Text by Douglas Cordeaux / Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho
Fox Brothers is one of the oldest mills in England, seeing its fair share of ups and downs over
the years. Today, it is looking healthier than ever, consistently releasing distinctive yet elegant
collections season after season as well as adding a retail business for all sorts of finished goods
related to Fox. Douglas Cordeaux is the man behind it all. He is an industry veteran and a
standard for great taste.
1. Could you give us a brief history of how your career and how you eventually came to own
and manage a mill?
I have been involved in the fashion/textile Industry all of my life. Trained as a textile designer
at The Chelsea School of Art, specializing in print.
My first job was a textile screen printer in London, where I discovered I really liked the option
of working for myself. 30 years in the industry working as a freelance print designer, working
as a print designer for Pepe Jeans with the great Nitin Shah, who with his brothers started
the brand, an amazing seven years, with lifetime friendships forge. A year of this period was
spent in New York with the brand; this is where I discovered the love for menswear.
Working at Pepe Jeans in the 80’s was like attending the world’s best design and business
school. Nitin Shah, thank you!
With two colleagues from Pepe Jeans, a design studio was set up, offering a complete
service from design to garment production, specializing in sportswear.
A further eight years was spent at Pepe Jeans, in various London locations, again an
amazing experience this time with the now owner Carlos Ortega, who is design driven,
which is so important in fashion based brand and ironically often over looked.
How I ended up owning a mill. It was at a lunch with Jeremy Hackett, whom I met whilst
working with at Pepe Jeans, who had just purchased the Hackett brand. This lunch was
some seven years ago now and I was fascinated about British manufacturing and
menswear. There was a textile mill that could be turned into a brand. It was Jeremy who
said, go and take a look at Fox Brothers. It was walking through the doors of a British mill
and hearing the sound of looms, the sound of making, was the real turning point in my
career. In textile, it does not get better than the sound of weaving. It was then on to the
phone to my longtime friend and fellow Somerset resident Deborah Meaden, literally two
months later, we were the owners of Fox Brothers. The first year was known as “character
2. As Fox Brothers is the inventor of the flannel, can you explain how it came about?
Flannel, traditionally a milled cloth, which has always had its origins in military cloth with
blind finishes are functional, as it’s harder to get snapped up in a tunic made of a milled
cloth, we have some very early examples of flannel in our archive book dated 1773, the first
thing that strikes you is colour, from rich warm tones to strong jewel colours. Over the years,
Flannel has become the luxury fabric it is today this is down to the very best raw materials,
how it’s woven and the expertise of the miller’s hands. Fox flannel is woven without
compromise. If it’s not Fox, it’s not flannel.
3. Is it possible to characterize British vs Italian cloths? If so, how would you do so? e.g. I often
find myself preferring British cloth for suiting because it tends to have more body and
stiffness, whereas I prefer Italian cloths for jacketing because it's sportier and more lively.
When it comes to British cloth versus Italian cloth, I’m a big supporter of both. In fact, a big
supporter of the industry, and those in it. I think that you can’t beat British flannel. It has a
warmth and hand feel that is so authentic and steeped in history, with so many iconic
4. What are your favourite cloths? Either with Fox or elsewhere
Personal favorites: A mid-grey “West of England” Fox flannel for suits and for a jacket. I
don’t think you can beat a Harris Tweed. Harris Tweed and Fox Brothers are seen as
brands in their own right, that’s down to heritage and quality. It’s like owning a listed
House favorite: Iconic is an overused word, however the Fox Brothers chalk stripe favored
by Sir Winston Churchill is something very special, this clothe is woven exclusively now for
Henry Poole & Co, who originally made the suit for Churchill and has to be one of the most
famous clothes in the world and it's a Fox cloth.
5. You've owned a series of Land Rover Defenders. What are your favourite aspects of the
car? Any interesting anecdotes related to the Defender?
I have driven a Land Rover Defender for 10 years, the current one I purchased last year, as
I wanted one last one before LR discontinued the model. It is such a basic car, noisy, not
that comfortable, really not ideal in any city, has the turning circle of a cross channel ferry, I
love it! Mine must be the most photographed Defenders in the industry. It’s part of Fox, with
many customers discovering Fox Brothers after I have picked them up at our local railway
station and driven them to the mill via the wonderful Somerset Countryside.
6. You also sell at retail a lot of finished goods under Merchant Fox, a business move that is
pioneering among English mills. What was the motivation? What are some of your favourite
The Merchant Fox is the retail arm of Fox Brothers and it was launched as a result of seeing
what we could make in the UK as we felt there were a lot of likeminded artisans to discover
and give a platform too via an online retail presence. It is also foes back to the fact that Fox
Brothers is a brand that makes a luxury product, which we felt should be expanded on.
I love seeing how things are made and the craftsman behind these products.
The Oak Bark Leather products are really something and I recommend a visit to J&FJ Baker
in Devon who tan leather in such an incredible way using Oak Bark and Mimosa.
7. What exciting new projects do you have upcoming?
In the next few months we plan to broaden our horizon with TMF and start making and
selling products from around the world. We think it’s important to support artisans globally
weather it’s indigo pocket squares from Japan to trousers made in Naples.
Future projects for Fox Brothers, we plan to expand out cloth merchant business with
exciting new branching plan in the coming years. Lessons from that 1773 archive books
leads us to believe there should be more colour and patterns in menswear again.
We also plan to expand the in house tailoring department at Fox Brothers. It’s a very special
experience to have cloth woven and tailored under one roof.