TukTuk is the next brand to be featured on ‘The Bespoke Gentleman’ blog and is a menswear brand heralding out of Sri Lanka but with firm roots from the UK. They offer gentlemanly staples but with elements of quirkiness, simplicity, effortless dressing and dare I say a little playful (see camera shirt on the TukTuk website). I personally think that tuktuk’s shirting is the highlight of this collection, with so many great styles in beautiful colours and as you will find out when you have finished reading this post, they also offer all their shirting in a ‘Bespoke’ shirting option, which obviously went down well with me. Anyway, I was granted a fine little interview with the man behind the brand…so Enjoy!
So first off how did the name of your brand come about, seen as it’s named after one of Thailand’s modes of transport?
A ‘tuk’ or ‘tuktuk’ has become synonymous with not just Thailand, but most of Asia (and Sri Lanka very much so). In the early days of setting up the brand, I seemed to spend the majority of my life in the back of one. It just seemed right to name the brand after one.
How long has the brand been around for?
The brand was launched at the beginning of 2009. In March we will be 3 years old.
You state on your website that your garments are inspired by South Asia, what does South Asia mean to you, your brand and how you go about designing your collection?
South Asia means many things to me but primarily, the one thing that ’gets me’ the most about this part of the World is the amazing use of colours and patterns – on a day to day basis you see certain things sometimes that really shouldn’t work aesthetically, but they just do. Inspiration also come from my surroundings and day to day life; fabric markets, fruit stalls, bus stands, tuktuk rides, old record sleeves, music, art galleries, people, architecture, colours, food, beaches, religion, festivals etc. Anything really. Originally hailing from grey and dreary Manchester I suppose I now enjoy the more colourful things in life!
One thing that I felt was refreshing about your SS12 collection was the colour palette, how did you go about choosing these colours?
The concept for the collection was loosely influenced by the famous Dutch Fort in Galle, Sri Lanka – which is where the S/S12 Lookbook was shot. I have spent quite a bit of time there over the past few years and it has a very special feel to the place. With this place in mind I started to source various fabric swatches and sketch down a few ideas; the colour palette then evolved naturally from that.
You state that you source your materials locally and that your garments are produced locally aswell...was that difficult in finding the best places in a foreign country?
It was very, very difficult to start with. In the first year when our quantities were very small, some of the better factories didn’t really want that much to do with us as we were un-established and not ordering en masse. Thankfully though, with a bit of persistence, we have now managed to source 3 or 4 excellent factories which are more family run, and are happy to work with a smaller brand and help them grow. We’ve been quite lucky with getting our foot in the door with these factories as our shirting factory is regarded as one of the best on the island and has been making shirts for 30+ years, and our leather factory was the first factory in Sri Lanka to own their own tannery, and is one of the longest running leather factories on the island.
In my opinion your clothes represent British styling with a South Asian influence that can be seen through the use of colour, would you agree?
Yes, that is exactly what we are trying to get across!
Having looked at your blog and selling record boxes I take it that music is possibly an influence on your brand or is it simply something that you enjoy and believe your customers enjoy?
We all enjoy our music here at tuktuk, and we feel that the type of customer we attract enjoys their music too. With the products we have done so far, we feel they tie in with the lifestyle side of the brand which is a route we would like to go down long term. As for the brand being influenced by music, very much so; we have quite an interesting concept in the pipeline which involves one of the old record labels over here – that’s still work in progress for now.
So, you have a bespoke shirting option on your website, how did this come about and what does the bespoke shirting option offer the consumer?
The main reason for the bespoke shirting option is that we believe certain customer’s like to have some kind of say in the garment they are buying. This is what the Bespoke option allows the customer to do; the customer can alter the design of their shirt by choosing their collar style, pocket style, button style etc, or as we like to put it, ‘putting a personal touch on the details that matter’. In addition to this we also offer the customer the option of sending in their measurements and we make a shirt to their size requirements. We are currently developing a new website which will incorporate a fully functional Bespoke section which will make it even easier for the customer to order a Bespoke shirt (new website is due in March/April).
I love the photography from your SS12 shoot, the locations are amazing, I believe they give a sort of vintage / classic appeal and with the mix of colour coming from the garments the contrast is amazing…where is the shoot located and how did you go about choosing the specific locations?
As I mentioned above, the shoot was done at the Dutch Fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. It’s a registered World Heritage Site and as soon as you walk through the Rampart walls it almost transports you back to the old colonial era and beyond; it’s like time never moved on. The majority of the shoot was done in an old abandoned Colonial manor which was very fun to do. The photography was done by the very talented Sri Lankan photographer, Asanka Ratnayake.
How have your collections grown and developed over the years?
Our product range is constantly improving/growing. Our choice of fabrics is also getting better; both in terms of quality and design. And our collections are now the realisations of proper concepts and ideas, as opposed to just being a load of shirts in a lookbook!
Where would you like to see TukTuk in 10 years time?
I would love the brand to develop into a lifestyle brand. In fact, we are already pushing the brand in that direction what with the new Record Boxes and iPad cases etc.
And finally, how would you sum up your brand in one sentence?
Specialising in bespoke shirts made from vintage, check and floral cloths - we also do lots of other wonderful products!
I would like to thank Mark for the Interview, I know you’re a busy man, and I also wish tuktuk the best of luck in the future and I will look forward to seeing what tuktuk have to offer in future collections. For more information on tuktuk and to see all pictures from the SS12 lookbook, visit: www.wearetuktuk.com