words By ALEKS CVETKOVIC
Founded during lockdown, Jake's is earning a cult following for its hand-sewn oxford shirts.
The pandemic hasn’t been kind to London’s fashion scene, but thankfully there are still success stories to be found if you know where to look. One of the most exciting is in Silvertown, an industrial district on the Thames. There, in a small workshop overlooking a giant sugar factory, Jake Wigham, a 31-year-old tailor and shirtmaker, is building a cult following for his Ivy League menswear staples—particularly his handmade button-down shirts.
Wigham set up his new enterprise, Jake’s London, last summer in the middle of the UK’s first national lockdown. A former fashion student and Savile Row bespoke trouser-maker, he turned his passion for jazz music and mid-century style into a brand when his freelance tailoring work dried up. “I remember thinking: ‘It’s now or never’,” he tells me, leaning over the cutting table in his workshop, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers tinkling away in the background.
Wigham has spent the past nine-or-so months sewing his button-downs—as well as silk repp ties and other authentic mid-century designs—at breakneck speed, and hasn’t looked back. When asked why he thinks the brand has taken off, his answer is refreshingly straightforward: “I think it’s a few things, really,” he says. “The first is that you can’t really get shirts like mine anymore, unless you get very lucky and find vintage examples. A few companies are doing them here and there, but they’re not really true to the original American button-down.”
Jake’s London button-downs, however, are the real deal. Wigham has been making Ivy style shirts for himself since he was a teenager, and spent close to a decade perfecting his cut. The collar is unlined and cut to roll generously at the neck, the front placket features the period-correct six buttons, the back is box-pleated and the fit through the body is satisfyingly generous. If you’re looking for something that’s faithful to the Brooks Brothers original, this is it.
Then of course, there’s the fact that shopping at Jake’s means buying a unique, made-to-order product that is cut and stitched exclusively by Jake, perhaps with a little help from his young apprentice, Albert. “More people are looking to support modern craft,” says Wigham. “Ninety percent of my clients know that what they’re ordering is made by me, and that this is what I’m passionate about. They know they’re supporting a young, creative company. That makes me feel very grateful when I think about it.”
Of course, as an independent maker, there are challenges to overcome. One of them is scale. “I haven’t quite figured out if I want to expand, because I always want to have my hand in making the product,” Wigham says. Another is the time it takes to test and introduce new products. The next thing on his list of classics to perfect is a line of “bleeding Madras” shirts, made from stunning vintage cloth that fell into his lap a few months ago.
“I was approached by a small British manufacturer that went out of business around 10 years ago,” Wigham explains. “They were looking to offload some of their deadstock fabrics, and offered me two lengths of narrow shuttle-loomed, Indian-woven Madras to play with. It’s incredible stuff—really soft and finished with natural dyes, so it’ll fade nicely over time. It’s great to be able to breathe new life into old, undiscovered fabrics like these.” Said shirts are still in development, but interested parties can keep an eye on Jake’s Instagram feed for news of their arrival in the next few weeks.
It’s not easy building a clothing business—especially as a young artisan who’s crafting his wares by hand and shouldering the cost of making to order. This makes the early success of Jake’s London even more impressive, as is Wigham’s commitment to doing things in a way that feels honest and authentic. “Ivy style is one of my oldest passions,” he says, simply, sewing on a button at his workbench. “I’m lucky to be able to be able to do something like this. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, really.”