Toby at Rest Denim came up the hard way – bootstrapping his way to skill through experimentation and persistence. Toby quickly realised ready-made patterns did not satisfy his vision and he moved to custom pattern creation. Using an intuitive and forensic approach to garment disassembly, Toby is now offering distinct and beautifully made gear for the discerning denim head.
We asked Toby a few questions about his journey:
NK: How did you learn your craft?
RD: I learnt my craft by throwing myself at the deep end. After a few years of getting more and more into denim and workwear inspired clothing I went and bought an industrial sewing machine, I kinda had to make it work 'cause those things take up a lot of room. Before then I had only spent an hour or two using a domestic sewing machine. When I first began to sew, taking old pieces of clothing apart and putting them back together or using them as a pattern was a very effective way to learn. I then I tried to make a garment from a commercial pattern and failed miserably, since then I have been creating my own patterns by a process of trial and error. I think a fairly close eye for detail is incredibly useful, you can learn so much from just examining a garment and really thinking about how evolves from flat shapes to a well-fitting piece of clothing.
NK: What inspires you when creating a new design?
RD: I've always been drawn to things with character. Old workwear, for example had functionality at its heart. It was not overly decorated, yet there is a real magic to something simply, yet carefully and lovingly crafted that by a person who is trying to create the best possibly pair of trousers, or bag, or jacket, that they can. That's what I'm always aiming for.
NK: Which do you value most, form or function?
RD: Function, that's usually where it starts for me. The form doesn't really exist without the function. I'm thinking, what do I want to do, then how can I make the best product to do that? That’s where the form comes in. I find a beat-up old guitar or a worn in pair of jeans more beautiful and far more interesting than something designed for beauty from the ground up.
NK: Are there any other skills which you would like to learn to complement what you already do?
RD: I would love to learn to weave, I had a brief go when I visited Dan at the London Cloth House last summer, and it was absolutely fascinating.
NK: Looking at the artisan scene as a whole, who do you like and why? RD: I've got a huge amount of admiration for William Kroll of Tender fame, he's created a really intimate, personal feel to a really broad range of products, without a huge amount of branding, and anything from a clay mug to a pair of jeans is always instantly recognisable as a Tender product.
NK: Outside of the artisan scene, which brands do you like and why?
RD: Iron Heart is a brand that you just can't seem to go wrong with, I've had a huge amount of stuff from them and it's all just fantastic. If I could wear just one brand, I think I'd be a pretty happy dude if I was stuck wearing Iron Heart. A huge part of this success I'm sure is to do with the passion of the people working for the brand.
NK: At NoKipple we see a lot of value in short run, custom made products by craftsmen, what do you think the appeal is in these kind of goods?
RD: I think that these kind of products have a real character and life to them. I also love the transparency of the production line. As someone who stepped away from mass market brands due to the ethical concerns about what I as a consumer was supporting when buying clothing, I really enjoy owning and wearing a quality product made by someone I know loves that product and loves what they're doing, even better someone whose name I know who I can talk to directly.
Toby exemplifies what we want to do with The Makers initiative at NoKipple; he is a skilled, covert presence building up an ethos, a philosophy and a portfolio that transcends the normative qualities of online garment and accessory retail. The pieces that we will collaborate on will be characterised by customisation (on a per-customer basis) and will offer a unique and long-lifed experience for the buyer.
Toby is a smart and cool guy that is happy to chat about his methods and gear, drop him a line here if you like.