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Meet the brands reinventing British heritage


The UK’s leading heritage brands are updating their timeless designs to make them relevant for new customers

Harriet Quick portrait
Harriet Quick ,

Brands across the world come and go but Britain boasts an enviable roster of historic clothing and accessories companies which offer traditional values alongside modern, relevant designs. Such firms will have adapted over the years, with some embracing foreign investment, but they’ve maintained a fiercely British vision.

Country living
One long-standing company which is coming to the fore is Holland & Holland, which was founded in 1835 as a supplier of accessories for those living in the countryside. Now owned by Chanel, it is being reinvented under the creative directorship of model Stella Tennant (who is also a muse of Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s designer), and stylist and consultant Isabella Stanhope, who has worked at British Vogue. The two women have been friends for a number of years and are experts in British country life, both having homes in remote parts of Scotland. They are bringing their experience in fashion and their instinctive style to Holland & Holland.

Tennant and Stanhope have been working with experts in Scottish tweed mills, developing subtle fabrics for their silhouettes, which are inspired by menswear. ‘I feel most at home in the Scottish countryside,’ says Tennant, who credits her flair for style to her grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. ‘All the textures and colours we are working with come from nature,’ continues the model, who stresses that everything in the collection will be ‘useful and beautiful’.

Wardrobe staples
The women are intrepid travellers and keen walkers who have brought a sense of adventure to the heart of the new Holland & Holland aesthetic. The line-up caters for women as well as for men and features practical and good-looking pieces such as single-breasted jackets, multi-pocket vests with storm collars, kilts, Guernsey sweaters, high-waisted trousers, culottes and baggy, golf-style trousers. For your feet, there are sturdy leather walking shoes (with tongues that fold back to prevent the laces getting caught in the heather), hiking boots and tweed skater-style sneakers.

Stanhope admits that developing the collection has been a ‘big job’ but points to Tennant’s expertise: ‘Stella is a brilliant colourist and has a depth of fashion knowledge.’ The women’s ambition for Holland & Holland? ‘It should be fun wearing it. Otherwise what’s the point?’

Icon of design
Outerwear specialist Mackintosh delivers streamlined raincoats made with a trademarked rubberised fabric which chemist Charles Macintosh invented in 1823. The company has made sure that the silhouettes and colours of its coats shift with the times: cue a new white version with black buttons alongside a choice of bordeaux, camel and bottle green hues. The company has been collaborating with fashion names, including young designer JW Anderson and the Parisian milliner Maison Michel, who helped the brand to create the chicest rain hats (which are sure to come in handy given the inclement British weather).

Hipster favourite
Mackintosh is not the only heritage brand which is collaborating to keep its offerings fresh. Sunspel was founded in Nottingham in 1860; today it produces high- quality sea-island cotton and fine jersey and the company’s store on Redchurch Street in the East End is the place where the capital’s hipsters (men and women) buy their everyday staples, such as T-shirts and underwear. For autumn, it has joined up with Gloverall, a British company which has been making outerwear since the 1950s, to create a no-nonsense duffle coat which works particularly well with traditional welted shoes from Church’s or Grenson.

Far from being dated, these brands have adapted to maintain lasting appeal by offering classic designs updated with new ideas, while maintaining the quality expected of such companies. Pack these pieces into the new riveted black suitcase made in collaboration between Globe-Trotter (established in 1897) and Alexander McQueen – and take a slice of British history home with you.

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