Exquisite essentials: Sunspel

Sunspel womenswear designer Christina Chin on her inspiration for the women's collection and the key pieces for Autumn/Winter 2018

Style 1 Nov 2018

Sunspel's AW18 women's collection
Sunspel has developed superlative fabrics over decades of innovation
Sunspel's collection is made for women and what women want
Designer Christina Chin wants women to be empowered through Sunspel's collections

I joined Sunspel as I wanted to work with a company that produced timeless clothing, with an environmental conscience. During my experience in the fashion industry in Hong Kong, New York and London, I became increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the industry, however I knew I still wanted to work in luxury fashion and create beautiful clothes.

Our priority at Sunspel is quality, and we specialise in creating luxury essentials with an aesthetic that is unfussy and considered. We use exquisite fabrics that have great history and have been tried and tested in menswear for over 150 years. Women were going into Sunspel stores and buying men’s clothes, so it felt like a natural progression to start a women’s line. While the Sunspel design ethos for women is fundamentally linked to menswear, the women’s collection is very much designed for women and what women want.

Sunspel was established in 1860, and we work with high-quality fabrics that have been developed over generations. Indeed, fabric heritage and development is the starting point for every product we develop, and with women’s pieces it’s more about getting the fit and silhouette perfect while keeping it relevant and modern. All the archive-inspired fabrics have a Q number for quality – Q82, for example, has been refined for the past 50 years, and is used in our classic T-shirts and underwear. It’s a fine long-staple pima cotton jersey, it’s soft and smooth yet strong, so it won’t twist when it’s washed. It feels very luxe for a T-shirt.

Sunspel designer Christina Chin
Christina Chin, Sunspel

While menswear is much more of a steady core collection, with womenswear we have to be observant about different shapes and what’s driven by trends each season. This attention to detail goes into every item in the collection, even with the simplest of products and especially with T-shirts: our signature garment. For example, we have the boy-fit, which is based on a men’s T-shirt shape, and this season we’ve introduced the Interlock Mid-Sleeve, which is cut from a heavier weight fabric and is a modern take on our classic white T-shirt design. It has a slightly longer sleeve and has a natural stretch making it very flattering.

We work with specialist factories for every product to ensure each piece is manufactured to the highest standard possible. I’m inspired by seeing what different factories love doing and what they’re best at making. For our Autumn/Winter 2018 collection, we did a road trip that started in the Peak District and went through Scotland to visit different factories and different mills. The fabric for our Wool Cashmere Flannel Wrap Skirt is produced at a mill near the Peak District that’s fully vertical, which means they do everything from spinning and weaving to finishing. As it is our modern taken on the kilt, the skirt is then made in a traditional kilt factory near Glasgow.

A great autumn/winter staple for women are our merino trousers with a wide leg silhouette. We also have a Milano ribbed skirt, which is good because it gives you freedom of movement, but to look at it’s very slim, so it looks refined but is still so comfortable because it has an elasticated waistband and no hardware or fastenings.

Our vintage wool culottes, with long-sleeved matching top, are also ideal for autumn/winter dressing. I’ve been wearing the ‘Mosto Brown’ version a lot. They are perfect for travelling and feel so elegant, it’s a set you can wear for many different occasions – you could literally get straight off a plane and walk into a meeting and still look put together.

I feel very strongly about urging women who may know about Sunspel through the men in their lives to go and try on the products, to experience the quality and the fit, and be empowered by the clothes.