Sustainability has been a buzzword for the fashion industry for well over a decade now. But where many simply pay lip service, SIRPLUS has literally made its name from it.
The play on words comes from the surplus fabric it uses to make its products – the first of which were boxer shorts for men.
Having studied real estate at university, Henry Hales chose a life in menswear – not the most obvious career choice, perhaps, but he found the shift to be quite an organic one.
Here we speak to Hales about what motivated the birth of his stylish, easy-to-wear label and how the journey has played out so far.
Boxer shorts may have been where SIRPLUS began, but there's a lot more in its wardrobe now…
So where did it all start?
I actually studied real estate at university. It wasn’t very creative, but I’d be lying if I said I hated it. It was pretty diverse.
There were architecture and sustainability modules – and lots of the elements that I learned have since been relevant to starting SIRPLUS – even property law.
How did the business of making boxer shorts from surplus fabric unfold?
I thought there was a gap for well-made men’s underwear. I started doing my research learning about the manufacturing process and became aware of the huge amounts of surplus fabrics left after factories have cut their orders.
I spoke with a shirtmaker on Jermyn Street and realised that often bespoke shirtmakers use the surplus fabric to make underwear for clients.
The shirting was supreme quality, available on my doorstep and in small runs. Hence SIRPLUS was born. My first order was for around 100 pairs.
When did it really kick off?
I remember quite clearly. It was Sunday, March 20th 2011. Spitalfields market. It was a couple of years before we got any real momentum, though.
What did you want to achieve then as opposed to now?
I thought we’d stay in boxer shorts and become the biggest and best player in the market. However, I quickly became aware of other really amazing surplus fabrics and couldn’t resit making it up into new products. The rest, as they say, is history.
Talk to us about sustainability and how that plays its part within the brand?
It’s essential. It’s in our DNA. The whole business is built around the re-purpose of fabrics that weren’t being used.
As we grew, we started to buy fabric from the mills, but surplus still makes up a big proposition of the range. We use organic fabrics, natural buttons and recyclable packaging across everything we create.
We are planning to make our Portobello store a “SIRPLUS 2nds”, where people can return their worn SP garments and receive credit on new ones.
Can you pinpoint the Sirplus style – and how the designs have evolved?
The style is simple and easy to wear. Well-tailored shapes made from excellent quality fabrics and trimmings.
For us, craftsmanship is essential and we have worked with our suppliers for a very long time.
Originally, we focussed on products that could be made using only surplus fabrics such as the boxers, caps and sleeveless jackets.
However, now we make a range wide enough for most men to see something they like.
What are the challenges you face within the fashion industry?
I think the fashion industry finds itself at quite an interesting time. Fundamentally, as an industry (and even a world), we need to consume less.
You have a shop in Portobello Road, where else can people find you?
We also have shops in Princes Arcade, Angel, Chelsea and a pop-up in Marylebone.
Where is your product made?
Mostly in the UK. We also work with manufacturers in Portugal, Italy and Romania.
I would like to keep as much as possible in the UK, but as we grow it does become difficult to find the right production for all our range.
Where do you aim to be in five years?
I’m not looking to be the biggest menswear brand in the business overnight.
If we can keep a steady growth, improve our product range and our systems as well as adding a shop here and there, then I’ll be happy.
See more at sirplus.co.uk