In conversation with Gresham Blake

IMG_0996_me and GreshamLast week I attended a Brighton Chamber of Commerce Spotlight Supper event at Silo, where the special guest speaker was tailor Gresham Blake, in conversation with Miranda Birch. Gresham and his team specialise in bespoke and ready to wear suits, shoes and accessories, with shops in Brighton and London.

As well as being quite handy with a sewing machine, Gresham is also a fantastic storyteller. Prompted by Miranda, he regaled the room with tales of how he got started, what are his key influences, and his words of wisdom for anyone wanting to go into fashion.

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Here are some snippets….

When did you start to make clothes:

I started young, at about aged 5. I remember making a sleeping bag, vests and a gun bag for my Action Man. Later, I wanted my trousers tight so my mum made me take them in myself, teching me how to use a sewing machine. Half of the job of tailoring is being confident with a sewing machine. At age 26 I finally decided what I wanted to do. I did an art foundation course – originally I wanted to do sculpture but there’s no money in it – but I loved fashion, so I got into that.

And why?

I could never find the items I wanted, so I made them. An orange rollneck was particularly memorable….

What inspires you?

I don’t take any notice of what others do in fashion. You end up following if you do that. I do stuff ‘from the gut’.   If I like it, someone else will. I always have fun with it. For example, we may only do 20 of a particular shirt print – it doesn’t matter – people always buy them.

What are your iconic pieces?

Our prints and our printed shirts. They always sell out before they even go into the shop. Accessories are also key for us: ties, cufflinks, pocket squares, etc.

And your favourite design?

It has to be a red and white striped jacket with cherries on it – I designed it purely for a photoshoot – it evoked childhood memories in Tunbridge Wells.

What’s advice would you give to someone starting out in fashion

Be honest and respectful of people. Take your influences from far and wide – art, architecture, etc. And learn bookkeeping !

What’s next for you and the Gresham Blake brand?

Our business is at a crossroads – we have the finance to expand, but I know I can’t do everything. I need to choose one direction. Do I go purely retail ? Or focus on corporatewear? Or expand as a fashion brand? The problem with expanding as a fashion brand is that then we become a slave to’ season’. And I’m a bit too anarchic for that’.

Watch this space to see which direction Gresham heads in next…

The evening was also memorable for the amazing venue. Silo is a restaurant, bakery and coffee house specialising in pre-industrial sustainable food, and is completely zero waste. Next time you’re in Brighton, drop in.

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