S.E.H Kelly is one of Styleforum's darling brands, the first mention of it being posted by a member in 2011. Ever since becoming an Affiliate Vendor, Paul has been sharing his work at S.E.H Kelly and answering the questions posed in his very active thread.
In 2021, the community participated in a GMTO and helped design a Styleforum x S.E.H Kelly balmacaan; the final product is a little longer than a traditional bal and came with optional loops for a belt.
If you've missed the opportunity to participate in the designing process and to buy the coat, stay tuned because a new, exciting project is in the works...


Styleforum: When did you realize that you were interested in fashion?

Paul Vincent:
I am sure the interest just crept up on me over time. If I place my style-conscious memories in reverse chronological order, from most recent back in time, I remember traipsing around Paris and Antwerp looking at catwalk fashion in 2010; in Tokyo looking at streetwear in Beams in 2005; in London admiring young British designers like Burro and YMC in 2001; making a nuisance of myself in boutiques in Manchester in the late 90s; doing laps of the one (or two at best) menswear shops in certain Midlands towns while my parents were in the supermarket on weekends in the mid-90s; pestering those same parents for a detour to Emporio Armani in Milan in the early 90s; coveting a dark green Paul Smith polo shirt with shell buttons in Macclesfield around the same time; thinking really hard about the best colours and patterns of shell-suits and football strips in the late 80s. I don't have many clear memories before then (I would have been 6-7 years old) so I suppose I have been keen on clothes for as far back as sentient memories go.

SF: When and how did you start your career in the clothing industry?

My better half, Sara, was made redundant from her job at a tailoring and couture house on Savile Row in 2009 (being owned by an Icelandic investment group was a risky position during the Icelandic financial crash). She decided to split her suddenly very expansive spare time making fairy cakes and designing her own range of men's clothing -- the latter using the same contacts (mostly traditional mills around the British Isles, as well as button-makers, and various workrooms around London) she acquired during her recently ended employment. I made a few comments about an overshirt she was designing one evening and that was that.

SF: What is the best part of the job?

The best part of it holistically speaking is the freedom to do what I really, really enjoy -- love, really -- every day. I would pay to do it. The best individual part is when a new idea comes together: a little spark of inspiration which, if you're quick about it, you can solidify and build upon in your mind, and before you know it, it sets into a fully fledged idea (usually for a jacket with silly pockets).

SF: What is your least favorite part?

Anything that gets in the way. I need momentum and I thrive on loops of positivity. If we find ourselves obstructed -- if a cloth is running late, for instance -- then it feels like the end of the world and I easily become despondent, until Sara talks me around and we find an alternative and often better way of solving the matter.


SF: How do you stay up to date with the clothing industry and current trends?

I live in quite a busy part of London, and spend a lot of time walking around, consciously and subconsciously observing people and what they wear. And that's about it. We don't design or plan with trends in mind: we stubbornly plough our own furrow and work at our own pace. In fact, contrarian as I am, I'd rather not have something I'm working on be trendy. There's nothing worse than having a fragile little idea forming in your mind -- for a jacket, say -- and then suddenly seeing a window of mannequins all wearing versions of that style on Bond Street / Brick Lane. Being original -- or at least, assuming I am being original -- is a propulsive force and helps the ideas in my mind come together: seeing other people with the same idea deflates that.

SF: Whats the single item from any collection you are most proud of?

What we work towards is having an established set of classic styles. We will always be a small brand, and our products will always have niche appeal, but I hope one day some -- all! -- of our garments will be an accepted classic of the form. The peacoat and balmacaan and trench coat are on that path: we change them very little every year and yet they seem to appeal to new customers each time. We have another 30-40 styles in our collection and I am always working towards the same for them. That's my ambition for them all. So I suppose, in short, the peacoat and balmacaan and trench coat are the styles of which I am most proud -- because they achieve what we set out to do in the first place, as a business. That is to say, they look good on lots of types of people (young and old, formal or casual, rich and less rich) and in lots of different everyday environments, and yet with none of them we made creative sacrifices.

SF: What product did you make that you thought would be a hit, but bombed?

I'm not sure we've ever had anything, touch wood, that has truly bombed. Nothing springs to mind. But I suppose our flight jacket is a style which I've always thought should have wider appeal than it does: it is quite a simple style, casual, and the sort of jacket you see lots of men wearing all year round. Maybe the market is already saturated with such jackets, or maybe somehow we are wide of the mark, whether in design or fabrication or price. I'm not deterred. We'll get there in the end.


