March 5, 2020
I used to buy – and still do – a lot of clothes. I always tried to buy good quality brands, building up quite a collection over the years and making sure I looked after them. When I was living in London, money was tight and so I started to sell off some older bits that I didn’t really wear anymore. I made some decent money. When I ran out of my own clothes, I turned my attention to vintage shops as I loved the breadth of garments I could source. I got into learning about the history and the manufacturing of the garments, especially military.
I thought of the name Common Ilke while I was away on holiday. I was jotting down my ideas about the business and thought what am I trying to do? Sell garments of a common ilk or type – and the name was born. We added the ‘e’ to the end of Ilk as a nod to the older Middle English spelling.
We curate and sell high-quality menswear. I handpick all the vintage pieces from a network of sources, mainly concentrating on military, hunting and workwear. I’m always looking for the best heritage brands. We’ve also recently added new brands to complement the vintage offer and have Red Wing, Filson, Sunspel, Le Mont St Michel with more planned, and all with the same emphasis on high-quality garments and production.
I just love garments and products that are made well, where you can see the quality of the fabric and zips, the construction and that overall it has been made with thought and care. That’s why I love old military and hunting clothing so much, as it was designed and made for a function and typically made with the highest quality materials. In some cases, the vintage clothes I source look like new even though they might be cracking on 80 years. I think it’s also important given the amount of throw away fashion, where clothing is simply not valued. We only want to sell kit that we know our customers appreciate and will take care of, as it is not the type that would only be worn as a fashion thing and discarded.
When you are running a small business, you need to be able to do everything, from sourcing, through to operating a website, the logistics of shipping worldwide, marketing, accounting and the list goes on. There is no shipping department to lean on and no accounts team that you can pass all queries over to, this all brings challenges for you to effectively run a business to a high professional level. I learnt quickly to seek support from experts where possible.
Our customers aren’t one type. You could know your kit and be into the history of a garment, or you could just appreciate a well-made item of clothing, or you love the thrill of a vintage find.
I believe vintage is still as popular as ever and always will be on a global scale. Each piece has its own story, a slice of history from whichever decade it was made in and is quite often unique. What better way to look great and to put two fingers up to disposable fashion?
My go-to outfit would have to be my Red Wing Moc toe boots, 1950s French army pleated front chinos, vintage blue worker jacket or chore jacket, with a tee or sweat top depending on how cold it is, typically Sunspel as the quality is off the scale. I also love a blue chambray shirt.