The Journal | #Fortnums

Private White

Introducing Our Exclusive Collaboration with Private White V.C.

Meet the Maker: James Eden, Founder of Private White V.C.

Private White V.C was founded in 2008 by James Eden, great grandson of Private Jack White – a WW1 war hero who later became general manager of the same Manchester factory where all Private White V.C. clothing is now made. Combining the functionality of classic military clothing with a minimalistic, retro-techno style, each menswear piece crafted by the brand was made in one building, with 90% of the materials used being locally sourced within driving distance of their factory.

Sharing the same passion for the highest quality, exceptionally crafted menswear, Private White V.C. have partnered with Fortnum’s to launch our own exclusive collection of pieces for the modern man. This new collection features exclusive items across shirting and outerwear - each stamped with a unique Fortnum & Mason X Private White V.C. label. Each of the unique designs has been adapted from the Private White V.C. archive and made with only the finest fabrics, guaranteed to last a lifetime.

We visited James in Manchester to discover more about Private White and take a look around their historic factory that is more than 150 years old - the last remaining factory of its kind in Manchester.

What inspired you to begin Private White V.C.?

'I was working in finance in London and the opportunity arose to take over the factory and I didn’t have much to lose so I went for it. The factory was a few weeks from going under and we came in and slowly built it back up again. I used to work here growing up – weekends, school holidays – and I was always fascinated by this place, even though it was quite intimidating. As an eleven year old trudging fabric up and down these stairs – it was quite scary in some ways but inspiring. I have always had an emotional attachment to the business and this place. My grandfather has always been an icon, not just to me, but to the local community. He was not only a war hero, but after he got an apprenticeship in his local raincoat factory he later built his own textile business in this same factory.'

'My grandfather has always been an icon, not just to me, but to the local community'

What defines you as a brand?

'Quality first and foremost. Our people are hugely important to what we achieve – we couldn’t make this product as good as it is anywhere else in the UK. It’s not just about Manchester, it’s about this particular factory – there isn’t another one like this. You won’t find a brand that would make such an eclectic assortment of categories in only one place in the UK. All of that is coming from only upstairs or downstairs in this one building – I find that quite magical. I would only invest in all that we have done if we were in total control of what we were doing. We own, control and are accountable for all that we do and how it is done. Our clothes are not overtly fashionable – the fact that we make things in a particularly slow way charms and resonates with people - it could be compared to a very slowly matured wine. It’s our story that sets us apart.'

F&M label
pattern cutting
clothes rack

Do you keep to a narrative when designing a new collection?

'We aren’t revivalist designers – we don’t try to make clothing identical to a certain era. We are more progressive but we would call ourselves techno-retro – this factory may be old but we have embraced it with new ideas and a vibrant team. If there is a better way, or a better fabric we can use then we will choose that. All products we start with tend to come from archive pieces but we evolve them and build upon that. There’s always a reliance on military clothing because it’s got to be functional.'

'What we do is slow, considered and organically driven'

What is special about your collaboration with Fortnum's?

'All of the pieces that we make are very special. We quality check every single piece and make less than 30 pieces per day. Our clothes are specially sought after and this is similarly what draws people to Fortnum's. What we do is slow, considered and organically driven. We wanted to make our already special clothes even more unique with new designs and styles but also with only making a small amount for the collection – making this a really special, sought after collaboration.'

How would you describe the 'Private White man'?

'He is quite principal led, quality driven. He appreciates craft and provenance. He tends to like wine, food but he also likes mucking about outdoors or repairing his bike in the garage. He has a yearning to understand things – he’s curious. He likes both functional and fashionable clothing – we are in the fashion business but military clothing was always functional. The fabrics were hard wearing and they had lots of pockets – which is useful. I haven’t been fighting today or at war with anyone, but these fabrics and styles are still needed today as they were back then.'

PW button

Fortnum's X Private White V.C. Launch Event

Thursday 17th october


Join us at Fortnum & Mason’s 3’6 Bar for drinks, canapes and an evening of discussion with a host of exceptional UK based designers and business owners - including James Eden - to celebrate the launch of our exclusive collaboration with Private White V.C.