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Heritage in Luxury – A panel discussion

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Last week we had the pleasure of attending Mark Hogarth’s, Creative Director at Harris Tweed Hebrides ‘A Heritage in Luxury’ discussion in London, with three speakers who are all revered for their work within the luxury sector:

Timothy Everest

Whilst his eponymous label are seen as a rising star in British luxury, Timothy has been an accomplished tailor both on and off Savile Row for many years. His suits are seen at The Oscars and Bond premieres around the world and his new store opens on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch next month.

Jerome Mackay

Marketing Director at luxury leather company Ettinger, bilingual Jerome has brought knowledge of Parisian luxury to this quintessential British brand and been a key player in a team that has overseen significant growth.

Brian Wilson

A former UK Energy Minister and current Executive Chairman at Harris Tweed Hebrides.  He is UK Trade Ambassador and was the catalyst for the revival of Harris Tweed back in 2008.

Why does luxury need to be backed by good story?

Harris Tweed, Brian Wilson: The historical story is integral to our story. We have a hand-woven, finite product that can only be produced in Scotland – that’s a powerful story in itself, but it’s not enough. Over the years it became a product that was only associated with consumers who were 65 years and above. We had to change the message into a modern one, aligning ourselves with innovation and design. We’re proud of our story and we wouldn’t exist without it, but we had to evolve.

Jerome: You need a story that resonates with others. A story is only ever a story if it has resonance with the consumer. You need two things: authority and a sense of truth. For many years, we neglected our story and didn’t realise how precious it was. It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve begun to tell our story once more.

Timothy: Tailoring has changed so much over the years and so too has our business. With our first store we were as relevant as the butcher, the banker and the bakers. We realised that we needed to look further afield and to reach new audiences we needed to open up somewhere that made sense. Opening our store on Redchurch St makes sense for us right now. There’s a consumer there who’s interested in clothing, but wouldn’t necessarily go to a tailor, as they wouldn’t deem it as fashionable. Taking on this idea of customisation, we’re moving tailoring into a new era. What men might wear and what they didn’t realise they wanted to wear – that’s what we’ll offer. Bespoke clothing and product that you can customise will be available. My dream is to go over to The Owl and the Pussycat pub opposite our store and see someone wearing one of our tailored suits.

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What mistakes have you made and what have you learnt from it?

Jerome: There’s something to be learnt from looking back in time, and I think that’s something we didn’t do so much before. We forget how sexy and relevant UK brands are in other places. For example, in Japan, 20 year olds are given a Harris Tweed jacket for university to commemorate a new chapter. This is a new audience we didn’t realise we could reach out to with the backing of the Royal warrant.

If you look at designs from the 18th century, you can reach into that heritage and find inspiration. As a smaller brand, we’re a bit timid in doing this sometimes, but we’ve had people help us along the way.

Another learning for us has been making sure to consider all methods of communication such as online and social. We’ve learnt that people are interested in how things are actually made. We’ve been able to open that door and let people into the behind the scenes world of our brand including the factory and the tailors. This has created compelling content for us for online.

Timothy: One lesson we’ve definitely learnt is to not forget who you are. Sometimes you can get swayed along the way looking at other businesses and what they’re doing differently. We’ve also begun to be more experimental with collaborations, and have subsequently reached out to new communities. This has definitely challenged us as a brand and made us think differently.

Does online affect the story and level of quality?

Jerome: It’s not that online isn’t a good platform, but how good is your message being told across all platforms. You need to think of them as individual platforms in their own right.

Timothy: Retail, online and wholesome – you need to present your brand in the best way you can across all of these mediums. What’s great about online is that you’re now able to have a global reach but with a niche product.

Harris Tweed, Brian Wilson: Because you’re good at offline, it doesn’t mean this will translate online. They are two different businesses and you need to think of them in this way, with separate strategies for both. For our online business, we don’t want to compete with our customers, who are also retailers. I think it’s important to know what you’re good at, whether that’s selling to other retailers, or offline business, and make sure you stick to it.

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