Tender live at Oi Polloi

William Kroll of Tender gives an instore talk at Oi Polloi (London) on the various specialised methods of his clothes manufacture


A thursday night in Soho. The slow rake of London’s metropolitan wildlife descend down in amongst the shadows and flash bars, the stray lights and a fading dazzle of noise. Here’s where we find ourselves, or lose ourselves, never really quite sure which.

The world is made up of different types. There are obsessives. Enthusiasts. There are people who care about what they do, care how it gets done. And that radiates outwards, becomes infectious, inescapable. There are those, maybe a dying breed, certainly a limited stock, who invest their very being into what they do, a skill unquestionably, but more than that it’s a mindset. You do your fucking best, put your heart and soul into it. Why? Because when the dust settles, when the decay sets in, when the words have all been used up – this is all you have left. And when some glib shallow fuck asks what you did, we can, with a steely look of utter fucking conviction, say – we did our best. It’s all we could ever do.

And that’s a rare attribute, despite the noise levels. I’d like to think it’s a northern working class thing, inbuilt and instilled at birth, but i don’t know where William Kroll is from so i’m not going to push my luck. I appreciate what he does, and more importantly understand why he does it. In amongst the bustling wilderness of the back streets of Soho, in a distinct Manchester outpost, we get a glimpse, a hint of that world. Some fucker’s talking about clothes. Yes i’ll have a beer.

Don’t really know why I came to this tonight. Maybe for something to do, maybe to see what the fuss was about, maybe people who care about the stuff they do are instinctively drawn to those who do the same. It’s a particular mindset, a very particular mindset. Obsessives are almost always enthusiasts and enthusiasts create their own gravitational pull.

William Kroll does Tender. Tender is a clothes company. A cottage industry. Shirts, jeans, socks, hats. Stuff you wear mostly, but done in a very particular way. Traditionally. With care and with knowledge. Trusting the intelligence of your customers. And it’s because of this that Manchester’s famous Oi Polloi are playing host to a shop packed with people.

He starts off nervous, stood behind a table full of his stuff, a little unsure what to give, what we expect. But he soon gets into his stride and the jeans he’s holding as an example become more than just an object, they have history, previous, form, an aura (if you want to get all Walter Benjamin about it), and as Kroll explains the process and procedures involved, we instinctively lean in, get to share the secret – how it happens, what goes on, but perhaps most crucially how much of yourself you invest in these objects. How there’s a part of you that gets immersed, trapped and embedded in the finished product.

None of this would make any sense if they weren’t of exceptional quality, the jeans especially, the thing Tender has become recognised for. Dyeing techniques are given a glorious new life, how material is cut and combined, the ubiquitous selvedge explained, why jeans pockets are shaped the way they are, we get a crash course in traditional working methods, the requirement of wearing-them-in carrying on the journey. Even the studs get a mention.

Here’s how Tender explain themselves:

Based in England, Tender Co. makes each garment with a story to tell. The brand remains true to its roots in antique workwear, taking great care in each step of production. Jeans are crafted in a process unique to the label––they are cut from unsanforized Japanese selvage denim and dip-dyed by hand in indigo, giving each pair a remarkable richness and depth of color. Other Tender Co. garments and accessories are built with the same rigorous attention to detail, from hand-cast solid brass hardware to leather tanned for over a year on the Coly River. Using all natural materials, items are often intentionally left unfinished exposing unique imperfections which lend character.

But it strikes me the night really isn’t about Kroll selling the brand as revealing a part of himself to us. Part lecture, part confessional. Half way through the talk he asks if he’s going on too much, you can see his internal nerd-detector kicking in, but reassured he continues to talk about the shirts, which have their own incredible journey to tell. And it’s the shirts that Oi Polloi are stocking, rich and rugged pastel shades, the ideal summer colours. They’re designed to last, season upon season, year after year, to evolve, take on the form you invest in them through wear, unique to you.

It gets late, i stumble off out into the grey Soho night, far from the maddening crowd, and wonder what the fuck was all that about, and decide above and beyond the mechanism of production what we were listening to was the sound of a man in love with the idea of making objects for others to love. A rare breed.

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Oi Polloi (London)
1 Marshall St
London W1F 9BA

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