Poor old Aquascutum went into administration yesterday. The Communications Store, who looked after their PR, still showed the AW12 collection at their press day out of manners/cos they still pay their bills, (dignified/business savvy). It was trifle like a Catholic wake but for a collection. People passing through the allotted room quietly to pay their respects. It did look so peaceful now, just hanging there all calm. Who'd know the future was in all hanging in the balance for the 'Scutum.
Alain Delon in Le Samourai 1967 wearing a trench coat - partly developed by Aquascutum.
There wasn't any men's stuff shown. SS12 had been pretty much okay. I like Joanna Sykes the designer, and her eponymous woman's collection is good. Just spent hour or two looking at the fairly obvious and tired pictures of iconic trench wearers that every article on-line and in print has dug up. God all that is so, so dull isn't it? I'm guilty too, always referencing these bloody moments in film when Bogart wore whatever, or so and so dropped a bloody Macintosh in blah blah. All a bit dull. Casts light on what was wrong with Aquascutums position. It was a bit dull and a bit old-fashioned looking. Burberry looks nothing like the past, does it? If the boot was on the other trench-foot this morning, and we were mourning the passing of Burbs, everyone would be spoilt for choice for modern-iconic images of the brand as we know it. Not dusty old ones dug up from the Fifties. Here's a thing that Burberry really grasps: Old style trench coats are really horrible to look at/wear. Old journos always go on about them too, they're horrid. Raglan sleeve aint the zeitgeist. The one below is good. It was Scutum.
Aquascutum mens SS2012. Quite nice.
An editor from The Sunday Times asked me what went wrong. There's not one exciting headline answer. Not one thing that CEO Harold Tillman could have done differently. The designs were okay. The show was okay. The odd celeb wore the gear. Nice. With Burberry everything has been considered and dealt with. Art directed. Designed. Christopher Bailey is dead, dead good on a visionary level. Then the team he presides over works at everything, and continues to do so. The packaging, the company colours, the international ad-campaigns, the product, the styling, the shows...its all brilliantly controlled and consistently looks like an actual thing. A thing that exists and lives. It develops, but the core feels like its alive and special. And people want in. People (consumers that is), can read semiotics and brands even if the don't know they can. The Burberry language makes people feel like they want to be in. Big time. A sort of living warmth, attraction, that makes one 'believe' as it were, ticking over, all glamorous somewhere. People are not falling over themselves to spend dough on an empty-ish mood generated by an echoey marbled shop on Regent street with sections for the new 'designer' gear set against endless old fashioned banks of normal but pricey clothes. That doesn't happen at Burberry. Its all luxe and special everywhere you look.
Also, Harold didn't own the Asian product licence, so could sell thousands of scarves and hats and bags to bods once he got a good campaign, package and designer collection in place. Hash tag error. If he had that, he might have been able to invest in the sort of business/design model that could have delivered long term, but thats tons of wedge and takes quite a while. Thats said he did drop £30m into the club-checked-bin. Swallow hard Harold. You'll think of something. He flogged off Jaegar to protect it, which appeared quite noble.
SS2012: Not enough: Jacket material&cut good, model/shot too dull, tie too narrow.
Looking at the Aquascutum site, the campaign's quite nice really. Just needed a stronger, more encompassing vision. This aint a small label. It needs a big powerful, resolute message. The site does not convey international player with loads of money. There's nowhere to buy a nice scarf on there either. Still, never got the chance to turn it around under the circumstances really, but one didn't come away from the press appointments thinking "wow, how am I gonna write about/shoot this gear, and defo wear some of it too". Thats always a good sign when that happens. The shot above is dull, the model is very dull, although the outfit almost good. Like the fleck/donegal tweed, allow the dark shirt, but the ties a fraction narrow. This is a campaign, that can't happen. Didn't mean for this to be such a long answer to Claudia's question. Its a massive shame, but this caper is far from an easy one. Its well tough. Ask DAKS. You can't all 'do a Mulberry' you know. Wonder what will happen next. Will this check bounce back?
PS. Do you want to hear some Aquascutum related stories? I loved a bit of 'Scutum back in the day. Almost died in it once in Milan. A blood sodden navy cashmere mix duffle was cut off me a decade or so ago. Probably protected me quite a bit from the impact of a scooter crash. Wish had kept it. Looked like a Ron Athey/Damian Hirst fashion collaboration. Went right through to bone on my shoulder. Still no freckles there anymore. Before that I'd travel the globe in matching club-check shorts and shirts worn baggy with running trainers. That look took me through ghettos and across the decks of luxury yacht garnering bigs ups as it went. Honest. Will dig out a picture. Still got the set in the cellar...