Is the phrase ‘heritage brand’ overused these days? Perhaps. As a result, it is important for those who encounter it, to unpack it and in doing so, question not only the intention but the truth in its use. Is it being used honestly to drive brand authenticity and tell a story? Or to jump on the common narrative or zeitgeist to boost traffic? For many of us working in a world where fashion is viewed sustainably, the phrase embodies so much more than a toe-dip into using traditional British-made fabrics or putting a spotlight on local, onshore business operations in the UK. Discovering brands who place an eye on this wider lens is refreshing, and progresses an often stagnant conversation forward, namely offering fresh answers to two core questions, ‘What is the future of British fashion?’ and ‘Where does true innovation in the heritage space lie?’
Hat – Penmayne of London | Funnel Neck Coat – Burberry | Rollerneck Jumper Dress (mine is a secondhand piece, but this Merino Wool one is similar and fantastic quality) – Repeat Cashmere | Socks – Calvin Klein | Photo credit: Jonathan Pattinson
For independent luxury British hat brand Penmayne of London, the answers are also all encompassing; heritage is as much about the design process, history of the brand itself and a focus on wanting to be a part of the British market, including manufacturing here (“It’s expense and it’s harder to scale, but it’s worth it,” says founder Claire Howeson.) Founded in 2013, Penmayne of London specialises in luxury felt and straw hats for women. Quickly becoming known for a precise brand message (“Confident”, “Considered”, “Honest” and “Timeless”) whilst designing statement timeless hats, since its introduction to the market three years ago, the brand is already able to call both independent and luxury retailers such as Wolf & Badger and Harrods, home.
I recall interviewing Christopher Bailey, chief creative and chief executive officer (CEO) of Burberry, a while back and his words about the core definition of heritage remain as true today as they did two years ago; “Whilst Burberry is very much a British heritage brand driven by quality, this encompasses more than location, the British have a natural ability to blend the traditional with the quirky and here innovation can be borne.” If innovation can fall under an umbrella and act in design, process and/or innovation in execution, then does the phrase heritage need only apply to brands dating back centuries in age like Burberry (D.O.B 1856), or a more contemporary use be applied to a way of doing business that is honest, authentic and quality focused? Particularly as – by definition – heritage is ‘something that is handed down from the past, as a tradition: a national heritage of honor, pride, and courage’.
I wore a selection of Penmayne of London whilst curating a sustainable style diary for the Huffington Post in September, and can vouch for the peerless quality and design-led chic, but when it comes to the story, no one can share that better than the Chief Designer herself. See full article on Huffington Post here.