Ever since John Emary first opened the doors to Aquascutum in 46 Regent Street in 1851 - the brand has always been at the forefront of innovation — creating the first successful waterproof wool in 1853 and being an essential supplier during war time, with Aquascutum supplying trench coats to both soldiers and royals alike.
It is on the top floor of their 43 Great Marlborough Street address, that we meet Aquascutum’s new menswear director, Te Dinh Sy, or Ying - who joined Aquascutum after a slew of prestigious stints at Alexander McQueen, and Kenzo. With the confidence of a seasoned designer, Ying talks us through Aquascutum’s latest collection, and every considered design element in each piece. His vision juxtaposes Aquascutum’s over 150 year heritage with a streetwear sensibility, taking the reverence out of tailoring yet maintaining all the craftsmanship and classic elements necessary in any tailored garment. We explore Ying’s new vision, and what lies ahead for Aquascutum.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where did you love for tailoring stem from?
As a designer, I believe that tailoring is really one of the core foundations of fashion. I learnt to pattern cut, sew, and construct, as well as discovered different styles and designs. Once you know the basics, everything becomes so much simpler and so much more logical.
Before joining Aquascutum, you had some prestigious stints at Alexander McQueen and Kenzo. In what ways do these experiences influence the way you approach your new role at Aquascutum?
My previous roles have definitely shaped me as a designer; and the experiences I’ve had have been invaluable to my career. From my initial job at Neil Barrett – where we would meticulously fit garments and deliberate over every minute detail, usually to the millimetres; to Alexander McQueen – where the creative process was ferocious and relentless. We could easily turn around and produce a RTW collection within a matter of days/weeks — compared to usual norm of months of work. Finally, at Kenzo, I learned about the importance of timing. From these roles, I managed to create a happy balance between commerciality, and creativity. I have continued this 360 degree approach with my role here at Aquascutum.
Aquascutum has had a long history with technical innovation throughout the years, creating the first waterproof wool on the market back in 1853. How do you think Aquascutum is innovating today?
Aquascutum has always been at the forefront of fabric and design innovation; and this is something we have continued to develop throughout the years. For instance in our AW17 menswear collection, we used a fine wool that is bonded with a jersey layer that is breathable, improves crease resistance, and allows for increased warmth and protection against the weather.
For a brand like Aquascutum, how do you face the challenge of evolving and capturing new customers, while staying true to your heritage?
Heritage and classic styles will always be wardrobe staples. These are timeless pieces that will always stand the test of time. At Aquascutum, we are fortunate that we have a broad range of clients — those still wanting to buy the heritage and club check styles, and those wanting to buy into a heritage brand, but perhaps the more directional seasonal styles. We have to make sure that we create a balance of the two within the range and collection.
Talk us through your creative process. What is your design philosophy for Aquascutum?
We generally start every collection with a focus on the rainwear and outerwear styles. The fabric, construction, and print developments from these categories will then filter down into the rest of the collection. It will not be unusual to see one of our nylon rainwear prints replicated in a poplin for a casual shirt or linen suiting for a blazer.
Tell us about the AW17 collection, the inspiration behind it and if you have a favourite piece.
The Aquascutum AW17 Menswear collection was inspired by our military heritage. We delved into our archive for inspirational shapes and details, reworking theses back into the collection and updating them in new and unexpected fabrics. My favourite from the AW17 collection was a print we developed, that combined a camouflage pattern with our house club check. It perfectly balances our heritage and new direction.
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 think London’s tailoring scene has changed a lot over the past few decades. Tailoring is no longer confined to Savile Row, neither is it perceived as restricted to formal and business attire – instead it could be an item of clothing for any occasion and readily available in all fabrications.
What can we expect from Aquascutum in 2017, any exciting new projects or collaborations?
There are always exciting projects and collaborations in the pipeline at Aquascutum and hopefully they will replicate the same success we had in 2016 - such as our collaboration with Supreme. Watch this space!
In your opinion, what is the secret to making any perfectly tailored garment?
It’s all in the cut, fit, and construction. The majority of the work in tailoring is hidden internally — so no matter how beautiful something looks on the outside, if it doesn’t fit nor feel comfortable, you would be unlikely to buy it. At Aquascutum, we offer a Made to Measure service from an experienced team that is available in our Great Marlborough Street and Jermyn Street stores.
Portraits by Chris Baker
Words by Hannah Tan