It’s a sad fact of life that things have an expiration date. In this instance, the clothes we dress ourselves in. That jumper you eyed up for weeks before taking the plunge and purchasing in a spending spree years ago is starting to look a bit worn and faded these days. But no longer.
Meet Tom Cridland. The graduate from Fulham who, starting with just a £6,000 start-up loan, now turns over a quarter of a million pounds a year with his ’30 Year’ range. Editorial Coordinator Daniel James Parry finds out more.
THE FOXLEY DOCKET: You began designing clothes at the age of 18, when you sold almost £3,000 worth of SWINE ’09 shirts in a single week. Had fashion been something you had been keen to get into before this point?
TOM CRIDLAND: That was the first time I ever designed any clothing and I’m glad I have improved at it since the SWINE 09 slogan days! That said, I actually studied Modern Languages at the University of Bristol before starting Tom Cridland so, as you can imagine, I had plenty of time to watch The Sopranos before I actually began to work in the fashion industry at this point.
TFD: The profits of this were donated to Medecins Sans Frontiéres – what made this organisation a fitting recipient?
TC: There are so many worthy charities out there, doing amazing and invaluable work to help people. Medicine Sans Frontiéres in particular do so much to help victims of armed conflict, epidemics and other disasters. They felt like the perfect charity to donate funds raised from t-shirts designed around the Swine Flu pandemic.
TFD: In January 2014, you officially launched Tom Cridland. What pushed you to begin your own business? What sets Tom Cridland apart from other British brands on the market?
TC: I founded Tom Cridland in 2014 when I was 23 to make the perfect pair of men’s trousers and sell them direct to customer online. I took out a £6,000 government start-up loan and jumped head first into the fashion industry with no previous experience. We soon had the honour of making Tom Cridland trousers for people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Craig and the brand has started to take off.
The 30 Year Sweatshirt was the first item with a 30 year guarantee that I designed. It was an attempt to make sustainable fashion more broadly appealing and to get consumers thinking about fashion as less disposable. We also aimed to lead an industry trend to protecting natural resources by making truly durable clothing. We make luxury sustainable fashion accessible in terms of concept and price, which I think not only sets us apart as a British brand but as an international one with customers on six continents.
TFD: When was the first time you realised Tom Cridland was was a success, ‘the Eureka’ moment?
TC: I run the business with my girlfriend of seven years and business partner, Debs. We are really grateful to work on something that we love doing. We know now we should not take this wonderful opportunity for granted. That said, we haven’t achieved our ambitious goals yet and therefore wouldn’t want to call it a success before we do! We are most proud, however, of having made clothing for Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Stiller, Rod Stewart, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Piven, Nigel Olsson, Brandon Flowers, Robbie Williams, Nile Rodgers, Michael Portillo, Stephan Merchant, Frankie Valli, Daniel Craig, Neil Young, Danny McBride, Miley Cyrus, Clint Eastwood and Kendrick Lamar.
TFD: You were recently a finalist in Fortune Magazine’s Cool Companies competition in California before appearing on Fox News – can you tell us a bit about this experience? How have American audiences reacted to Tom Cridland?
TC: We spend about 3 months a year in LA. It is beautiful, spacious, sunny and relaxed, the dining is amazing and it is the home of the pop culture that we grew up. American people are far more optimistic and encouraging of young entrepreneurship and the city of Los Angeles inspired me a great deal in persevering with the Tom Cridland brand at the beginning when things were tough. Whether it has been speaking at UCLA, competing at the Fortune Cool Companies competition or being interviewed by Fox News, American people have been nothing but incredibly gracious and supportive of our brand.
TFD: Tom Cridland was nominated for the international Sustainia Award when included in the Sustainia 100, a list of businesses and sustainable solutions chosen by a committee led by Arnold Schwarzenegger out of 45,000. Can you tell us a bit about this experience? How did it feel to be in the Top 100?
TC: It was a huge honour as such a young brand. We were already very excited to be on the long list but to have made the top 100 is an achievement we are immensely proud of, especially considering that sustainability is the key priority for us as a fashion label.
TFD: What inspires the pieces you create?
TC: I enjoy being creative and I’ve grown to love the process of designing garments. I’m passionate about collecting beautiful clothing, shoes and sunglasses and really treasuring them. I’ve always had a buy less, buy better philosophy.
Though I was drawn to it by creating a menswear label purely because I liked the idea on an entrepreneurial basis, running a sustainable fashion brand is actually something I’m naturally suited to.
TFD: The brand describes itself as being ‘the number 1 sustainable fashion brand’ – what exactly does this mean? Why is eco fashion important to you?
TC: Sustainability is quite clearly not being treated as a priority in the fashion industry. One only needs to watch The True Cost by my friend, Andrew Morgan, to unravel the grim world of fast fashion. Tom Cridland is now a brand that I not only want to make luxury clothing accessible to people with at a value price point; I want it to be the world’s number 1 sustainable fashion brand and for it to make sustainability fashionable in itself.
TFD: Tom Cridland is the proud creator of ‘The 30 Year T Shirt’ and ‘The 30 Year Sweatshirt’, with products guaranteed to last 30 years – where did this idea stem from and how has it been made possible?
