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LONDON — Aquascutum, the 157-year-old British brand, is spreading its wings in the U.S. for fall.
This story first appeared in the August 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The company will launch its Aquascutum London collection, a line of formal and casual separates, at selected Saks Fifth Avenue stores in the U.S. in August, while Bergdorf Goodman in New York will carry the brand’s Vintage collection of women’s coats — whose designs are inspired by Aquascutum’s archives — for a third season. Aquascutum LTD., a men’s wear collection designed by London tailor Nick Hart, will also launch in select Bloomingdale’s stores for fall.
“Some of our top clients here in London are actually American,” said Kim Winser, president and chief executive officer at Aquascutum. “Since the turnaround of the business over the last few seasons, we’ve had huge amounts of interest from the American customer.”
Winser added that since the brand launched its fall runway collection on Net-a-porter.com in July, the sell-through rate in the U.S. has been higher than in the U.K.. “I think there is a huge desire from the American consumer for us, so it’s a very good time for us to be going in,” she said.
The ceo said that while the U.S. makes up a “tiny” proportion of Aquascutum’s overall sales, she expects the amount could grow to 5 to 10 percent of the business within three to four years. She is so confident about the potential of the region that Winser said she has plans to open a New York flagship “over the next two to four seasons,” alongside a flagship in Milan and a further store in London to carry Aquascutum’s fashion collections.
Pieces from the Aquascutum London line, which will debut at Saks in August, include a silk dress featuring a graphic black-and-white print, and a silk bow blouse and black wool skirt. Dresses in the London collection retail in the U.K. for 395 pounds, or about $780 at current exchange. The Vintage collection at Bergdorf Goodman will include a hot pink wool swing coat, which is priced in the U.K. at 1,995 pounds, or $3,939, and a chocolate colored leather trench that retails for $2,500, or $4,936. The brand’s new folding, lightweight trenchcoat, called the Aquamac, will launch for men and women at Saks and Bloomingdale’s for fall.
“We want to develop the Vintage collection with Bergdorf and to work with Saks on the London line and Bloomingdale’s [with men’s],” said Winser. “We are also in discussion with Jeffrey, so there will be selected beautiful independents that we will also engage with, but predominantly we want to build relationships with key accounts.”
This fall, Aquascutum’s men’s and women’s collections will also launch at 10 Corso Como in Milan, Luisa Via Roma in Florence, Villa Moda in Kuwait and Mercury Tsum in Moscow.
Despite the pound’s current strength against the dollar, Winser said that there hadn’t been any price resistance to Aquascutum’s collections among buyers in the U.S. “[I’ve seen] the opposite,” she said. “I think the combination of having the heritage but also being very new and very exciting is a good combination for the American market.”
Speaking about the decision by Renown, Aquascutum’s Japanese parent company, to sell a number of its loss-making brands, Winser said the move will have a positive impact on Aquascutum. “By [Renown] narrowing down and focusing on the top brands, it’s actually a far better result for us, particularly as we’re really deemed the jewel in the crown.”
Next up — Winser will launch a women’s and men’s accessories collection designed by Sara Porro, who was formerly a designer at Tod’s and Anna Fendi, for spring, along with men’s outerwear pieces made from the same hardy but fine Aquascutum wincol fabric that Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay wore when they climbed Mount Everest. The company has worked to redevelop the fabric, and has even replicated the hooded jacket Hillary wore as part of the company’s men’s spring collection.