Since the turn of the millennium, when he volunteered to be marooned on the remote island of Taransay as part of the BBC’s Castaway 2000 project, Ben Fogle has conquered Mount Everest, swum with crocodiles, saved elephants, dodged pirates, walked to the South Pole, crossed the Empty Quarter with camels, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean and swum from Alcatraz, to name just a few of his expeditions. Best of all, he has taken us along every one of his adventures.
Now one of the nation’s favourite TV presenters (and you can add author and journalist to that too), nature remains at the heart of each of Ben’s (many) projects. As the current UN Patron of the Wilderness, his work informs international environmental policies, and he actively works across a variety of different media to use his experiences, both past and present, to inspire a new generation of eco-warriors. One way Ben is hoping to do that in the coming months is through the latest tour of his live show, Tales From The Wilderness, which is heading to theatres across the UK from November.
‘I’ve taken 25 years of travel, adventure and TV making, and have tried to pick apart all the things I’ve done to understand why I’ve done it, what it means to me and what lessons I can take from it all,’ explains Ben. ‘And to share those stories. There’s no point in me doing all this stuff if I’m not sharing what I’ve learned – the highs and the lows. So I’ve tried to translate some of those big expeditions into a tale that everyone can relate to and, hopefully, be empowered by. Not necessarily by encouraging them to climb Everest or cross the Atlantic, but by inspiring them to climb their own Everest.’
Heading to Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and Opera House on 12th November, Tales From The Wilderness promises a thrilling, personal and intimate evening of stories from around the world. And if he does inspire you to try your hand at a bit of exploring yourself, it might be worth listening to what Ben believes is the key to surviving in the wilderness.
‘Work with nature, not against it,’ Ben advises. ‘It’s not a battle. So many people think that the weather, the ocean, the mountains, are all things to be fearful of and to fight against, but you shouldn’t. You’ve got to work with them. It’s a symbiotic relationship and if you work with the environment you’ll stand a much better chance.’
But while Ben is sure to recount a good many of his extraordinary adventures around the world as part of his tour, what audiences may not hear so much about is his recent foray into another previously-unchartered territory for him: the fashion industry. Having worked as an ambassador for leading heritage and lifestyle brand Barbour, whose headquarters are in Jarrow, Ben has now curated his own menswear collection which, accompanied by an edit of womenswear curated by his wife, Marina, comprises the brand’s latest range, The Wilderness Collection.
‘I’ve been a massive Barbour fan all my life,’ says Ben. ‘I’ve got far too many old Barbour jackets than I should actually admit to! I’ve had one Barbour jacket that I actually inherited from someone, it’s about 40 years old now, heavily weathered, battered and a little bit torn. But I’ve never got it repaired because I like every single tear and all the fading. It speaks volumes about what the jacket has been through. It’s not always appropriate, depending on the environment, but nevertheless, it is ubiquitously packed into my bag, I take it everywhere. So for me to now work with the brand is one of the proudest things I’ve been asked to do.
‘I’d say my own style is all about clean lines – I like simplicity. I like Japanese styling, which is usually a slightly finer cut, not quite so big and baggy, and I also like pieces that are sympathetic to the wilderness. But that doesn’t just mean all green! As someone who spends a huge amount of time in the wilderness, I wanted to bring some of my own experiences to the collection. I sat down with the design team and talked about the sort of colours, fabrics and garments that I would personally like to have that Barbour didn’t necessarily stock already. For me, the key piece – the one that I’d always wanted – is what’s called the Keswick Smock. It’s a pullover jacket that is totally my own design. Throughout the collection I wanted to create pieces that demonstrated a mix of practicality and aesthetics, and I think the Keswick Smock is the signature piece in that respect.’
A casually-rugged range with subtle hues of country-inspired colours in worn, distressed fabrics, The Wilderness Collection is influenced by Ben’s outdoors lifestyle and some of Barbour’s most classic designs. But at the heart of it all is a desire to encourage wearers to go out and explore the natural world around them.
‘As a family, we explore Great Britain almost every weekend,’ says Ben. ‘We all know that our wilderness is under threat all around the world. I’m fortunate that I spend a great deal of time in remote areas – whether that be on Mount Everest in the Himalayas or in Antarctica – and I see first-hand what’s happening on the ground. So that is always on my mind, whatever I’m doing. In every aspect of my life, I’m always wanting to enthuse people and champion our natural environment.’
There’s no better way to protect the natural world around us than by encouraging each other to go out and experience it for ourselves. After all, we are more likely to fight to protect that which we understand. And whether that’s by providing us with adventure-ready attire or by proving just what we can achieve when we set our minds to it, Ben is the trailblazer we can all trust.
Ben will be bringing Tales From The Wilderness to Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and Opera House on 12th November. For more information, visit www.benfogle.com
The Autumn/Winter ’19 Barbour Wilderness Collection is available from October and can be purchased online at barbour.com and from selected Barbour stores.