TC: The 30 year period for the guarantee was decided upon together with my suppliers who have been making sweatshirts for over 50 years. This is a conservative and not overly ambitious length of time for us to pledge that garments of our quality will last.
We had to look back to take our concept of the X Year Sweatshirt, a campaign against fast fashion and for sustainable fashion, forward. The 30 Year Guarantee is no gimmick and invokes a bygone era when clothing was made with care. We developed the 30 Year figure with our seamstresses in Portugal who have been making beautiful clothing since 1964. The sweatshirts, t-shirts and jackets are made out of luxury fabric that we source from Biella in Northern Italy, and are now crafted in both Parma, Italy and Serra da Estrela, Portugal. Technological advances allowed us to develop a special treatment to protect the garments against shrinking. We’re selling clothing of a quality you might usually find on 5th Avenue or Bond Street direct to consumer without third party retail markups. This allows us to make our clothing truly durable, which protects natural resources, and offer it to consumers at a reasonable price. The 30 Year concept is the game changer, however, though our process is second to none. Fast fashion is damaging the environment, putting responsible brands out of business and ripping off consumers. We are fighting the corporations that are treating both clothing and those who make it as disposable by offering consumers something better: should anything happen to your garment in the next 30 Years, we will repair or replace it free of charge.
TFD: Your clientele list includes a diverse range of A list stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, Stephen Fry, Danny McBride, Rod Stewart and Kendrick Lamar to name just five. How did these collaborations come about, and how would you describe the feeling of such celebrities wearing clothes you created?
TC: The circumstances were different in every case. With Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, we didn’t make trousers in his waist size – 31 inches – and they had to be made up especially for him. Him, Daniel Craig and Jeremy Piven all wanted navys and beiges, whereas Sir Rod Stewart and Brandon Flowers wanted pink and red! Making clothing for people we hugely respect and admire has been a huge honour for us.
TFD: With this in mind, who was the very first big name to wear Tom Cridland? What did they want and how did you receive the news?
TC: I play the drums and am a big fan of 70s rock, especially Elton John. Nigel Olsson is one of the best rock drummers of all time and has been Elton’s since 1969. I emailed his organisation asking if Nigel would like a complimentary pair of trousers… the next day he emailed me himself! He’s been so supportive and he and his wife, Schanda, have become friends of ours. We’ve been for a drink and a chat backstage with them before shows, and out to dinner with them in Paris and Las Vegas. They’re just lovely people.
TFD: In September 2016, you’ll be launching The Entrepreneur’s Shirt, working closely with the charities DEKI and Young Enterprise. Can you tell us a bit about this? Why were these organisations ideal partners in the campaign?
TC: The Entrepreneur’s Shirt is an opportunity for you to support entrepreneurship in the developing world and amongst young people, whilst getting a sustainable Italian cotton Oxford Shirt in return.
We started Tom Cridland, our fashion brand, with a £6,000 government start-up loan when we were 23. We have campaigned extensively for sustainability in the industry with The 30 Year Collection and designing clothing is true labour of love for us.
We are keen to give back and support aspiring young entrepreneurs, as well as those in the developing world who deserve the opportunity to start businesses and work their way out of poverty. We also want to campaign for a greater focus on nurturing entrepreneurial talent and providing basic business training in our education systems across the world.
In this spirit, 5% of The Entrepreneur’s Shirt campaign will be donated to Young Enterprise to inspire and equip young people in Britain to learn and succeed through entrepreneurial endeavor. Based on research statistics published by FreshMinds, students who participate in Young Enterprise programmes have a better understanding of business than their peers and are twice as likely to start-up their own company.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of any healthy economy and, yet, in the developing world it is nigh on impossible for many people to have the chance to work their way out of poverty through entrepreneurship.
DEKI is a revolutionary charity that changes that and a further 5% of The Entrepreneur’s Shirt campaign will also be donated to them to help them give people in countries like this the chance to create sustainable livelihoods by providing access to micro-grants and business training.
TFD: What are your opinions on young entrepreneurs, much like yourself, launching businesses in 2017? You passionately believe that young entrepreneurs need more support than they’re getting. Why is this?
TC: The economic climate for our generation is making it harder for young people seeking employment, looking to buy property and generally trying to do the same things our parents’ generation were able to do far more easily.
On top of that, in an age of supposed tolerance and open mindedness, young entrepreneurs are often treated in Britain like they’ve strayed from the herd. Many viewed my attempt at starting Tom Cridland as a phase that I will grow out of before getting a “proper job”. We need to nurture and encourage people who are looking to start businesses, and the economy will benefit a huge amount as a result as people will have far more courage and confidence to give it a go when they have a good idea.
TFD: Are there any plans in place for Tom Cridland beyond The Entrepreneur’s Shirt? What’s for the future?
Aside from Tom Cridland, we co-founded Tom Cridland Public Relations and Tom Cridland Entertainment.
We plan to establish Tom Cridland as the world’s leading sustainable fashion brand. Tom Cridland Public Relations has 15 clients already and we plan to grow it to become a leading PR agency for fashion and showbusiness, as well as entrepreneurs. Tom Cridland Entertainment is currently producing a record at Abbey Road and developing a documentary.
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