Founded in 1814 by the Purdey family, historical British brand Purdey & Sons was originally a gunmaker. In 1994, the firm became part of the Richemont Group, which appointed Richard Purdey as chairman, the first Purdey to be involved in the business since 1957. Today the brand offers a luxurious range of clothing, footwear and accessories. The Purdey aesthetic, aimed at sporting and outdoors enthusiasts, is the epitome of classic British style. Husband-and-wife team John and Anne-Marie Harrison design the Purdey fashion line. Ximena Daneri visited them in the South Audley Street store to discover the brand’s heritage, its signature style, and the secrets of its success.
‘There are not many opportunities to work for a luxury brand that is both historical and technical at the same time. That is what drew us to James Purdey & Sons. The amazing heritage that Purdey has in its gunmaking is a rich source of design inspiration. This season we have taken the beautiful gun engravings and interpreted them into silk scarf prints. For summer, we have used the wood of the gunstocks to make Purdey sunglasses with a walnut frame.
‘What we call Audley House red is used in subtle ways in our clothing – a discreet flash of red can signal to the knowledgeable shooter that they are looking at a Purdey design. We also have a house tweed for men and ladies that was derived from the tweeds painted in a portrait of James Purdey that hangs in the Long Room.
‘Meticulous attention to detail sets us apart. In everything that Purdey does, whether it be clothing and accessories or gunmaking, every aspect has been thought out to the tiniest detail to ensure the customer has a product of outstanding quality that will last the test of time. Purdey’s strong heritage is also a large part of the brand, as Purdey is over 200 years old and has remained in London since the very beginning. Purdey is also the only gun and riflemaker to have all three royal warrants of appointment. Purdey proudly carries royal warrants from Her Majesty The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.
‘Having opened in 1814, Purdey had its bicentenary year in 2014. Audley House in Mayfair has been Purdey’s home since 1882. In 1973, Purdey became the first London gunmaker to sell a range of high-quality shooting clothing. The whole company comprises about 75 people, with about 25 working at Audley House and the rest at our Hammersmith workshop.
‘The first shop James Purdey opened in 1814 was in Princes Street, off Leicester Square. Within 10 years, he was being spoken of as the finest gunmaker in London. As the business grew, the Duke of Westminster, who was redeveloping the Mayfair area, asked if Purdey would like a specially designed space on the corner of South Audley Street and Mount Street for the famous brand. Purdey has remained there ever since.
‘When the duke originally asked James Purdey to occupy a building in Mayfair, he gave him the opportunity to design the space exactly as he required. The Long Room was originally the office of the Purdeys and had a well in the centre where the table now sits. The guns used to be finished below the shop and Mr Purdey was able to look down the well and see the progress of the craftsmen below. Purdey recently refurbished the clothing and accessories part of the shop and moved most of the gun room into the Long Room. There is more space in the shop now and dedicated menswear and ladieswear sections.
‘The biggest challenge for us is to keep moving forward technically; incorporating advancements in cloth such as Kevlar and waterproof tweeds improves comfort in the field while remaining true to the essence and appearance of the brand.
‘Spring/summer used to be a tough season for us because it isn’t traditionally part of the British shooting calendar, but with the new spring range of safari cottons, lightweight linens and silk shirts we have a lot to offer our customers.’
James Purdey & Sons, Audley House, 57-58 South Audley Street, London W1K 2ED, +44 (0)20 7499 1801