Oi Polloi

Interview: Cathal from Folk

Published: Fri Nov 13 2015

Cathal McAteer is the man behind Folk. He’s a Scottish man who likes furniture and posing for photographs on the top of mountains. I pestered him about a variety of subjects, and here's what he had to say…

Alright then Cathal, first thing’s first… what have you been up to today?

Firstly I had an argument with my youngest daughter, only as I wanted a cuddle from my girlfriend before she got into our bed and then woke up the rest of them. I’m a needy bastard.

After that I went boxing, and from that moment I’ve been listening to the most excellent tunes whilst powering through a load of work.

Judging by your name, you’re Scottish. How come you ended up in London?

The name's Irish actually — Cathal being the Gaelic for Charlie. London took me from the fine city of Glasgow as that’s where the jobs that I wanted to explore were.

In the fashion busy ness I had no qualifications, no money and a load of energy. 

Where abouts in Scotland are you from? 

I’m from around Glasgow — the small town is called Cumbernauld.  It’s a new town, with lots of roundabouts. We had a ball growing up there, but I bolted first chance I could to Glasgow… 

Scotland definitely feels like a different country to England. There seems like there’s a bit more freedom up there. Why do you think this is?

I’m not sure about that.  I like the sound of it though and I think you will hear a cry of, "Hell Ye,” from the lads and lassies back home.

I think freedom is a state of mind and the people I spent my time with in Glasgow were fucking wonderful… positive… fun loving… or was that just the Es?

No they most definitely were.  

Do you think you’d move back at some point? 

No. I will most likely move further south. Bavaria, Montenegro, Les Gets… I would love to be home more often and ideally my kids would go to the art school there… but I doubt they will be following my dreams for them.

Anyway, I suppose I’d better ask about Folk. What led you to start it back in 2001? What had you done before that? 

Folk was a life ambition. The name came after, but the making of my own gear was all I spent my time learning about in the various jobs I had done before — buying, sourcing, production, sales, styling. But I really wanted to make my own shit. 

What was the first thing you made? 

A shirt.

How has making clothes and selling clothes changed since then? 

Making clothes and selling clothes is essentially the same… but different. We sell more often, with smaller collections and exclusives. 

How has the internet affected things? 

Massively — we can be global easier, we ship all over the world and the stores we sell to can be anywhere. 

Do you like the internet?

Yes. I would say I am a daily user. Sometimes I do go overboard… and I pay the price.  

A few years back Folk clothes were filled with little trinkets and what I’d maybe called ‘thingamabobs’. There were little wooden blocks on the zips and that sort of thing. There’s a bit less of that now. What led to this change? 

It became a bit obvious. Our customers wanted it, but the industry was catching up and the dangle berries were being used badly and that reflected badly on our ‘very good dangle berries’. So we cleaned up, hid them and put some back in the drawers to be saved for another day. Some went to my house for good use there.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere and anywhere. Seeing gigs… sitting on a plane… I love working with other makers who works in other areas. Its good conversing with these bods as the logic and choice pattern is forever interesting.  

What is your favourite Folk design, and why? 

I can’t name you one in particular, but the first garment we made and designed to the standard that I had wanted to achieve was a thing called the Undergarm.

It was a fully-fashioned light knit with drop stitches that created a subtle pattern. It really felt good to be delivering that to stores. It was a moment.

What next for Folk? Have you got anything exciting cooking up? 

There’s a lot cooking.  More stores, better stores, revamping stores. More procreation within the Folk team. We are extending the Folk offer — that will come in different guises. And a stronger emphasis on imagery.  

What other clothing companies do you like? 

Dries, RRL, Our Legacy, Common Projects, Nike x Undercover, Patagonia and Rapha… oh and adidas. The Copa Mundials are the best football boot ever made.

You’re also into furniture. What is it you like about chairs and lamps?

The lines… the shapes… it just sucks me right in.

What makes a good design? 

I’m not entirely sure. I do like what I like though.

What else do you get up to? 

Walking and hiking with my girl. Going to festivals and dancing badly. Thinking of things to change in my house. Trying to be an awesome dad and boyfriend — right now, in this moment I’m good! Long may this continue.

I climb, not indoors stuff but high up — ice climbing in Glencoe or avalanche season in the dolomites.

I thoroughly enjoy hanging out with my mates too. That’s ace. 

What is the best item of clothing you’ve ever owned? 

A knit by Dries Van Noten. It doesn't get out much.

Are you into music at all? What sort of stuff do you listen to?

At the moment I am listening to Think Twice by Donald Byrd. I love listening to music but have no set agenda or genre that is my thing. I am lucky to have mates who send me stuff all the time. 

Beats in Space, Tim Sweeney’s show, is ace. Bad Passion is also magic.

Bit of an obvious question, but one worth asking… what’s your favourite folk song? 

It’s by the Corries, Ye Jacobites by Name.

Have you seen any good films lately? 

The Salt of the Earth is really fantastic. James Bond… just kidding I heard its shit. Leviathan… not for the faint hearted. Parallax View with Warren Beaty.  

Right, I think that’s all I’ve got, have you got any wise words you’d like to add?

Shut up and dance. 

See the Folk stuff here