How Paynter Jacket Co. Found Success With Limited Edition Work Coats

Fi Cotter Craig, a British television producer, was browsing Instagram one day when a photo caught her eye. “I saw my friend wearing a jacket that I really thought she would kill her for,” Cotter Craig said. “Instead of killing her, I called her and said, ‘Where did you get that jacket?’”

Chloe Speed, who lives in Amsterdam and works in marketing for Nike, envied her husband’s new blue coat and bought it on the sly. “The color was so iconic and beautiful,” Ms. Speed ​​said. “Every time you wear it, it gets a little softer in places and fits better.”

Ethan Cannon, a theology student in St. Louis, was pulling into a restaurant parking lot one rainy night when the attendant stopped him. “He’s standing in the rain, blocking traffic,” Cannon recalled. “The first thing he said was, ‘Where did you get that jacket?’”

The manufacturer of all three coats is Paynter Jacket Co., a small British brand run by Becky Okell and Huw Thomas, a married couple who take an unusual approach to their business.

Four times a year they announce the next garment they will produce. Your newsletter subscribers have about a week to order it in their desired sizes and colors, and the label makes only that amount, in “lots” numbered 1, 2, 3, etc. After calling subscribers, Paynter will offer each lot to the general public in an advertised delivery, which often sells out in about two minutes.

The “drop” model is common among streetwear brands, which often use it to increase demand. But as Ms Okell, 30, and Mr Thomas, 31, explained during a video call from their studio in London, they use drops with the idea of ​​reducing waste.

“It’s a very wasteful industry,” Thomas said. “Okay, how can we do this differently? What if we did only what we needed?”

Paynter has none of the inventory management problems that plague other fashion brands, Ms. Okell added, because it has no inventory. The brand orders enough fabric to make the coats it has on order, and nothing more.

Before founding Paynter in 2019, Ms Okell and Mr Thomas spent time in corporate fashion. She worked in Nike’s brand department; She did marketing and product design for Hiut Denim Co., in Wales. In 2018, they attended an industrial workshop in London, where, for some reason, Ms Okell greeted Mr Thomas, a stranger at the time, with a hug. Within weeks, they were inseparable.

Thomas had long collected vintage work clothes, including a blue jacket from France that fit him better and had a softer fabric than the typical work jacket. When the couple began to figure out how the jacket was made, they decided to create a brand around it.

Ms Okell and Mr Thomas work within a narrow range of styles. Many of the 16 lots released so far have been variations on a traditional coat, as well as classic denim coats, trench coats and field jackets.

They start by selecting fabrics from factories in Italy, Japan and elsewhere. The jackets – and the occasional shirt – made with these fabrics stand out for their simplicity. That is, until you notice the attention to detail.

Each limited edition jacket has a label hidden inside designed by a different artist. The jackets are also hand-numbered and the care labels have quirky instructions, including: “Get up early. Exercise first thing in the morning. Inhale. Exhale. Have a bowl of Coco Pops.” The jackets arrive in the mail with a small gift; Lot number 16, an Italian wool and cashmere winter coat, included a Tony’s chocolate bar in a custom Paynter wrapper.

Releases planned for 2024 include a waxed barn coat with a corduroy collar, followed by a work jacket intended to commemorate the company’s five years in business. That one “will distill all of our learning and all of our favorite details from all the homework jackets we’ve made,” Mr. Thomas said. The next release, a flap pocket corduroy work shirt in four colors, will go on sale to the general public on February 10. Newsletter subscribers, as usual, will have early access to the order.

Fashion writer W. David Marx wears an olive green Paynter military jacket. When asked to describe the construction of the coat, he wrote in an email: “A focus on fit and silhouette. Without luxuries or details that age poorly. The jackets are made to make everyone look good.”

Mrs. Cotter Craig, a television producer, agreed. “I have six or seven Paynter jackets and they have never let me down, not one,” she said.

Cannon, the theology student, said he likes to buy new jackets in part to track how Mrs. Okell and Mr. Thomas improve over time. “I don’t feel like anyone is selling me anything,” he said. “I feel almost like I’m participating in some kind of art project.” Last fall, he flew to London to attend one of the brand’s “Paynter at the Pub” events and meet the designers.

Mrs. Okell and Mr. Thomas do almost everything themselves. And their low overhead means they can sell a wool and cashmere coat for about $335, an unheard of price for a luxury item, a category their coats arguably fall into. The brand’s t-shirts cost around $150.

The couple said they have often heard from friends, customers and industry colleagues who say Paynter should grow and make two or three times as many jackets.

“Some waiting lists are as high as 3,000 people,” Thomas said. “And you think, ‘We should have done more of that.’”

However, he and Mrs. Okell are not losing sleep over the lost sales.

“When we founded Paynter, we both wanted a similar company,” Ms. Okell said. “We were both absolutely determined to make it independent. We didn’t want investors. We didn’t want big teams. “We wanted to work ourselves through every part of the process.”

“We make clothes,” Thomas said. “We don’t make fashion.”

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