How SEH Kelly brought Savile Row clout to casualwear

Our Style Editor-At-Large takes a closer look at the East London label bringing a tailored edge (and heart) to dressed-down classics using Savile Row knowledge and superb British fabrics

These days, it’s a rare thing to discover a brand that’s making reasonably priced clothes that feel absolutely bulletproof the second you put them on. SEH Kelly bucks this trend. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the brand is a made-in-England menswear gem.

Founded by Paul Vincent and Sara Kelly in 2009, the company occupies a workshop-cum-showroom on Boundary Street in the East End, which is open to receive curious parties and customers a couple of days a week. Known for its robust workwear, which mixes impressive pattern cutting with hardy, tough fabrics and an understated look, SEH Kelly has developed a loyal following among stylish Londoners.

The brand’s origins, like most good things, are beguilingly humble. ‘We launched SEH Kelly after Sara had left her job on Savile Row and, like me, was left twiddling her thumbs in the middle of a quite serious recession’, explains Vincent. ‘We decided to try making a casual garment using the same domestic suppliers that she’d worked with on Savile Row – all the great mills and factories which were mostly, at that time, the preserve of high-end tailoring.

‘It seemed a shame that so few men with an interest in clothing didn’t have access to these makers with such world-leading heritage and provenance. We launched with a work jacket made with flannel from the West Country, trimmed with horn buttons and sand-cast brass buckles from local workshops – that’s the sort of thing we’re all about.’

Skip forward a decade, and SEH Kelly’s roster of handsome designs is impressive to say the least. The brand is known for its hefty corduroy overshirts, tweed and ripstop overcoats, and its ‘Proper Trousers’ designed with a high-rise, wide legs and chunky waistband. The workwear influences are clear in Kelly’s choice of utilitarian details, but to call SEH Kelly a ‘workwear brand’ is to underestimate its position on the London menswear scene.

‘We don’t have an obsession with workwear, per se’, says Vincent. ‘We take instruction from various aesthetics and time periods – both mainstream and obscure – from around the past hundred years. We have a work jacket and a donkey jacket and a shopcoat, which are all workwear staples, but we also make a tielocken coat, a trenchcoat and a peacoat, which are military styles. We try to pick and choose designs that are steeped in history, or the social fabric of the British Isles. One day we might develop an Inverness cape or field smock, or I don’t know… a kilt. Who knows.’

The investment-grade quality of SEH Kelly’s clothes speaks for itself, but the design duo’s championing of made-in-London menswear is impressive too.

‘Making in London was a logical step for us,’ explains Vincent. ‘We live in London, our workshop is in London and Sara had many contacts through her time on Savile Row, so that was the only conceivable way forward. Even where we’re using British suppliers across the country, as opposed to London workshops, the will to make in the UK informs the design of each of our pieces, and ultimately the brand as a whole.’

You might well be wondering why you’ve not come across SEH Kelly before; the brand has been active for a significant chunk of time. Well, to put it bluntly, the couple don’t do this for exposure – their interest in clothes runs deeper. ‘We gradually grow the collection with a couple of pieces per year, usually coats and jackets, and strive to improve the quality of design across the board, across all pieces, whether that is a different way of sewing a pocket, a slightly better sleeve lining, and so on. We’re never satisfied with our work, but even a tiny step in a forward direction is enough to get me out of bed in the morning and asleep contented at night.’

Clearly, Vincent and Kelly know their business. The care and attention that goes into each and every piece made by SEH Kelly is impressive, and more than worth exploring if you’ve an interest in characterful British clothes made with heart.

SEH Kelly, 1 Cleve Workshops, Boundary Street, London E2 7JD.