
We do get asked this quite often, maybe because the word is fairly unusual? But essentially the word comes from old Scots dialect which is the name for the sea fog which rolls in from the North Sea to the North East of Scotland and is a common word in our vocabulary. It's also fairly apt as this is where we live and operate from.
I do think that a name is important, but it shouldn’t be something you overthink. We knew what we wanted our brand to be. We knew that we wanted our products to be high quality, and made in Scotland. The name just seemed to fit; it’s short and straight to the point, nothing unnecessary.
Like a handful of our previous interviewees, Scotland is central to the identity of the brand, from the Pictish logo to the use of Scottish fabrics in your clothing. Do you feel like Haar could exist if it didn’t have the Scottish history to draw from?
HAAR wouldn’t exist in its current form as it is very much a product of where it was conceived and developed, not to mention the name itself. HAAR is not just the references to Scotland, but that does play a big part and inspires a lot of what we do. We could have set out on this project anywhere, but we live here and that informs our decisions and the way we operate.
To outsiders like us, Aberdeen is more of an unknown entity than Glasgow and Edinburgh. How does Aberdeen reflect itself in your clothing? Do you feel inspired by your surroundings?
HAAR is designed and made in Scotland, although our socks are manufactured in England. Myself and Jessica just happen to have met and live in Aberdeen, we have decided to manufacture clothing close to home for a number of reasons; control of the entire process, building strong relationships with good communication, developing items with quality at the forefront, reducing unnecessary waste and carbon emissions, maintaining the highest quality, allowing us to be agile, paying people fairly for the work they do, improving the economy and producing articles in the least damaging way as we are currently able to. Of course our surroundings inspire us, but HAAR is about much more than just the locality. We developed HAAR to produce high-quality clothing in a way which has as little negative impact as possible. We are not perfect but perfection is a good ideal to strive for, and a goal that although we may never attain, will keep us pushing forward on the right path.
How would you define the Haar aesthetic? There’s a real utilitarian aesthetic to your clothes, which mixes workwear with militaria and a rugged outdoor-ness.
That description would do. We just want to do everything to the very best of our ability. Pumping out products is not what it is about for us. We take a lot of pride in making things well and creating things we want to wear both from an aesthetic and practical point of view.
We’re long-time fans of your packable caps, made in some of the most beautiful fabrics around. It seems almost obvious to have a packable cap, but we’ve not seen it elsewhere before. How does your design process work? Are you taking an established silhouette and working it into something that’s right for you? Or do you always start from scratch?
Thanks, that’s nice to hear. The packable cap started its life as a military cap that was also packable, perfect for folding up on long yomps. There are also many packable caps in the outdoors/hiking/climbing fields so we can’t take the credit for that. Necessity is the mother of invention, and anything you can think of, has probably been done in some form before. The silhouette of our cap has remained largely the same as the item it was inspired by, however, we made a lot of changes too. The fabrics, as you mentioned, are pretty special; some of the colour-ways certainly wouldn’t be ideal on the battlefield; the construction has been greatly improved and finished to a high standard and refined far from the original army issued piece was. I think making a new version of something is fine if you respect the original and genuinely offer something new or improve it in some way. After all, everything of value is just a better version of the thing that came before it.
In terms of how we work, we do a fair bit of research and development with all of our garments, each ends up being our own, even our t-shirts are cut and sewn to our specification, so there will not be another tee exactly the same as ours. We could go down the route of printing on Gildan blanks but we are Masochists like that. Some items are revisions and improvements on originals, others are developed from scratch with our super talented seamstresses and tailors, it just depends.
You work partly with a made-to-order system. When it comes to dealing with factories, is it difficult to approach them or convince them not to produce a set quantity?
We work on a made to order system for a few reasons, when we started out, producing to the minimums factories required was expensive and very reliant on availability. We started with very little in terms of finances, everything we have built has been through perseverance and determination, so developing the brand as we wanted required a new approach (or maybe an old-fashioned one)? Since then, we still work with factories on some items but generally the way we work now is that we have our own seamstresses who make our items. They are involved throughout the design stage, through to the development stage and then onto the construction of the final garment. We truly believe this kind of collaborative involvement with the people who actually construct the clothes makes for a much better end-product.
Made to order puts some people off for sure, most people “want it now”. But on the other side of the argument, who wouldn’t want a garment that has been made by hand for them. It may take a little longer to arrive, but we think its that little bit more special.
We have huge plans in the pipeline though, ones that will be a game changer for us. We can’t say much more than that, but our growth as a company will benefit many people.
The ‘customer gallery’ banner sits proudly at the top of your webpage, which is an unusual move for a brand. Celebrating everyone involved in the process is key to the Haar experience, from manufacturer to final consumer. Looking back, were there points you felt like people might not understand the brand and its goals? Any advice for people looking to start their own project?
The customer gallery is probably overdue an update to be honest. But yes we are thankful of all of our customers, some who have become friends, and we’re proud that people want to wear what we make. It’s humbling. Without the people who have invested their hard-earned into our garments there would be no point so we thought it was a cool little way of honouring them when they share their photos.
Looking back to the beginning, of course you have doubts, even if it’s something you really believe in. We know we’re in a niche, and we’re cool with that. We have found a growing audience of people that think like we do and appreciate the vision.
For anyone starting their own project; start and then don’t stop. Starting is the biggest hurdle. So many of us want to do something different, or have an ambition or a goal, but so many of us either let the doubts creep in, or settle with what’s safe, what they know. You have one life, experience it how you want to. The highs and the lows are all part of it. Experience it all.
Is there anything coming up in the near future you’d like to tell us about?
We have lots of plans in the near future. We’re releasing some lovely items very soon which will be perfect for the warmer months as well as some great transitional pieces. As we eluded to earlier, we have a a big project in the works but that needs to be kept under wraps for now…