How do two halves make a whole – especially when those two halves are pulling in different directions? In the case of British menswear brand, S.E.H Kelly it’s the space in between the backgrounds and sensibilities of its owners that it finds a voice.
On the one hand there’s Sara Kelly: quiet, reserved, she could tell you how many buttons a mac should have and the spacing between each one without hesitation. Up until 2009 she had been working for Hardy Amies on Savile Row, a company known for its exacting standards.
On the other hand is Paul Vincent: glib, gregarious, a cup of coffee permanently in hand, he favours the workwear of craftsmen from days gone by. It’s this tension in both style and aesthetic that defines the brand.
Sara sources the material, where her exacting instincts locate fabrics ordinarily reserved for the cutting boards of Savile Row. A polo shirt and an evening shirt, in her mind, deserve exactly the same respect. “And then I’ll come and stick my oar in!” says Paul, laughing. He challenges her on sartorial decisions to keep the style grounded in the familiar. “I ask her things like, ‘why is that collar so high?’” He forms a vital counterbalance to Sara. And it works.
The clothes displayed in their Shoreditch High Street shop reflect these two perspectives, precision with relaxation, casual with formal. “Workwear made for today, not the 19th century,” is how Paul describes it. Clothing designed to last – to function both as a garment of comfort but also a badge of professionalism.
“It’s good to create that tension sometimes. Our stuff gets born out of a bit of give and take, whether between Sara and myself or between the makers and us. There’s scope for all that and that’s good,” Paul concludes, looking at Sara, who smiles back.