Second Son: Born at Bond

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Words: Adam Scotland, Alex Synamatix & Jamie Szulc
Photography: Suffoca

Second Son have for a long time been one of our favourite independent UK brands. For me, there has always been something about the brand that allowed them to stand apart from the rest, whether it be in design, inspiration, or quality, and no matter what box they’ve been put in. Second Son continue to excel and are leading the pack in what can be termed independent UK street wear – but we wanted to find out a little more about what went on behind the scenes.

Rufus, Will and Ben, the three names behind the brand formerly known as Loki Clothing, invited us to take a trip to their London studio and experience exactly what it’s like to be part of Second Son for a day – and it was a hell of a day.

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The Second Son studio is tucked away in the back of a fully operational workshop, and upon walking in and viewing the space for the first time, I wondered how I’d ever imagined anything else. The shelves, desks and any other free surface were piled high with fabric swatches, wooden buttons, suede patches, and all kinds of other samples – a real treasure trove of bits and bobs. Right then I had a unique insight into the design process behind any Second Son shirt, hat or pair or jeans. This season Second Son have made a huge leap in design, progressing from T-shirts and sweatshirts to a full collection including shirts, denim, chinos, hats and the new Italian leather belts. Sitting in a room surrounded by months’ worth of ideas, seeing the design process from start to finish, you really get a feel for just how much goes into putting a collection like this together.

The brand was born at the old Bond International store, off Carnaby street, where Will, one third of the Second Son team, worked. Loki Clothing, as it was then known, began as a shop exclusive, but it wasn’t long before the brand grew legs.

“When we started, we never wanted it to be about me and Will – we wanted it to sell on the merit of Will’s designs” – Rufus Exton

Soon Rufus and Will would add a third member to the team, and Ben encouraged the duo to make it more about ‘them’. Eventually they made the transition to the name Second Son, the only one of their many choices that happened to be free for use (for those looking for an explanation, Rufus and Will are both ‘second sons’). An important thing to note about the brand, and one reason that Second Son stands out from the rest, is that they have never aligned themselves with the type of American street and sportswear that seems to inspire so many of the UK’s other independent brands. Instead, they went for something a little more home grown.

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“We weren’t the two most ‘street’ kids in London, we tried to make things a bit more natural to us” – Rufus Exton

For that reason you’ll find all manor of references to British heritage, and our country in general, stretching as far back as the Loki days. Take the infamous Weather Pattern design for instance, the Deer Hunter tweed shirt, or more recently, the Sherlock Holmes inspired Hunting Cap. Britain has always been at the core of collections from the brand, and they have never shied away from their unique heritage – they embrace it.

“Britain has always been known for clothing and tailoring, so why look elsewhere? It’s a great time for British fashion and well-made, quality garments. Second Son has always just been what works for us, we take classic forms and put our own, personal spin on them.” – Rufus Exton

I was interested to find out what the Second Son team felt about British heritage becoming the ‘in thing’ in recent seasons, and whether they felt any animosity towards those perhaps encroaching on their patch.

“We haven’t really benefited from the trend. As a small company it’s hard to have that turn-around – we’re not in the position to make 5 waxed jackets” – Rufus Exton

It was clear that there was zero hostility towards other brands working on the heritage theme, after all, trends are trends and this phase is likely to pass as quickly as the previous. I did however get some sense that Rufus and Will only wished they were better positioned to capitalise on the trend and get their brand out there on a larger scale. Perhaps however, this trend will only help to boost the brand’s potential for future seasons. Their reference points and attention to detail in design are second to none, and considerations like this can only help establish the brand as leaders and originators for the future. The Spring/Summer collection is the brand’s most impressive to date, and their Autumn/Winter will, in Rufus’ own words “step it up a notch”. We’re excited to see just what they have planned.

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We caught up with Rufus, Will and Ben while they were right in the middle of the preparation for one of their infamous parties. Second Son parties have to me become the stuff of legend – from the posts on the Second Son blog to the trail of destruction they like to leave behind, it has always lead me to believe that this is one group of people that know how to throw a party. The venue this time was the Macbeth, a dirty East London pub, a little rough around the edges, that seemed to be the perfect place to host a Second Son bash.

Naturally, the brand had called in favours from their extended family, with Nash Money acting as a model for some of the artwork on display, Mark Ward providing his own, and Session providing some musical entertainment. The three man team behind the brand is in reality more 20, even 30 strong, as the brand’s network of friends and family are just as much a part of Second Son as they are.

This season Second Son have used this extended family to full effect, in the form of the various collab releases set to drop throughout the year. We’ve already seen collaborations with Nash and Washington D.C. brand Durkl, and in the coming months we’ll see even more, with new brand Yoni and illustrator Mark Ward – Second Son still have a lot of surprises in store for 2010.

“We chose to collaborate with brands like Durkl because we feel a particular affinity with the way they run their companies” – Rufus Exton

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This affinity is a big part of everything that Second Son do, you only have to look at their choice of collaborations, or any of their lookbook shoots (where Nash always stars as the model) to see that it’s clearly a family affair. One of the brand’s first stockists was Oxford sneaker boutique Ryouki, that went on to stock every collection from the brand until sadly closing it’s doors earlier this year. Owner Ry had become the brand’s personal favourite stockist, and their once ‘business’ relationship has blossomed into a strong bond of friendship.

Having met the team behind Second Son myself, I find it hard to locate a reason why anyone would want to consider them anything less than good friends. Additionally, this insight into the brand has only helped to strengthen my appreciation for what they do and enhance my love of their work.

The full Spring/Summer collection is available from Second Son now, we strongly recommend you make some additions to your wardrobe. I’m sure you know why.