The Spear’s edit on the names to know in fashion, collecting new boundary-pushers as well as the classic brands that remain enduringly relevant
This section features the likes of Virgil Abloh of Off White, Lady Lucan of Lucan and Nick Hart of Spencer Hart.
Rihanna: Sound and vision
The world’s richest female musician has dipped her toe into the fashion world on a few occasions. However, in the form of Fenty, not only does Rihanna now have her very own label, she has also become the first woman to be both CEO and artistic director of a brand backed by the luxury behemoth LVMH. A line of make-up was launched in 2016, but the main event has been Fenty’s debut fashion collection, which launched in May this year. Robyn Rihanna Fenty (her full name) described it as ‘badass’ and ‘daring’. The fashion press agreed. A lingerie line has also launched under the Fenty umbrella(-ella) and was hailed by Vogue as a ‘festival of flesh of all skin tones’. All that work, work, work, work, work is clearly paying off.
Axel Dumas: Winged messenger
Whether woven into silk or embossed into leather, the Hermès ‘H’ still denotes the highest-quality craftsmanship, especially when it appears on its signature Birkin bag. Iterations of the bag can fetch up to $300,000. It was inspired by a 1981 chat between actress and singer Jane Birkin and Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight to London. His nephew Axel is CEO today.
Laura Cathcart: Ahead of the game
Having made six hats for Princess Eugenie’s wedding last year, Laura Cathcart is earning a reputation as he society milliner du jour. Cressida Bonas is a fan (she wore a deep red ‘Tess’ hatband to Ellie Goulding’s wedding this year) and recently Beulah London has commissioned Cathcart to make hats to accompany its latest collection. ‘Physically making the hats as well as coming up with the designs is very important for me,’ she tells Spear’s. ‘I enjoy the entire process – just designing something on paper would not be enough.’
Ian Maclean: The knitwear king
Worn by Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, Audrey Hepburn and, in more recent times, by Brad Pitt and Daniel Craig (as Bond in Skyfall), John Smedley remains the go-to knitwear brand for HNWs. Astonishingly 235 years young this year, the family-owned Derbyshire firm’s range exudes a chic, contemporary style that remains luxuriously wearable. In 2013 the firm received a royal warrant from the Queen; in 2015 it revamped its womenswear collections; and this September it opened its first outlet in Tokyo. Four more are to follow there. MD Ian Maclean, a member of the Marsden-Smedley owning family, is at the helm of this British gem, which exports 70 per cent of its goods worldwide.
Lady Lucan: Going great guns
Tucked away in a private booth at Annabel’s, Anne-Sofie Foghsgaard is describing the moment she fired her first shot. ‘A fire lit in my heart,’ she says, her eyes wide. ‘I’ve still got the cartridge!’ When she first took delivery of her prized shotguns, she reveals, she would even sleep with them in her bed. That first squeeze of a trigger was when she was 23, which makes her a late starter, at least in terms of the success she’s had in the sport. She has represented Great Britain, stood on the podium at the European Championships and is now a sponsored shot for the cartridge brand Fiocchi.
Accordingly, the 41-year-old proudly declares, a lack of experience is not something that tends to hold her back. For many years the Lucan name has been best known for its association with the story of the 7th Earl, who disappeared in 1974 shortly after the death of the family’s nanny. Now the moniker is being cast in a new light thanks to Foghsgaard, a Danish-born heiress who moved to Britain when she was 16. In 2016 she married George Bingham, son of the 7th Earl, and, soon after, officially became the 8th Countess Lucan.
Foghsgaard’s clothing brand, Lucan, launched the same year after she had become frustrated that ‘tweedy’ shooting gear didn’t allow her to straddle town and country in the way she wanted. ‘I wanted to be able to go – literally – from the moor into Annabel’s,’ she explains. So she decided to create her own brand and ‘fuse an element of traditional country tailoring with an essence of fi erce London cool’. ‘We have wonderful, sexy, fabulous leather trousers for women that could be worn every day, swirling coats and hunter jackets with sharp shoulders that are nipped in at the waist.’
