UK-based designer William Kroll brings history and integrity to our daily lives with Tender Co, an always evolving collection of workwear pieces adopted and adapted from Industrial Revolution-era garment construction, materials, and aesthetics. In this edition of our (Re)thinking Global series, we check in with William on how the pandemic impacted his workflow, and we hear about his continued efforts in clean sourcing and zero waste.
“All my products are made in the UK, as are all the fabrics—apart from some Japanese denim, which, luckily, I keep in stock,” he told us. “My mainline sewing production is made by just two people working in a small factory, and they decided to stop right away when the lockdown was announced. Various other makers (dyers, for example) have been able to carry on through, but they in turn have been affected by material delays, and because each Tender product is made up of lots of specially made parts and techniques, if one thing gets held up then there are delays all along the line.”
“The priority has just been making what’s possible while respecting everyone’s decisions about their own safety and their own businesses. Having really close relationships with all my suppliers, and being quite physically nearby, too, means that there’s a lot of flexibility and understanding,” William said.
“Another main concern has been that Tender's wholesale stockists, like Pylon, who are spread all over the world, have placed advance seasonal orders which have been delayed,” continued William. “I’m incredibly grateful that the understanding and flexibility has been reciprocated down the line. As with suppliers, the relationships with my stockists and customers are really the most important part of the business, and it’s very reassuring to know that everyone’s dealing with the same issue as best they can, and looking out for each other.”
“I’m so lucky to be able to run a sustainable business at a manageable scale, and (so far, touch wood) it looks like I’ll be able to continue to do so. I’ve always thought of Tender as a cross-season brand, and I’ve been moving towards a more explicitly non-seasonal approach, making new things as ideas and materials develop.”
William wrapped up our dialog with some thoughts on flexibility. “With my Weaver’s Stock project, for example, I’m using short lengths of deadstock fabric to remake simplified versions of mainline Tender shirts, just as many as I have enough fabric for,” he said. “This feels like a nice way of using cloths I wouldn’t want to commit to for the mainline, and also allows for some more adventurous ideas in the main collection, using my own weaving developments.”