Designer Adam Jones Celebrates Britain’s Working Class

The Welsh-born, London-based talent shared his latest collection inspired by the stall owners on Deptford High Street.

RUNWAY IMAGES Roshan Whittaker

For many young people in the UK today, ‘Britishness’ can be an uncomfortable descriptor, encompassing everything from the country’s complicated and shameful history to new-wave nationalism plagued with racism, misogyny and transphobia. But for Welsh-born, London-based fashion designer Adam Jones, the term serves as a nostalgic playground to poke fun at our stiff upper lip while championing the industrious men and women working to keep the country on its feet.

You’ll likely already know Jones’ work thanks to his repurposed beer towel sweater vests and their unsurprising viral success, finding him fans in Asa Butterfield and Tom Grennan. Unlike much of the fashion industry’s intolerable relationship with adopting working-class aesthetics, Jones’ collection celebrates the communities he has been immersed in long before he began designing.

For his off-schedule SS24 runway, the Welsh designer was inspired by the memories and memorabilia of his hometown, which he explains was “stuck in the hangover of the 1970s”, the decade he feels as if he grew up in. British pubs have since become Jones’s playground, reimagining the iconography of Carlsberg, Jamieson and Buckfast alongside foxhunting tapestries and Y Ddraig Goch, imbuing each new garment with the stories overheard while sipping on a freshly-poured pint.

Jones was also influenced by his now local high street in Deptford, South London where he sources his materials including Digestives deadstock, floral teatowels and vintage crockery. “It was an obvious place to find some treasure, I walk down the high street every day and go to the market three times a week, it’s right outside my flat,” he says, citing the boot sales and clothing stalls of unbranded polo shirts as key inspirations. “Each stall holder is so funny – some are tough and drive a hard bargain, some are sweet and give me things for free. They’re often baffled why I want the thing I’ve picked up because I’m usually wrapping myself up in a blanket or holding a plate against my body to see what it might look like.”

I choose to embrace the nickname ‘Broken Britain’ and see the humour in this messed up country.

Adam Jones

The stall-owners serve as direct inspiration for the characters Jones designs for in his collection. “I love getting to know the people of Deptford, I feel so at home here,” he explains. “I’m friendly with the people at the post office, the off-licence, the pub, the ladies at ASDA. Interacting with them daily is a joy – they create a community here in South London, and they’ve made this little pocket of London feel like a village. To get a nod or a wave as you walk around just makes me smile and reminds me of being home where everyone knows everyone.”

Rather than simply borrowing details from his characters, Jones utilises his materials, silhouettes and stories directly from the source, allowing for garments that celebrate the fabric’s heritage and avoid the over-designed aesthetic that can trap many upcyclers. 

“I’m from an era where upcycling was your mad Aunty slashing her denim skirt or sticking things onto a denim jacket – GCSE-style upcycling, which I absolutely did,” the young designer jokes. “I want to present a more sophisticated vision of upcycling. I don’t want it to look upcycled, but it’s an added bonus if you can spot the origins of the material used. It’s obvious for me to use these materials, which I cut in really simple patterns to present a clean, almost minimal look and let the fabric do the talking.”

It’s through upcycling that Jones can identify the characters that he presents throughout his runway showcase. “My characters can come from imagining the previous owner, as well as the people I saw growing up in Wrexham. It’s a place full of characters – Big June, the bucket man, the bus stop cowboy – If you’re from Wrexham, you know what I mean,” he smiles. “Other characters come from TV like Midsummer Murders – they always have the local priest, the lolly-pop lady, the butcher, all like caricatures in fancy dress and totally unbelievable, which I love.”

Jones’s collection pays homage to what he describes as a “simpler time in Britain’s past”, and it’s not hard to see why. He says he “tries not to overthink the politics in Britain these days”, a sentiment shared by much of London’s creative cohort as the Conservative government launched further attacks against transgender and migrant communities this week.

“I can’t get bogged down in politics or I wouldn’t end up making anything or working in fashion at all,” he admits. “I choose to embrace the nickname ‘Broken Britain’ and see the humour in this messed up country. Britain or ‘Britishness’ is what it is, a messy collage of people going about their business trying to get by and enjoy life.” 

For now, Jones remains captivated by the eclectic melting pot of eccentric personalities residing in the UK capital. “Especially in London – which I find to be Britain with a capital B – I feel like I’m on the set of a TV show every day just walking down the street. This city fascinates me as I come from a quieter, greener place. I love the messiness of London, it can be completely bonkers and I love that!”

Venue: The Salon at Bureau
Hair: Charles Stanley
Models: IMM / street cast via Instagram

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