Grown up dressing from Sunspel

sunspel_knitListen up womenfolk (and menfolk in this instance), we’ve found a great new brand that is worth checking out. Well, when I say ‘new’, Sunspel is actually a grand old lady of 154, the brand launched in 1860, but recently it has been given a modern shake up that has made us sit up and take notice. In terms of style, imagine the minimalist love child offspring of COS and Margaret Howell.

The brand has opened a new store in Chiltern Street (below) and invited us to take a closer look at the tightly edited range.

sunspel_shopSunspel started life making underwear and simple, everyday clothes in quality fabrics. Indeed it was the first UK manufacturer to bring the boxer short to British menfolk (in 1947) and has a claim over introducing the modern T shirt to these shores, (Haines of course, introduced the US to T shirts). It still has its Long Eaton factory making much of its jersey wear and its long staple, Sea Island cotton T shirt will have you swooning with its smoothness.

sunspel01The jersey collection is what Sunspel is well known for and its modern restyling has created cross generation appeal, due to the brand launching a pop up in the deeply cool New York Dover Street Market as well as having been quietly sold in good departments stores for some years.

But I want to you take note of the really beautiful knitwear, from the basket stitch navy sweater, the shirt-style fine knit merino jacket and the vintage style funnel neck These images make them look quite fitted but they are nicely generous rather than skinny-fit, and the quality is terrific.

When I asked the ‘what size do you go up to’ question we were initially saddened by the limited 8-14 but then my charming store guide informed me that although not ideal, many of the women’s styles were similar to the mens, so women could transfer to the mens range for larger sizing. In the days of us happily wearing the boyfriend jean/sweater/coat, I think this is a reasonable second-best option and Cyril says the brand is watching its sales like a hawk on sizing as they realise they may well need bigger size range.

I was in quite a spin  wondering which style story to pick to write about, I was so taken with the collection. The white shirts are exceptional quaiity for the price and I love the versatile shirtdress, there’s a lovely little kilt in super-soft herringbone wool and then there’s the lounge-y sweats collection….

knits-sunspelThe range isn’t cheap but it’s not bad value when you get up close and feel the quality. Shirts start at £105, T shirts at £45 and knitwear at £125. And ahem, you could always wait for the sale or a promotion to start you off.

I am hooked.



  • Belinda says:

    I wonder if some if the sizing is due to (I am guessing here, given what I know of their factory in LE and this sort of production knitting in general) the knits being produced on fabulous, old machines (quite possibly pre-WWII vintage) where the knitting beds are narrower as people were narrower? As a species we are much larger now than we were then, taking into account both bone structure and, erm, ‘padding’. Production size runs (they are fully fashioned, no? Not cut-and-sew, so they’re knitting to size, which means lots of calculations and set-up time for each size knitted) have to be tightly controlled, so until they know they have the (female) customer for larger sizes it really doesn’t make commercial sense to spend lots of cash on many sizes if so far their core customer has been buying the smaller sizes. Even if they’ve got super-modern machines the set-up costs for a larger-size production run might well negate any profits to start with.

    Boring technical bit over. I’ve always loved their stuff!

  • Monix says:

    So Sunspel suggest that I look in the men’s section for clothes that would, at size 16, fit me? Where are the kilts, shirts that button on the left and the t shirts cut for the female shape there? If they can’t be arsed to make clothes in my size I’ll take my money where they do and not be patronised by suggesting I buy their men’s clothes. Pah!

  • sarah says:

    The men’s section is fabulous, that Sherwood green!
    The women’s section seems a bit bolted on and for me, my short arms may be a problem for men’s sizes. I will be watching for the sales like a hawk.

  • Sue says:

    These look lovely, Amanda. You are really very good at finding perfect items. I hope they do a school grey? Must have a look in the shop soon. (I have bought the men’s stuff for my husband in the past – not sure but think it might have been on the Toast website)

  • Amanda says:

    Interesting point Belinda, and judging from Monix’s comment, they need to invest in those bigger machines if they want to keep today’s consumer buying! The men’s section is fab Sarah, although take your point Monix -and Sue they do indeed do schoolroom grey. Ax

  • Belinda says:

    No, no, they won’t necessarily need machines with bigger needle beds, but as menswear has always been their core market to now it’ll mean re-grading the women’s sizes bigger and running some of the machines to make those sizes and fewer machines to make men’s sizes if the womenswear becomes popular enough, if that makes sense. Of course, that is pure speculation, but it would make sense from a production point of view. Set-up costs for fully-fashioned knitwear runs can be really high and really only recouped if you’re going to make thousands per size, unless you really whack the retail price up.

  • Monix says:

    Ah Belinda – that makes sense! I too thought “if they make men’s sizes, they can make a larger woman’s size”… thank you for explaining that.
    Amanda, how do you think this company/collection differs from John Smedley which also make this type of fully-fashioned knitwear (really working you hard today!).

  • Amanda says:

    You are! It has a more modern vibe, a more Swedish clean cut feel to it, where as John Smedley -which is of course also a wonderful brand – feels more classic. Ax

  • Belinda says:

    Pure speculation on my part, Monix & Amanda, but I do know a bit about knitwear production. I don’t think Smedley’s do particularly a particularly large range of sizes, either (unless they’ve changed recently), but I agree with Amanda, Sunspel is a bit more ‘minimalist modern’ and less ‘classic’. Beautiful stuff from both brands, I’m not knocking Smedley’s there – I have worn (and, indeed, worn to total extinction in a couple of cases over 10 or 15 years) some of their stuff to death.

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