Our Legacy’s new London store

Silver Place is that rare thing, a small pedestrian Soho street in central London with a laid-back atmosphere devoid of honking cars; in spring and summer time, the shops put out benches for coffee-sipping staff and lounging customers. Though only a stone’s throw away from tourist-heavy Oxford Street and chaotic Carnaby Street, the street stump attracts a healthy mix of destination shoppers and random passers-by. Our Legacy, the Swedish fashion brand famed for its intellectual and contemporary menswear, could not have asked for a better spot for its fourth store, the first one outside Sweden. “We’re in a nice part of London - it’s smack in the middle of Soho, but still a bit hidden,” explains Our Legacy co-founder Jockum Hallin.

Set up in 2005 by two friends, Christopher Nying and Hallin started out by printing t-shirts in a studio belonging to Nying’s dad. Their internal roles quickly became clear; Nying looks after the creative side, designing the collections, while Hallin handles the strategic business side of the brand. Since then the Stockholm-based duo has taken on a third partner, Ricardo Klarén, and organically grown Our Legacy into a global brand loved by press, buyers and customers alike. And they’ve done especially well in the UK, hence the imminent store opening: “We had been looking for a space here for a while, we wanted something magical and with character,” says Hallin. They ended up with a small but cosy London home, perfectly in synch with both the Our Legacy DNA and their loyal UK following. “England has developed into a great market for us, especially in the last two years. We’ve thought a lot about that, and we’re not entirely sure why - it’s not like it’s been a conscious decision to focus on the UK. I suppose there was just something that clicked between us.”

Sitting in what will soon be a fitting room, with paint cans and DIY tools around him, Hallin proposes Our Legacy’s sartorial connection with Great Britain could be down to their choice of fabrics, the similar climate and the fundamentally scaled back, no-nonsense aesthetic the two countries share. “Our cut is far from over-designed, we spend more time on getting the fabrication, weight and texture right. A lot probably has to do with our positioning as well, it’s hard to completely define what kind of brand we are, which means we have a broad customer base.” He’s referring to Our Legacy’s mode of communication. The brand hasn’t always been that forthcoming in terms of conversing with the rest of the world. “Yes, we’ve been surrounded by a kind of a romantic obscurity. We have to trust the customer to get it and to understand what we’re saying, but I think Our Legacy has a fairly educated customer.” Hallin knows the trick is to early on establish who the customer is in order to best offer them a product true to the brand. “It isn’t always wise to try and cater to everyone, of course, but I think different stores and customers are able to read us in different ways, and that’s why it works. We have a quite big collection now and stores can buy into it in a way that suits them. If they want to buy just black clothes, we have a theme in the collection that works for them, for example,” he says.

Traditionally, an Our Legacy collection has been defined by elevated basics, sometimes just plain wardrobe staples that have been updated in terms of fit and fabrics. But, whereas Our Legacy made its name as purveyors of preppy basics, today the brand is in the business of fashion - though it’s their own kind of fashion, featuring pieces that have been ‘taken for a ride’. “We used to be more of a ‘wardrobe brand’ dedicated to refining classics, but today you can find statement pieces in our collections as well,” Hallin says. “But, even though it might be a sheepskin jacket, the most expensive piece of clothing we’ve ever done, we still treat it like one of our t-shirts. We often push full looks and complete outfits as opposed to individual pieces.” But there’s still an apparent focus on details. Our Legacy is good at transforming existing ideas into new and exciting sartorial concepts, adopted for the streets as opposed to catwalks. “Often we do quite formal garments but you’ll never feel over dressed in them. We’ll clash two unexpected fabrics with each other to create something new. And it’s not just about fabrics but also how you can create new garments, like a suede shirt with a zip or suit trousers with a elasticised waist - they’re hybrid pieces.”

The development of Our Legacy, as a brand, is a textbook case for a new generation of menswear brands popping up this side the millennium. Not trapped in a fashion system, such the ones in Paris and Milan where brands are held captive by catwalk seasons in the prison of tradition and heritage, Our Legacy has been free to write its own history. “Ten years ago, when we started Our Legacy, we just put out some t-shirts. Christopher had studied a bit of art, but we both came from a graphic design background. And that was coupled with an extreme passion for clothes - I had been working in shops and as a wholesaler for years.” That was the factual foundation for the brand; the other part was just about making clothes for themselves. “We made the kind of clothes we felt our wardrobes lacked. It started with tees and then that grew each season, we started making shirts and then knitwear.” Soon, workwear pieces and suiting were added to the equation. What had started as a small collection of graphic t-shirts was starting to look like a full collection. For SS08, Our Legacy launched as we know it today. “To start with, the goal was to reintroduce classics that we thought were missing. You couldn’t get button down shirts in great fabrics, and the classic chino trouser needed a new shape. We were going for some sort of yuppie artist look back then,” Hallin summaries.

Our Legacy carried on with its characteristic look until the SS12 season when the team felt they had to develop the brand. “We didn’t necessarily know what we wanted to change into, just that something had to happen. We needed to think less about ‘classic’ shapes and find new ones.” According to Hallin, by changing the aesthetic like that, the brand denounced all they had done before and spent a year or two trying to find a ‘new’ Our Legacy expression. “I think that this current season, AW14, is probably where we’ve completely found our confidence. We’ve even been able to re-introduce a few classic Our Legacy pieces but done differently from a new angle.” As always, that means pushing the boundaries of how both the customers and Our Legacy themselves see the brand: “We’ve even tried to make copies of our own products to highlight refined qualities that look a bit cheap. We have bomber jackets that look like a silver NASA uniforms but are made out of a sturdy bag material. It’s a quite difficult material so the challenge lies in making that into a qualitative ‘luxury’ product.” But not all of it has to be so complicated; designer Christopher Nying is able to completely change the appearance of fabrics with very simple means. “We use wash and dyeing processes on indigo and other natural fabrics a lot. You dye and then wash, wash again and maybe re-dye it to find the right colour and texture. It’s a big part of our brand,” Hallin says. “For example, we’d take a check shirt and dye it so dark that the checks are hardly visible. We’ve never really been that into technology - trying to be high-tech is not really what Our Legacy is about.”

Visit the Silver Place shop and you’ll see that Our Legacy’s design DNA can also applied to bricks and mortar. Far from over-designed, the stores use plain but elegant materials to create a sophisticated shopping experience. “With the store, the goal was to get heavy things floating. We used simple materials to look more than they are, a bit like with the clothes. There’s an industrial feel to it that we tried to make exclusive… there’s lots of stainless steel, glass and concrete plus a resin-covered floor that makes it look like you’re standing on glass. The white walls stop an inch above the floor and the cash desk appears to be floating in mid air.” The shop is more than part of an expansion plan; it’s a statement of intent. This is Our Legacy showing its true colours. Ten years in, the brand has matured and gathered confidence. “The ambition has always been to grow organically, even though that sounds like a cliché. Since it’s a quite small company, we have to expand slowly. It’s expensive to grow, whatever business you’re in. We want to continue this kind of growth, and going forward I think opening up in New York, or even Los Angeles, is a good fit and natural progression for us.” World domination isn’t a very Swedish ambition, but it seems Our Legacy is destined for it.