SS16 Collection Inspiration: Listening to the Desert

One of the greatest modern desert explorers, Michael Asher's adventures have led him to a deep connection with our past, and capture the spirit of the SS16 menswear collection.

Ténéré Desert.
Ténéré Desert. DEA / S. AMANTINI/De Agostini/Getty Images

The Men’s 2016 Summer collection develops the concept of the great British desert explorer, an intrepid and adventurous figure, motivated by the desire for discovery in the world’s most hot and unforgiving of landscapes. For some, it is the lure of the vast oceans, the isolation of great mountain ranges or the polar regions. But for Michael Asher, the strongest call comes from the sandy deserts of the world. Propelled by camel and on foot, the explorer, writer, soldier, philosopher and campaigner is a true renaissance man whose passion for the desert means that he has travelled these vast, empty wastelands for more than a third of a century. As with two of the most famous desert explorers to go before him - TE Lawrence, a Belstaff wearer, and Wilfred Thesiger - he is a man of passions and opinions. When Asher talks about the desert, people listen.

It's no coincidence that Asher has written biographies of these two icons of 20th-century desert exploration. For the outsider, deserts are the most difficult terrain to understand, and Asher has spent his career as an author and TV documentary-maker trying to define and communicate their history, archaeology and environment. It all started in the late 1970s, when he took up a teaching post in the Sudan, having cut his academic teeth on an English degree at Leeds University. A conventional career was never going to be enough - he soon learnt to speak Arabic and Swahili, and spent three years living with the nomadic Kababish tribe in the Sudan, learning their ways, traditions and language. He has travelled more than 30,000 desert miles the hard and natural way - on foot and by camel.

Explorers old and new have relied on Belstaff gear to protect them on their journey, from Lawrence of Arabia in the 1930s, to those of the present day such as Levison Wood with whom Belstaff has worked on a customised explorer jacket for SS16. Asher says that 'only by feeling the earth under our feet and the wind in our faces, by experiencing sun and shade, heat and cold, by taking in the vivid sights and scents of the landbase, can we truly experience the wilderness as past generations knew it.' When the definitive history of desert exploration is written, while so many will have earned no more than a footnote, Asher will have his own chapter.