Lucan has even collaborated with Harris Tweed to create its own tweed – ‘just like Chanel did’. ‘Fundamentally,’ says Foghsgaard, ‘I’m very much a Viking.’ And a certain marauding spirit is evident in the gusto with which she throws herself into various ventures. She runs Fie’s Club, which provides access to exclusive shoots; she’s developing a shooting club for the members of Annabel’s; and she will see Lucan stocked in the new country department of Harrods from next year. The new Lady Lucan, it seems, is giving it both barrels.
Elena Lavagni: Making Belgravia belle
When Elena Lavagni joined Neville Hair & Beauty in 2001, it was a single salon with only seven stylists. ‘I was determined to make it bigger and better.’ Lavagni explained earlier this year. ‘Twenty years down the line, we now run two full-time salons and have 85 members of staff.’ In 2013, the brand launched a salon in the Bulgari hotel in Knightsbridge, teaming up with its in-house Bodyism gym to offer clients a wash and blow-dry after workouts. Both locations offer everything from a simple shampoo and finish to all possible colour services and various intensive procedures such as the lustre-boosting ‘Shine Treatment’.
Nick Hart: Wardobe wizard
Former Savile Row tailor Nick Hart has dressed everyone from rock stars and Hollywood royalty to actual royalty – the luminaries include David Bowie, Sir Paul McCartney, Tom Hiddleston, David Beckham, Jay Z and Jeff Goldblum. Hart established his own brand, Spencer Hart, in 2002. Then, in late 2018, the former director of menswear at Kenzo came up with a new offering for time-poor, style-savvy HNWs. With the Wardrobe by Spencer Hart, he and his team create entire capsule collections designed to meet the work, lifestyle and aesthetic needs of individual clients. The aim, he tells Spear’s, is to ‘transform men, to look the best version of themselves. We are committed to making timeless style personal and effortless.’
Sarah Shotton: Undercover agent
Agent Provocateur brings to mind visuals of barely covered models contorting in Swarovski-studded, bondage-style lingerie, or perhaps the image of Beyoncé’s burgundy bra in her Instagram pregnancy announcement, which gathered 1.4 million likes in half an hour to set a Guinness World Record. The British brand, founded by Joe Corré and Serena Rees, has been celebrating various facets of femininity since its launch on Broadwick Street in 1994. Corré hoped the small shop would turn into ‘a phenomenon’, and it did: a global expansion saw more shops proliferating across Las Vegas, Cannes and the rest of the world. Corré left in 2010 and the brand is now owned by Mike Ashley. But creative director Sarah Shotton remains, having been loyal to the brand for 20 years. It takes a healthy ego and a solid bank account to pull off the look, she said in an interview with Surface magazine. Spear’s is tempted by its wine-hued, amethyst-embellished Tianna collection.
Virgil Abloh: Sage of streetwear
No one in fashion has been talked about more lately than Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear and his own label, Off White. He’s more responsible than anyone for merging the worlds of high fashion and streetwear, thanks to collaborations with brands from Nike to Ikea. ‘This is an opportunity to think through what the next chapter of design and luxury will mean,’ he said of his appointment at Louis Vuitton, when he became the first person of colour to hold such a position at a marquee fashion house. Orange ceramic bricks bearing his name are now being sold for more than £250. A reinvention of luxury indeed.
James Eden: Overcoats of distinction
Named after founder and CEO James Eden’s great-grandfather, who was awarded a Victoria Cross in the First World War, Manchester-based fashion brand Private White VC was born in 2010 and has fast established itself as a provider of contemporary, minimalist pseudo-military garb (former diplomat and current MP Rory Stewart is a loyal fan). Its clothes are made with locally sourced cloth in the very same red-brick factory on the banks of the River Irwell, where the actual Jack White VC worked (and rose to become the owner in the 1930s).
The firm’s lifetime repair service is another mark of distinction: ‘Unusually for a clothing company, we don’t want you to keep buying from us,’ it says. ‘Or at least, we hope you don’t feel the need to… because we make our garments to last a lifetime, and if they don’t, we’re here to fix it, or refurbish it.
