Words Kirk Truman
Photography Sandra Vijandi
“Eastcastle Street is the hub of the brand…”
In recent years, I have often stopped to peer into a showroom on Eastcastle Street, my attention caught by the clothes on the other side of the window. Peter Werth has been part of the British fashion landscape for just over 40 years, showcasing a range focussed on men’s outerwear and quality knitwear, with a number of pieces made in Italy as well as a ‘Made in London’ line. I’m sure other passers-by on up-and-coming Eastcastle Street will be as pleased as I am that the label – synonymous with great British design that’s both affordable and premium – has recently opened a store here in Fitzrovia showcasing high quality contemporary clothing, footwear and accessories. I spoke to creative director Phil Jones about his vision for the new venture.
Founded in Islington, North London, Peter Werth has always primarily been a knitwear brand. Founder Peter Werth took a job at a relative’s nightclub, the Astor, on Mayfair’s Berkeley Square, having been asked to leave art school after just a year. “He was a jewish Londoner. He was a keen drummer and musician, and his family was in the entertainment business, which he got drawn into; the clubs, the nightclub scene and 1960s London inspired him,” explains Phil. “During this time, the Kray twins and the Richardsons were prevalent. At the club, he found his fondness for clothing. Peter was inspired by the clothes people were wearing at the Astor, particularly the fine Italian knitwear.” Attracting an eclectic mix of aristocrats, showbiz personalities and gangsters, the Astor exposed Peter to bespoke finery, and was the inspiration behind his idea for a brand. “We’re ultimately a knitwear brand. That’s how it all started. That’s where the brand built its reputation. What we’ve done is carried that through. It’s the cornerstone of all the collections we build,” says Phil. “I joined about eight years ago now. Peter was looking to let go of the brand. I think maybe that is one of the reasons why he brought me in – so that there was somebody to take over on the creative side of things, and to ensure that the branding and the ranges were right.”
It was during the mid-1970s that the style-obsessed, and often violent, subculture known as the Perry Boys appropriated the Peter Werth brand as their own, cementing its relationship with the British youth movement. For Phil, the last five years has been all breathing new life into the brand without sacrificing its authentic core and rich heritage. “People had a lot of preconceptions about where it used to be. The thing we’ve tried to do over the years is minimise that and change the brand into something that is right for today. For me, it’s all about quality, product and fabrics at a very affordable price. I think that’s where we hit the mark,” he says. “We deliver a brand that is very versatile – it can be worn through different times. It’s suitable for work, though it can be worn to the pub: we make clothes for life. When we get that versatility within a product right, or within anything we do, that’s when it really works for us.” Today, Peter Werth has evolved from its foundations in knitwear into a modern, relevant and current menswear brand.
When Phil joined the company, it was based in Brimsdown, near Enfield. Phil and other team members felt that a fashion label was not going to work being based so far out of Central London. So Peter Werth opened a Fitzrovia showroom at 26 Eastcastle Street, and soon the design and creative studio followed. “Eastcastle Street is the hub of the brand. Everything creative and sales-related goes through this showroom and design studio,” says Phil. “We wanted to utilise the space. We used to get lots of people knocking on the door asking where they could get the clothes they could see in our waiting area.” After directing people, including myself, to their Earlham Street store and other outlets that carried the label, it seemed a natural progression for Peter Werth to transform the front of the studio into a store. Opening in September last year, 26 Eastcastle Street is now truly the home of the Peter Werth brand, with the showroom, design studio and concept shop all on one premises.
As I wandered along Eastcastle Street late last summer, I nearly walked straight past before realising that the showroom I’d peered into so often had been replaced by the newly opened store. Stepping inside, subtle references to the Perry Boys and other aspects of the brand’s heritage signal that this really is Peter Werth. Throughout the store, knitwear is displayed among modernist furniture, reflecting the period during which the brand was originally founded. Showcasing a range of seasonal styles, as well as being used as a testing ground for new products, Eastcastle Street is firmly at the centre of Peter Werth’s continuing evolution. “I think the street is becoming very interesting… there’s something to watch here,” Phil says. “It’s starting to bubble under, the footfall is building, and all we need is for people to recognise that this is becoming a destination street. There are interesting people around and interesting things going on, and that’s what drives any area up.” When Getty Images Gallery moved here in the early 2000s, the street found its feet as a gallery area. Today, it’s full of galleries, as well as like-minded stores such as Kaffeine, Tokyobike and now, of course, Peter Werth, all adding to the rich mix; and with Market Place at the end of the road, Eastcastle Street is fast becoming a destination in ever-changing Fitzrovia.