Friday, 11 January 2013

Tender's Engine-An interview with William Kroll founder and creator of British Brand "Tender"

Tender -An article I wrote for Mens File Magazine during the Summer giving a rare insight into the Design ethics and creative inspiration of William Kroll.

Tender’s Engine
By the time I leave William Kroll’s house, founder and creator of the British Brand Tender, following a 2 hour interview, I’m exhausted due to the overload of creative inspiration and thought that goes behind every single product that he touches .All designed and produced in the UK.
The Brand name Tender has many connotations, sounding quite Folk and Craft, it is actually taken from the old Victorian Steam trains powerhouse where the Coal and water were carried for the engine. The best of British industrial engineering that influenced, pioneered and fuelled the industrial revolution in many ways. So this is an excellent starting point for the Brand.
Whilst Denim is key in the brands origins the Indigo selvedge ,17oz Japanese Denim made in the UK now comes as a  standard  to a humble talent such as William Kroll,his expertise and Jeans credentials are proven. Initially working at Evisu Jeans he visited Japan regularly in order to be taught the Indigo dying process in Okayama in the South.
What inspired me first when discovering the Brand for the first time on www.hickorees.com was the back to basics approach to everything about the brand. A creative simplicity,. that takes inspiration from the original thought process  that went in to historical garments and their function. It is these ideas that are then re used to create a modern ,up to date product.
One of the main brand ideals is that “the product is the sum of all that has gone into it ”Products are half way points, the new owner will look after it for its lifetime and add its own detail. In the same way that an industrial engineer makes the original component ,it actually gains most of its character and appeal during its working life. William lives by this belief.
So whilst Tender the brand has an aesthetic work wear theme it is not a reproduction of something that has come before .It does embrace the “perfection of imperfection” as one of its running themes.
His design influence has a very British point of view rather than US or Heritage.
Everything William was wearing during the interview and using in his kitchen(where we were chatting) is Tender product.
The shirt he was wearing is a woven in the Uk, ticking stripe that has details on it that have their origins in a 1920’s British Railway Guard Coat. The Cuff is constructed in a peasants smock way laying on the cuff panel for comfort. The Buttons are rubber Rugby shirt buttons that have quick release properties rather than using traditional American workwear poppers that allowed the quick release when worn during rodeos.
His Jeans are Vegetable dyed in Wattle –a brown natural dye which gives a tint to the selvedge and the weft whilst making the Garment face quite blackened and saturated.
The details on the jean have straight cut slope front pockets that give and ease with wear and the trademark “Snob” Pocket is placed on the inner waist band and protrudes above the waist-see photo. This detail was derived from 17th Century Velvet britches and was used as a watch pocket positioned originally just below the chest.

The buttons on his jeans are made individually using a lost wax process where each mould is created individually and can only be used once. This same process is used on his belt buckle which again William has designed specifically for enhanced functionality.
His Glasses are 50’s thick rimmed and made by  Tender from Cotton Pulp which is a hand finished acetate. This material came after Bakelite and before plastic but the properties are that they are natural and hypo allergenic  On the arms there are 2 holes for the leather thong that stop the glasses falling of whilst working.
All leather that he is wearing-including the Work boots, belt, started off raw and has been lovingly aged using mutton Fat-which is also branded Tender. Even the timepiece on his wrist was designed  with a trademark face and lost wax moulded fastener.
I ask William about his natural colour work ,something that had inspired me when reading about the brand for the first time. He was garment dying Denim and other products using natural dyes grown on Uk farms such as Woad (Royal Blue),Weld (yellow)and Logwood –(black /purple) originally used for Blackcloth and was sourced along with Gold traditionally in South American by Samuel Pepys!!!
He is using Acacia Wattle quite extensively for the latest range which gives a nice Brown tint on denim and jersey but he also shows me his latest knitwear range extension which of course uses the colours of the breed of sheep to keep the natural shades which look very wholesome.     The Welsh Black and Cheviot combination were particularly appealing together.
The Tender range has grown extensively since 2009 where there was just a jean ,jacket, belt and tee. Today the range has developed to some 100 plus style covering all aspects of the lifestyle.
I am lucky enough to gain a  preview some of the S13 ranges that have been left behind from the looming  selling trip to New York.
A key piece are some Scottish Trews reference Canvas trousers. These have no side seam and the canvas is bias cut for greater ease and comfort during wear ,but fit perfectly into the Work wear ideals of the brand. The fabric is a heavy Canvas produced in the Uk for a Conveyor belt Company which certainly gives the Duck Canvas Sail cloth a run for its money. The idea is so strong that the concept has even been developed into boxer shorts though the fabric is made much lighter!!
Something William promotes as a bit of light hearted visual pace for the brand is seasonal collaborations with Print/Graphic designers that mirror the Brand unique selling points and ideals.
For Spring Summer 12 William worked with Chris Brown ,an old tutor whom he admired from his college days at Central St Martins.
Coming out for Autumn 12, he reincarnated and remoulded graphic images created by his Great Aunt. Natasha Kroll was the creative director at the famous Simpsons of Piccadilly as well as an astute Film Art Director, winning Baftas honouring her work. So the creativity is clearly genetic but the images seen on Bandannas for AW12 work as a family brand extension perfectly.
Along with every garment or product delivered by Tender or the recently launched Trestle lifestyle  web site, you receive a personal letter from William and a hand signed and numbered garment. This literally introduces and  hands over the adoption of that loved product to the new custodian, so that it can be cherished for what it is for the next chapter in its lifecycle..
I want to become part of this Lifestyle that William and Deborah are organically creating and living because it is new, original, refreshingly simple and above all it works. The Tender Brand holds a hard earned position amongst its peers in the global premium niche brand market, whilst retaining something unique amongst its peers.
If you want to know more about the tender brand Contact- William@madebytender.com or check out  the web sites http://www.madebytender.com/  http://www.trestleshop.com/
Photos-Flora Maclean
Blog- andyburnsdesign.com          email- info@andyburnsdesign.com

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