I'm sitting in a Pub in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, waiting for another train. It's Friday afternoon, I have a Pint in hand and enjoying the banter with some retired coal miners, a jovial lightheartedness that says we're all looking forward to the weekend. As I sit at my small copper topped table with open laptop (this is one of the few remaining places where you feel like a dork for using one), I'm torn between wanting to really engage like a local yet realising I should show some reserve. The train is ridiculously late (don't get me started), it feels like the right time and the right place to explain why on earth I dreamt up the name for this brand.
The people around this part of England are often spoken of as 'salt of the earth' types. It's been tough for them over the years, the mining industry for most people came to a violent, often bloody and abrupt halt in the 1980s. The camaraderie and community spirit is very strong here partly as a result of this. 1 mile in any direction from where I sit and you are in the countryside.
The English Countryside. Englishness. What is it? Where is it? What do we think of? Usually, some association with the Malvern Hills of Elgar or the Lake District of Wainwright, but not so often the man scarred landscape of North Nottinghamshire. (no it's not all like Sherwood Forest).
The 'English' country landscape is very different to what is meant when referring to the broader 'British country landscape'. The latter cannot be imagined without thoughts of the magnificent mountains of Scotland and Wales with wilder and larger open spaces. Somehow, at least to me, the English landscape feels closer, more intimate, more accessible. It may well be true that more land is actually accessible in Scotland but that's once you get there. I mean something quite different, i.e. the feeling that the countryside is always at the end of your road. A small brook, a village green, a leafy footpath. Indeed many places have these things but there is nevertheless an 'Englishness' (to me) about our countryside. It's not better than anywhere else, it's just different. Maybe what I mean is something to do with a closer proximity of everything when comparing it to topography on a much grander scale. I wanted the brand and its clothing to have a close and intimate relationship with our countryside.
It was also important to define a clothing brand that espouses a broader definition of what is normally meant by the term 'Country Clothing'. The traditional association as an identity is perfectly fine and valid, but equally true is the appeal to a wider audience. An English Countryside that is just as relevant to where I sit today, as it is to the Nostalgic England of Betjeman. An English Utopia, in my definition, is 'an ideal place', that you might find anywhere in our countryside and its beauty. Somewhere we can all feel like we belong. After all, we are a Yorkshire brand, often referred to by Yorkshire people (of which I am not) as 'God's own country'. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are incredibly beautiful places but why should I claim an association for my brand and its clothing when it is not mine to claim?
So I like to find my small piece of English Utopia. It's always there and it's often closer than you think. See you what you see, don't think what you see.