Will recently spent some time talking with Joe Ruddock, the creator behind heritage menswear brand Work & War. Inspired by European military garments and workwear of the past – and the men who wore it – Work & War endeavours to replicate and infuse classic work garments with a contemporary twist and high attention to detail. With such a focus on ‘heritage’ in the menswear market, Joe tells us about what inspires him, UK manufacturing and just how Work & War is going to distinguish itself from other brands.
Keep an eye on the brand via Instagram (@workandwar), with a website coming soon.
Thanks for your time Joe!
Q: First things first, tell us about yourself;
So, my name’s Joe and I’m an Art Director. I spend my days working in advertising (I’d say “think Don Draper” but it’s far less glamorous!) and I spend my evenings building the brand.
I’ve always found myself drawn to the style and substance of the 1930’s and 40’s, especially the fashion. There’s something about a wardrobe full of weathered, rugged clothing that just appeals to me.
Q: You’ve just started to create and develop your own brand – Work & War – how did that come about?
As a consumer I’ve found it hard to find exactly what I want, with a fit I liked and the details I was looking for. Maybe I’m just fussy, but it all started because I wanted my clothes to be as authentic as possible with the quality, details and fabrics I like… So, naturally, I started a menswear brand.
I think it also had something to do with work. Working in advertising, I’ve always been surrounded by cool brands and fantasised about creating my own. This seemed like the perfect way to combine my love for vintage fashion with starting my own brand. W&W has given me the opportunity to do something I can truly be passionate about.
Q: Do you have any previous experience in the clothing industry prior to starting Work & War?
Absolutely none. I’m not a fashion designer and I have average sewing skills. It’s a steep learning curve but over the past year or so, I’ve surrounded myself with a team of very skilled people and factories (and a very supportive partner) who are helping me bring my ideas to life.
So, I might not be the most qualified, but I’ve been collecting a while, know what I’m looking for and the quality I expect.
Q: What provides the inspiration behind the brand?
Rugged men of the past. Workers, soldiers and sailors. They hold a look that’s impossible to replicate, even if you have all the clothes, very few people have the story. There’s something appealing to me about the aesthetic of hard work; blood, sweat and tears.
I specifically find European wartime clothing interesting, It’s fascinating how war forced countries to design, redesign and repair clothing to work with available resources – breeding true and brutal utilitarianism.
Q: It’s clear to see that you have an interest and passion for well made vintage work clothing, what is it that appeals to you about these garments?
Simplicity and quality. It’s obvious they’re made to last and with only gain character with age. A lot of thought and care goes into simplicity – I like that.
Q: How have you gone about starting the brand and what is occupying your time at the moment?
I started in my comfort zone, trying to get right under the skin of the brand to create an identity and logo… Then swiftly moved to sketching up designs, sourcing fabrics and finding the right people for the job. It’s all still developing, but I think it’s turning out quite nicely.
While I’m going through the sampling process, I’ve turned my focus to packaging and searching for a few specific original items to help me design the rest of the collection.
Q: How is Work & War going to be different from current offerings on the market?
Theres a lot of Americana, and US military inspired clothing and a fair bit of french workwear out there – all of which I wear on a daily basis, but I rarely see British or central european military and work styling. Brands definitely already exist, and I’m doing nothing totally original, but I hope help fill that gap and do it justice.
The first collection is inspired by submarine warfare, so naturally that can go into some dark places, but I hope to bring the rugged styling back out from depths.
Q: What brands do you relate to and draw your inspiration from?
That’s a really difficult question, there are so many brands I can relate to, or covet at least. I’m a sucker for jackets so brands like Bill Kelso really stand out. Buzz Rickson is a staple and SJC get the styling just right every time.
With regards to inspiration, The Vintage Showroom, Brut Archives, IWM and Dustbowl Vintage are always at the top of my list. They often have what I’m looking for.
Q: There is a focus on small batch production and ‘Made in England’ (or USA, Japan etc) at the moment; how are you going to approach manufacturing for Work & War?
I’m doing a lot of research and finding the best people for the job in the UK. Even if it costs more, it means I can be part of every process to create a product I trust will be the best it can. Although I aim only to use UK manufactures, it’s less about the location and more about knowing people for me. Luckily I think there is a resurgence, pride and romanticism surrounding supporting local trade at the moment, so that makes it a little easier.
Q: What should we expect from Work & War in the next 12 months and where can we find you?
In the next year, you should definitely expect to see the release of the first jacket and jean style, but I hope to finish the whole collection by this time next year. It’s a slower process than I’d like, but I want to get it right.
At the moment, you can find me on Instagram @workandwar, but soon I’ll have a website running too. Keep your eyes peeled.