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A brand solely dedicated to sleeveless trench coats is here

WORDS BY MAGGIE ZHOU

Our unassuming transeasonal hero.

Get gramps on the line because sweater vests, collared shirts and preppy dressing have made a solid comeback. And the latest dose of British fashion that’s hitting our shores? Sleeveless trench coats.

Amy-Eliza Wilkinson is the founder of Ashby, a label that champions men’s sleeveless trenches. Although Aussie blokes may not have yet been introduced to this fashion-forward piece, Amy-Eliza swears by them.

“I personally wear sleeveless trenches all the time, it’s just one of my staples in my wardrobe,” she says. “As much as [Ashby] is catered to menswear, I try not to push much masculinity into it because [anyone] can wear it.”

While menswear has become increasingly experimental and unconventional in recent years (thanks to the likes of Harry Styles, points out Amy-Eliza), sleeveless trenches have been a firm fixture throughout her whole life.

“Ashby is actually named after an English acorn. It’s also my great grandfather’s name. He was a working-class man and back then, they used to wear a lot of overalls and trenches. I guess that was my main source of inspiration,” she muses.

Ashby’s sleeveless trench is a modern take on a much-loved classic. Currently available in black and beige, it features a double-breasted front, inner and outer pockets and a belted waist. With arms allowed to roam sleeve-free, it makes for the perfect trans-seasonal or layering companion.

The UK-born and Melbourne-based designer officially launched Ashby in November last year. After working in all sorts of fashion jobs – “you name it, I’ve done it” – and creating Mr. Men’s Melbourne, an eCommerce menswear and lifestyle platform, she bit the bullet and went after her long-time dream.

Before Amy-Eliza even began, she knew that sustainability would be at the forefront of every decision made. Scattered throughout Ashby’s socials are peeks into its Hackney factory in East London.

The widespread lack of transparency behind garment production encouraged her to embrace Fashion Revolution’s #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign.

“It’s been a big concern of mine for so many years. There is so much [focus on] unsustainable materials, but I think we also really need to look at who’s making our garments,” she says.

While Amy-Eliza uses recycled cotton for the trenches’ outer lining, committing to being sustainable comes with many compromises, something that Amy-Eliza is constantly wrangling with.

“The dyeing process is one of the worst chemical processes out there. Straight away, I knew I had to stick with the basic colours of black, white and beige. I’m such a colourful person and it does pain me a tiny bit!”

One person she’s had to try hard to get on her side about sustainability is Rocky, her pattern maker and the head of manufacturing.

“He’s probably in his sixties and he’s such a sweetheart, but it was so hard trying to convince him about sustainability and fabrics,” she tells me.

Working in the industry for over 25 years, Rocky has worked with names like Burberry, Betty Jackson, YMC and Eley Kishimoto. Even though sustainability catchphrases aren’t in his tool belt, his careful craftsmanship embodies his conscious approach to fashion.

“To me, that is shown in the product and it’s definitely what I want the Ashby brand to represent – that kind of homey, local feeling [and how] it’s been made with love. You can even tell by the stitching, it’s a bit rough so you’ve got that feeling that this is done by hand,” explains Amy-Eliza.

She also credits menswear designer, Mohsin Ali, as a key contributor to the final product. The London-based designer worked closely with Amy-Eliza throughout the product development stages, and was somewhat of a mentor as she created the final Ashby trench.

When we chat about East London, her hometown and where her factory resides, Amy-Eliza becomes wistful, her voice charged with nostalgia.

One thing she loves about it is the freedom to wear anything and to be anyone. In another interview, she points to a quote by author Michael Bond, “In London, everyone is different and that means everyone can fit in.”

“I always say you can walk down in a purple G-string and nobody would look,” she laughs. “It’s not like a beautiful street in Paris, let me just say that.”

While it’s becoming increasingly gentrified and you’ll be able to spot the occasional avo on toast, it’s the down-to-earth, everyone-knows-everyone warmth that she loves.

“It’s not pretty, it’s not shiny but everything is so wholesome. Everything is made pretty much locally – I love how you can still see the bakeries and manufacturers like Rocky who are still going after 20 or 30 years.”

This carefree sense of self-expression and respect for traditional craft feeds into her creations. The Ashby trenches can be buttoned, unbuttoned, tied, untied, worn underneath layers or worn over layers. It allows the wearer to dress however they please, taking a little bit of East London with them wherever they go.

Ashby’s second Summer capsule collection is coming soon, designed and made here in Melbourne as a result of global lockdown restrictions. Keep an eye out for the range here

ashbylondon.com

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