Above the Trench

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Founded in 1851, Aquascutum is one of the oldest British men’s clothing brands. Known for its signature waterproof wool coats, long a staple of the British military, the brand has undergone a significant evolution throughout its history. In 1900, it first began to offer womenswear, including water-repelled trench coats that were extremely popular among the suffragettes. Since then, Aquascutum has expanded to include full ready-to-wear lines for both men and women and fast gained standing as one of the top British brands.

On the corporate side, Aquascutum has gone through some rough times. It was family owned until its 1990 takeover by Japanese textile conglomerate Renown Incorporated, who eventually sold it to Jaeger in September 2009. In April 2012, the brand became the property of YGM Trading, a Chinese fashion retailer, after going into administration.

Despite all of these ups and downs, Aquascutum has nonetheless maintained its fashion cool, perhaps due to its innately British heritage or to its core focus on good design and wearability. Glass recently sat down with Andre Hackett, Head of Design at Aquascutum, to talk about the value of branding and the importance of heritage.

Aquascutum has a reputation for creating beautiful, easy-to-wear pieces. How does this new collection fit this aesthetic?
For the S/S14 WW Collection, I have incorporated all the familiar hallmarks that the Aquascutum aesthetic is renowned for.

I’ve remained true to the foundations of the brand by keeping the iconic Trench as the focal point of this collection. This will always be a timeless fashion staple for British women living in this unpredictable climate.

While you will find all the classic pieces, they are updated with a twist for the modern wardrobe. I’ve changed up the fabrics, opting for silks and light cottons that are fluid to work with and simultaneously practical and chic.
Tailoring is an obsession of mine for the Aquascutum woman. This season we have a strong offering of tailored looks that cater to all the occasions of life: casual, formal, work, the great outdoors. These silhouettes are complemented by their fabrics – fine wool blends, linens and cottons. It was important for me that the luxury basics remained trans-seasonal throughout the collection, such as the silk blouses and cashmere and silk knits.

This collection also plays with prints much more than previous ones. What inspired this collection?
Modernity and integrity were my main focus for this collection. I wanted to develop a collection that stays true to the integrity of the brand and its heritage, while remaining relevant to a modern woman’s wardrobe. I have developed the SS/14 collection with this in mind by offering her timeless fashion with a twist.

Aquascutum’s rich archives always inspire the beginning of a collection for me. I wanted the collection to have an effervescent feel – fresh and modern – whilst keeping the essence and integrity of the brand’s heritage. For me, the Heritage Floral Print encompasses all of the above elements – its whimsical bridal reigns, nautical stripes and soft florals are reminiscent of a beautiful, white British rose garden. It adds a burst of romance to the season.

Aquascutum has undergone a lot of corporate changes in the past few years. How is your design team adapting?
I think change is a good thing and the growth of the brand is very inspiring to the design team. We are growing with the brand and vice-versa. The Aquascutum ethos and heritage remains unchanged; it continues to be transformed by the design team. To be a part of this new chapter is hugely exciting. I will continue to keep the heart of the brand as my guide whilst developing the collection.

Even the most knowledgeable fashion people may not realise the deep English heritage of Aquascutum, particularly its menswear, which was founded in 1851. How do you pay homage to this history?
Aquascutum is ingrained in the British psyche by representing functional style and sophistication. It embodies quintessential British elegance. The natural progression of style and function established the brand then and continues to impress upon our female consumers today. These are the elements that I address when designing the women’s collection.

Do you feel under pressure to include waterproof coats in each collection?
Not at all. It is a natural part of the brand’s DNA. John Emary was the  innovator of the repellent fabric used to make our iconic Trench Coat. It is the pulse of any Aquascutum collection.

The Trench Coats I designed for S/S14 were developed to encompass the classic Aquascutum silhouette with modern updates. The Heritage Floral Trench Coat was born from this approach.

What inspires your team creatively?
Aquascutum has a wealth of heritage – this in itself is a great inspiration for me and the design team. I always look to the brand’s archive; there is an endless well of culture to draw from creatively.

How do you stay organised and motivated given the ever changing pace of the fashion world and its half a dozen yearly seasons?
The wheel of fashion continues to turn, and I embrace this aspect of the design profession. The industry is fast paced and fickle at times – which is why I love the Aquascutum way. Instead of chasing after trends, Aquascutum remains timeless. The brand’s ability to maintain its integrity whilst staying relevant is what drives my passion each season.

by Jessica Quillin

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Glass Fashion Features Editor

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