Toast Of The Town: The artisanal lifestyle brand turns 15

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As the brand that sold us the artisanal lifestyle celebrates its 15th birthday with a capsule collection, Harriet Walker meets its co-founder Jamie Seaton

Jamie and Jessica Seaton launched their company Toast on the day that Diana, Princess of Wales, died. While that might have been an opportunity for some to bury bad news, it also meant that the press they received around the launch was somewhat eclipsed.

Still, customers were intrigued by the debut collection – six pairs of high- quality pyjamas, two dressing gowns and a rug, which was sold via a fold-out poster – and began to place their orders. Fifteen years later, Toast has 10 shops around the UK and boasts 105,000 unique visits to its website (one of the first to adopt e-commerce) every month.

"I've always had this idea that I'd love to do a little collection without the normal commercial strictures," explains Jamie Seaton. "So when the 15th anniversary came along, I said "Oh ho! I'll do 15 designs, using artisanal fabrics and old techniques." The idea was initially that I'd draw not on past successes but on the things I'd really loved."

Those pieces include all the signatures of the brand, from shift dresses and tunic shirts to sturdy wool twill coats and military jackets, made from fabrics sourced from the UK and India, embellished with the sort of intricate craftsmanship, detailing and embroidery that has made the brand so popular over the decade and a half of its existence.

"I found I didn't quite love some of those older pieces any more, so I changed and put some new ones in," Seaton continues. "And along with wanting to be rid of the commercial aspect, I thought it would be nice to be rid of time pressures. So the whole thing has dragged on awfully and has been a terrible trial for everyone but me."

Seaton and his wife have always done their own thing. After meeting at university in Birmingham – where they were both studying archaeology – the couple moved to rural Wales to work on a site there.

"We were digging up the corner of a Roman road – a bunch of stones and a lot of soil," he says. "We got married because Jess's mum had saved £700 to give to her as a wedding present, and with the money we bought a knitting machine, a bunch of wool and we started a knitwear business."

Under the label J&J Seaton, the couple settled into working and creating from a farmhouse in Wales. And thanks to a fortuitous meeting with American Vogue's flamboyant Andre Leon Talley, (who was then working for Women's Wear Daily) at a crafts fair set up by a local knitter in Wales, they were selling their rustic-influenced pieces to Bergdorf Goodman in New York within six months.

"I had a little room with a nice view down the valley and the knitting machine," Seaton remembers. "We had 400 orders to knit, so I'd go up first thing in the morning and I'd say to myself 'right, I've got to knit two by lunchtime!' And it would get boring, so I'd put a watch in front of me and see how many rows I could do in a minute. Whooooosh!

"We started getting other people to do it after the first season."

J&J Seaton ran for 20 years, with shows at London Fashion Week and the designers presenting their collections in New York and Milan too. But, as they raised a young family and took stock of the books, they realised it was time to consolidate the lessons they had learnt from a once-popular label that had grown slightly beyond its capabilities. So, on that day in August 1997, Toast was born.

"Jess came up with the name Toast," Seaton explains. "The idea was we were doing pyjamas, but they weren't so much for going to bed in – they were for slouching around on a Saturday morning in."

Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons, weekday evenings and days off, came the response as more and more interested customers bought into the luxe loungewear – and the label decided to branch out into a fully fledged womenswear range.

There's a home range, too and in 2010, the label launched its first menswear collection; the countrified aesthetic chimes perfectly with the current vogue for heritage and homemade pieces. Seaton describes it "English but not nostalgic", but the description that perhaps fits best is "modern land girl", with models in the campaign dressed like so many capable young bluestockings, in lush felt and wool in the deep russet tones of autumn.

"I find it all a bit disheartening, this reinvention of old brands," says Seaton. "Photographing a guy looking like a fisherman and raising the Union Jack. No one ever got poor by being obvious."

"Personally, I want things to be simpler and simpler," he continues. "If I do a duffel coat, I want to do the most minimal duffel coat, beautifully cut but in an unobvious shape. I like lovely fabrics, and black and white, cut is so important. Women are different shapes, so we want to do something for all of them."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

    £16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

    £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

    £22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map