Becky French: A perfect fit
Turnbull & Asser’s past customers include style icons such as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Pablo Picasso, so when Becky French became creative director earlier this year she likely felt the weight of history on her shoulders. Founded in 1885, the brand today offers a selection of more than 1,000 fabrics, 25 collar and cuff options, 20 monogram styles and various collar linings. Fittings require 18 measurements and shirts are made from 34 individual pieces of fine cloth. But, as well as honouring T&A’s heritage, French also aims to invite ‘a new audience to walk through the doors’. Her impressive first collection in the summer did just that, with an array of bright colours, deconstructed jackets and velvety ties.
Stella McCartney: Simply sustainable
Enduringly relevant, Stella McCartney has been ahead of the curve in the sustainability stakes since she burst on to the scene in 1995, when her graduation collection was modelled by her friends Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon and Kate Moss. Then, she went out of her way to find shoes made out of a leather alternative. Now her stores (she has more than 60 worldwide) are powered by wind turbines, her ‘pleather’ is made from recycled plastic or mushroom derivatives, and the walls of her Bond Street flagship store are decorated with pulp from the office shredder.
Back in 1995, McCartney’s views about fur and leather were regarded as ‘eccentric’, but of course she was just ahead of her time. In 2017 Burberry announced that it too would be going fur-free, followed by Versace, Calvin Klein, Armani and Net-a-Porter. Her 2019 autumn/winter collection closed with a coat quilted with fabrics left over from previous seasons. According to Vogue, the collection was designed to be an invitation for others to follow her lead. ‘If every single second there’s a truckload of fast fashion being incinerated or landfilled,’ she said, ‘then I’m a big, big believer in reusing that and [participating in] the circular economy.’
Hannah Weiland: Little wonder
Hannah Weiland named her kooky label Shrimps after her own childhood nickname, but it’s proved to be a hit with the fashion pond’s big fish almost from day one. It started in 2013 when Weiland – then a textile student – spotted a bright blue faux fur at a trade fair, which she sewed into a coat. Model Laura Bailey saw it on Weiland’s Instagram, commissioned one and wore it to London Fashion Week, where she was reportedly chased down the street by Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet. Further sightings of a Shrimps-clad Alexa Chung and Lily Allen prompted Net-a-Porter to put in a large order. This summer, demand for Weiland’s creations reached new highs when another Instagram-inspired frenzy saw a Van Gogh-style daffodil print prairie dress sell out more than once.
Simon Cundey: Dressed for dinner
As one would expect, Henry Poole, the Savile Row tailor that invented the dinner jacket, is draped with history. In preparation for the publication of a sumptuous coffee table book, it delved into its ledgers to reveal the preferences and proclivities of its illustrious clientele. The tailoring house counts Edward VII (back when he was the Prince of Wales), William Randolph Hearst and Kaiser Wilhelm II and Winston Churchill among past customers. Managing director Simon Cundey is determined to look forward as well as back, though. ‘Poole may not always follow fashion, but neither do we ignore it,’ he writes in the book.
Anthony Romano: Sole provider
It’s said that Tony Blair wore the same pair of ‘lucky’ Church’s shoes to every Prime Minister’s Questions. Maybe it worked; he faced down five Tory leaders during his time in Number Ten. But his longevity pales in comparison to the shoemaker, which traces its origins all the way back to a small workshop in Northampton in 1675. A single pair can still take up to eight weeks to produce, with each shoe undergoing 250 manual operations. But under the leadership of CEO Anthony Romano since 2017, Church’s hasn’t been afraid to modernise. The brand faced criticism when it released a range of trainer-like sneakers at the start of this year, but it has stuck to its guns, adding new colourways. Whether our current PM will wear them to take on the opposition remains to be seen.
Ganesh Srivats: Clickable catwalks
It might seem strange for a former Tesla executive to take the wheel of an online fashion boutique but, thanks to an earlier spell at Burberry, Moda Operandi CEO Ganesh Srivats is as familiar with catwalks and high cheekbones and as he is with VC firms and Patagonia gilets. Moda Operandi’s revolutionary business model (backed by $300 million in funding) allows users to buy items straight from the catwalk as video and images from runway shows are uploaded directly to its site, where that Carolina Herrera skirt or those Prada shoes can be reserved even before they have gone into commercial production. Fashion-forward shoppers, start your engines…
Dr Jacqueline Hill: Skincare magician
‘Pollution will be the new UV.’ That’s according to Dr Jacqueline Hill, the director of strategic innovation and science at La Prairie. The premium skincare brand’s cult ‘skin caviar’ sells for just shy of £300 a pop and is made from real caviar. The goal, according to Hill, who holds a doctorate in organic chemistry from Oxford, is to stall or even reverse the ageing process. ‘We want to be a leader in skincare and to offer women the most precious gift of all,’ she has said. What might that be? ‘Time.’
