IN EXCESS

Henry Hales, founder of British menswear clothing brand Sirplus, talks about his market roots and transforming surplus fabrics into high-quality wardrobe staples

13 November, 2020

It is said that one man’s waste is another man’s treasure. For clothing brand Sirplus, this particular idiom is one that underpins their entire ethos.

Ten years ago, sustainability was far from the fashion agenda, and those who were making strides in all things eco-friendly were not considered premium. It was during this time that recent university graduate Henry Hales was selling men’s underwear on the famous Portobello Market. Inspired by a few rolls of excess fabric he spotted in a shirtmaker’s window, Hales had the brainwave to make his garments from surplus fabric. This meant that his products were inherently economical, being made in Britain from materials that would have otherwise ended up discarded. The whole process, in Hales’s words, was ‘far more sustainable than adding to the already problematic supply chain’.

Soon, the idea of creating clothing from excess fabric expanded from boxer shorts to other menswear staples, including shirts, jackets and fitted waistcoats. These were all mostly made from surplus fabrics, with the rest made from recycled materials, such as recycled bottles.

‘I think it’s really important for our customers that the brand is sustainable,’ Hales explains. ‘The aesthetic obviously matters, but sustainability is a fundamental part of the reason people buy into Sirplus.’

Sustainability may be the core of the business, but Sirplus clothing is undeniably stylish. These are elegant, well-made staples that are perfect for building a capsule wardrobe. The individual pieces are timeless yet modern; from cosy merino wool and recycled polyester jumpers to plush cashmere beanies, vibrant silk ties, and beautifully cut chinos made from Italian brushed organic cotton. ‘We always have a range of core products, because our philosophy isn’t “Buy a new wardrobe every season”, it’s “Buy an item of our clothing and wear it for a lifetime”, explains Hales.

While Sirplus may have a distinctive classic aesthetic, the brand has experimented with bold new styles in recent collections, including this summer’s printed Cuban shirts and a new unisex range.

After a decade of growth and launching several standalone boutiques across London, Sirplus opened its doors at The Royal Exchange in September 2020 — just weeks before the UK went into a second lockdown. Every new business venture encounters unexpected difficulties, but 2020 has proved far more challenging than anyone could have predicted. Still, despite this year’s unprecedented circumstances, Hales remains optimistic and is settling into the neighbourhood.

‘The size of The Royal Exchange store is perfect for us. It’s quite intimate and I feel we can build up a nice local community there, so it ticks a lot of boxes for us,’ he says.

The petite Royal Exchange branch features a small number of Sirplus hero pieces, in keeping with the brand’s small-batch production philosophy. Key pieces include knitwear and polo shirts, with plenty of gifting options for the upcoming Christmas season.

‘The dress code for many corporate companies is a bit more relaxed, and more people are wearing smart-casual for work now, such as a polo top and chinos. So we hope to create some nice synergies with customers as their wardrobes evolve,’ Hales says on the topic of the City clientele. ‘We sit in a nice spot of being high-quality but innovative and contemporary. We have a diverse range of customers, and The Royal Exchange fits in nicely with that.’ 

The Royal Exchange Sirplus boutique is situated on Threadneedle Street. Discover more about the brand at sirplus.co.uk

In line with government guidelines, The Royal Exchange will be closed from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December. Keep up-to-date with news from The Royal Exchange and all our retailers by following us on Instagram @theroyalexchange and Twitter @rexshopper