Hidden behind a row of buildings in the heart of Shoreditch lies British menswear brand S.E.H. Kelly. The stripped back workshop is as unassuming as its owners – partners Paul Vincent and Sara Kelly.
A cosy interior reveals whitewashed brick walls, muted lighting, a handful of tailored jackets and trousers hanging from the ceiling, knit sweaters stacked against the walls and a fitting room made from old patterns. The atmosphere is comfortable, cool and casual – just like the clothes themselves.
A trained tailor, Sara Kelly learned her craft on the exclusive Savile Row in Mayfair before she and Paul set up the business from their Hackney flat four years ago. Two years later they moved into the Boundary Street space and have settled into a comfortable routine where they both design the clothes, with Sara making them and Paul handling the marketing.
The garments are simple yet stylish, carefully crafted and hardwearing. “We make clothes I like to wear myself,” says Paul. Both in their early 30s, Paul and Sara’s clientele range from hip 18 year olds to distinguished men in their 60s. Some customers complete entire wardrobes from the brand and others simply prefer to buy one-off special pieces.
Everything from S.E.H. Kelly is 100 per cent British, from the patterns and cloths right down to the specialist horn buttons. Using Sara’s contacts from her Savile Row days, garments come from British factories and mills all over the country. “We wanted to use the same high quality fabrics that Sara was used to working with, but use them to make casual clothes instead,” says Paul. The quality may be the same but with prices ranging from £80 – £450, the clothes are a lot more affordable than buying a tailored suit.
The duo are constantly designing and producing new products, but won’t be selling out to bigger brand names any time soon. “We just want to make high quality clothes, hit deadlines, do a good job and not rush anything,” says Paul.
Their dedication to British makers isn’t cheap, but the results speak for themselves – each item of clothing is crafted with care. It is also partly responsible for the brand’s popularity in far-flung places such as Japan.
The clandestine location of the shop means you’re unlikely to stumble upon it accidentally. However, those customers who do make it out to the shop and surrounding businesses tend to be loyal.
On the Thursday afternoon I visited the shop, a hairdresser from a few doors down popped in to tell Paul he was sending over one of his clients. It was the kind of local courtesy and friendliness that comes as an unusual, but welcome, surprise.
The area has changed a lot, says Paul, but they wouldn’t be anywhere else. “We’re lucky to be here,” he adds. And we’re lucky to have them. Let’s hope being big in Japan doesn’t change this local gem.