all blues co.Back
All Blues Co. is a menswear shop in the Corn Exchange, owned by Faz Patel and Mano Dridi. For years, Faz was Faz from Accent; “I lost a surname, but I gained an identity,” says Faz. “You were there for like 150 years, man,” points out Mano.
Mano worked at Accent for much less than Faz’s 150 years, but it left an impression on him. “Those guys are the best around at selling,” he says, appealing to Faz for confirmation. This is how conversations work in All Blues: Mano will make some bold statement, and Faz will confirm its the case out here, outside Mano’s head, in calm reality.
Mano also worked at The Hip Store, although it was as a customer that he learned most there: “That place is a school,” he says, leaving the last Parisian-accented syllable in the air while the meaning of his words sinks in.
Mano claims he’s not a good speaker, but he wields language well, summoning jokes across great distances. Once, he told us how All Blues’ shipments of new clothes from South Korea kept being delivered to a hair salon by mistake. Half an hour later, when Faz was talking about how language barriers can make talking to their South Korean suppliers difficult, Faz said that sometimes things were “lost in translation,” which meant deliveries could be “lost at sea.”
“Or lost at hairdressers,” added Mano, and it took us a while to work that one out, but when we did, it was a good one.
The deliveries from South Korea are the subject of Faz and Mano’s most impassioned lectures, and the reason All Blues Co. exists now. If one day or another you feel like hearing about some things you’ve never heard about before, pay a visit to All Blues. They’ll sit you down in the armchair by the window, offer you coffee, and while Faz folds clothes in the background and confirms tall-sounding tales when called upon, Mano will perch upon a stool in front of you, his knees up high, and tell you the story of All Blues, and all the clothes they sell, and about the people who make the clothes, and how they make the clothes, and how the clothes came to be made.
The stories go back to union-made clothing in the USA before the Second World War, tour the world in packing crates with the old American machines on their way to new appreciation to Japan, and then go on to Seoul, where a new and impossibly young generation are mopping up the heritage like grease from the old machines and making new clothes, to classic designs, of exceptional quality. Which is what caught Faz and Mano’s attention.
“All these clothes have stories,” says Mano, his arm describing the store in a sweep, before he jumps up to get specific. “These Small Bird’s t-shirts,” he says, grabbing two or three from the rail. “These are a world exclusive,” he says. “Feel the quality. They’re not even on sale in South Korea,” he says. “We’re the first people to sell these t-shirts in the entire world.”
That’s a heck of a story. It takes us to the story of All Blues Co., which begins with Faz and Mano meeting for coffee one Monday, to talk about new plans. That Monday they decided to combine their plans and work together; on Thursday they were on a plane to South Korea, because from the start All Blues Co. was going to go deeper than importing.
“It’s inspiring to meet people we’ve never met before,” says Faz. “Every day is much richer when you do that. And for me personally, there was a real wow factor to being the other side of production. Seeing somebody in a showroom, showing me a collection on hangers — I’ve done that a million times. But this was actually seeing where the clothes are made, how they do it, who they’re working with.”
“We’re not your usual buyers,” says Mano. “We work in the opposite way. I see buyers being very safe. We don’t want to be that kind of buyer that goes on
Instagram to see what their neighbour has got, then gets the same. We went and got stuff from South Korea, from Japan, from America, from France. I wouldn’t sell something that fifteen other stores have got. What’s the point?”
The point at All Blues Co. is that their passion for what they do is actually love, and it’s not love for brands, it’s love for clothes. When Mano gets started on modern trends for high-cost brands selling ‘simplicity’, he can barely contain his anger: “Go to Muji, get the best white pumps, amazing pumps from there, £25. Get some nice black trousers, a nice white shirt, spend under £100. Simple! But don’t spend £500 and tell me it’s simple!” Then, when he describes visiting the La Labourer factory, he tells us about seeing the seamstresses and how happy it made him: “They were all lovely women, like a room full of mums.” That’s why you can buy La Labourer jackets in All Blues, and listen to Mano talk about them.
It’s talk that’s free from trends and filled with love for clothes and the pleasure of a life spent working with them. The pleasure for us is being able to walk into All Blues Co. and see and feel these clothes, from South Korea and Japan and France, for ourselves. Or even just to go there to listen to Faz and Mano telling us about them, about things we’ve never heard before. ••
Originally published in The City Talking: Fashion