Enter the wonderful world of this north Norfolk micro clothing company.

Frequent visitors to the achingly fashionable north Norfolk coast may have noticed that, among certain of the artsier circles, there exists a kind of uniform. A semi-ubiquitous look of simple, restrained everyday clothing in instantly recognisable and obviously good quality cottons, woollens and linens – more often than not in a particular workwear blue, with minimal styling – can be spotted in the wild dotted among the flat marshlands, amongst tufty dunes, queuing at the area’s famous crab shacks and milling about pretty market towns.

The look – typically favoured by designers, actors and writers – comes courtesy of Old Town, a picture-perfect purveyor of minimal modernism mingled with period style in the Georgian town of Holt. Should you happen not to be a habitué of the coastline famous for its big skies, flint cottages and flintier North Sea, the good news is two-fold: first, that Old Town’s designers, former Woolworth’s Saturday girl, Marie Willey with her partner Will Brown make to order and ship clothes within six weeks; and second, that you can follow their heavenly, stylised and stylish lives on Instagram.

Old Town is, you see through its little squares, not just a clothing brand but – a word its founders would doubtless deplore – a lifestyle. Guardian writer Mark C O’Flaherty once described the couple’s aesthetic as sitting ‘somewhere between the romance of rural New England, fed through the filter of a dozen Sissy Spacek movies and the mid-century chic of slam-door British Railway carriages.’

Indeed, as much as we love ogling this account for the clothes – which riff on the past but are also hard-wearing and categorically to be used daily in contemporary life – we’re also here for the whole picture. Willey and Brown’s lives are lived between their shop, their Sheringham post-war railway bungalow and the wild and woolly North Sea, while holidays – always in keeping with the Old Town credo – are spent variously in glorious Southwold and within spitting distance of Prospect Cottage, Derek Jarman’s recently saved Victorian fisherman's hut in Dungeness – a sublime articulation of their style if ever there was one.

We could pore over these images for days, all the while longing to have an ounce of the self-control of this exceptionally talented and stylish couple. For the unparalleled inspiration, @oldtownengland, you’re our hero.

By Nancy Alsop
September 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.