Pierre Lagrange: From hedging to the Row
After hedge fund manager Pierre Lagrange’s business GLG was acquired by the Man Group in 2010 for $1.6 billion, the Belgian kept an advisory role until last year, but gave it up partly in order to focus on Huntsman, the Savile Row tailor that he took over in 2013. The house is still talked about by those in the know on the Row as having cutters with some of the most impressive ‘handskill’ of any tailors in the world – but under Lagrange there have also been concessions to modernity. The new Bespoke 100 service, for instance, provides time-poor customers with a finished bespoke suit in just six to eight weeks.
Cecilia Brandt: Bespoke sports apparel
Among the peloton of new cycling clothing brands that has followed in the slipstream of Rapha, perhaps only one has true luxury credentials. Brandt-Sorenson, the brainchild of Cecilia Brandt and her husband Nicholas Brandt-Sorenson, is a purveyor of bespoke bibshorts, jerseys and gilets. Customers order online, providing up to 11 individual measurements per garment, before items are cut, stitched and dyed by hand in the company’s Los Angeles workshop. The process is refl ected in the price (up to $520 for a pair of bibshorts and $380 for a jersey), but so is the longevity. Brandt says that apparel made with care and attention is less likely to be thrown away; one of the keys to sustainability.
Fabio d’Angelantonio: Elevated luxury
Italian ultra-luxury brand Loro Piana might, historically, have been best known for its stylish overcoats, knits and impossibly soft cashmere, which come in tasteful shades of oatmeal, russet and burgundy. But, since the arrival of new CEO Fabio d’Angelantonio in 2016, the company has begun to expand its offering for warmer climes, applying the same commitment to luxuriant fabrics across its range of breezy linens and light cottons. It’s all good news for Pier Luigi Loro Piana, scion of the founding family, who sold 80 per cent of the business to LVMH in 2016 for $2.57 billion, but retains an interest as deputy chairman.
Luca Faloni: Menswear maestro
Luca Faloni has been busy. He meets Spear’s at the Marylebone store of his eponymous menswear brand, having just returned from New York, where he was putting the final touches to a new store on West Broadway. He’s about to jet off to Stockholm to run the rule over another new retail space, his fourth. In some ways it’s a departure for a company that began in London in 2013 with a direct-to-consumer business model. The idea? Provide customers with luxury, Italian-made menswear at a fraction of the prices charged by some of the country’s most famous brands.
Sales of cashmere polos (£260), linen shirts (£130) and lightweight chinos (£130) have helped the company more or less treble its revenues each year. As the label becomes more ‘grown-up’, Faloni, 35, explains that bricks-and-mortar has a place. ‘Retail isn’t dead,’ he says. ‘I never thought it was.’ The former management consultant says the plan was always to start online and use the data collected about products and customers’ preferences to grow. One drawback, he admits, is that growth, ‘by definition’, means the CEO has less control. But the man who’s built a business from luxuriously soft knitwear and linen says: ‘I’m feeling more comfortable as I go.’
Te Dinh Sy: Raining supreme
Some 150 years after it changed for ever the way we confront the elements, Aquascutum is still making the weather. The brand was instrumental in the development of the world’s first waterproof wool in 1851, patented two years later by its founder, Regent Street tailor John Emary. The fabric was so resilient that it was used for trench coats in both world wars. Having been owned by Jaeger, the brand was bought by a Chinese company in 2017 and its head of design is Te Dinh Sy, formerly of Alexander McQueen and Kenzo. From the sleek, urban Berkeley to the full-bodied, classic Bogart, Aquascutum has a trench for everyone.