The Old Town shop in Holt, north Norfolk, is owned by designer-tailors Marie Willey and William Brown. If, like me, you live too far to visit, one look at their website will take you straight back to the 1940’s. Among their range of beautifully designed, sturdy clothes made from corduroys, cottons, linens and moleskin you will see a very interesting range of “uniform” style clothes, overalls and aprons for both indoor and outdoor work. Perfect for both the kitchen, the garden or a food business, they are smart, practical and hard-wearing.
I know that their workmanship, attention to detail and focus on quality are all second to none because what I have ordered from them in the past, through wear and tear, thick and thin, has proved indestructible.
Marie told me that idea was originally taken from the Irving Penn Small Trades Book. In 1950, “Vogue” magazine sent Penn on a commission to photograph the working people of Paris, and thus his monumental work “Small Trades” began. Between 1950 and 1951, Penn travelled between Paris, London, and New York to produce an extensive photographic portrait of each city’s skilled tradespeople in their work clothes, carrying the tools of their professions.
“We were getting more inquiries from customers who wanted their staff to look ‘proper’,” Marie told me. “So we did a series of aprons and overalls based around trades. The material is from an artist fabric supplier in England, we use a 12 ounce cotton duck fabric, they are easy to wash and are very long lasting. We already supply some companies, mainly in the food business, such as Monmouth Coffee House, Leila’s Cafe, Borough Olives and Lincolnshire Poacher Cheesemaker. But they are also perfect for a number of other trades such as gardeners, carpenters, waiters, furniture removers, barbers and so on. I think these designs bring back a coherent look for workers. Polo shirts do not look as smart really.”
You could even have your aprons embroidered with your café logo, for example, or have them as gifts to hand out to cookery or kitchen garden school students.
If you are heading to Holt, the website www.old-town.co.uk is a very useful reference for what to do in and around the area. The restaurant No.10 Augusta Street in Sheringham is recommended as well as the Wiveton Café in Wiveton.