Putting the pieces back together, Jigsaw Menswear – Frances Walker, Textual Conversation


Morning Style seekers, wherever you may arise, the subject of today’s textual conversation is a lady who has very much cut a dash in the male obsessing world of menswear. After graduating from, what was, Nottingham Poly with a first Class degree in Fashion & Textiles (Ohhhh Clever clogs), and surely whats stated as her graduation year on her biog, must clearly be a typo. Frances Walker was not only instrumental in devising and set up Nicole Farhi Menswear, as sole designer in 1988 having joined Nicole Farhi upon leaving university. She also played a key role in formulated the unique silhouette which became synonymous with the uniquely iconic designer.

Following this, Walker joined Jigsaw in February 2011 to set up and relaunch Jigsaw Menswear after it’s hiatus, the first incarnation having been a hugely respected and successful brand which operated from 1993-1999. 
The Spring Summer 13 collection launched into 20 Jigsaw stores, a standalone Menswear store and of course online. She continues to be very hands-on as well as directing the design across all areas of the collection and  driving the brand from strength to strength.

Frances describes her inspiration for the Autumn 2013 collection as “I always start off with colour. The tonal approach of Mark Rothko and Sean Scully, with their soft colour blocking, led  to this idea of working patchwork into the collection in shades of navy, seaweed, charcoal, grey, cranberry and a dark rusty colour we’ve named ‘squirrel’.”

The blurry shapes of the artists’ paintings translate effortlessly into soft yarns such as Alpaca in the knitwear, washed Harris Tweed made in Britain, lush velvets and Jigsaw Menswear’s signature tartans, which have been specially developed with Lochcarron of Scotland to complement the collection’s somber palette.

The theme is expertly variegated textures and fabrics – the idea is that you can layer the different textures, tone-on-tone to create our Autumn/Winter look. With her key pieces within the collection being the wool bomber jacket, the Double breasted shawl collar merino knitted jacket, the wool gingham Abraham Moon(the prestigious British Cloth factory) suit, the harris tweed coat, the patchwork tweed stitch roll knit sweater, the patchwork and tartan tailored trousers, the Teddy bear coat (a shawl collar pea coat). 

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If you had one day to live what would be your biggest regret ?

That it was my last day!! Still so much I want to do/experience. This may sound dull but as a mum… it would be not seeing my kids (both teenagers) grow up: they are so so fabulous and my finest achievement by far!

If you could have invented anything what would it be ?

The zip…. the printing press… a fine-liner drawing pen!

What would be the one piece of clothing you would rescue from your home in the event of a fire ?

My first piece of Comme des garçons: a fab long black velvet/silk dress circa 1994 I reckon. it was a gift and by far and away my most expensive piece of clothing ever as it was full price!

What inspires you ?

Wow!…so many things. At the moment, I am loving the portrait paintings of the American painter, Alice Neel particularly the series she did of men. Antique clothing has always been a source of inspiration for me; specifically the love, care and attention with which it was not only made, but also the beautiful repairs and patching that kept it going. People you see or meet who are comfortable in their skin, whose style is effortlessly handsome and at the same time individual. people who don’t take themselves too seriously. I worked with Nicole Farhi for years; she had the most wonderful personal style she never looked like she tried to hard…  I love things which are a bit off… not quite right 

If you could only wear one brand/Designer for the rest of your life who would it be ?

Of course I wear a lot of JIGSAW and the pieces complement my life style, but if I was thinking international stage Comme des garçons: I adore the fabrics and finishes, the basics/core styles  evolve but the underlying fit  stays the same and the seasonal pieces are always full-on and creative in a way which truly brightens up your life. I love the pieces which make you gasp and wonder where the ideas came from… the imperfect perfection (wabi sabi!) of them.

Who is your muse and why ?

It changes, Lucien Freud, is often on the mood board along with Steve McQueen. Nick Wooster always looks pretty good too!

Tell us something no one else knows ?

As an intern at Next in about 1986, I was given some letraset (cant recall more than a couple of computers  in the graphics dept at Next at that time!)and asked to come up with some labelling ideas. They used one of the logos I designed for many of their Mens garments (I remember the underwear in particular!) and their company lorries for years to come. the label read Pinooers in British Menswear I remember!!!Sir Paul Smith bought me my first Marguerita at a fabulous bar (wish I could remember the name!) in NYC in 1986 the year he opened his first american store on Fifth Avenue… I was in NY with 3 other students after winning a competition Paul had set across 4 arts courses for my year group at Nottingham Poly. Paul kept hold of my passport as I looked about 12. It was the most amazing trip and Paul was wonderful to us all and totally infectious to be around! I had a trolley race with him a few years later in baggage reclaim at Heathrow after bumping into him collecting his bags after a trip. I just remember him saying race ya and that was it, he was off ! cant remember who won!!!

What piece of clothing should everyman have in his wardrobe ?

A great pair of Jeans (and an expensive pair of shoes)

What piece of clothing would you relegate to Room 101 ?


What do you have to do after this conversation ?

Crack on with designing some knitwear for AW14

What would you like to be doing after this conversation ?

Flying off to NYC 


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1 Comment

  1. 07/11/2013 / 11:31

    love the jumper of this man 😉 I would love to wear it in a big size, as a dress for winter time 🙂

    New on my French blog:

    Sailor jacket!


    Merci from France!

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