Thursday, 23 August 2012

Perfect places No. 1: Leigh Beach

This is the beach at Leigh-on-Sea. Its official name, apparently, is Bell Wharf Beach, but most people just call it Leigh Beach.  It’s not somewhere you’ll be familiar with unless you (a) live in Leigh-on-Sea which is a small town just outside Southend, Essex and (b) you have young children. If you tick both of those boxes, you’ll probably think of Leigh Beach as one of the most perfect places in the world.

There are days, admittedly, like this past weekend, when Leigh Beach can look a bit like this, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

But on the other 364 days of the year, Leigh Beach is forgotten by most people and looks a lot more like this.

There is the ideal mix of stones for collecting and sand for sand castling.  There is a salt pool for paddling and catching crabs.  There is a sea wall with railings for climbing and jumping off into the sand.  There is the glorious, if somewhat acquired, smell of the local cockles and, when the tide is out, the wonderful Estuary mud.

There are cockle boats to watch as they motor in and out and, on the other side of the Estuary, you can see the factory chimneys and guess how long it would take to swim there.

It is difficult for those who live in Leigh-on-Sea, like many of the Grubbies team, to imagine anywhere in the world that is so perfectly suited to spending a few hours with your children.  Which is presumably why it is utterly unchanged since we ourselves played there two or three decades ago.

Theme parks, interactive museums, 3D cinemas - they all have their place of course.  And the children are crazy about the deafening and garish surrounds of the soft play centres, even if they seem designed to crush the spirits of the supervising grown-ups.

But, it’s places like Leigh Beach that childhood memories are made of. Unsung and unassuming spots up and down Britain - parks, commons, cafes, duck ponds, woods, village halls, library gardens – all within a mile or two buggy or scooter ride of our homes.

Tell us about your family’s perfect place.  We think it’s about time we started celebrating these local gems and putting them on the map.

Photo credits:  Crowded beach by Discombobulatedd;  Grubbies photos by Skin and Blister

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

This year, we've mostly been making Union Jack bunting!

What a funny old year 2012 has turned out to be. The last time we had a 'theme' year like this was probably the millennium but even then everyone was too busy stockpiling canned goods and bottled water to embrace the theme wholeheartedly.

But this year has had us in a tailspin of flag-waving, patriotism from the get-go. Kate and William, Mary Portas, HRH, Andy Murray, Wiggo, Jess and MoFa – 2012 has been one giant street party and only the most ardent republicans and cynics have been able to resist the celebrations (your thoughts were noted thank you, Morrissey). Even the not-at-all-Great British weather, which drenched our Queen, our bunting and our torches, failed to dampen the collective enthusiasm for our green and soggy Land.

In the first ever Grubbies board meeting, convened on a picnic rug in a back garden in South East Essex, we discussed the sort of company we wanted to be. We knew we'd sleep happier if our company trod lightly on the world and that a fundamental part of this would be sourcing materials and labour in an ethical, responsible way. We didn’t though write down ‘Make the dungarees in Britain’ on the page marked ‘Brand Ethos’.

But a little over a year later, the fact that all of our clothes are designed and made in Britain is one of the first things about Grubbies we like people to know.  We’ll be honest about it. It started as a pragmatic decision, rather than an ethical one.  We began sourcing partners for sampling and product development in the UK and found specialist denim suppliers who were (much more than) qualified to take us all the way through to production. And then, once we began working with these people, with whom we could talk every day and visit every week if the mood took us, where we could see at first hand the crafting of our clothes and the working conditions of the people who make them, it became clear how much we suited this way of working and how much more British it made Grubbies feel as a brand.

And so in 2012, we've been making an awful lot of Union Jack bunting and, along with the rest of the country, have rather surprised ourselves at feeling so darn proud to be British.  Whether this spirited sense of pride will endure into 2013 and beyond is anyone’s guess. We suspect it will rather depend on Mary’s knicker sales, Andy Murray and the weather.

One thing’s for sure, like all good birthday parties, having a theme has made this year a lot more fun. Ideas for 2013 on a postcard please.
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