John Smedley may be 230 years old but it’s looking to the future. The knitwear label has recently collaborated with the British designer Joe Richards for autumn 2017. After a visit to their mills in Derbyshire, Richards, who worked with Celine in Paris before launching his own label in 2013, felt inspired to take a handcrafted approach – the Smedley way. He took the brand’s heraldic 1930s crest from the John Smedley archives and hand embroidered these designs using fine beadwork onto his knit creations. “The quality of John Smedley clothing is so beautiful,” says Richards, “so refined and subtle. I just love knits and love how they give a certain flow in an outfit.”

Joe Richards x John Smedley for autumn 2017

It all started with the John Smedley x the British Fashion Industry Project, supported by the British Fashion Council and the Fashion and Textiles Association. Five London designers worked with John Smedley for autumn/winter 2016: Holly Fulton, Claire Barrow, Phoebe English, Lou Dalton and Ashley Williams. Fulton tells us, “For a growing label, the ability to manufacture and produce within the U.K. is fantastic.”

Phoebe English x John Smedley for spring/summer 2017

John Smedley has also provided these young designers with a platform to share and sell. The brand gave Dalton her first stand-alone retail space, launching a pop-up shop during London Collections: Mens spring/summer 2017 and decorating the windows of their Jermyn Street store with her designs. This relationship has spanned three seasons, growing from the initial two jumpers to a 16-piece range for autumn/winter 2017.

Holly Fulton x John Smedley for spring/summer 2017

Four of these collaborations continued into spring/summer 2017. Fulton layered neon half-zip turtlenecks under her girlish designs; Ashley Williams used different textures to create punky dresses and jumpers; Lou Dalton digitally printed onto mohair and Phoebe English worked with John Smedley to create her delicately twisted knitted t-shirts. English explains: “This collaborative project has allowed us to produce specialist pieces with processes which we have not been able to utilize before. It has brought a new dimension to the collections.”


Ashley Williams x John Smedley for autumn/winter 2016

Mixing innovation and experience, the old with the new and the high with the low – brands can find strength in numbers. John Smedley’s support of young British talent makes a big difference.

John Smedley x The British Fashion Industry is available to buy online here. John Smedley x Joe Richards will drop into selected John Smedley stores from May 2017.

Text by Abigail Southan