Fit for werk
On the set of the Thandii shoot, we caught up with the minds behind Margate’s utilitarian brand WerkHaus
With electrical cables macraméd to form a functional but chic chandelier and graphic green steel rails designed by The Rag and Bone Man UK (no, not the artist), it is pretty obvious WerkHaus Margate has considered its branding and theme down to the smallest detail.
Business partners, and the brains behind the brand, Cynthia Lawrence-John and Rae Jones have a vision, and that vision has pockets.
“The focus is always on utilitarian,” says Rae. “Everything has to have pockets. So much of womenswear doesn’t have pockets. It’s such a simple thing but it makes a massive difference to a wardrobe.”
This utilitarian outlook fits with the name, WerkHaus, for which the pair encourages thoughts of flair and functionality – it’s a mixture of design institutions Wiener Werkstätte and Bauhaus – rather than those of Victorian workhouses. Though the amount of steaming and pressing on the Thandii shoot might have you thinking otherwise.
“It is about things being really well made; things that last; and things with purpose,” says Rae. “That’s our style, it is what we are both in to. When we first met, we realised we had interchangeable wardrobes, and that was quite rare. I didn’t ever meet people that liked the same things that I did.”
Independently, both Rae and Cynthia moved from London to Margate three years ago and it was a chance meeting at a yoga session that commenced the partnership.
An experimental summer pop-up proved fruitful in the old laundrette (you can still see the old signage above the shop, and it totally fits), with WerkHaus now open for the past 18 months.
A quick rundown for those of you yet to go, the shop is a wonderful array vintage (70%) and new (30%) styles from both international and local brands as well as a few armies. Seriously. Pieces from the Swedish army, Hungarian military and even a fantastic reversible satin jacket liner, that not so many moons ago was being hiked up a mountain on the back of a Greek soldier, are on the rack.
“Choosing those military items is just something that people wouldn’t think of for women’s wear,” says Rae. “But they are so beautiful.”
It’s not all graceful boiler suits and foraging for striking army surplus.
“We stock brands like Kings of Indigo – a Dutch denim brand; Stan Ray – a North American workwear brand; Ullac – a British gender-neutral denim brand from Hackney; Bensimon – French pumps; and Le Béret Français,” says Rae.
There are also stylish bags from designers such as Buckitt, (Rae’s own brand) and Berets by Margate local and Radio One DJ Gemma Cairney x Mary Benson, The ‘WerkHaus Margate’ range of sweatshirts, t-shirts and tote bags – are a massive hit with day-trippers. Everything in there is greatly thought-about.
So, how did the pair become so effortlessly stylish and forward thinking in their fashion approach?
Well, Rae is an accessories and footwear designer as well as a trend forecasting consultant, while Cynthia is a fashion director, stylist and costume designer for monster brands and rock bands - which helps.
“We still dip into it,” says Cynthia. And, why Margate?
“To breath,” she adds.
“It’s a new adventure,” says Rae. “We’ve never looked back.”