The golden age of touring by car is the inspiration for this sophisticated British collection that has its roots in upholstering motors
‘I have always dreamt about driving from London to Athens,’ says Isabel Ettedgui, owner of Connolly. ‘I am tempted by the coastal route through Albania, and to enter via Qafë Botë and the beautiful western coast of northern Greece – or through Hungary and then northern Macedonia via Thessaloniki.’
The spirit of travel by motor car is woven into the fabric of 145-year-old British brand Connolly. Founded in 1878 as a small family business of saddlers and shoe-smiths, Connolly has a long history of leather craftsmanship, upholstering the first-ever Rolls Royce and gracing the seats of British motoring icons including Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar and, most recently, Ferrari.
Notably Connolly did the interior for James Bond’s original Aston Martin DB5, first seen in 1964’s Goldfinger, and that car’s replica ancestor that appears so memorably at the beginning of 2021’s No Time to Die, in the shoot-out in the Southern Italian hilltop city of Matera.
While heritage remains at the heart of Connolly, Ettedgui is spearheading a new era by playing with traditional forms and reimagining the golden age of classic cars in an intimate collection of modern, designer-led leather accessories and outerwear influenced by classic sportswear. Think racing-inspired cashmere sweaters and nostalgic vintage leather driving goggles. ‘The essence of Connolly is heritage, but a heritage that was about design and speed and quality that I hope is always inherent in everything we create,’ says Ettedgui. ‘We use modern designers, modern fabrics and modern attitudes to move those values into the future. Connolly is a brand for life.’
The latest offer from Connolly is quintessentially British to say the least. Down the Pub at the Connolly Arms, the autumn/winter collection, is a vision of old-style hospitality and modern luxury, a concept that is proven time and time again in Connolly’s designs. ‘It’s mainly about style and elegance and comfort, and maybe just a little sporting,’ explains Ettedgui. ‘Like going down the pub, there are some old friends and then there are some new faces… This collection is a meeting of both the familiar and the new.’
Featuring relaxed and sumptuous shearling double-breasted jackets in palest winter white suede, and limited-edition, hand-knitted pure English cashmere cardigans, the collection offers secret cosiness. Bestselling designs are revisited in new colours and textures, and entirely new looks from French designer Marc Audibet push things in a contemporary direction. From wide Garbo trousers and a cashmere driving gilet with a subtle tyre-tread stitch, to a sharp-cut short puffa in black satin and a shawl-collared beach cardigan in navy and vicuna, the designs strike the balance between classic tailoring and a contemporary interest in comfort. Citing the feel of the softest cashmere and yellow silk, Ettedgui emphasises that this season is about the pleasure of wearing these clothes: ‘It’s about details, not embellishment.’
Indeed, it is detailing that has allowed the brand to create a winter wardrobe designed to be shared by both men and women. Taking the principles of men’s tailoring and perfect detailing, Connolly evolves traditional forms and turns them into their own shapes, allowing women to wear the same piece with an extra button or hidden dart. ‘As men’s fashion becomes more feminine, this is really in the zeitgeist,’ says Ettedgui, who believes the rise of the shared wardrobe is as a result of women demanding better quality from their clothes. Designer Lorraine Acornley has also created a luxurious collection of knitwear for the brand, embracing the same ideas, working with classic pieces in a way that allows the knit structure and colouration to become something more than a predictable piece.
Bringing impeccable British craftsmanship to the far corners of the world, the future of Connolly remains intrinsically connected to travel with the possibility of international growth. ‘There is momentum to expand the brand in maybe two other countries,’ says Ettedgui, ‘and we will ensure the same sense of personal service and brand values; to reach out to customers in the way we have managed to in Clifford Street.’
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