It seems today that style is such a rarefied commodity, but for Jeremy Hackett it has always come in spades. Since opening his first second-hand store in Parson’s Green, Jeremy Hackett has built an empire around the Hackett name - an empire built on classic tailoring and the essential rules of style. We sit down with Jeremy Hackett and discuss his beginnings in Bristol and how he started his sartorial journey with a trip to a flea market in Paris. In conversation with Mr.Classic himself, we discover his unique viewpoint on London tailoring, and the simple style maxims that have made him a household name.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where did your love for tailoring come from and what inspired you to create Hackett?
I grew up in Bristol. My mother was a seamstress and my father was in the fabric business, so I was always surrounded by paper patterns and fabric swatches from a very young age. From a young age, I’ve always been interested in clothes and I had my very first suit made at the age of seven - I was a very precocious child. Having failed all my school exams, my father said to me “If you don’t pull your socks up, you’ll end up working in a shop!” - Fortunately, this is exactly what happened.
At the time, I had a Saturday job in a local tailoring shop who very kindly gave me full-time employment. I soon realised that if I wanted a career in retail, I needed to move to London - which I did at the age of nineteen. I started working as a junior salesman for a chain of boutique in Kings Road called The Village Gate. As is so often the case, I was poached to work for a firm in Savile Row called John Michael, where I really began to learn about tailoring and cloth. It was during my time with John Michael, that I began buying second-hand clothes (the term vintage had not been honed at the time) and I would then sell them on to friends. It was a way of supplementing my income, as I constantly lived beyond my means. Selling second-hand clothes proved to be so successful, that I took it up full time.
On a trip to a flea market in Paris, I ran into a guy who had a stall selling second-hand British clobber. He asked me to source clothes for him, which I did for several years. It occurred to me and my partner, Ashley Lloyd-Jennings, that it would be far more profitable if we sold the clothes ourselves in London. We opened a little shop in Fulham back in 1983, and traded for six months before finally deciding to put my name on the door - Hackett.
In 1983, you opened the first Hackett Store in Parson’s Green selling second-hand London tailoring brands. What caused the shift from second hand to producing your own garments?
After about three years of selling second-hand clothes very successfully, we realised that to grow the business further we would need to develop a new line of clothing. Since keeping up with the quality of second hand wares was becoming increasingly difficult. So based on the best second hand pieces we had, we created a small and carefully edited new range which took off almost immediately, allowing us to really build a brand around Hackett.
How would you describe Hackett, what sets you apart from other tailoring brands?
I like to think of Hackett as being classic, but not old-fashioned. I would say we are not a tailoring brand in the traditional Savile Row sense, as our offering is on a much broader scale. I firmly believe that it is exceedingly important for any brand to have a point of view. While we look at fashion, we take from it what we think is appropriate for Hackett and I think that really sets us apart.
After forming the Hackett Polo Team in 1987 and launching your sports range, Hackett has sponsored a number of prestigious sports teams throughout the years, including the Aston Martin racing team, and the Oxford and Cambridge boat race. Why do you think sports are so integral to Hackett’s ethos?
We first became involved with Polo in 1987 and at the time we thought it was a good way of communicating with our customers, it was also the first time we had consciously applied the Hackett name overtly to our products and it proved to be enormously successful. It led on to further sponsorships such as London Rowing Club and Aston Martin Racing, sports that resonate with our customers. Our sponsorships allow us to make products around these sports giving us authenticity and adding another dimension to the brand. I am thrilled to announce that this season we will become the clothing partner for Henley Royal Regatta - a prestigious occasion steeped in history and one which is revered around the world and fits perfectly with Hackett.
We first became involved with Polo in 1987 which was a great way to communicate with our customers. It was also the first time we had consciously applied the Hackett name overtly to our products; and it proved to be enormously successful. It led on to future sponsorships with the London Rowing Club and Aston Martin Racing; sports that resonate with our customers. Our sponsorships allow us to make products around these sports, giving us authenticity and adding another dimension to the brand. I am thrilled to announce that this season, we will partner with Henley Royal Regatta, a prestigious occasion that is steeped in history and is revered around the world. It is a perfect fit with Hackett.
Tell us about Mr. Classic? What inspired you to start your own blog?
I have to confess that I no longer write my blog as I began to find myself blagging more than blogging. The whole Mr. Classic thing came about because I was invited by The Independent to write a column for their Sunday magazine; and they decided to call it Mr. Classic which I later turned into a book published by Thames and Hudson. I now have a new edition which has recently been published in Japan. A while ago I took to Instagram; and because I enjoy taking pictures I find it very rewarding and a source of inspiration.
Aside from Mr. Classic, you have also created “Jeremy’s Rules for Living a Better Life” for your AW14 campaign. What do you think is the most important style rule to live by?
Keep it Simple, a maxim I later discovered was coined by no other than Cary Grant.
For a brand like Hackett, how do you face the challenge of evolving and capturing new customers while staying true to your heritage?
The other day, I was looking at our very first brochure and it struck me how much the brand has evolved over the years and how different we look today. I believe that to maintain our philosophy, it is important that we evolve the brand one step at a time not three steps otherwise we are in danger of losing our customer base. It is a case of constantly evaluating our products and understanding our customers’ needs and their changing tastes. It is not so much about latching on to the latest fashion fad but more about investment dressing, tweaking the product each season so that it is fresh which may be in the way we introduce a new silhouette or new fabrics.
Menswear tailoring is a well-known British Institution, it is a craft that is both built on heritage and yet has a viewpoint on modernity. How do you think the London Tailoring scene has changed throughout the years?
I have often seen written up “the suit is dead" but perversely we have currently seen more interest in tailoring as younger customers are discovering the idea of having something tailored to their own requirements. Tailoring recently has become more relaxed, less structured and made from lighter weight clothes reflecting the changes in climate which altogether has made the concept of wearing a tailored garment easier.
In your opinion, what is the secret to making any perfectly tailored garment?
For me the cutter is the most important person because however well-made or how beautiful the cloth, if in the first instance it is not cut properly then you have wasted your money.
Words by Hannah Tan