Realm & Empire took advantage of their unique access to the archives at the Imperial War Museums (IWM) as a jumping off point to fulfill their goal of injecting authenticity into the oversaturated heritage brand market. For SS15, they drew on the theme of demobilization of the armed forces at the tail end of the Second World War and their reassimilation into civilian life, creating a noticeably austerior collection.
“On my first visit the detail, cut and theme from just one jacket was able to inspire a whole collection, says Realm & Empire’s Brand Director, Richard Robinson, “The extent of the resource at IWM is almost overwhelming, which is why we take this approach – it helps to focus the creative process. We tend to look at specific dates and anniversaries that can inspire multiple collections and then take it from there.”
One might have a hard time gleaning inspiration from the the CC41 Civilian Clothing Order –which saw the government of Great Britain streamlining all nonmilitary clothing, even making it illegal to decorate clothing with extra embroidery, buttons, or pockets. But that’s just what Realm & Empire did, adopting the “make do and mend” attitude of that period, recycling, reusing, and restyling.
Mirroring the details of the original standard issue military uniforms, they’ve adorned every garment with a vintage shutter-loom back neck label together with the Real & Empire label, giving each piece its own individual number.
First up is the brand’s popular Trench Floral Print from SS14, reworked here with a contemporary fern print in camo color combinations creating a distinctive new pattern for tees, sweats, cargo shorts, and utility pockets. The pattern itself is inspired by a fragment of wallpaper delicately salvaged from the wall of a German dugout nearly one hundred years ago.
The Duxford Utility Parka takes inspiration from the Utility Clothing Designs of 1942. Hooded, lightweight, and with a fish tail, this has a traditional orange lining, Trench Camo Print patches, and two large utility pockets.
Their first SS season to include knitwear, they’ve included a lightweight knitted waffle-stitch crew and lightweight cardigan both in 100% Merino wool inspired by a First World War period British Army standard issue cardigan found at the IWM Duxford.
“We have, of course, to be contemporary,” says Robinson, “So while our garments retain their original utility purpose, we also look at general menswear trends, place a lot of importance on fit and use modern fabrics to improve performance and wearability.”
Realm & Empire has included waxed cotton jackets made from British Millerain, tees hand printed in Nottingham, and jerseywear featuring graphics inspired by authentic images and artwork of Second World War artists. There’s a Bacton Artisan Rifle Jacket, a Wyton Utility Blazer, and the lightweight summer Calshot Bomber Jacket. Classic polos, shirts in cotton twill and chambray, and slim fit trousers and shorts in traditional hard-wearing chino cloth complete the collection.
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