Given that Neil is British with strong links in  Japan, it may not be a total surprise that the combined output fits very well into the Anglo-Japanese movement that is so strong these days. ARN is a tiny company in the UK, but sells most of its product in Japan, Germany and the US. his new approach to heritage is very strong in Japan and Germany, and Japan has a lot to offer the rest of the world when it comes to the technical and quality side of things.


ARN’s profile fits quite strongly within work wear, though they combine English/European work wear with a 1920′s US influence. Quality and construction of the garments is paramount, as is the selection of the materials used. They try to make things that change with wear as well as work with the idea of movement and shape. While Neil is a big fan of vintage design, he is keen to stress that they are not a company in the business of reproducing vintage designs. For the most part, fabrics are produced in Japan, whilst the actual production is now done in their own workshop.

The roles in ARN are quite clear cut, so to speak, with Neil being the pattern cutter and  fabric technician, sourcing and selecting the fabrics. Given that they are primarily a 1 man operation the process is purely personnel. The fabrics used are strictly Fair Trade and only organically grown cottons are used. The stated ambition is to produce eco-friendly garments, through a combination of ensuring production is as eco-friendly as possible, and that the clothes have a long life cycle. Quite the contrast to how most high-street garments today are produced with maximum profit and rapid seasonal turnaround as their main principles.


Neil has been involved in the garment industry since age 12, when he went to work at the corset factory his father ran. Starting out in the cutting room, observing the way the garments were built up, from flat fabric to a fully 3D garment, he early on developed a fascination with disassembling and assembling things. During a period in the US, he set up a small factory with some others and learnt how to construct garments by taking apart older garments. A thorough learning process, and a obvious starting point for the work wear style that is the mainstay of what he does today. Since then he has also worked for Nike, Carhartt, Levi and a few others, but vastly prefers the smaller and more personal situation he is in now.


The ARN workshop has, until recently acquired a separate workshop, also been the family home. This was intentional, so as to be able to spend more time together as a family. This also influences which shows they attend to show their garments, preferring the child-friendly ones of those that are less so. Again, this shows their caring nature, a rarity in today’s cut-throat economic era.


About ARN mercantile

ARN mercantile

This tiny UK-based,  companiy doing interesting things whilst being under the radar of most folks. ARN Mercantile is the label of Neil Jay Christopher, the name being made up of his initials combined with that of his son, Robin. The Mercantile comes from the period when Neil was working as a ‘red liner’ in the US, hunting out vintage clothing. They would use the old Mercantile’s as store front’s to buy old pieces, put up a sign ‘your old levis for cash’, and sort through the dross to find the gold, as well as buying dead stock from the mercantiles. Years later when starting his own company, the Mercantile still had a nice ring to it. They are a small company, and happy to stay small. Being small means being able to be picky about who they deal with and have more control over how they work and who they work with. Finally, it also means there doesn’t have to be such a huge focus on creating massive profits, though making enough to live off is preferable! For Neil ARN Mercantile is more a passion than a business.


ARN came to a lot of people’s attention after the collaboration with Nigel Cabourn. Given that both companies have an interest in British workwear and UK-based production, there was obviously a common ground. Cabourn is primarily an outerwear guy, so he approached ARN, suggesting a collaboration on trousers, an area where ARN has a reputation for doing trousers that are well constructed, hang and fit well. This resulted in several excellent trousers under the Cabourn brand, included the 4 pleat and Naval pants. Neil’s superb pattern cutting and attention to detail combined with Nigel’s British workwear and fabric history proved to be a great combination. The collaboration lasted 8 seasons, after which ARN wanted to focus on other work.

Worked and lived in the US and Japan, Building collections for Massimo Osti , Bonneville and Archine project (GDI) (UK & Italy), Carhartt work-wear (USA, Germany &UK) Levi, Lee (Sun Capital), Manufactum, (Germany), May Trading (UK and China), Kato (Japan) Nike, Adidas, C&A(Germany). Building style and garment archives for ARN, Nigel Cabourn, and Carhartt.