Dare to be different: How Favourbrook is raising the formalwear game
by Peter Howarth
Having put the fun into formalwear for 25 years, Favourbrook is now stepping up as well as out. As the world's attention turns to the men's fashion weeks, this is the label to know says Peter Howarth...
We’ve got an increasingly rare position,” says Oliver Spencer. “We provide clothing for people to have fun in.” The British fashion designer, best known for his eponymous menswear collection, is talking about his other baby, Favourbrook, the formalwear brand he runs as a parallel venture.
Favourbrook was Spencer’s first foray into designing, launched in 1993 when, just out of art school, he started selling second-hand clothes on a stall on London’s Portobello Road. One day he came across some “seconds” rolls of ecclesiastical silks, decided to make waistcoats, and the label was born. The name is an old family middle name of Spencer’s, and the idea was to make striking clothes for special occasions, particularly for evening.
Pieces appearing in Four Weddings and a Funeral helped establish the first store, in London’s Piccadilly Arcade. It then moved to Jermyn Street, quietly outfitting a discerning clientele that liked to mix unstuffy formalwear with innovative design and pattern.
Now Spencer has decided to invest in a bigger place in Pall Mall: the new Favourbrook emporium is home to a colourful array of the label’s signature velvet jackets, more than 800 waistcoats and 1,000 bow ties. Spencer calls it “the modern country home you always dreamed of – Hartford House meets the V&A museum”. The space is as eclectic as the collection it houses: modern art mixes with a working model steam train that the designer swapped for a couple of suits in 1997. On the lower ground floor is a fabric room, where you can choose cloth for bespoke items. It is a treasure trove of materials sourced over many years: suiting from the nest northern English mills, beautiful brocades from Suffolk, and decorative jacquard silks from Como.
Spencer is a committed sailor – you’ll find him in a Sunbeam keelboat on the Solent at the weekend, or cruising the Datça peninsula in the summer. When he wins the lottery, he will be purchasing a Wally. A superyacht, says Spencer, offers great sartorial opportunities: “I love the whole elegance of old-school sailing, the spirit of the J-Class yachts. And, of course, the transatlantic liners.”
Favourbrook is a contemporary take on that sort of style. “We’re not about fashion. Our customers want interesting things. Many personalities shop here, from people who want an outfit for a special day like a wedding, to actors and musicians who need something striking for the red carpet, to people who just like to look different, especially for evening.”
Spencer believes any self-respecting boat owner should have a velvet smoking jacket on boar. Favourbrook can make this to your own specifications. As Spencer explains: “You can have it with single-breasted lapels in satin, or as a Nehru-collared style with ornamental, military ‘frogging’ braid fastenings, as seen on old uniforms. The colours are amazing: Mediterranean blue is lovely, but velvet comes in all manner of different evening shades, from green to purple to dusty pink.” Add white linen trousers or black cool wool trousers, evening pumps and a white shirt, and you’ll look every inch the Riviera dandy. Which can only be a good thing.