It is a sad day indeed to see the demise of Jaeger, which holds a special place in the heart of the British consumer, writes former brand director Shailina Parti.
Having worked at Jaeger for more than 25 years – from a young girl in the late 80s through to my role as brand director – I wanted to share my belief and passion for the brand.
Jaeger was founded in 1884 by Dr Jaeger, who advocated the health benefits of wearing animal fibres – a theory well ahead of its time – and clothed the explorer Ernest Shackleton on his expedition to the Antarctic. Wool and luxury fibres became synonymous with the Jaeger brand through the last 133 years.
Jaeger had the quality of understated confidence, which used to be known but rarely referred to as good taste. During my time there, I was privileged to work with beautiful fabric and innovative design, taking inspiration from the vast archive and working with passionate and talented teams to deliver unique style.
Wearing Jaeger – as I have done from the age of 20 – gave me a sense of individuality and made me feel great. It has always stood for good quality but never tried too hard, as summed up by the tagline “We don’t sell clothes, we dress women”.
Jaeger clothes were worn by movie stars and royalty, including Cary Grant, Vivien Leigh, Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy and Kate Moss. The brand achieved iconic status through campaigns photographed by Norman Parkinson and David Bailey, paintings by Raoul Dufy and illustrations by René Gruau.
Jaeger understood the importance of a logo well ahead of most luxury brands, developing its “straw” lettering in 1935. There was a point when this unique label appealed internationally and I would say even to this day many would aspire to own a Jaeger coat.
Where did it all go wrong? Global rivals arrived in the UK and, alongside rising rents and fierce competition, the downward spiral of promotional activity started to devalue the brand. The confidence to sell in the best locations, from Selfridges – where it was the first retailer ever to have space in the store in 1930 – to its iconic store on Regent Street, was no longer sustainable.
The challenge to drive profit margins may have compromised the product. During the tenure of [owner] Better Capital, the existing product teams were not required, but they were the heart and soul of the brand. They understood the customer and had the passion for it to succeed. A brand always needs a blend of those who stand by and protect the DNA that made it great and those who will embrace newness and move with the times.
Jaeger holds a special place in the heart of the British consumer. I remember all the letters I received and I know there are special pieces in the wardrobes of many men and women, who grew up with a brand that their mothers were excited by in the 1960s and was still the epitome of understated quality fashion in recent times.
What will happen to Jaeger I don’t know, but what I will say is that I feel privileged and proud to have worked for an iconic British brand that survived almost 135 years. Let’s hope there is a future…
Shailina Parti spent most of her working life at Jaeger, having notched up 22 years in her first stint before leaving in 2010 to join Monsoon Accessorize as design and buying director. She rejoined Jaeger as brand director in 2012. She is now buying and merchandising director at Jigsaw.