Championing sustainability and style, Sir Plus founder Henry Hales has forged a menswear brand like no other. Through upcycling offcuts and surplus (get it?) fabric from factories and tailors, Sir Plus reimagines classic garments in a more contemporary and luxury guise.
Occupying a regular residence on the Portobello Market, a recently opened studio shop in Bethnal Green, as well as an online store, Sir Plus has hastily established a loyal customer base of stylish gents taken with the story, quality and quintessential Britishness of the brand.
The Gentleman’s Journal took the opportunity to quiz the company’s founder on business, boxer shorts, velvet suits, Nehru jackets and why every gentleman should write a good thank you letter:
What was the spark behind starting Sir Plus? And what prompted that move into menswear?
I really wanted to start a business. I thought that the men’s underwear market was undersupplied and that I could make a better product then there was out there on the marketplace, so I had these designs made and this concept and then set about trying to make them. What I found was that to manufacturer the boxer shorts from scratch with my designs was really challenging and expensive because getting fabric printed to your requirements is very difficult and can be quite costly.
However, whilst doing my research, I realised that often factories make up their orders and have materials left over. So instead of doing my original concept, which was really crazy designs on boxer shorts, I decided to start buying the surplus fabrics from other shirt makers and it enabled me to get a better quality fabric and a lower volume of it and then start making them into boxer shorts.
So the offcuts you source, are they just from England or do you go further afield to Italy etc.?
Well they’re not actually just offcuts. Offcuts are pieces maybe 30cm or 50cm, which is what we started with. But now it’s very much rolls or 50 metres, 100 metres – we bought 300 metres recently. If a factory, or merchant, or mill or a brand, for whatever reason has to sell their fabric, which happens regularly, then because of our reputation in the industry, they’ll know we would be interested. So they’ll get in touch and we’ll buy it off them – we’ve bought from India, Italy, Turkey, Portugal. We’ll only buy the best quality but all of these countries have a specialty, the cashmere and the silk that we buy from Italy is really great, the jersey from Portugal’s incredible and the wools we use from England are really great. So it was originally just from Britain, but now we source from all over the world.
You’ve now expanded beyond underwear, tell us about that…
It’s been one big story and adventure. We didn’t set out with this plan to start with boxer shorts and then end up making jackets. I really just thought I’d grow the boxer shorts side of the business but I realised that if I want to make more sales, rather than selling more boxer shorts, I’m going to have to sell other products. So it’s really been a case of what would fit the brand and what we can make.
With half a metre of fabric you can make a nice waistcoat, but you can’t make a jacket. A lot of the tailors and factories would have a metre of fabric that I could buy from them and make into a waistcoat, so we originally started making nice tweed waistcoats to wear with jeans and chinos. From there we moved onto wedding waistcoats, as that’s when most people would wear a waistcoat, and the wedding side started doing really well for us.
People then started coming up saying have you considered making something I can wear a little more casually, that’s almost a jacket and a few people showed us the Nehru styles. We started making them before moving onto the Nehru jacket by adding some sleeves. It was really organic and just evolution, it’s not a kind of strategy, but it’s worked really well for us, just adding a couple of products a year and focusing on them and trying to make them better than anyone else’s; rather than adding to the range unnecessarily.