“So all I had to do was make it known I was looking to revive the brand and a whole world opened up,” Jonathan Freedman, current director of Brutus Trimfit, tells Clash.
Son of the brand’s co-founder Keith Freedman – who introduced Brutus to the world in 1966 alongside brother Alan – Jonathan has been at the helm of the cult label since its relaunch in 2010.
“The decision was easy as the process happened quite organically,” he continues of the renascence. “I started researching the brand and quickly found a diehard following of our Trimfit shirt. I bought and borrowed a few, tracked down the original Trimfit factory, had some samples made and as soon as I put them online they started selling… So very quickly I had a business.’”
That nostalgia is the decade’s top trend no doubt has aided the venture’s success; skinhead culture in particular continues to enjoy a mass resurgence, as new eyes soak up work by photographers like Gavin Watson and Derek Ridgers, and sartorial signifiers such as Dr. Martens and MA-1 jackets acquire broader popularity.
“The skin/suedehead/rudeboy subcultures are still very prominent and in fact growing, especially in Europe and South East Asia,” confirms Jonathan. “The guys and girls are getting younger and are very switched on; there are loads of young bands coming up and gigs and festivals on all over the place. It's all still built on the same foundations as it was in the late 60’s: it's all about music, comradery, equality and having a good time; being part of this is the most important element of Brutus.”
A different beast to its contemporaries, Brutus 2.0 is a smaller operation that translates to a seemingly more personal affair. Which is not to say it’s exclusively Freedman’s doing…
“John and I met a few years back when he had just produced issue one,” he recalls of his creative partner, John Holt, editor of independent style title LAW; the accompanying studio takes care of the Brutus aesthetic.
“Visually it blew my mind and its voice was so fresh, British and honest; it resonated very strongly with what I was trying to do with Brutus. On the spot I commissioned LAW to shoot our next look book and gave John complete creative control. What he produced for us really turned heads and it was the beginning of a very close working relationship.”
Pictured above is the backstory to the brand’s latter SS15 look book (the ‘book itself, here, was shot in a photobooth on Valentine’s day). Suggests the director: “The Brutus Trimfit shirt hasn’t changed much in the 50 years since it was it was first made; it’s a stone walled classic, with an unmistakable 3-finger rolled collar. You can’t mess with it.”
“We felt that by shooting that same shirt, using the same analogue process, we could hint at the golden era of Brutus, but by shooting in colour and on a 16-year-old, we could utilise the vibrancy of the shirts and show them in a modern context.”
Perhaps curiously, given the brand’s vintage identity, it’s modernity (and its subsequent technologies) that have helped establish the brand’s position second time around. “Social media has changed the game,” confirms Freedman.
“Being able to have contact with fans of the brand from all parts of the world allowed me to tailor the relaunch. We get instant constructive criticism when we mess up and immediate praise if we do something right. The relaunch has really been a combined effort between us and the fans – without social media I don’t think I would have managed to get it right.”
The label’s next chapter is set to be its most extensive yet and has already claimed ‘proudest moment’ status for the director. “It’s building on what we’ve done in the last five years and making sure we keep producing good quality, thoughtful pieces for our loyal customers,” he asserts of the SS16 collection and 50th anniversary, the aforementioned milestones.
The first full collection for 15 years – boasting a return to the once core denim range – the menswear line-up will make its debut later this week at London tradeshow Jacket Required, while as the mammoth anniversary approaches Jonathan promises new collaborations, plus “we’ll be throwing a party or two.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photography: LAW Magazine and Bafic