Four-and-a-half years ago, bored on a rainy day, Chris Gove sketched some skeletal menswear ideas. Frustrated that menswear was either too staid and traditional or too garish and loud, Chris - together with business partner, Luke - thought there was a big opportunity to create clothing for the most discerning men caught in the middle.
Percival was born, initially as a side-project. Now, it's an established brand of fast-growing importance in British menswear. In the latest of our series of interviews with modern-day British pioneers, we sat down for breakfast with Chris, to talk life, business, travel and style.
British style and Icelandic influence
"We wanted to create unique, sartorially-aware patterns and textiles," says Chris. "We set out to redefine British classics with our own take on fabrication. We wanted each garment to tell a unique story - both about Percival as a brand, and about the man wearing it."
Not that Britain is the only place that inspires Pervical's collections, of course. "I recently visited Iceland; my girlfriend is from the small island of Vestmannaeyjar. The airline company managed to lose my bag, so I had no clothes for the week. We rooted around an old cupboard at my girlfriend's mum's house, and pulled out an Orange half-zip Norwegian Scouts Jacket. She had bought it at an Icelandic charity shop a decade ago; I don’t think I took it off for the entire week. It came with me on treks, climbing mountains and on boat rides. It saved my life, so I am going to remake a version of it next season."
Travel and adventure
Travel, as you might expect, is a big part of Chris' life. "I’m planning two big foreign trips too - first, I'll be in Montana in August. I have some family who live in a huge cabin by a freshwater lake in Native American territory. The beauty of the landscape is beyond compare: the Redwood forests, the mountains, the lakes, the Grizzly bears. It's so inspiring.
"The second trip will be March next year. Some friends and I are planning on skiing in Japan. We try to go once a year to a different European destination, but we’ve heard a lot about the snow quality in Japan – apparently it's all powder, so we’ll give that a go."
Most treasured posession
The more we talk, the clearer it becomes that Percival's main beliefs - lasting design and quality workmanship - extend beyond Chris' work. "I have a Honda CG125 from 1979. It's been completely stripped and rebuilt by myself and my brother - he's an engineer, handily enough. Before we started, I was totally naïve to most things mechanical, but we rebuilt the entire engine, replacing the bore and cylinder head with oversized rings. We welded and wrapped a new exhaust and I used my sewing skills to upholster a new seat. Whatever I'm working on, I tend not to do things by halves. I throw myself into projects, whatever they are."
Favourite place in Britain
With such a busy career and, from the sounds of it, such a busy life away from work, where does Chris escape to when he needs to decompress? "My favourite place to go exploring is Dorset and Cornwall. Luke, my business partner, got married last September at Polhawn Fort in Whitsun Bay. It's an old Napoleonic Fort that sits right on a cliff edge looking out to sea. You can spend days rock climbing and exploring derelict forts and caves in the area.
"But in terms of how I relax in general, a lot of it is just about really trying to live in the now. It's something I'm bad at, because I am always looking to the next milestone, to the next project, to the next thing to have a go at, so I always remind myself to enjoy what's happening around me."
Favourite Farer watch
With breakfast plates cleared from our table, we pop the all-important question we've been desperate to ask Chris since we sat down. Which is his favourite Farer watch? "I'd say the Stark is my favourite Farer watch; the sub-dial and date is aesthetically really appealing, and it suits the Percival ideology of redefining a classic with a contemporary twist. It also reminds me of a watch my grandfather had.
"He was a spy in MI5, post-WWII and during the Cold War. He was a charming, charismatic and intelligent man who lived a life of adventure all over the world. A lot of what I make, create, am interested in, in some way has been influenced by him and his stories."
Percival's first four-and-a-half years have been a resounding success, and with such a charismatic, adventurous, driven man like Chris Gove at the helm, the next four-and-a-half years promise even greater developments. Starting, of course, with that beautiful-sounding Norwegian Scout jacket.