SF: If movie characters were real, who would shop at your store?

That's a great question! I hope Alain Delon would buy his next trench coat from S.E.H Kelly.

SF: Can you tell me a bit about how SEH products are made, starting from material sourcing?

The start of a garment is its conception and design and development, which I suppose doesn't quite come under the "how made" question. So once that is out of the way and we begin production, we first source the cloth -- always from a mill within the British Isles (which thankfully is a definition that includes Ireland). Some of the mills are very large and famous establishments which produce unimaginable amounts of cloth every day; others are one-person operations in converted boat-sheds in far-flung corners of the Isles. We work closely with some of them, and the more "upstream" we can get in the design of the cloth, without treading on any toes, the better. Of course, with others, we simply buy their "stock cloth" which is all fine and well, too. Once the cloth is delivered, we can begin making. Putting knitwear aside, as it's a very different process, all of our garments are made in what's known as cut-make-trim (CMT) factories, with all cutting and making and finishing undertaken on one premises. The cutting is done by hand with human-made markers and lay-plans, and the sewing is done on various different types of machine by various different types of machinist, with various substages such as under-pressing and tacking by other people as necessary. The buttons are sewn on mostly by machine, some by hand, and likewise finishing details and decorative stitches, and the finished garment is then steamed and pressed, and can be whisked away to the workshop to be photographed on our dear mannequin Eustace.


SF: We did a great Balmacaan collaboration in 2021. Can you describe the process of how you got the community involved?

We are very lucky to have a fairly active and opinionated thread on Styleforum, with lots of regulars, but hopefully an atmosphere which encourages newcomers to involve themselves, too. And the balmacaan has always been a popular style among that community, especially during the autumn and winter -- which cloth this year, how long will it be, any changes, when will it be released, etc. are questions that crop up time and again. We've always quite fancied making something with the assistance and input of that community, and of course with the mediating hand of Styleforum, so we proposed the idea for the balmacaan during the summer of the year in question. A big part of what makes the balmacaan the balmacaan is the tweed, and fortunately, we have a very good relationship with the mill in Ireland which usually supplies it. So, with their help, we were able to present to the community a suite of options for the tweed -- first the type of pattern (e.g. barleycorn or herringbone or twill) and, after that, the colour. I think we presented 12 or 16 colour options (my memory might be gilding reality at this stage: it seemed a good range at the time) and we took a public vote to select just two. The gentlemen in the community were also keen on the idea of a longer version of the coat -- or perhaps this was a suggestion put forward by Styleforum -- and also a belt, so we made those changes and then away we went!


SF: What are three pieces of advice you would give to your younger self?

I don't really have any pearls of hindsight for me or indeed anyone else. I spent a number of years in my 20s doing work which wasn't related to S.E.H Kelly, which I suppose wasn't time terribly well spent -- but it eventually led to where we are now, and some of the experience acquired along the way has been very helpful. I am often surprised at how little substance there is to people -- people who talk a very good game but can't back it up when put to the test -- and so I suppose I'd tell myself to take advice from experts (both self-acclaimed and acclaimed) with a pinch of salt. Make that three pinches of salt, to answer your question properly, I guess!

SF: What did you wear to your first ever job interview?

It must have been a suit bought from somewhere like Marks & Spencer, but perhaps (depending on the year, as I can't recall my very first job interview) with a shirt and tie by Christian Dior from a department store. I remember that shirt and tie very well. Come to think of it, I did some work from home as a writer for some websites, in the dotcom heyday, when I lived at home with my parents, so if the interview was over the phone then most likely I was wearing a school uniform.

SF: Describe yourself using only 5 words.

Knows that he knows nothing.

SF: Tell us about your hobbies outside of fashion.

I am both lucky and cursed that this is my hobby. I watch films and listen to music and occasionally socialise like most people of my age and station, but in most situations I would rather be working: whether updating the website, taking photographs, answering emails, working on designs, or ordering cloth or buttons. As time has gone by this likely means my experiences of the world -- whether other people, places, or popular culture, are diminished -- but the flip-side is I spend an absurd amount of time doing what I love.

SF: What is making you happy today?

The steadying properties of pie and mash at the end of a long week.

Subscribe to S.E.H Kelly's thread to stay updated on future releases and to chat with Paul and other members of the community.
Visit S.E.H Kelly's website.